Local Chimney Sweep Darren P Hallam from the Fylde Coast Chimney Sweep has made a statement today in reference to the latest government plans to phase out wet wood and bituminous coal over the next few years.
The phasing out of wet wood
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is bringing in the mandatory certification scheme next year (2021).
For smaller wood manufacturers, the scheme will be delayed for a year , coming in during 2022. This is because the Government says it realises that smaller producers may struggle to hit the deadline.
What is wet and dry firewood?
Wet – also known as green or unseasoned wood – is often sold in nets and is cheaper to buy. It contains moisture which, when burned, creates more smoke and harmful particles of air pollution (PM2.5) than dry wood.
• Wet wood can also damage chimneys much more, by allowing tar and soot to build up.
• Dry or seasoned wood – which has been dried out, often in a kiln – has a moisture content of 20% or less.
Anyone who tries to burn wet wood knows it is pointless! – it gives off no heat or flames at all. It’s a very underwhelming experience; not only is it bad for the environment, but it is also terrible for your stove and flue.
Therefore, the dryer the wood the quicker the combustion process, and the quicker the heat is distributed, thus amounting to cleaner air output.
Stages of combustion and heat from burning wood
• The wood is heated to evaporate and drive off moisture. This heat does not warm the stove or room.
• The wood starts to break down chemically at 500° F and volatile matter is vaporised.
• These vapours contain between 50% and 60% of the heat value of the wood.
• At 1100° F the vapours burn. This high temperature must be maintained for maximum efficiency in combustion.
• Following the release of volatile gases, the remaining material is charcoal, which burns at temperatures exceeding 1100° F
• This is the final stage of combustion, as the first three processes have left the carbon in the charcoal as the only remaining combustible material. For this to keep burning, a temperature above 950° F is needed to burn this carbon-rich charcoal but it can burn with little or no flame at all.
As a chimney sweep, I know that most issues concerning pollution from domestic burning come from operator error of the actual stove – i.e. not using the air controls properly. The correct operation of your stove is critical.
Because even dry wood can be massively polluting if it is not burnt in the correct manner.
Understanding combustion principles and learning to manipulate the various conditions enables you to achieve maximum comfort and efficiency from a wood heating system.
The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps has been working with DEFRA to raise standards over a number of years.
As many of my clients know, I am the Fylde’s liaison officer for Burnright. This is a non profit making organisation and is running the national campaign for clean air and helps people understand how to use their appliances properly and how to store and season wood.
These tools will help you get the very best from your stove and your fuel. They can save you money, help keep the chimney cleaner and reduce unnecessary air pollution. They are relatively cheap and easy to use. All are widely available, but your local professional sweep will often supply them or show you where to get them.
A ‘flue pipe thermometer’ or ‘stove thermometer’ is usually attached to the pipe coming from the top of your stove. It helps you to know when your stove is burning at the best temperature. Try to aim for the middle of the ‘best temperature’ range on the meter. You will soon learn how to reach this temperature quickly and keep it there. As mentioned in the final stage of combustion above, there may be little fuel left in your stove but it is still burning at a very high temperature. Using a thermometer will help you gauge when to refuel your stove.
• MOISTURE METER
This measures the amount of water in your logs. You should aim for 20% moisture or less. If the moisture is more than this, the wood will not burn so efficiently and you will waste fuel and increase pollution. To test moisture content properly the log must be split in half. Then test the freshly split surface. You may not get a correct reading if you just test the outer surface.
• STOVE FAN
This is a small fan which sits on top of your stove. It is powered by heat from the surface of the stove so there are no batteries or wires. Once the stove reaches a good operating temperature the fan will effectively ‘mix’ or ‘stir’ the hot air rising from the surface. If you can distribute the heat more evenly you may be more comfortable. You may need less fuel to feel warm enough and once again air pollution can be reduced. The fans are low powered so you won’t notice any draught.
You may see lots of stories about the banning of fires etc in the coming weeks but many are written with sensationalist headlines to sell newspapers and get clicks.
Let’s be clear, it is only bad quality fuels that are being regulated and banned and not high-quality efficient stoves where people are burning responsible fuels.
If you require any information or assistance please get in touch with the Fylde Coast Chimney Sweep.
Tel: 07938 711330