By Julian Patrick
By Julian Patrick
Most online sites have far too many stoves to choose from. They list every stove they can get their hands on. There are too many!
Surely they cannot all be the best? There must be plenty of mediocre performers amongst the hordes?
So let us narrow it down for you. What is the small pool that we at Stovefitter's would choose from?
Here are our top ten DEFRA approved wood burning stoves for 2021 (in no particular order):
We test a different stove every month during winter and give them all a good hard beating.
Defra approved stoves are those that are allowed in law to burn specified fuels in smoke control areas, fuels that are usually disallowed in those areas. In the case of a stove (also referred to as a log burner) this means wood, the burning of which is otherwise disallowed in the designated area.
The control of correct fuel usage stems from the desire to promote clean air, particularly in populated areas.
If you see a stove that has SE after its name or the DEFRA logo and the word "approved" then this means that you can fit these approved stoves in a smoke control area and legally burn wood.
Stoves passed by DEFRA can be steel or cast iron and can burn wood or be multi fuel.
The difference between DEFRA approved wood burning stoves and those stoves not approved is surprisingly little. Modern stoves can even, in some cases, be modified to become DEFRA approved with a kit (supplied by the stove manufacturer).
The kit makes changes to the stove’s air vents, changing the design so that the stove cannot be fully closed down to full slumber (when airflow to the fuel is almost completely cut off by use of the stove's controls). Users will often do this to keep a stove going all night but it is very bad for the environment as the particulate number and size increases (often at night the smoke is not seen). Slumbering can also shorten the life of a stove, its components and flue system.
A DEFRA approved wood burning stove will not allow excessive smoke due to slumbering (they can still be turned down low so do not be tempted to overthink this).
Areas of the UK designated as such are usually well-populated: towns, cities and their suburbs where smoke can be a nuisance. You can easily check your area online.
Can you install a stove, that DEFRA has not tested, in a restricted area, if you are not going to burn wood?
In other words, if you are only going to burn smokeless fuel (an authorised fuel). Yes you can!
Below is a snippet from the DEFRA website 2019 that states this:
"I have bought an appliance and now find I am in a smoke control area and it is not exempt what should I do? You could ask the manufacturer or importer if they have any plans to seek exemption. Alternatively, replace it with an exempt appliance from the list at Exempt Appliances or continue to use the appliance but only using an authorised fuel. The list of authorised fuels can be found at Authorised Fuels. "
Aside from the fact they an approved stove is likely to emit less smoke and helps with clean air objectives, a major advantage of DEFRA approved stoves is that they can legally be attached to a 5″ chimney liner for the burning of wood ( if the DEFRA approved stove has a 5″ collar and the manufacturer does not insist on a larger diameter). In all other circumstances, Building Regulations state that a liner must be 6″ minimum when burning wood.
Note that a 5″ liner can be legally fitted to ANY stove, DEFRA certified or not, with a 5″ collar if (a) the manufacturer does not state otherwise and (b) only smokeless fuel is to burn within the stove.
A 5″ liner can be very desirable or even necessary if a chimney requires lining but is very narrow or difficult.
Julian Patrick is the author of The Stovefitter's Manual and an experienced wood burning stove installer (including solid fuel heating systems).
Laid down tools in 2013 to write The Stove Fitter's Manual and open a small shop in North Wales (the Wood Stove Hut). Launched Stovefitter's Warehouse soon after due to fast growth of sales.
Own stove is a DG Ivar 5.
Stovefitter's Warehouse is owned and managed by Julian Patrick, blogger and author of The Stove Fitter's Manual. Julian was previously a full-time installer of wood-burning stoves (including solid fuel heating systems). He laid down the tools in 2013 to write his stove manual and open a small shop in North Wales (the Wood Stove Hut, soon to grow into The Stovefitter's Warehouse).