Five tips for fitting and using wood-burning stoves

A woodburner. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

A woodburner. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos - Credit: Archant

Wood-burning stoves have experienced a huge upsurge in popularity over the past decade, with more than 1 million already installed in UK homes. As the weather gets colder and heating bills rise, people are even more likely to be considering new options for heating their homes.

Not only this, but modern wood-burning stoves are virtually carbon neutral when using current burn technology.

Recent estimates suggest that replacing a decorative gas fire with a wood-burning stove will reduce the carbon footprint of a house by 22 percent, a figure that rises to 36 pc when replacing an LPG decorative gas fire with a wood burning stove. The reduction in carbon, when replacing an open fire is 14 pc.

Modern design and new technology have led to wood-burning stoves promising higher efficiencies; lower emissions; an increased percentage output to water in boiler stoves, making it possible to heat whole homes and provide hot water off the stove; and the capacity to link up technologies with other renewable energy sources.

Many UK houses are suitable for installation of a wood burning stove and with environmental and financial gains to be made, it’s certainly worth considering.

Here are five ways of avoiding common pitfalls when fitting and using a wood-burning stove:

1. As great as open fires are in many ways, they are not very energy efficient, at only around 20 pc. Wood-burning stoves are much more efficient, at around 70-90 pc, so you get all the benefits of a real fire without most of your money going up in smoke.

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2. As well as the wood burner itself, remember to factor in the cost of installation, accessories and any necessary building work. However, your wood burner should start saving you money straightaway by reducing the need to have the heating on. If your home has an open-plan layout, or you keep the internal doors open so the stove does more than just heat the room it’s in, you should save more on heating costs.

3. The installation of a wood burner must comply with building regulations, and the easiest way to do this is to use a qualified fitter. HETAS-registered installers deal with wood, solid-fuel and biomass domestic heating appliances and can self-certify that their work complies with building regulations, so it’s safe and legal.

4. The chimney may need to be lined before the wood burner can be installed. Homes dating from the mid-1960s onwards should have had a concrete or clay chimney liner fitted when they were built, but get a qualified installer to check out the chimney, whatever the age of your home. There are lots of benefits to having a chimney lined, including better energy efficiency.

5. Wood (as long as it’s sustainably sourced) is a more environmentally friendly fuel than oil or gas - and subject to fewer price rises. Freshly cut wood contains a lot of water, so you have to dry it out (season it) before you can burn it. This can take as long as three years. You can buy wood that’s already seasoned, or you can season it yourself, using a log store - if air can circulate around the logs, they should dry out. And it’s not just wood - with a multi-fuel stove, you can also burn fuels like coal, smokeless fuel, peat and turf (depending on any smoke-control restrictions in your area).