Bruce Allen’s Welcome | Consumer Newsletter February 2023

Welcome to the latest HETAS newsletter, thank you for subscribing. As a stove user, you will have no doubt seen the recent press coverage relating to wood burning. The coverage has been somewhat misleading, so in this newsletter, we are going to cover some of the key issues relating to domestic burning.

I’m going to shed light on the recent coverage, along with the confirmation that the government is not considering a ban on domestic burning in England and it recognises that some households are reliant on solid fuel burning for heating, hot water and cooking. 

HETAS and Woodsure are not-for-profit organisations working together for a cleaner and safer environment. The two organisations work across the wood-burning and biomass sector, providing a range of certification services for products and people. It’s likely you will have had your installation carried out by a HETAS Registered Installer, you may have booked a HETAS Approved Sweep and will have been using wood fuels certified by Woodsure this winter.

I have no doubt you all share the same enthusiasm as us for stoves and for the environment we live in. Last week the government published its Environment Improvement Plan (EIP) 2023. The plan is the first revision of the 25 Year Environment Plan that was published in 2019 and has a wide range of goals, from thriving plants and wildlife, clean air and water to mitigating climate change and enhancing biosecurity. Our industry key focus on the plan is within goal 2, clean air. Air quality in the UK has improved significantly in recent decades with a decrease in all five major air pollutants. 

Between 2010 and 2020 emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) decreased by 18%; emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) decreased by 44%; sulphur dioxide (SO2) by 70%, non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) by 14%, and ammonia (NH3) by 0.2%. These reductions have produced significant benefits for our health and environment. Over recent years government in England has introduced The Environment Act and legislation on fuels. This led to the introduction of Ready to Burn certified fuels and changes to how Local Authorities could enforce smoke emissions from homes. Whilst levels of enforcement remain low, there is evidence of enforcement against homeowners for poor burning habits, we have more in the newsletter on this issue.

You will be pleased to read that The Environment Improvement Plan clearly states that the government is not considering a ban on domestic burning in England and it recognises that some households are reliant on solid fuel burning for heating, hot water and cooking. Additionally, a ban on domestic outdoor burning would be considered disproportionate. The government’s focus is very much on moving away from older, inefficient heating such as open fires and old stoves to newer models, as outlined in the plan:

  • Design and implement measures to drive a shift away from older, more polluting appliances, to newer appliances which meet our tough new emission standards.

This will be achieved through a tightening of limits on stoves that are produced and certified for Defra exemption in the future (not for ones already installed). HETAS administers the exempt appliance list on behalf of Defra. This lists the appliances that are certified to burn wood within a Smoke Control Area (SCA).

At the same time, we also run our own appliance certification scheme, Cleaner Choice. Hundreds of appliances are already Cleaner Choice certified. For the scheme, we have set a lower level of particulate emissions than the most stringent legislation requires within current SCAs. This means that a stove must meet both the current requirements for exemption to have attained a listing on the Defra website, whilst also achieving at least a 50% improvement on current particulate limits for exemption. This is when measured using the more robust test methodology recognised within the UK. For some pellet stoves, we are seeing improvements of up to 97% when compared to the exemption requirements.

It is worth noting that while the EIP is focused on England, both Wales and Scotland are developing their clean air plans and are looking at similar measures to England when it comes to air quality and domestic burning.

Alongside the important issue of clean air, we have safety. Following a devastating incident at an elderly lady’s home, we are urging those with wood-burning stoves to note this rare but extreme example and ensure that they are following precautions to keep their homes safe. Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) attended the incident in Gateshead to find the bungalow engulfed in flames. HETAS is now urging homeowners to be extra cautious when it comes to placing wood fuels, clothes or other flammable materials near their appliances. We also know that at this time of year, around 40% of chimney fires take place. It’s important to have your chimney swept regularly to avoid a build-up and a possible chimney fire. I have outlined some simple steps below that can really help with all the issues addressed in this newsletter.

I hope you find our newsletters insightful. Please take on board the messages and take action to be a responsible stove user. Our team is on hand should you have any questions, we are here to help.


HETAS, Severn House, Unit 5 Newtown Trading Estate, Green Lane, Tewkesbury, GL20 8HD