There are new rules in England for the sale of wood fuel. There may be similar changes in the devolved parts of the UK in the future. There’s always confusion when rules change, so we hope our simple explanation will help.
The good news: As a consumer, you don’t have to do anything, hooray, but it’s good to know why things have changed. Responsibility for observing the new rules lies wholly with your supplier. For a quick summary, see our handy Frequently Asked Questions at the end of this article. You can also fact check the details on the .gov site here: Defra Wet Wood Laws England
The main change for consumers is an assurance that bags and loose loads of logs in volumes less than 2 cubic meters will be certified as dry and ‘Ready to Burn’. It must be 20% moisture or less (some exceptions apply until 2022). You may also notice a price increase to cover increased admin and certification scheme costs incurred by suppliers.
Why has this happened? Well, it depends who you talk to. Some say it’s so the government can collect more tax, some say it’s down to lobbying by big companies to force small dealers out of the market. Others say it’s to make money for the company running the certification scheme and some even say it’s to help reduce unnecessary air pollution! It is the last point that the government feels will make a difference.
Very importantly, you can still cause unnecessary air pollution even when burning dry logs. You can take certified dry logs and put them in your lovely efficient woodburner, but if you shut the air controls too much, you’ll create lots of unnecessary pollution and cause problems inside your chimney. Even very dry logs MUST be burned hot enough – you can learn all about how to ‘Get it Right’ from your local professional sweep and through the information from the Burnright Campaign:
Whatever the reason for the new rules, people and companies dealing in wood fuel will need to join the certification scheme. BUT, in case you think some dealers are breaking the rules, there are some important exceptions:
This notice requires specific wording to be legal: see the Not Suitable for Burning notice wording at the end of this article.
We think that many small dealers will be unaware of the changes, so it’s just as well they have a year to adjust.
Whether you buy your wood in smaller amounts certified as ‘Ready to Burn’, or, you choose larger volumes to stack and dry at home, it’s well worth asking your local professional sweep for some guidance. They know all the rules and they know your local dealers. They can advise on good drying and storage practice and even show you how to properly test the moisture in your logs. Most importantly, they can look at your fire and at what comes down your chimney and can tell if you’ve been burning efficiently.
The advice from a good sweep will save you money, keep your chimney safer and significantly reduce your unnecessary air pollution.
Q. Can I still collect / source and burn my own wood? Yes, there are no changes here.
Q. Will certified dry logs be kiln dried? They may or may not be kiln dried, the seller is simply required to ensure they are 20% moisture or less.
Q. Why can I buy green / wet logs if I order 2 cubic meters or more? If you are ordering logs in larger volumes, you are probably an experienced user and are more likely to know how to store and dry them at home. The supplier is required to provide you with a notice indicating the logs need further drying.
Q. I live in a smokeless zone, can I use Ready to Burn certified logs on my open fire? No, it’s always been an offence to burn logs on an open fire in a smoke control area.
Q. Will all dealers join the scheme? We don’t think so. Some may go ‘under the radar’ and flout the rules. In this case there is a risk of prosecution. Others will switch to only selling loads of 2 cubic meters or more, meaning they don’t need to join.
Q. Do dry logs produce less air pollution? Yes, dry logs will produce much less pollution than wet logs, but only if you burn them hot enough. If the burning temperature is too low, even dry logs will cause a problem. But it’s easy to ‘Get it Right’ – see details at the Burnright campaign.
Q. How much energy does it take to produce kiln dried wood? It takes approximately 1/4 tonne of wood fuel to produce a tonne of kiln dried fresh cut logs. Air drying requires no energy.
Q. Do the new rules apply to wood manufactured briquettes? Yes, although if a briquette was 20% moisture it would fall apart!
Q. I’ve tested my certified logs with a moisture meter and they are more than 20%. What should I do? Perhaps make sure you are testing correctly and also get a second opinion, then contact the seller. If you still think something is wrong, contact the Ready to Burn certification company.
Q. Is kiln dried wood better than air dried wood? As long as they are 20% moisture or less, there is no difference when burning them. Though kiln drying requires ‘cooking’ in a big oven with extra fuel, air drying requires nothing extra, except time.
Q. My logs were delivered when it was raining. Are they ruined? They should be fine, some temporary moisture on the surface won’t affect the dry wood inside. You’ll want to stack and store them properly as soon as possible though.
Q. My Ready to Burn logs are in a pile on the ground and I’ve covered them with a tarpaulin, is this ok? Yes, but perhaps only for a few weeks – you may get condensation forming under the tarpaulin and the logs will slowly re-absorb this trapped moisture. Stack them properly out of the rain and with good ventilation.
If you found these answers useful then have a chat with your chimney sweep. They can tailor their advice to your particular situation and will have lots more handy tips and good local information. They’ll help you save money, keep a safer chimney and reduce further unnecessary pollution.
Find your local professional sweep here:
Statutory Guidance from Defra – England.
If you sell wood in volumes of 2 cubic metres or more in England you must provide customers with this notice:
“This wood is not suitable for burning until it has been dried. You should not burn wood until it has a moisture content of 20% or less.
“Wet wood contains moisture which creates smoke and harmful particulates when burnt. As well as being harmful to your health and the environment, this can damage your stove and chimney and is an inefficient way to heat your home. Dry it in a sunny, well-aired space for at least two years, keeping rain off in the winter.
“Radial cracks and bark that comes off easily suggests wood that is ready for burning. Test the wood when you think it is ready for burning, ideally with a moisture meter. First calibrate the meter and then measure a freshly split surface to get the best reading.”