A beginner's guide to wood burning stoves

The winter months are quickly creeping up on us and you’ll soon be longing for those toasty evenings spent in the warmth. It’s the perfect time to invest in a wood burning stove for those long winter nights. However, there is a lot to consider before purchasing.

In this blog, we’ll be looking at the things that you need to consider to help you choose the best wood burning stove for your home. If you’ve still got some burning questions which we’ve missed, take a look at below video by The Restoration Couple who have gone through the process of buying and fitting a wood burning stove.

1. What are the benefits of having a wood burning stove?

For comfort: A wood burner makes a great, cosy feature in your home, with many people wanting to install one solely for this reason. Their purpose is multifunctional; warm, stylish AND they can add 5% per cent value to your property.

They save you money: With energy prices rising, it’s no wonder the installation of wood burning stoves is increasing. Depending on your power output and usage, a wood burning stove can save you significant money on your energy bill, as well as reducing the amount of central heating you use. 

They’re eco-friendly: In addition to saving you money, wood burning stoves are very eco-friendly because they are carbon neutral. Growing trees absorb roughly the same amount of carbon dioxide that is released during the wood burning process. Find out more about carbon neutral energy from the Forestry Commission

They’re efficient: Wood burning stoves are also more efficient than an open fire. On average, a wood burning stove will release around 60% more heat into the room than an open fire (which sends the majority of the heat up the chimney, rather than around the room).
2. Does your location and lifestyle suit a wood burner?

Many parts of the UK are smoke control areas where it is an offence to emit to smoke from a chimney. This legislation was introduced to deal with the smog of the 50s and 60s caused by the widespread burning of coal for domestic heating and by industry. Smog was blamed for the premature deaths of hundreds of people in the UK so you can understand why the rules were put in place to prevent it.  If you you’re unsure as to whether your location limits you from the option of having a wood burning stove, take a look at the gov.uk website. If you are in a smoke control area, you will need to purchase a stove that is smoke exempt.

You also need to consider if your lifestyle and home suits a wood burning stove. Do you have space to store wood? Are you in a position to be able to stack and carry wood from your log store to your fireplace? If you plan on buying small quantities of wood as and when you need it then you can probably use a log basket next to the fireplace but it is much more cost effective to buy in bulk so remember you will need somewhere to store your next delivery.

3. Cost

Generally the investment in buying a wood burning stove pays off over time as you save money on other sources of heat. Plus the aesthetic pleasure is definitely worth the expense. 

Before you invest in your favourite stove, consider these factors that will affect how much you will need to spend - like all home improvement projects, there are often hidden costs. 

Consider what size stove and kilowatt of output you need. These both depend on how big and how well insulated your room is. The bigger the room, the bigger the stove and KW you’ll need. Bigger stoves cost more and like anything, the more you spend, the better performance you will get.

What size wood burning stove do I need?

A guide to woodburners

Selecting the correct kw output is very important to provide your home with the warmth you expect, however oversizing the stove will lead to uncomfortable temperatures and waste of fuel usage.

In order to choose the most efficient wood burning stove size for your room, measure the width, length and height of your room and then multiply the three measurements together, i.e. width 4m x length 8m x height 2.8m = 89.6 cubic metres (room volume). If your room or house is new build and fitted with very good insulation then divide the room volume by 25. If the room has average to good insulation then divide the volume by 15. If the insulation is poor or non-existent, then divide the volume of the room by 10. If in doubt use 15.

Working out the size and required output of your stove is just the first step. There are other factors to consider when trying to find the best wood burning stove for your home.

How old is your chimney? If you live in an older property and your chimney has not been in use, or has previously been used for gas, you may need to have it lined. The purpose of a chimney is to remove fumes from a room where heat is being produced and the chimney must be in a suitable condition to do this safely, without risk to the people who live in the house. Most people are aware of the risk of C02 emissions with gas fires, but there is just as much risk with wood burners. There are many different methods of lining a chimney and advice from a professional should always be sought.

How big is the opening? Regulations speculate how large a fireplace opening must be to house a certain size wood burning stove. There are also specifics as to how close to combustible materials a stove can be so depending on the original design of your fireplace, you may need to make some alterations before having your wood burner installed.

4. Installation

Buying a wood burning stove is only half the story. It is always advisable to have a survey carried out to establish which wood burning stove is suitable for your property before you make any purchase. Always get advice on relevant legislation. Fitting a wood burner is “controlled” under building regulations. Incorrect installation can cause a multitude of problems down the line and can be potentially dangerous. Installers must, by law, be registered with HETAS and they charge a daily rate for installation which will increase your overall costs. Your insurance may be invalid if there is a fire and your stove was not installed correctly. 

To find your nearest HETAS installer, take a look at their website.