Why Britain is warming to the benefits of woodburning stoves
It’s the hot new trend and no wonder when energy prices are set to go through the roof. Sharon Dale reports.
FASHION is fickle and sometimes pointless, but the latest interior must-have doesn’t just look and feel good, it makes perfect sense.
Sales of woodburning stoves have been fuelled by rising energy bills and the fear of power cuts. HETAS, the industry regulatory body, say a record 175,000 households are installing a woodburner each year, five times more than in 2007.
The bid to reduce gas and electric consumption and become self-sufficient in the face of shortages is understandable. The cost of burning wood is 4p per kw hour, while gas is 5p and electricity 15p.
The pay-off isn’t just financial, the spin-off benefits are a real fire and a cosiness that convected heat and gas-fired flames can’t match.
Here, Ben Freeman, HETAS qualified engineer and co-owner of heating specialist BMF, Leeds, answers some burning questions:
A: Prices vary hugely, from around £550 to over £10,000. But don’t be tempted to skimp. As with most things, you get what you pay for.
A good quality stove, treated correctly, should look as good and work as efficiently in 20 years as it does today. A cheap stove will quickly start to show wear and tear.
Prices will also vary due to the size of the stove, which will depend on what output you require – for example, whether the stove is heating the whole house or just one room.
A: Make sure you choose a professional, HETAS-registered installer, as they are the only ones qualified to install solid fuel appliances.
Don’t automatically go for the cheapest price, ask the installer to outline exactly what needs doing to ensure they will cover everything you need. At a minimum, it would cost around £220, but it will vary hugely depending on how much preparation work is required.
You should be issued with a HETAS certificate for your installation, which is the legal documentation you require.
A: If you don’t have a chimney don’t worry, one can usually be built.
Even if you have an existing chimney or flue, it can be too big, small, short, tall, cold or unsound which will mean either your stove will work inefficiently or can be unsafe.
Generally, when an installation takes place, it will need to include lining any existing chimney, but take specialist advice on any further work which may be needed.
A: With the ever increasing prices of electricity and gas, you will easily save money in terms of fuel, but how much exactly will depend on how you source your wood.
If you have an energy-efficient heating system a stove will reduce the demand on your boiler.
Woodburning stoves can even heat the whole house. This can be achieved by back boiler installation connected in conjunction with your central heating system or using ducted hot air to be fanned throughout your property.
A: You can buy ready to burn kiln-dried wood, and on average this will cost about £150 per m3.
You can also source your own fuel, if you have the room and time to “season” (ie dry) it, which can take up to two years. This is considerably more cost-effective at around £40 per m3 but wood or fuel with a high water content may cause a dangerous build-up in your chimney. The wood for stoves needs to be kept dry and ventilated. If there is no room for a dedicated wood store, many people use a garage, shed or even a watertight box in the garden.
A: Woodburning stoves, as the name suggests, burn wood, whereas multi-fuel can also burn coal and smokeless fuel.
Choosing which is right for you depends on your home, your heat requirement, and your own preferences. If you are unsure on which fuel suits you best then chat with your retailer.
A: Many modern stoves now come with cleanburn technology, which helps keep the glass clean by blowing super hot air down it, reducing the amount of cleaning required.
Of course ashes do need removing from time to time, but usually once a week rather than daily compared with open fires. Your chimney should be cleaned annually by a professional to make sure there’s no build-up and to ensure safety .
A: Ideally you should only burn seasoned, dry, untreated wood, unless you have a multi-fuel stove.
If you burn rubbish or treated wood you risk releasing harmful chemicals and causing a nasty build-up in your stove or chimney. Some paper is fine and can help to get the fire going, but stick to plain newspapers or paper without any plastic element, and don’t overdo it.
Remember, burning any fuel can produce deadly carbon monoxide (CO), so it is vital you follow standard safety tips.
BMF has a fireplace and woodburning stove showroom in Moortown, Leeds. For more information, visit www. bmfonline.co.uk or call 0113 2660096.
The Stovax Riva costs £1,685 from BMF, Leeds; woodburning inset stove, £2276, from HWAM; log basket, £36, from Graham and Green and kindling bucket, £18.50 from Cox and Cox. Sales of wood burning stoves continue to soar fuelled by rising gas and electricity bill and fears of future power shortages. They also look good and create a cosy home.