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ENERGY

What are the rules on using wood-burning stoves in Italy?

Sales of wood burners have increased since the start of the energy crisis, but some Italian regions have rules regulating their use. Here's where and how they apply.

A retired farmer lights his wood stove.
Some Italian regions offer financial incentives for those who choose to replace their old stoves or fireplaces with new wood burners with a five-star energy rating. Photo by Jean-Francois MONIER / AFP

As the European energy crisis shows no sign of abating, many households in Italy are considering switching to alternative (and more affordable) heating systems this winter.

For some, the best option might be using a wood-burning stove, a heating system which seems to be becoming ever more popular amid the energy crisis. 

According to energy group AIEL (Italian Association for Forestry Energy, or Associazione Italiana Energie Agroforestali), sales of wood- or pellet-burning stoves in the first five months of 2022 rose by 28 percent against the same period of time last year. 

But those who are looking to turn to wood burners to keep warm over winter should be mindful of varing regional rules regulating the use of stoves and fireplaces. 

In fact, five Italian regions – Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany – currently have laws banning residents from using low-efficiency wood burners, backed up by fines of up to €5,000.

What’s the point of these rules?

Regional laws banning the use of low-performance wood burners were introduced well before the current energy crisis to reduce CO2 (carbon dioxide) and PM (particulate matter) emissions across the country.

All relevant rulings on the subject use the national ‘five-star’ energy rating as their system of reference.

Fireplace with burning fire.

Bans on low-efficiency wood burners were introduced long before the European energy crisis to reduce CO2 and PM (particulate matter) emissions across the country. Photo by Stephane DE SAKUTIN / AFP

In 2017, the Italian government established five different energy classes for wood-burning heating systems and allocated a set number of ‘stars’ to each category.

The lower the number of stars, the greater the ecological impact (i.e. the amount of pollutants released into the atmosphere) of the wood burner in question, with ratings from one to five stars.

For a full breakdown of the five energy classes recognised by the Italian government and to know what types of stoves and fireplaces belong in each category, see this extract from the most recent law dating from 2017.

What rules are in place and where?

Laws on wood burners vary from region to region, so here’s a brief overview of the rules enforced by each of the five above-mentioned regions.

Lombardy – As of January 1st, 2020, all Lombardy residents are banned from using wood stoves or fireplaces with an energy rating lower than four stars. 

Only pellets of the A1 type (i.e. with residual ash lower than 0.7 percent) can be used for pellet-burning stoves with a maximum heat output (potenza termica nominale) of under 35 kW (kilowatts).

Fines for those breaking the rules range from €500 to €5,000, though it’s unclear how or how strictly the rules are enforced.

Veneto – Veneto forbids the use of wood stoves or fireplaces with an energy rating lower than three stars. 

Also, people looking to install a new wood burner must ensure that the stove or fireplace in question has an energy rating of at least four stars. 

Wood pellets at a plant belonging to Graanul Invest, Europe’s biggest wood pellet producer.

In Lombardy, only pellets of the A1 type can be used for pellet-burning stoves with a maximum heat output lower than 35 kW. Photo by Ivo PANASYUK / AFP

Piedmont – As of October 1st, 2019, Piedmont residents are banned from using wood-burning heating systems with a maximum heat output (potenza termica nominale) lower than 35 kW and an energy rating lower than three stars. 

Also, residents can only install new wood burners with a maximum heat output of 35 kW or more and an energy rating of at least four stars.

For additional details on the rules currently enforced in Piedmont, refer to the following website.

Emilia-Romagna – Things get slightly more complicated in Emilia-Romagna, where residents are banned from using wood stoves or fireplaces with an energy rating lower than three stars if their homes have an alternative heating system and they live in municipalities (comuni) whose elevation is less than 300 metres above sea level.

Emilia-Romagna also currently offers financial incentives for those who reside in one of the following comuni and choose to replace their old stoves or fireplaces with latest-generation heating systems with a five-star energy rating.

For further information about the rules currently in place in Emilia-Romagna, please consult energy regulator ARPAE’s website.

Tuscany – In Tuscany, rules on the use of wood burners are tethered to the individual PM10 (particulate matter less than 10 micrometres in diameter) emissions of each comune

That means that, in municipalities that have exceeded the permitted amount of daily PM10 emissions, residents are banned from using stoves or fireplaces with an energy rating lower than three stars, unless wood burners are their only available source of heating or they live in comuni with an elevation of 200 metres above sea level or more.

At the present time, the above ban only applies to the municipalities located in the so-called ‘Piana Lucchese’.

See more details in the following regional decree.

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UK AND ITALY

Can British people in Italy claim the UK’s winter fuel payment?

In the UK, there are various benefits available to help eligible people through the cold winter months – one of which is the winter fuel payment. But can Britons living in Italy really claim this benefit to cover the cost of heating their Italian homes?

Can British people in Italy claim the UK’s winter fuel payment?

Average winter temperatures vary across Italy, but those who move here after only experiencing scorching summers are often surprised to discover just how cold the country can get.

Even the hardiest of arrivals from colder climes will no doubt have to switch on the radiators or fire up the woodburner between November and February – despite the surging costs.

READ ALSO: Not just gas: How the cost of heating has soared in Italy

As the cost of living crisis bites, some UK nationals who reside in Italy may wonder if they could still be eligible for winter fuel financial support from the UK.

What is the UK’s winter fuel payment?

The UK’s winter fuel payment is a tax-free payment to help older people with heating costs during the cold winter months.

Those eligible must have been born before September 26th 1956, according to the UK government’s website.

How much people receive depends on their age and whether anyone else in the household is also eligible, but the amount is usually between £250 and £600.

I’m a UK national living in Italy. Can I claim the winter fuel payment?

Yes, if you meet the following criteria according to the British government’s website:

“If you do not live in the UK, you’re only eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment if:

  • you moved to an eligible country before 1 January 2021
  • you were born before 26 September 1956
  • you have a genuine and sufficient link to the UK – this can include having lived or worked in the UK, and having family in the UK”

Unlike Spain and France, which the British government has deemed to be too warm on average, Italy is on the list of eligible countries along with Austria, Germany, Sweden, and others.

Find out how to claim the fuel payment on the UK government’s website here.

According to the UK government, during winter the average temperature is between 2 and 7 degrees Celsius in the UK.

READ ALSO: At what time of day is electricity cheapest in Italy?

The Italian government divides the country into six ‘climate zones’ which determine when and for how long residents should have their heating switched on each winter.

According to the government’s classification, the coldest parts of the country are the northern provinces of Cuneo, Trento, and Belluno, where no heating restrictions apply.

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