Safe as well as sustainable stoves

Erica Malkin of the Stove Industry Alliance takes a look at the key considerations for self-builders looking to enjoy a wood burning stove in their new home, including recent changes in legislation

Wood burning stoves offer a low carbon, renewable and sustainable way to heat your new build or extension and come with a host of wellbeing benefits for you and your family. Recent changes in legislation, coupled with the publication of the Government’s Clean Air Strategy in early 2019, means self-builders can often be unclear on what their options are when it comes to choosing and installing a wood burning stove.


A modern Ecodesign-ready wood burning stove will produce up to 90 per cent less emissions than an open fire, and up to 80 per cent less than an average stove manufactured over 10 years ago. This makes them an environmentally conscious choice that can help lower particulate emissions, improve air quality and meet Government carbon reduction targets.

This puts you, the self-builder, in the unique position of being able to both future proof your new build or renovation while improving air quality.


Anyone doing their research on home heating, and especially wood burning stoves, will have come across the term ‘Ecodesign legislation.’ The Ecodesign requirements affecting the wood burning stove industry come into force on 1 January 2022, and from that date only appliances that comply with Ecodesign standards can be sold.

The good news is that stove manufacturers are ahead of the curve and there is already a comprehensive range of appliances on the market that meet, and in many cases exceed, the requirements of Ecodesign.

Ecodesign-ready stoves feature the very latest fireboxes that have been specifically designed for more complete combustion and which employ secondary and tertiary air systems and precision baffle arrangements to burn off excess hydrocarbons. These Ecodesign-ready appliances are more efficient by virtue of their design, but more importantly, they are significantly less polluting. The Stove Industry Alliance has produced a listing of appliances certified to be Ecodesign Ready and this can be found on their website. With over 500 appliances listed, the SIA Ecodesign Ready listing covers a wide range of styles, both built-in and freestanding, contemporary and traditional.


Legally, to be able to burn wood in a smoke-controlled area, your wood burning appliance must be certified as being Defra exempt.

Many parts of the UK fall within these smoke-controlled areas and the recently published Environment Bill, while not yet law, will give greater powers of enforcement to local authorities to apply civil fines if you are not complying with the Clean Air Act. Hence, if you are building or extending within a smoke control area you will need to ensure your chosen appliance is Defra exempt.

A Defra exempt appliance might not be Ecodesign compliant, and conversely, while in most cases it will be, an Ecodesign-compliant wood burning stove is not necessarily Defra exempt. The test methodology for the two standards is different and therefore you should look for evidence that the appliance is both Ecodesign-ready and Defra exempt.


As well as stand-alone room heater, wood burning stoves are perfect for integration into a whole house low carbon heating system. When combined with a heat pump for example, a wood stove can offer welcome and speedy top-up heating for key living spaces on colder days, or in milder months when full-house heating is not required.


There is a huge choice of Ecodesign compliant wood burners available on the market today from numerous manufacturers. Gone are the days of the choice being limited to a little black box – virtually every interior style can be catered for, from modern Scandi-style to country living chic.

When it comes to stove body materials you will most likely be choosing between cast iron or steel. Cast iron will be hard wearing and offers longer heat retention while a steel stove will have different advantages, such as heating up more quickly, cost and offering different design possibilities.

Looking at features such as material thickness, engineering design and operation characteristics will give you the best guide to what is a well-made appliance.

Appliance output is a calculation best left to the experts. Getting it right will ensure the feeling of warmth and comfort that attracts so many of us to a stove. Local independent stove and fireplace retailers are ideally placed to offer advice and guidance on stove output.

The SIA recommends looking out for the logo of a SIA Retail Group retailer, who will be able to provide the right pre-sales advice and after-sales support and spare parts, as well as having a wide range of Ecodesign ready appliances.

They will also have a well-stocked showroom giving you the opportunity to see your chosen design up close and, very often, in operation. Details of SIA Retail Group members are listed on the Stove Industry Alliance website.


Professional installation of the appliance and the appropriate flue system by a qualified and accredited competent person is of utmost importance and the key to years of warmth and efficiency from your new woodburning stove. Professional retailers will also be able to guide you here.

Make sure you have your chimney swept at least once a year, and a programme of regular maintenance to the stove consumables such as sealant rope is imperative to trouble-free operation.

But fundamental to stove performance is fuel, and your wood fuel should have a moisture content of less than 20 per cent to ensure maximum efficiency and minimum emissions. Look out for the Woodsure Ready to Burn logo – a scheme that certifies wood fuel to be below 20 per cent moisture content.

Erica Malkin is secretary general at Stove Industry Alliance