DEFRA Approved Stove

While the term “DEFRA approve stove” is quite common in the stove industry the correct name is a “DEFRA smoke exempt appliance”. In simple terms this is a stove which has been tested and passed by the UK authorities and passes the criteria for emission levels and amount of smoke produced under normal operation. The body in charge of passing DEFRA approval is the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (hence the name DEFRA) . Many people get confused about DEFRA approved stoves, where they can use them, when they can’t use and what type of fuel they require.So, why do we need DEFRA approved stoves?

Clean Air Act

The UK government’s Clean Air Act limits the emissions from a variety of different combustion products such as stoves. The act normally comes into play within the boundaries of busy towns and cities where there is the possibility of air pollution which needs to be controlled. This is why the UK authorities brought in the DEFRA approved stoves of today as a means of trying to protect the environment and keep the air as clear as possible. Aside from the traditional downside of smoke in the air it has also been connected with an array of health conditions such as asthma.

There is no doubt that DEFRA approved stoves have become more popular in recent times and this trend is likely to continue.

What is different about a DEFRA approved stove?

When comparing traditional and DEFRA approved stoves, on the outside there is little if any difference between the two products. They look the same, they create heat and they require the same accessories to install. So, on the surface there is little in the way of difference between a DEFRA approved stove and a non-DEFRA approved stove. However, if you dig a little deeper you will see the

When burning any type of fuel in a stove there is an obvious risk of creating smoke which pollutes the atmosphere and can cause issue with your neighbours. As a process, smoke is created when the burning fuel is starved of air therefore DEFRA approved stoves limit the “closed down” option which means there is always a minimum level of combustion air in the chamber. This stops the creation of smoke and protects the local environment- something which is becoming more popular amongst politicians. There are obviously a lot more benefits to using DEFRA approved stoves but this is the main difference compared to non-DEFRA approve models.

What fuel can I use with a DEFRA approved stove?

The traditional DEFRA approved stove is approved for the burning of wood although those burning damp wood, which creates smoke, can still be prosecuted under the Clean Air Act. Therefore, you need to use dry wood as your main source of fuel but there are also other approved smokeless fuels as defined by DEFRA. These take in the likes of smokeless anthracite coal although you do need to be very careful that you are not breaking the law with the type of fuel you are using. The authorities are getting stricter on those flouting the Clean Air Act  which can land you with a significant fine.

The vast majority of approved stoves will come with a list of acceptable fuels and if you have any queries you should go back to the retailer or check out the DEFRA website. Ignorance as to the type of fuel you can use is not an excuse if you are found to be breaking the law. It could be very costly!

Is a DEFRA approved stove better to use?

When you bear in mind that the vast majority of people turn to woodburning or multifuel stoves as a means of saving on their fuel bills and doing their bit for the environment, a DEFRA approved model would obviously help with the latter. The very fact that these models create less smoke means there is less soot to clog up the fume exit route in the stove and the flue going up through your chimney. In the longer term there are potentially large savings because of the extended life of the stove and the flue and obviously less cleaning time required.

The only real downside to a DEFRA approve stove is if you want to “slumber burn” your woodfuel overnight to extend its burn time. This would be normally be achieved by starving the fuel of air but because DEFRA approved stoves always maintain a minimum air supply, to avoid smoke, this is not possible. So, for those who like to slumber burn their woodfuel overnight this is perhaps the only downside to a DEFRA approved stove.

Will environmental controls get tougher?

There is no doubt that environmental controls will be tougher in the future as both the UK authorities and their European counterparts continue to clamp down. As a consequence, more stove manufacturers will bring out DEFRA approve models of their most popular products to ensure their market share is maintained. We have heard of instances where the authorities have clamped down on the use of incorrect fuel, and the use of incorrect stoves in protected areas, and this is likely to continue. At the end of the day, for many people, one of the main attractions of wood-burning and multifuel stoves is to do their bit to help the environment.


The world of stoves has changed dramatically over the last 20 years or so and, while they may look the same on the outside, the inner workings are very different today. Stove companies have managed to incorporate the latest technology into their models and the stringent DEFRA approved process is also attracting significant interest. DEFRA approved models are required in UK smoke controlled areas although they are also becoming popular in areas where they are not required by law.

It will be interesting to see the new technology of the future and whether indeed it is possible to streamline and cleanse the current stove technology to create an even cleaner burn process. The stoves that we see today manage to maintain the traditional/contemporary looks of yesteryear while incorporating the latest in stove burning technology. As we don’t always see a visual difference these achievements are often underappreciated.

This post was written by Mark Benson of Bowland Stoves, a company offering an array of stoves, replacement parts and accessories. For further information please visit

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