The burning issue
Phil Wood, from wood-burning stove manufacturer Contura, shares his expert advice on choosing, installing and using a wood burner in your home
Wood- burning stoves are around 60% more efficient than open fires.
With a wood burner, around 80% of the heat generated is radiated and convected into the room, compared to only around 20% with open fires, as most of the heat escapes up the chimney. If you’d like a wood burner, look for one that suits your home aesthetically, but also consider size and heat output (measured in kilowatts or kW).
A smaller square- shaped or cassette-style wood burner can be inserted into an existing fireplace or chimney- breast opening and generally produces up to 5kW of heat. Large and open-plan rooms may require a higher kW wood burner to sufficiently heat the space.
Cast-iron wood burners are very robust and most suited to rural or period properties where there’s a fireplace.
The more modern soapstone, sandstone, tiled, aluminium and glass-fronted freestanding wood burners are more suited to contemporary properties. Sandstone and soapstone models work well in larger spaces because they retain heat over a long period, even after the fire has been extinguished.
Installers for wood burners should be registered with HETAS (www.hetas.co.uk/consumer/) to ensure the installation complies with building regulations.
Ask potential installers for photos of previous installations and ask family, friends and neighbours if they can recommend an installer.
When choosing wood to burn, it’s generally the case that the more you spend, the drier the wood, meaning it’ll burn better.
Cheap wood often has quite a high moisture content, so try to buy from an accredited British supplier to be sure of the wood’s origin. Kiln- dried wood ( and species such as ash, beech and birch), burns particularly well and is available in bags, making it convenient to store. This is the more expensive option though.
If you have storage space, consider cutting and storing your own logs – use a wood shed that allows air to circulate. This ‘seasoning’ process can take at least 12 months, depending on the species, so plan ahead.
A couple of logs can burn for around an hour on a wood burner, compared to (often) minutes on an open fire, meaning you use fewer logs and get the optimum energy out of each log with a wood burner.
Switching from an open fire to a wood burner with a flue will also eliminate the draughts caused by the open fire drawing air from the room.
ROARING Wood burners are becoming more popular in UK homes