The Benefits of Wood Burning Stoves

Wood burning stoves are extremely popular and a real positive feature for any room.

However, they have also featured in the press recently so here is a really useful guide on wood burning stoves because they are both attractive and efficient way to heat a room.

Plus they are a great way to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Wood is a renewable resource, so log burners contribute to an eco-friendly lifestyle and helps to tackle climate change.

The Benefits of Wood Burning Stoves

There are so many benefits of wood burning stoves. At the most basic level, log burners satisfy the long-held human fascination with fire! There is nothing better than walking in from the cold to feel the warmth of a real fire and relaxing in front of the amber flames. Stoves are available from as little as a few hundred pounds and help to cut energy bills.

Thanks to their sleek, state of the art design they burn fuel very efficiently, saving money on logs and producing very little ash. They are easy to use and require little maintenance. One of the great spin-offs is that by using wood fuel you contribute to the active management of local woodlands, which has a really positive impact on wildlife.

Wood Burning Stoves are Good for the Environment

Bluebell woods

Burning wood is good for the environment. Using wood burning stoves is a great way of cutting carbon emissions as logs are a low-carbon source of fuel. Burning wood also reduces heating bills, especially if your home is 'off the gas grid' and you rely on more expensive oil or LPG to heat it.

There are wider benefits, too, for the economy and environment. Wood fuel from managed woodlands creates the demand for skilled jobs in woodland management and can give land owners an incentive to manage their wood. Managed woodlands also provide a valuable, rich habitat for wildlife.

However, all combustion will produce some particulates so it is worth checking first, if you live in a smoke control area.

Wood Burning Stoves at A Glance

The table provides an overview of all the pros and cons of a wood burning stove for your home.

Wood Stove Provides space heating for your room when lit.
Benefits

Low carbon renewable heat that benefits wildlife.

Can save on fuel bills and satisfy a very primeval desire!

Fuel Type Logs (seasoned or kiln dried).
Fuel Cost Guide

Hardwood like beech or ash (£95 /m3).

Pine and other softwoods (£55 /m3).

Requirements

Chimney or flue that needs to be 60 cm above the roof ridge.

Log store or storage space for wood (capacity a few m3).

Equipment Cost estimate £1,000 to £3,000.
Government Money Available (grant funding) No financial support for a stove for space heating. However, if you install a biomass boiler for under-floor heating there is an incentive called the RHI.
Installers or Suppliers HETAS provide a list of approved installers.
Barriers Restrictions in Smoke Control Areas to protect health.
Top Tips

Logs must be seasoned (dry) for a year before use so only burn wood that has a moisture content below 20%.

Hard wood produces more energy but costs more.

The Geeky Bit A 3kW to 15kW stove depending on the room size.
Hassle Factor

Chimney swept twice a year.

Around two days to fit, especially if a new chimney is required.

Bringing in logs from the store.

How Much do Wood Burning Stoves Cost to Install?

Cosy room with compact wood burning stoveThe cost of a wood burning stove varies according to the type and size you choose, as well as the individual features of your home for installation. A wood burner can offer significant savings in the face of rising fuel costs. The basic cost of a wood stove varies from £400 to £1,500. A typical cost of a wood burner including installation is around £2,000. There are obviously cheaper options available whilst an integrated stove that sit within a wall is more expensive.

Fireplaces and Chimneys

If your home already has a fireplace and a hearth (the hard flooring that extends out into the living room), you should have the basic structures required in situ, i.e. a chimney. However, if you need to install a hearth and/or an external flue the costs will increase accordingly.

A chimney will normally need to be lined to ensure the gases rise up and out the top rather than leak into your home. The flexible pipe - or flue - that goes up the chimney to take the smoke out of your home costs about £50/metre. It must extend 60cm above the roof ridge, therefore, the cost of the flue will depend on the height of your home.

If you don't have a chimney then a stainless steel pipe can be used instead. This twin-lined flue normally runs outside the home and up to the roof.

Log Burner Maintenance

Apart from clearing away ash and wiping clean the glass window, stoves are pretty easy to maintain. In terms of maintenance, you will need the services of a chimney sweep once or twice a year to prevent any build-up of flammable residue. And of course dry logs to burn.

How Much Does Firewood Cost?

Unless you plan to source logs for free yourself, budget for the cost of firewood. The cost of logs depends on where you live. As a guide, hard wood delivered to your house is about £95 a load (traditionally one cubic metre). Two or three loads can last a family through the heating season, but this will depend on the size of your home, how mild the winter is and how well insulated your home is.

Is My House Suitable for a Wood Burning Stove

As with all sources of renewable energy, it is really important to check your property is suitable for the technology before you proceed. If you are considering a wood burning biomass system, there are two key considerations:

  • You can only burn seasoned, dry logs as fuel.
  • Check that you do not live in a smoke control area.

If you do live in a smoke control area, you can potentially use a Defra approved stove (Department for The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). However, it is important to research this thoroughly before making any decision as air quality is such an important subject. Your local council can advise you if your home is in a smoke control area.

What size log stove will I need?

Logs piled up in log storeThe size of a wood stove can vary from 3 to 15 kilowatts (kW). Choosing the correct stove depends on the size of your room and how well insulated your home is. A simple rule of thumb is to multiply the height, width and length of the room in metres and divided this total number by fourteen (kW per m3).

If your house is very well insulated you can purchase a smaller stove which will cost less, use less wood and therefore be cheaper to operate. All stoves have an efficiency rating so the higher the efficiency, the better the stove will be at producing heat.

Consider how much storage space you have available for a log store. Ideally, you need sufficient space to store a few m3 of logs under cover as that is the cheapest way to buy them.

If you are planning a larger project for a biomass boiler to heat your entire home through underfloor heating or radiators then you could be eligible for Government support via the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

Choosing the Best Wood Burning Stove

When choosing the best wood burning stove, take time to do your homework. This guide from Which? is a good start

Wood burning stoves are available in numerous styles and designs so they can complement any room. They can be free standing, come in a range of colours (including white) and can even be built into a wall. Budget and personal style preferences play a big part in the decision buying process.

Decide if you want or need a Defra approved stove. There are plenty of brands and models available many of which are Ecodesign ready stoves. Many of these are manufactured in the UK by family-owned companies with a long track record of producing good quality stoves. The same applies to those imported from Scandinavia and other European countries (such as Switzerland and Germany), which thanks to cold winters have a strong history of designing efficient log burners.

Try and find a local show room and pop along. This gives you the chance to consider the various styles available and chat to the staff who can offer plenty of useful advice.

Top 5 Facts to Find Out Before Buying a Wood Stove

Prepare these five key pieces of information before you go to the show room.

  1. Measure the size of the room where you plan to install the stove; the height, width, and length. (You can get an approximate measurement by counting your steps from one side to the other and noting how far the ceiling is above your outstretched hand).
  2. Contact environmental protection at your local council and find out if you live in a smoke control area. NB. Most of London and a lot of major cities are smoke control areas.
  3. Take a photo of your fireplace and hearth - if the room has one.
  4. Take a photo of the outside of your house showing the roof structure, chimney and proximity to neighbours (if appropriate).
  5. Be careful to stress you want a log burning stove NOT a multi-fuel stove.

How to Install a Wood Burner

After choosing your preferred wood burning stove, the key is to have it installed safely. For this, you need to use a qualified and HETAS accredited installer. The installation of your stove and flue must comply with building regulations.

Always obtain detailed quotes in writing from three installers, ask to see their insurance and their HETAS identity card. It is best to check you don't need planning permission and essential to research whether you live in a smoke control area.

After fitting your stove, the installer will also fit a carbon monoxide alarm in the same room to comply with building regulations and for your own safety and protection. As with any fire, if fitted incorrectly, there is potential for carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide poisoning which is why it's essential you use a competent person for this installation.

Once installed you will have years of comfort in front of your own, eco-friendly stove.

Burning Wood is Often Good

Log burners offer an ideal way for people to heat and provide a relaxing setting in their living rooms for the family to gather around. Wood fuel is a low-carbon source of heat that is affordable and in addition good for the environment so it is an eco-friendly alternative to gas and oil. However, it is always best to check your home is not in a smoke control area before proceeding.

If you already have a wood stove what tips would you give to someone looking to install one in their home?

We would love to hear your comments and stories about the issues raised in this article:

 

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