Burning Wet Wood
21st February 2020: Government Announce Ban on Sale of Wet Wood in England
Lots of you will have heard the news that the Government plan to phase out the sale of wet wood and bagged house coal by February 2021. The reasoning behind the change is simple; we need to takes steps to help minimise the pollution created by burning fossil fuels.
What do they mean by wet wood?
Wet wood is wood that hasn’t been dried to below 20% moisture content. Freshly felled wood can be around 50% water, depending on the species of tree. Once a tree has been felled, it needs to be dried in order to make it suitable for burning. The best way to reliably tell is a log is dry enough to burn is to use a moisture meter to check it. Otherwise, buy wood under the ‘Ready to Burn’ scheme, which guarantees a moisture content of under 20%.
What’s wrong with burning wet wood?
When you put a wet log – i.e. one with a moisture content higher than 20% – on your stove or open fire, the fire takes much longer to release heat. This is because the fire has to use its energy to evaporate the water before it can start to consume the wood. So, the fire will burn cooler and for longer.
This extra length of burn time makes some people think that wet wood is better value. This is a common misconception. It feels like it’s more economic because you use less wood, but the actual heat output is minimal. You simply can’t get hot temperatures with wet wood, which is why people then often use coal alongside the wet wood.
Burning wet wood also releases far more particulates into the air, hence the government ban on it. These particulates don’t just pollute the air though – they also tar up your chimney or flue, meaning you need to clean it more often. Having all that gunk in your chimney also greatly increases the risk of chimney fires.
Isn’t dry wood much more expensive?
No, not in terms of heat output.
Properly seasoned and kiln-dried logs cost more to buy but will give out more heat. More heat per log means you don’t have to burn as many logs to reach a high temperature.
However, once a log is dry, it will burn quickly. This is why we recommend burning wood briquettes. They are much drier than even kiln-dried logs but they are also much denser.
A dense log will burn for longer. Because briquettes are dry AND dense, they offer the best combination of heat output and burn time. A packet of wood briquettes costs less than a net of logs and will burn for longer, and give out more heat.
Can I use wood briquettes in my wood-burning stove?
All pure wood briquettes are suitable for using in wood-burning stoves. They are actually better for your stove than standard logs, because they’re drier. Wood briquettes are made from pure wood sawdust, which has been densely compressed. There are no additives, glues, waxes etc. added, so they burn very cleanly.
Can I use wood-briquettes in my multi-fuel (coal) stove?
In fact, wood briquettes are a great alternative to coal-based products because they burn so much hotter than traditional logs.
Can I use wood briquettes on my open fire?
Wood briquettes are great on an open fire because they don’t spit or crackle as they burn. No more loud pops or sparks shooting out across the room! There are some briquettes we particularly recommend, such as Pini-Kay, RUF Blocks and Baby Beech, and we are also in the process of developing a Ready Mixed Pallet specially made up for open fires.
Are wood briquettes suitable for smokeless zones?
Wood products are not generally certified as smokeless and that includes briquettes. Check out our blog post on smokeless zones, which helps explain things.
How do I store kiln-dried logs or wood briquettes?
How you store your fuel depends on what you choose – logs or briquettes.
We all know how much it rains in the UK, so atmospheric humidity is pretty high for most of us.
If you’re buying dry logs, you need to store them in a dry place. There’s no point buying dry wood and then storing it for long periods in a traditional wood store -i.e. outside, in an open-sided shelter. Kiln-dried logs will typically be 12-18% moisture content and if they are stored outside, they will reabsorb moisture, as outdoor humidity in the UK will always exceed this level. So keep kiln-dried logs covered, off the ground, and in a dry, airy place.
For briquettes, it’s indoor storage only. They can be stored in watertight sheds, garages, or plastic garden stores but any ingress of moisture will cause problems. A wet briquette becomes a pile of sawdust – which is useless for burning. Please do not store briquettes in traditional wood stores.