YOUR LOCAL FUEL MERCHANTS
NO THREAT TO COAL SUPPLIES
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REMINDER ABOUT BARBEQUE SAFETY
|Barbeques are a great way
to enjoy the benefits of solid fuel, however
they do need to be treated with respect and
users need to be aware of the dangers, particularly
from carbon monoxide.
|Carbon monoxide is a poisonous
gas which is naturally produced by the combustion
of all fuels including both gas and charcoal.
You can’t see it, taste it or smell it
but it can build up within confined spaces and
kill quickly with no warning.
|Whether you use a portable
hibachi grill, disposable grill, large scale
barbeque or even a gas fired model, make sure
you keep yourself and others safe by following
the basic barbeque rules.
Top four tips for Barbeque safety:
- Never take a smouldering or lit
barbeque into a confined space such
as a tent, caravan or cabin. Even
if you have finished cooking and the
coals appear to be dead, the barbeque
should remain outside as it will still
give off fumes for several hours after
- Never use a barbeque inside to keep
- Arrange your cooking area well away
from your tent and ensure that there
is an adequate supply of fresh air
in the area where the barbeque is
- Always use your barbeque equipment
in accordance with the operating instructions.
The Construction Products Directive
has been replaced by the Construction Products Regulation.
This may not sound much of a difference but it means
that all solid fuel appliances placed on the market
after this date must be CE marked by law.
|Stocks of products already held
at retailers on this date will be exempt because they
are deemed to be already “on the market”.
However appliance manufacturer’s warehouse stocks
will need to be CE marked before they pass through
the factory gates.
SAFETY BULLETIN REGARDING CHARCOAL GRILL OVENS
|There are potential dangers
from barbecues and in particular, the fact that
coals that appear to be dead can still emit
dangerous carbon monoxide fumes.
|The HSE have made us aware
of two related incidents involving catering
establishments where after cooking had finished
for the day, unattended charcoal grill ovens
caused a build-up of carbon monoxide which subsequently
percolated into neighbouring premises and resulted
in two cases of carbon monoxide poisoning.
|This type of charcoal oven
should ideally be flued directly to the outside
via a purpose built chimney in accordance with
Approved Document J of the Building Regulations.
However, we are aware that in some cases, the
grill is simply positioned beneath a commercial
kitchen extractor as shown in the picture.
|There are two major risks
that need to be guarded against when using this
- Lack of proper maintenance can lead to
blockage or failure of the extraction system
– it is important to follow exactly
the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule.
- Because dangerous products of combustion
(including CO) will still be emitted after
cooking finishes for the day, the extraction
system must be kept working for as long
as is necessary to prevent a build-up of
|The oven manufacturer’s
instructions for installation, maintenance and
use should always be carefully followed.
GUIDE TO WOOD AND MULTIFUEL PART 3 - THE DANGERS OF BURNING
Burning unseasoned logs can
result in two very serious problems associated with
condensation in the chimney - blockages and chimney
Water vapour combines with other gases and particles
going up the chimney and unless the chimney is kept
warm, the condensation forms a creosote-like substance
which hardens to form tar on the surface of chimney
liners and may seep into brickwork in an unlined
chimney. Wet logs cause the chimney to cool and
so condensation occurs and a residue is formed.
This residue is brown or black and can be flaky,
sticky, runny, tar-like or hardened and will sometimes
be all of these in the same flue. The chimney may
become completely blocked or the volatile residue
can ignite causing a dangerous chimney fire.
The excessive condensation from wet wood which normally
forms in the upper part of the chimney is acidic
in nature and can also corrode the inner surface
of a metal liner, eventually leading to perforation
and failure of the liner.
To avoid these problems, the SFA recommend that
only well-seasoned or kiln dried firewood with low
moisture content (less than 25%) should be used.
150mm chimney liner blocked
SPECIAL SOLID FUEL FEATURE-
WHEN IT COMES TO PIZZA IN NEW YORK, COAL IS KING
the early days, American pizza was always cooked
using coal which Italian immigrants found the most
cost-effective way to heat their ovens. With the
introduction of electricity and gas came inexpensive,
mass-produced pizzas with softer, doughier crusts,
cooked at lower temperatures.
But now, the wheel has turned full circle and a
new generation of pizza-maker is building coal-fired
ovens and serving up distinctive creations with
charred, stretchy-yet-crisp bottoms.
Famous establishments such as Grimaldi’s Brooklyn
Bridge pizzeria built their reputations on coal
fired pizza, attracting the patronage of bon viveur
celebrities such as Frank Sinatra. This was originally
a New York thing but now pizzerias all across America
are turning to coal.
Coal fired pizza is reckoned to be better by its
aficionados because the ovens heat up to a much
higher temperature, cooking the pizza in as little
as two minutes. This produces a thinner, crispier
pizza, packed with flavour.
The coal used is Anthracite which is a cleaner-burning
fuel source than wood and restaurateurs find that
a coal-fired oven is much easier to maintain than
a wood fired one.
Most trends from America eventually make it across
the Atlantic so perhaps we can look forward to the
first British crispy coal-fired pizzas soon….yum!
GUIDE TO WOOD AND MULTIFUEL PART 2- PREPARATION OF FIREWOOD
Trees vary enormously in moisture content when
felled. In summer, up to 65% of the weight of
newly felled timber can be water.
Forestry work continues all year round but for
the domestic heating market, trees should be
felled ideally in winter and certainly before
the end of March when the moisture content starts
to dramatically increase. Trees felled in summer
will take much longer to season. Some species
of trees felled in winter will be ready for
use the following winter. The target moisture
content for firewood is 20% or less (wet basis)
and this is often specified by the appliance
manufacturer. Firewood ready for burning should
never contain more than 25% moisture.
- Consistently low moisture content
is also achieved by kiln drying.
A log store of at least 1.5 m³ is recommended
where a property is heated by a log burning
stove so that a standard delivery of 1m³
can be accommodated when the store is still
a quarter full. The store should be roofed and
well ventilated on at least two sides.
Proprietary wood stores are available in various
Where the intention is to buy unseasoned “wet”
or “green” wood, a much larger storage
capacity will be required so that logs obtained
one or two years previously can be properly
stored for the duration of the seasoning process
i.e. storage capacity for three years supply
of hardwood and two years for softwood will
The logs should ideally be stored under cover
and off the ground but open on at least two
sides so that air can pass through. A sunny
and windy location is ideal. The logs should
ideally be no more than 10cm (4?) thick and
cut to a convenient length for the stove or
grate (Any logs with a diameter greater than
6” (150mm) should be split before storage).
The logs will lose 10-25% of moisture a year
in this way, depending on the type of tree.
Some of the hard woods such as Beech, Elm and
Oak require two if not three summers to season
-Seasoned logs will typically have bark which
comes away easily, splits across the grain and
will create a hollow ringing sound when two
logs are knocked together rather than the dull
thud of wet wood.
effect of moisture upon appliance efficiency
It is very inefficient to burn inadequately
seasoned logs because much of the heat
produced as the wood burns will be required
to drive off the moisture contained within
the logs as steam.
You would need to burn around three times
as many unseasoned logs to achieve the
same heat output as well seasoned or kiln
dried logs (see illustration).
GUIDE TO WOOD AND MULTIFUEL PART 1- INTRODUCTION TO WOOD
|Wood fuel can be divided
into two main categories – “Hardwood”
from deciduous trees and “Softwood” from
conifers or evergreens.
Hardwood is denser than softwood so has a higher
heat content or calorific value. Typically, the
heat content of softwood is a little more than half
as much as hardwood by volume.
Typical heat content of hardwood 2,300kWh/m³
Typical heat content of softwood 1,300kWh/m³
Broadly speaking, around twice
as many softwood logs as hardwood logs may be required
to achieve the same heat output so more frequent
refueling will be necessary when burning softwood.
On the other hand, softwood tends to light more
easily than hardwood and burns faster due to its
resin content. It gives more immediate heat so is
ideal for kindling and initial burning.
|1. Some common wood
types suitable for both open fires and closed
Ash, Beech, Birch, Blackthorn, Elm, Eucalyptus,
Hawthorn, Hazel, Hornbeam, Maple, Oak, Rowan,
Sycamore, Wild Cherry, Willow, Alder, Apple,
2. Wood types prone
to crackling and spitting- suitable for closed
appliances only (stoves and cookers)
Cedar, Douglas Fir, Horse Chestnut, Larch, Plane,
Sweet Chestnut, Willow.
In general, softwoods tend to be more prone
to popping and spitting because of pockets of
moisture or sap contained within the wood.
The risk of spitting will be reduced by effective
seasoning or drying.
Important Note: never leave an open fire unattended
without a fireguard!
3. Other common
wood types and their characteristics
Elder –Produces a thick acrid smoke.
Lime – A low quality fuel.
Pine species generally (including Leylandi)
– Can form oily soot deposits in a chimney.
Poplar – Traditionally used for matchsticks,
poor heat output but useful for kindling.
Spruce – A low quality firewood for use
in closed appliances only.
Note: Laburnum and Yew are poisonous so care
must be exercised when using as firewood. Because
of the contamination risk, they are not recommended
for cookers. However, Yew in particular gives
good heat in a stove.
of different wood types
|Species of wood
|| Density (solid)
|PINE / FIR
Recovered wood (joinery offcuts) should be clean,
cut to length and not treated or painted. Chipboard,
plywood and MDF should not be burnt as they contain
chemical binders and adhesives which could produce
toxic emissions which adversely affect the inner
surface of the chimney.
Please note that so-called “tanalised”
timber contains arsenic.
TOP TEN REASONS TO CHOOSE MULTIFUEL
The SFA have been foremost in promoting
woodburning stoves in the UK for many years. However, we
are of the firm belief that it is the multifuel stove rather
than the pure wood burning stove or pellet stove which offers
the consumer the clearest benefit. Here are ten reasons
- Choice- The owner of a multifuel
stove has the widest range of fuels to choose
from including the superior comfort and convenience
offered by solid mineral fuel. Many newcomers
to wood burning underestimate the amount of wood
and the frequency of refueling required to maintain
heat output. As we will see later on, burning
mineral fuel can help address both of these issues.
- Cost effectiveness - According
to the Sutherland tables, solid smokeless mineral
fuel is the most cost effective method of heating
a room. Moreover solid fuel central heating is
less expensive than LPG, oil and biomass.
- Convenience- When mineral fuel
is burnt on a stove, the refueling interval will
be far greater than when burning wood alone (four
to five hours compared to half to one hour for
wood fuel). This can make it easier for the stove
to fit into a busy modern lifestyle.
- Overnight burning- It is quite
possible for the stove to burn through the night
with mineral fuel.
- Supply- During extended periods
of cold weather, good quality well-seasoned wood
fuel can become very scarce. A reliable supply
of mineral fuel from your local coal merchant
can sustain your stove through these periods.
- Security- With a multifuel
stove, the room can be kept warm and cosy even
during power cuts. A kettle on a flat-topped stove
could provide a warming cup of tea or coffee.
Moreover, a jacket potato cooked in the ashpit
or hot buttered toast could also be on the menu
with a multifuel stove!
- Heat content of solid fuel-
One full bunker of mineral fuel is likely to contain
as much heat energy as up to four bulk bags (cubic
metres) of logs.
- Self-sufficiency- The beauty
of solid fuel is that you can hold stock. This
insulates the customer against price increases.
A full bunker of mineral fuel could easily sustain
a roomheater throughout the winter or even keep
a boiler model running through a prolonged period
of cold weather when suitable wood fuel may be
difficult to source.
- Environment- Imported wood
fuels are likely to be the product of large scale
felling of forests which completely destroys the
natural environment and prematurely liberates
huge quantities of carbon dioxide stored in the
wood. By way of a contrast, coal mining is always
carried out with due regard to conservation and
the environment. Indeed, the restoration work
carried out by mining companies after mining ceases
can actually increase the environmental and amenity
value of land which was previously derelict.
- Carbon emissions – Recent
studies have suggested that typical carbon dioxide
emissions from processed wood-based “biomass”
products such as wood pellets are 50% greater
than coal. However, a stove burning a mixture
of coal and well-seasoned wood from a sustainable
local source is likely to have a smaller “carbon
foot print” than a gas appliance.
70% of customers can’t be wrong – It is
estimated that around 70% of stove buyers choose the
OPENING UP YOUR FIREPLACE
|More and more people are
opening up their fireplaces to enjoy the warmth
and comfort of an open coal fire. The 'living
flame' becomes the focus of the room and the
|An open fire always creates
a cosy sense of well-being.
are hundreds of different styles to choose from
and they all offer the 'living flame' and reassuring
glow that only a real fire can provide.
open fire provides heat for your home by direct
radiation, although some fires are available
with a convection chamber to circulate warm
air around the room.
open fires are capable of slow burning through
the night for up to eight hours on one fueling
(mineral fuel) and easy slide-out ash pans allow
the removal of ash without having to let the
fire go out.
|Free standing canopy open
fires are also available for installation into
large inglenook fireplace openings.
|For more information see
section for the downloads “Opening up
your fireplace” and “Period Fireplaces”
Barbeques are a great way to enjoy
the benefits of solid fuel outdoors. However, they have
been linked to several camp-site deaths by carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide is naturally produced by the combustion
of all fuels including both gas and charcoal. You can’t
see it, taste it or smell it but it can build up within
confined spaces and kill quickly with no warning.
Whether you use a portable hibachi grill, disposable grill,
large scale barbeque or even a gas fired model, make sure
you keep yourself and others safe by following the basic
Top four tips for Barbeque safety:
- Never take a smouldering or
lit barbeque into a confined space such as a tent,
caravan or cabin. Even if you have finished cooking
and the coals appear to be dead, the barbeque
should remain outside as it will still give off
fumes for some hours after use.
- Never use a barbeque inside
to keep you warm.
- Arrange your cooking area well
away from your tent and ensure that there is an
adequate supply of fresh air in the area where
the barbeque is being used.
- Always use your barbeque equipment
in accordance with the operating instructions.
TWO INFORMATIVE GUIDES PUBLISHED BY THE SOLID FUEL
The guides are available to
download. See our LITERATURE
page for these and other informative solid fuel publications.
|Solid Fuel Association
Guide to Wood and Multifuel
Coal merchants have always traditionally sold
firewood alongside coal. However, renewed interest
by consumers in burning wood, mainly in multifuel
stoves, is stimulating a growing demand for
wood fuel. This guide is designed to help people
to select and burn firewood safely and efficiently.
Wood fuel can be divided into two main categories
– “Hardwood” from deciduous
trees and “Softwood” from conifers
|SFA Guide to Solid
A guide to suitable applications for solid mineral
Open Fires; Closed appliances (Roomheaters,
Multifuel stoves and Cookers); AGA type heat
storage cookers & Gravity Feed Boilers
MULTIFUEL STOVES LEAD THE WAY
Sales of solid fuel stoves have soared
over recent years. Aside from the practical advantages of
solid fuel, a stove makes a fashionable addition to the
modern home and no other heating system can match the “wow”
factor or the cosy sense of comfort and well-being that
an open fire or stove lends to a room. To many people, the
cosy glow and flickering flames are part of what makes a
house into a home.
The vast majority of the so-called “woodburning stoves”
installed should be more properly referred to as “multifuel”
stoves and it is this type rather than the wood-only stove
that has experienced the greatest increase in popularity.
The main advantage of a multifuel stove is that it can burn
a range of solid fuels as well as wood. This gives the user
the added convenience offered by mineral fuels and the flexibility
of being able to select fuel according to price and availability.
Reasons to choose a multifuel stove:
- Low running costs - Solid fuel is an efficient and
economical method of heating. According to the Sutherland
comparative heating tables, the cost of central heating
with anthracite has been consistently lower than both
oil and LPG and is actually on a par with natural gas.
Moreover, the solid fuel roomheater is reckoned to be
the most cost effective method of space heating.
- Health - Solid fuel heating can greatly reduce condensation,
eliminating household mould. Medical research has also
suggested in the past that solid fuel heating can reduce
the risk of hay fever, asthma and eczema.
Homes with solid fuel heating are better ventilated
than those with other forms of heating because the chimney
causes fresh air to be drawn in and evacuates the stale
- Availability - Solid fuel users in almost all areas
enjoy the benefits of a well-developed and regulated
distribution system via local members of the Approved
Coal Merchants Scheme. As the UK still has enormous
reserves of coal, future supplies are assured. Supplies
of firewood are also set to increase in line with the
increased demand from multifuel stoves.
- Convenience - The frequency of refueling and the quantity
of wood needed to maintain adequate heat output can
be underestimated by newcomers to wood burning.
Fortunately, the calorific value of a mineral fuel such
as anthracite is around four times that of wood and
its heat output is more sustained. Therefore, the mutifuel
stove can provide the “best of both worlds”
by allowing the wood burning enthusiast to also enjoy
the practical benefits of coal when required such as
reduced frequency of refueling and even overnight burning.
- Security of supply - solid fuel stove owners can feel
secure in the knowledge that if they have fuel in stock,
they will always be able to keep warm and cosy. Indeed,
with a flat topped stove, a kettle of boiling water
is only a few moments away! Moreover, in an uncertain
world, investment in solid fuel heating can provide
an insurance policy against the threat of future gas
and power cuts or the volatile price fluctuations of
other domestic fuels.
- Choice and flexibility –In smoke control areas,
smokeless solid fuels such as anthracite can still be
burnt and even seasoned firewood can be used if the
appliance is one of the DEFRA exempted models.
- CO2 - Those users concerned about CO2 emissions may
be surprised to learn that a stove burning a 50:50 mix
of wood and coal can have a smaller carbon footprint
than a typical gas boiler.
|A stove can be used as the primary central
heating source, an occasional secondary heat source or even
linked up to an existing open vented oil or gas central
stove manufacturers page