Last updated: 01/08/2023 | Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes
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Guide to wood burning stoves
A gentle crackling fire in a wood burning stove can give your home that much coveted hygge-and trim your energy bills and shrink your carbon footprint to boot. It's no wonder Britons have gone mad for wood-burners: more than a million now heat our homes and there are 175,000 new installations each year.
But what should you look for in a wood burning stove for your own living room? How will new regulations on pollution, introduced in 2019, affect your options? And how much will it cost you-and ultimately save you money on your energy bills-to sit in a front a roaring fire?
In This Guide:
- What to look for in a wood-burning stove
- Cost of wood burning stoves
- Can a wood burning stove save me money?
What to look for in a wood-burning stove
Wood-burning stoves are each given a rating based on how much heat they produce, in kilowatts (kWs), with models ranging from 3kW and 15kW. You'll need to choose one that suits the size of the room you intend to heat. Pick one that's too large and you'll be sweating, shedding jumpers, and cracking windows. Pick one that's too small and it won't keep you warm enough, and won't allow you to shut off your central heating and make savings on your energy bills. As a rule, a room measuring 3.5 metres by 3.5m will typically need a 5kW stove. Consumer magazine Which? recommends you multiply the room's length, width, and height, in meters, and then divide that number by 14 to get an approximate kilowatt size. But don't rely on this calculation: an engineer or stove salesperson can guide you to the correct size burner for your home.
pollution and regulations:
Wood, as a biofuel, is considered carbon neutral: the carbon dioxide it produces when burned is equal to the carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere during the growth of the tree. Consequently, burning it doesn't result in a net increase in atmospheric CO2. In contrast, the burning of fossil fuels, organic matter sealed under ground millennia ago and extracted, does introduce new carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Heating our buildings accounts for 40% of our energy consumption in the UK and 20% of our greenhouse gas emissions, so running a wood-burning stove and turning your central heating down or off throughout the winter, can reduce your personal carbon footprint.
But unfortunately that isn't the end of the story with wood-burning stoves and pollution. There's increasing evidence that wood burning stoves are a major contributor to the pollution that's choking our air, especially in cities. The fine smoke particles-the PM2.5s-released by wood-burning stoves are estimated to contribute to 29,000 extra deaths each year in Britain. Regulations, and considerations for the environment and your neighbours, are increasingly impelling consumers to invest in low-polluting, green' stoves.
Many town and cities in the UK are designated smoke-controlled areas; you can find out if yours is one buy contacting your local council. If it is, you'll only be allowed to install a Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) approved stove. If you don't have a Defra-approved stove and live in one of these areas, you'll only be allowed to burn approved smokeless fuels in it.
Cost of wood burning stoves
While the initial boom in the popularity of wood burners was attributed to reduced family incomes following the 2008 financial crash, they quickly went upscale.
They've now become a middle-class status symbol on par with the Aga: no Osborne; Little-wallpapered front room is complete without one. But the cost of a wood-burner can belay its posh cachet, especially when you factor in the savings you can make on your energy bills. But you'll have to factor in the cost of stove itself, the installation, and the fuel to feed it.
Word burning stoves range in price from £500 to £2,000, although size and efficiency will vary greatly between those price points. In general, any model cost less than £600 or £700 won't give you the heat and functionality you want.
A professional wood burner installation averages £1,500 and will include the sweeping and lining of your chimney. Costs will increase if you don't have an existing chimney. In that case, you'll need to have an insulated stainless steel pipe installed for the exhaust of smoke. While you can technically install a wood-burning stove yourself, provided you have the skills and abide by UK Building Regulations, it's best to engage a professional. Look for one recognised by HETAs, the Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme, a government-approved certifying body for engineers.
The cost of fuelling your stove will depend on its size and the material you use. Seasoned hardwood-wood that has been aged for at least a year-costs between £80-£110 per cubic meter and that can sustain a 5kW stove through the winter. Costs of wood will typically be higher in urban areas, like London, however, and will include delivery. It will be cheaper to buy, or even cut, unseasoned wood and age it yourself, but you'll need space to store it for a year.
With these costs, the initial outlay of a woodturning stove is around £2,500, topped up by upkeep costs of around £100 a year.
Can a wood burning stove save me money?
Despite these costs, 60% of owners of wood-burning stoves surveyed by Which? said their wood burning stove had saved them money.
Gas-powered boilers are still the cheapest way to heat your home, but wood-burning stoves outpace other heat sources, including electric fires, gas fires, and oil fires.
The Energy Savings Trust (EST) estimates that a wood burning stove can fill 10% of the heating needs of the average home, reducing your energy costs, particularly if you rely on electricity for heat. According to one report, a wood-burning stove can save an electrically heated home up to £400 a year on energy costs. And expect savings to rise as the price of traditional fuel and gas and electricity tariffs increase. Even with the cheapest energy tariffs around, wood burning stoves can be cheaper.