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Will a wood burning stove save me money?

Posted by Helena Ripley on 25 August 2015 at 12:30 pm

Most people don’t get a wood burning stove for the cost benefits. Although there might be some saving in terms of money and carbon emissions, stoves are mostly attractive because they are cosy and homely. The best way to save money with a stove is to source your fuel as cheaply as possible - you may find that a local tree surgeon can help you with this.

Making the most of your stove

Clever use of your stove could help you make significant savings on your central heating. Using the stove to heat the living room during the evening and then opening the doors to the rest of the house at night often provides enough heat to do without central heating in the autumn and spring. Using a stove in the winter will also help to decrease your central heating usage, especially if you use thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) to heat other spaces selectively. The exact savings are difficult to calculate but reducing the use of your central heating (and replacing a fixed electric fire) can make a significant difference to your energy bill.

Estimated savings

The price of fuel per kilowatt hour (kWh) indicates some of the potential savings. The cheapest type of commonly available bought wood (£50 for a ton of green wood) costs around 1.2p/ kWh (based on the calorific values of fuels from the Biomass Energy Centre). Kiln dried wood at a price of £150 for 300kg costs around 8.8p/ kWh. To put this in perspective, gas costs about 5p per kWh and average electricity costs are currently 15p per kWh. So if you are replacing a fixed gas or electric fire with a wood stove you might make some savings.

If you’re going to use kiln dried wood and have the chimney swept once a year you’re looking at spending less than £200 a year on the general running of your stove. As the average gas bill in the UK in 2014 was £752, being able to shift some of your spring and autumn heating to the stove could make a noticeable difference.

Estimates put forward by uSwitch and StoveMaestro about the extent of the savings you can expect to make by installing a wood burning stove range from £100 to £300 per year. The savings depend on the type of heating you currently use and the fuel you plan to burn. For more information about the different fuels available see the blog in this series on fuel.

Is it worth it?

The general consensus is that you will save a little money by installing a stove. Of course the savings that you make and the length of time it takes for the stove to pay for itself depends on the amount you spent on heating prior to getting the stove and the cost of installing and running the stove. Figures from uSwitch suggest a stove could have a payback time of about 15 years. If, on the other hand, you buy a second hand stove, install it yourself, and source free wood, a stove could pay for itself within just two to three years.

It is important to note that an efficient and safe stove will give you more long term savings than a cheap stove that does not burn wood well. Also there are potential risks with installing the stove yourself, so if you decide to go down that road make sure you fully understand what you are doing. All stove installations need a Building Compliance Certificate to show that they have been installed in compliance with Building Regulations.

A final note – the renewable heat incentive (RHI) is not available for stoves which are used as room heaters only so you will not be able to make an additional income through this.

If you are interested in visiting homes with wood burning stoves you might find one to visit during SuperHomes Open Day in September.

Photo credit: SuperHomes

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Related Blogs

How much does a wood burning stove cost?

Is a wood burning stove right for me?

Need help with any Jargon?

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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Comments

1 comments - read them below or add one

Eco Andrew

Eco AndrewComment left on: 29 December 2015 at 11:23 pm

WOODBURNER TIPS

 

1.  Use well seasoned (dry) wood with moisture content 20% or below.  Seasoned wood feels light compared to newly cut wood (of the same type), it sounds hollow when you tap two pieces together and it may have radial cracks developing at the ends.

 

2.  Use plenty of paper to get your kindling sticks going.  Crumple the paper LIGHTLY, to get a fast, hot burn.  Don’t fold, twist or roll the paper because this excludes air and will result in a slow, smoky burn, which won’t get your kindling burning.  I nearly fill the firebox with paper - we generally have a surplus of paper from non-glossy junk mail and weekend newspaper so don’t need to be sparing.  Add your kindling sticks on top and stand some on end at the front of the fire. 

A large amount of paper not only lights the kindling quickly but warms the flue, creating an up-draught which powers the fire. But be careful not to block your flue with paper!

If I have greasy/oily pans from cooking I wipe them dry with kitchen towel and add this to the paper in the fire - works as excellent fire-lighters!

 

3.  Light the paper at the base and push the door to straight away, without fastening it closed, to create a turbulent flow of air into the fire which helps the fire spread to all the paper quickly.

 

4. Once the paper is burning strongly (usually after just a few seconds) fasten the door closed, ensuring the top and bottom vents are fully open first (you will see the fire will die down almost instantly if you have left the vents closed).

 

5.  In a short time (a minute or two) the kindling will be burning strongly. This is the time to add a few small logs (preferably pre-warmed under the fire).  Don’t add too many or you may quench the fire.  Continue adding a few (warmed) logs at intervals, using larger logs as the fire becomes stronger.  While doing this minimise the time you keep the door open.  While the door is open this is allowing too much cool air into the fire and takes most of the heat from the fire up the chimney instead of into the room and will quickly dampen down the fire.  Have logs in your hand, ready to toss in as soon as you open the door then close the door immediately.   

Wood-burners gain their efficiency from regulating the air-flow, as opposed to open fires which allow excess air flow, meaning heat is wasted going up the flue, and at the same time more cold air is drawn into the house than necessary to replace the air going out the top of the chimney.

 

6.  Try to position the logs with about 1-2 cm between them to allow a good air-flow, while being close enough so that they help each other burn.  Long logs should be laid front to back in the fire so they are not blocking the air-flow.

 

7.  Most wood-burner vents are positioned to encourage an air-flow from top front, down the inside surface of the door (which keeps the glass clean), then along the floor of the fire, front to back, then up the back wall of the fire, then along the top of the firebox towards the front of the fire and up the flue.  This air flow helps the fire to burn efficiently by making the air take a long path through the fire so giving time for more of the oxygen to be utilised.  Avoid positioning your wood across this flow, especially if you’re using LARGE logs, because this impedes the flow. 

 

8.  This is rarely a problem when using a lot of small logs, (as opposed to a few large logs) because there are plenty of air spaces, in which case you don’t need to be so careful about how you position your logs.  However suppliers rarely supply logs small enough, particularly for the smaller wood-burners.

 

9.  If you’re burning square-section/ flat-faced (waste) wood, rather than logs, it is especially important to leave gaps.  In this case it can help if you lay the wood mainly front to back then, between layers, put one stick of wood cross-ways, at the front, laying the next layer front to back, resting on this stick. 

 

10.  Once the fire is well-established (probably in about 10 minutes) and giving out substantial heat (you feel the warmth on your face from arms length) start to close the bottom vent.  Don’t do this too quickly or you may start to quench the fire.  In time you will be able to fully close the bottom vent.  This slows down the burn, getting the best heat output from your wood, while not wasting too much heat up the flue or drawing too much cold (replacement) air into your house.  You will often find this actually increases the heat from your fire despite the reduced air flow and a less fierce burn.

 

11.  You may be able to start to close your top vent too if your fire continues to burn well, further improving the efficiency of your fire.  If you find that this starts to cause your fire to die down then re-open the vent sufficient to sustain the burn.  As you gain experience with your own fire you will learn to judge the best times to turn down the vents.

 

12. Signs of an efficient burn are:

- blue tinges to the flames rather than purely yellow/orange (like a gas ring/ bunsen burner)

- flames seem to ‘float’ gently in the air

- sooty blackness on the fire bricks on the walls of your fire burns off to give a clean, light-brown colour

- there is no hissing noise when you open the door of the stove (this is the noise of moisture being boiled off)

- the air-flow into the fire is not noisy (air vents only open small amount)

- go outside and look - no smoke from your chimney!

 

13. Continue to add logs at intervals while you still have a substantial amount of hot glowing ‘coals’ , and while the fire can be easily revived.

 

14.  When you won’t need the fire to keep burning much longer (you’re going to bed / going out)- let the fire burn down till you just have glowing ‘coals’ (no flames) then shut down the vents almost completely (if DEFRA-approved stove they can be fully closed completely because there will be some small vents that are constantly open).  This helps retain more heat in the stove while the fire is slowly burning out.

 

15.  Don’t worry about cleaning out ash too thoroughly - the ash provides some insulation at the base of the fire and helps establish a strong burn.  If your fire is burning efficiently you will rarely need to clean your door glass with anything other than a quick rub with the newspaper that you light your kindling with.  If you have stubborn deposits a cream bathroom cleaner (e.g. Ecover) works well, but don’t use any such liquid cleaner while the glass is hot - risk of fracturing the glass.

 

16.  Review the user guide instructions from time-to-time especially with regard to maintenance (cleaning, inspecting for gaps/cracks, renewing seals, having the flue swept annually).

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