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What you need to know about burning fires in London

Perhaps unexpectedly, there are rules and regulations that you need to follow when burning a fire at home in London. To help clear it all up, we take you through the whys and the hows.

Historically, London has suffered from terrible smogs and even as early as the fourteenth century concerns over the effects of air pollution were raised. It wasn’t until 1956, after the Great Smog of 1952 that permanent action was taken. The Great Smog had blackened London’s streets to the point that public transport and the ambulance service broke down and even during the daytime it was impossible to see further than a metre ahead.

When the Clean Air Act was introduced four years later, smokeless zones finally appeared in London. Another act appeared in 1968 and this, combined with the widespread use of central heating and the increased popularity of natural gas, vastly improved the state of the environment.

However, it is vital that we keep these methods in place. Many parts of the UK are still ‘smoke control areas’, meaning that depending on where you live, you may be restricted with what types of smoke you can emit from your home. The easiest way to find out if you live in one of these zones is to contact the environmental services department (DEFRA) at your local council. It’s important to check as you can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t follow the correct procedure.

Once you have found out where your home falls, it can still be tricky to know where the line is drawn as there are a mixture of unauthorised and authorised fuels, as well as exempt and non-exempt appliances.

Unless you’re using an exempt appliance (a list of which can be found on the DEFRA site), each smoke controlled area has a list of authorised fuels. As well as ‘smokeless’ fuels, these usually include:

  • Anthracite
  • Semi-anthracite
  • Gas
  • Low volatile steam coal

Do keep in mind that these rules don’t just extend to the chimney – any fixed boiler or furnace is also included.

When using a specifically designed or adapted fireplace, you can usually also burn:

  • Oil
  • Petroleum
  • Alcohols
  • Kindling

With appliances such as wood burning stoves, the rules are simpler. (Remember though, these are only allowed in smoke controlled zones if they are DEFRA approved or regulated smokeless fuel). In these you may burn wood logs and in wood-pellet stoves, pellets. To ensure that you make the most out of your wood burners do the following:

  • Keep the fuel as dry as possible – do this by picking a respected supplier and drying it out for at least one summer.
  • Never fully shut the secondary air vent, as the stove will quickly fill up with soot and tar.
  • Never leave the stove door open as you’ll lose all the warm air as it floats straight up the chimney!

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In house team London Property Market

As the marketing and communications team at Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward's head office, our aim is to keep you updated and informed where the London property market is concerned. In addition, we'll bring you tips on navigating current issues and trends in the market when buying, selling, letting and renting to ensure that whatever field you're interested in, you'll be completely informed.

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