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Can I install a wood burning stove or biomass boiler if I live in a Smoke Control Area?

Posted by Trish O'Flynn on 18 January 2017 at 10:30 am

The answer is yes, but only an approved model. This is because many areas of the country have air quality problems which affect human health and, although pollutant emissions from biomass boilers are lower than from coal, if you live in a smoke control area there are restrictions on the type of biomass boiler you can install.

In a smoke control area you can’t emit smoke from a chimney unless you’re either burning an authorised fuel (which includes some wood products) or using an ‘exempt appliance’ (which includes some biomass boilers).

This means you can install a biomass boiler in a smoke control area if the appliance is approved and you only burn the type of fuel the manufacturer specifies, for example wood pellets. It also means that you cannot burn wood in a smoke control area unless it is in an approved appliance and the wood fuel has been specified by the manufacturer.

If you are thinking of installing a wood burning stove in a smoke control area, YouGen member installer Frank McElroy of Ecoliving (Central Southern England) advises:

“Not all wood burning stoves are suitable for smoke control areas. Only those of decent quality and designed for the cleanest burning, for example with secondary air supply, are suitable. Less efficient stoves that burn poorly are more likely to produce smoke.

Although wood logs are actually categorised as an unauthorised fuel by DEFRA in these areas, it can be burned in ‘exempt appliances’ which includes some stoves. You must only use the types of fuel that the manufacturer says can be used in the stove.

You’ll also need to be careful about the fuel you burn. Wood should be well seasoned. A multifuel stove doesn’t mean you can burn anything. Most people realise they can’t burn plastics or rubbish but engineered woods, such as MDF, should also be avoided as they contain glue and resins that can produce smoke and make a mess of your flue.”

So, before you choose your biomass boiler it makes sense to find out if you live in a smoke control area or need planning permission. Your installer should be able to advise you.

If you are thinking about applying for the Renewable Heat Incentive, you’ll want to check that your biomass boiler is eligible for the scheme as only boilers which meet air quality standards are accepted. 

Once you have chosen your boiler, you’ll need to check that the boiler installation will meet safety standards which can be found in the Building Regulations.


More information on:

1. Authorised fuels for smoke control areas

2. Exempt appliances for smoke control areas

3. Air Quality Management Areas

4. Renewable Heat Incentive eligible boilers

5. Building Regulations and biomass boilers


Image credit: Steven Lilley

More about Biomass Boilers and  Energy Saving and Renewable Energy on YouGen.

Find a Biomass Boiler installer

About the author: Trish is a web content writer with the National Energy Foundation.

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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