Home burner focus: why tenant installations need to be taken to task

With the popularity of solid fuel burners showing no signs of slowing, tenants looking to install a touch of cosiness into their homes are often tempted to cut corners and install the appliances themselves. AGSM’s John Gregory, which is part of the Association of Safety and Compliance Professionals (ASCP) group, shares his thoughts on this growing problem and what provisions and checks landlords should put in place to be compliant.

Landlords have specific duties relating to gas appliances, as detailed in The Gas Safety (Installation & Use) Regulations 1998. Despite there being no similar regulations relating to solid fuel appliances, there is a duty under the ‘Health & Safety at Work Act’ to ensure tenants are not exposed to health & safety risks. 

As with gas appliances, all solid fuel appliances, including their flues, should be checked regularly in line with the manufacturer’s specification and industry guidance, e.g. British Standards or other code of practice/guidance. 

In certain situations, a tenant may install a solid fuel burning appliance, where the tenancy agreement permits, which is the property of the tenant. The tenant should notify their landlord and insurance provider that a solid fuel burning appliance has been installed. A Landlord has a duty to maintain the chimney as being part of the fabric of the building. A Landlord should request, upon the installation of a solid fuel burning appliance, a copy of a certificate of compliance, confirming the appliance has been installed in compliance with all Building Regulation requirements, and include on any asset register for the property. A request of a copy of any servicing/maintenance records and chimney sweeping records should also be made. 

Forget focal pieces, safety should come first 

When selecting a solid fuel appliance, consideration should always be made to ensure the appliance meets all legal obligations. If it doesn’t, it means the home itself is at risk. 

Here’s a quick checklist that landlords should confirm with their tenants: 

  • The appliance is appropriately CE marked
  • A copy of the manufacturer’s installation and operating instructions is readily available 
  • The appliance is appropriately energy labelled and accompanied by the required technical documents
  • The appliance can burn the relevant fuels expected by the end user – which is essential for safe operation. Smokeless fuels and wood with a maximum moisture content of 20% should be considered
  • Consideration for installation of a solid fuel appliance in a Smoke Control Area and what additional; criteria need to be met
  • The appliance is best suited to the specific needs of the household and lifestyle of the end user.
  • The installation of a solid fuel burning appliance must comply with J1 to J5 of Building Regulations Approved Document J 2010

Can fuel burners ever be eco? 

The Ecodesign is a regulation adopted into European legislation in 2015, with the aim of improving the energy efficiency of products and decreasing the level of pollutants emitted from heating technologies. This includes solid fuel, wood burning and biomass appliances. 

Ecodesign implementation dates

Appliances will need to be independently tested to demonstrate they meet the required standards and obtain evidence that the maximum limits for emissions have not been exceeded and the minimum limits for seasonal efficiency have been met.

The date appliances need to meet Ecodesign requirements are different and dependent on the type of technology sold: 

  • Independent boiler appliances (providing heat solely for central heating and hot water): Already in place – 1st January 2020
  • Room heater stoves (ability to provide heat into the room in which they are installed): 1st January 2022

The regulation will require all solid fuel products that are placed onto the market and/or installed after these dates to have met the necessary emission and efficiency requirements.

Fires shouldn’t be a fit & forget addition: maintenance is mandatory 

All solid fuel appliances require continued maintenance and servicing, to ensure they operate efficiently and provide a safe environment for the occupants of the property. Routine servicing should be carried out at least once per year and must meet the appliance manufacturer’s specification given in any maintenance instructions. 

Most manufacturers will provide sufficient guidance on procedure and assessment to ensure continued safe operation of their appliance. However, where the manufacturer’s instructions are not available, or when competent operatives are requested to check the continued safety of an appliance installation, the routine checks detailed below should be considered. 

Before carrying out any work on an appliance, a competent operative should ensure that;

  • A relevant risk assessment of the property and appliance has been carried out
  • A CO alarm has been fitted in the same room as the appliance
  • A solid fuel appliance and flue of suitable type are installed
  • Where available, a copy of the manufacturer’s servicing/maintenance instructions is obtained and understood

When the above is satisfied, visual checks can be undertaken, before the appliance is tested, including:

  • Ventilation is sufficient, in good condition, non-closable, without a gauze fitted 
  • Clearance to combustible material meets manufacturer requirements. No sign of charring
  • Carbon monoxide alarm is in a suitable position & working effectively (It has been a Building Regulation requirement since 2010 that a carbon monoxide alarm is installed in every room, in a dwelling, containing a solid fuel burning appliance)
  • Does the flue/chimney/connecting pipe require sweeping based on previous service records?
  • Check doorway, register plate & flue seals are in good condition
  • Baffles, ash pan, glass, firebricks & grate components are working correctly
  • Appliance air controls, riddling, & de-ashing mechanism are working correctly
  • Suitability of the hearth and the flue outlet termination
  • Appliance is secure and stable

Once the above checks have been made, the appropriate smoke draw, extraction and spillage tests can be followed, in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions, to confirm that the appliance installation is operating safely at the time of the visit.

DEFRA exemption

It should be noted that bituminous coal and wood in any form including pellets is not by law permitted to be burned on appliances in Smoke Control Areas, except where the appliance has been exempted under the Clean Air Act 1993. These exempted appliances are designed for use in Smoke Control Areas when operated in accordance with the specified conditions of the exemption and burning only the specified fuels in accordance with the manufacturer’s operating instructions. It is important to note that appliances marked as DEFRA Exempted refers only to England. (Note: Some DEFRA exempt stove have to be fitted with a smoke control kit at the point of installation and all do not necessarily come with a smoke control fitted.)

Claire Heyes, Chief Executive of the ASCP, commented: “AGSM members have raised how solid fuel burners are often installed unsafely within homes. AGSM Technical Meetings are the perfect opportunity to help guide landlords on the checklist they need to follow in order to be compliant.”

By joining the AGSM or ACSP, members can attend Technical Meetings for free. For more visit www.safetyandcomplianceconference.com