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Is a wood burning stove right for me?

Posted by Helena Ripley on 14 August 2015 at 10:50 am

Is there anything better, on a cold winter evening, than sitting by a wood burning stove with a good book and a hot cup of tea? Many people are installing stoves these days, but how can you know whether on would be right for you? The good news is that stoves can be fitted into almost any house, whether it is a very old building or was built much more recently. Stoves can work in rooms of various shapes and sizes, they can burn different fuels, and they can be used in urban smoke-free areas.

Cost of heating

If you’re thinking about the potential money saving benefits of a stove, it’s important to note that a stove will not entirely replace your current central heating system, unless you have a very small house and use a stove with a back boiler to provide heat to radiators. However, it could decrease the amount you need to use central heating in the autumn and spring.

What else should I know?

If you live in a reasonably airtight house, you would need to install an air vent with your stove. As a general rule this covers houses that were built after 2008, or older houses that have been specifically modified. In an older house that is not so airtight, you don’t need to install an air vent unless you want a stove that’s over 5kW.

Another factor to consider when buying a stove is the area that you live in, because many local councils have smoke-free areas. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a stove, but you will need to find a DEFRA certified one which burns very efficiently and therefore very cleanly.

It is a good idea to decide on the type of fuel you will be using before buying the stove. Coal and wood burn differently so a multi-fuel stove tries to accommodate the optimum air flow for them both, but if you are planning to use only one type of fuel it is better to get a stove specifically designed for that fuel as these are slightly more efficient than multi-fuel stoves.  

Another consideration will be storage of the fuel. An inset stove with logs beautifully arranged underneath is an excellent design feature, but if your storage facilities are outside and damp and away from the sun then solid fuel or a regularly replenished supply of kiln dried wood might be your best bet.

The big question: Are stoves environmentally friendly?

Using wood from a local, sustainably managed woodland is more environmentally friendly than using gas or electricity to heat your home. The government estimates that burning wood produces 0.02 kg of CO2 per kWh, which is significantly less than the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA) figures of 0.198kg of CO2 produced by gas and 0.517kg of CO2 released by using electricity. The SIA also estimates that a properly designed and fitted stove is between 60% and 80% efficient, which is much higher than 32% for an open fire and 55% for a gas fire. So depending on the efficiency of your stove, the type of fuel you use and where you get it from, using a wood burning stove may well be an excellent means of heating your home and reducing your carbon footprint at the same time.

Perhaps you are interested in seeing wood burning stoves in place and talking to homeowners about their experiences of them? If so, free SuperHomes Open Days this September will present the opportunity to visit many homes with stoves. At other times you can always email questions to the owners through their page on the SuperHomes website.

Photo credit: SuperHomes

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Comments

1 comments - read them below or add one

Eco Andrew

Eco AndrewComment left on: 28 December 2015 at 4:31 pm

I'm not a fan of kiln-dried wood - this means using fuel to dry the wood rather than letting it dry naturally - not the most environmentally efficient.

The alternative needs patience if your processing your own wood - storing in the open air with a top covering to keep the rain off, preferably in the sun, for TWO summers to 'season' (dry) the wood down to around 20% (or less) moisture levels.  You can check dryness with a moisture meter - advisable if you're paying for your wood (most of mine is scrounged from neighbours, friends, tree-surgeons etc.)

Thanks for the article, I hadn't realised that heating with a woodburner is so much more efficient than gas - 10 times more efficient if your figures are correct!

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