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Paul Bennett, Director

How we heat our homes is a huge topic of conversation as we officially start autumn – even for us here at Behr & Butchoff in St. John’s Wood. While the Government has intervened to cap how much energy suppliers can charge per unit of fuel, bills will be more expensive this winter compared to last.


It has recently been established that more of us will turn our backs on radiators and underfloor heating in favour of a more rustic source of heat. In September 2022, the results of a survey conducted by Aviva, questioning our attitudes to heating our homes, were published. It comes as no surprise that 1 in 10 of us plan to stop using central heating in favour of real fires.


With the estate agents at Behr & Butchoff selling and renting many homes with open fireplaces and wood burning stoves – with many more home movers considering an alternative to gas central heating - fire safety in the spotlight. Compliance is even more important in 2022, as there are a number of changes pertaining to regulations.


As of 1st January 2022, all new wood burning stoves sold in the UK were required to comply with incoming ECO2022 Ecodesign standards. Models now need to meet new minimum seasonal efficiency and maximum emission performance limits before they can be legally sold and installed. In London, boroughs including Westminster and Camden are designated smoke control areas, where smoke from domestic open fires and wood burning stoves is restricted as part of the Clean Air Act.


If you plan to heat your London property by way of an open fire or wood burning stove, here are Behr & Butchoff’s top four pieces of advice:


1.      Make sure your chimney is swept on an annual basis, ideally before you light the first fire of the season. If you rent a property in St. John’s Wood, it is your landlord’s responsibility to have a chimney swept.


2.      Establish if your chimney is capped or blocked before you light a fire. If you’ve moved to a new property and are unsure, book a survey with a reputable chimney sweep or roofing expert.


3.      Dispose of ashes and embers sensibly as they can retain heat for hours. The safest method of disposal is transferring any ashes or embers to a metal box, leaving them outside until they are cold enough to tip into the bin.


4.      Burn an authorised fuel suitable for London’s restrictions, as the capital is a smokeless zone. If you have a fire basket, open grate or insert fire, burning wood or coal that produces smoke is banned. An alternative is a smokeless fuel, which is manufactured to produce less smoke. Wood can only be burnt in stoves that have DEFRA approval. When buying wood, look for the Woodsure Ready to Burn label or for logs that are labelled as ‘seasoned’ or ‘kiln dried’.


Open fires, heating & safety in rented properties

Blocked chimneys and flues can produce carbon monoxide, so safety is important. The Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm Regulations are changing from 1st October 2022, with additional fire safety requirements for landlords and managing agents to comply with. The new smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm regulations are in addition to those already in force, and the full suite of requirements is as follows:-


·         carbon monoxide alarms to be provided in all rooms with a fixed combustion appliance (excluding gas cookers)

·         carbon monoxide alarms to be provided upon installation of any heating appliance (excluding gas cookers) in all tenures through building regulations

·         all alarms to be repaired or replaced once reported faulty

·         smoke alarms to be fitted on every floor of a property, where there is a room used wholly or partly as living accommodation

·         carbon monoxide alarms to be provided in any room where solid fuel is burnt, such as wood, coal or biomass, including open fires

·         all alarms to be tested at the start of each tenancy


While the above is a mandatory requirement in privately rented properties, Behr & Butchoff recommends homeowners use the above points as a prudent guide to fire safety in the home. If you’re set on the comforting crackle of logs and the warm flicker of a real flame, ask our agents about properties for sale and to rent in London that have an open fire or wood burning stove.