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What Does DEFRA Exempt/Approved Mean?

When you make the wonderful decision to purchase a stove for your home, there are many things that you will need to consider. If you are completely new to the world of wood-burning or multi-fuel stoves, you may feel a little intimidated by some of the terminology that is common when looking for your ideal stove.

One such piece of jargon you may hear is the term DEFRA exempt or DEFRA approved. While this may seem a little confusing, it simply refers to stoves that have been approved for use in a smoke controlled area.

But there are some other things that you may need to understand before committing to any stove that is DEFRA exempt and in this guide, we will be taking a deep dive into everything you will need to know.

When you are shopping for a wood burner or multi-fuel stove, you will come across a lot of things that you need to consider. One of the most important is whether the stove is DEFRA approved, sometimes called DEFRA exempt.

This term is given to stoves that have been pre-approved to burn specific fuels even when they are installed in a smoke controlled area. If you live in a smoke controlled area, you must follow the guidelines. If you burn fuels that have not been approved, then you could face being fined up to £1000 so it is certainly worth looking only for a DEFRA approved stove.

DEFRA stands for the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs and is a government-run authority. DEFRA has a list of fuels that have been approved and while a full list of these fuels appears on the website, they typically exclude woods. However, there are some logs that are approved as well as many types of smokeless charcoal, briquettes and other easily obtainable fuels.

That being said, there are some wood exemptions but these will vary by the stove so when you purchase, it is worth checking out the restrictions and exemptions on your chosen model.

What Is Different About A DEFRA Approved Stove?

When you purchase a stove that has been DEFRA approved, there likely won’t be any visible difference to a stove that has not been approved.

This status is simply given to stoves that have been tested by DEFRA. The testing, if successful, awards an appliance with a DEFRA exemption, the official title being a DEFRA Smoke Exempt Appliance.

There are specific criteria that a stove would have to meet before being awarded this exemption. But as a general guide, you would expect the stove to emit the lowest amount of smoke as emissions are one of the most important focal points of the test.

These emissions are judged based on normal operation and do not take into account any special circumstances.

When a stove is manufactured, there may be things that the manufacturer does in order to make sure that the stove will be awarded a DEFRA exemption. Typically, these stoves will be limited on how much they can be closed off. This term simply refers to how much the stove can be starved of oxygen, which can result in a lot of smoke being emitted.

This is all in relation to the government attempts to maintain clean air and as a result, a DEFRA approved stove would provide the absolute minimum in terms of combustion air, resulting in barely any smoke. But this does not mean that the wood or fuel will not burn efficiently, you will still get a generous degree of heat, flames and light from your stove.

What Are Smoke Controlled Areas?

In the United Kingdom, there are several Smoke Controlled areas where burning certain fuels is illegal. However, people living in these places may still be able to burn certain fuels provided that they are being used in a preapproved appliance. As we have already discussed, if you do not adhere to the rules in these areas, there may be a penalty.

The government has created these rules as a way of protecting the air that we breathe, When fuels are burned, they emit harmful carbon monoxide and other chemicals into the air and if everyone were to burn them, the effects could be devastating.

Furthermore, these rules typically only apply to burning fuels where the smoke will be released through a chimney such as your wood burner or multi-fuel stove. It is perfectly legal to use outdoor ovens like pizza ovens, barbecues and chimeneas.

Where are smoke controlled areas?

 Typically, most cities within the UK will be under the Smoke Control program but these are not the only locations. The best way to find out whether you are living in a Smoke Controlled area is to contact your local council who will be able to provide you with more information.

Why Is It Important To Be DEFRA Exempt/Approved?

The most obvious answer to this question is that you will avoid facing a hefty fine for using a non-DEFRA approved stove in a Smoke Controlled area. However, this is by no means the only reason that owning a DEFRA approved stove is important.

Because of the way that these stoves are made, the result is a much cleaner burn and this is not only better for the environment but also better for your own health.

Furthermore, when you use a DEFRA approved stove, you will notice that your flue remains a lot cleaner. When you burn fuels that kick out a lot of smoke, this will leave a residue on the inside of the chimney and will require regular cleaning by a professional chimney sweep.

We are not saying that you should never have your flue cleaned when using a DEFRA approved stove but you may notice that it becomes less-dirty and the risk of it becoming blocked is significantly reduced. As a direct result of this, the chances of having a chimney fire are also massively decreased.

Can I Fit A Non-DEFRA Approved Stove In A Smoke Controlled Area?

If you are moving into a Smoke Controlled area and want to bring an existing wood burner or multi-fuel stove with you to your new property, you may be wondering if you will be allowed to install it if it isn’t DEFRA approved.

In short, you can install a non-DEFRA approved stove in a Smoke Controlled area but you will still need to abide by the rules regarding the types of fuel that you are allowed to burn.

If you have been used to burning several types of wood, this can take some getting used to but the good news is that a lot of the approved fuels are still very efficient.

Is It Best To Choose A DEFRA Exempt Stove?

If you live in a Smoke Controlled area and are considering buying a stove for your home, it is a wise idea to choose a DEFRA exempt stove. However, as we have discovered, this is not a legal requirement, provided that you are burning approved fuels.

That being said, regardless of whether you are in a smoke controlled area or not, it might be worth considering a DEFRA exempt stove as they are better for the environment and for your chimney.

Another great advantage in owning a DEFRA approved stove is that they can typically be fitted to a 5-inch chimney liner provided that the stove also has a 5-inch collar. In normal circumstances, there are building regulations which state that stoves need to be fitted to a minimum 6-inch chimney liner. But you may be able to get past this, in some cases. However, it is important to keep in mind that if you do take this option, these stoves can rarely reach more than 6kw.


A DEFRA approved stove is an appliance that has been tested by the government DEFRA (Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs) and been made exempt from laws in their clean air legislation.

While these stoves provide a much cleaner burn and are better for the environment, they must still be used with approved fuels.

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