THE weather may be warming up, but it’s still nice to snuggle up in front of a real fire.
The problem with open fires is that they’re not very energy efficient, at only around 20%. The majority of wood-burning stoves, on the other hand, are 70-90% efficient, so you get all the benefits of a real fire without most of your money going up in smoke.
With prices for wood burners starting at less than £200, they can be a really good investment. And wood, as long as it’s sustainably sourced, is a more environmentally friendly fuel than oil or gas - and subject to fewer price hikes.
But if you don’t want to burn just wood, you don’t have to - get a multi-fuel stove, and you should be able to burn coal, smokeless fuel, turf and peat, too.
While the stoves themselves can be relatively inexpensive, you need to add on the cost of the accessories, installation and any associated building work.
The good news is that your stove should start saving you money straightaway. The more powerful it is and the smaller and better insulated your home is, the more money you’re likely to save, especially if it 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.
Wood burners can give out a lot of heat and you should need your heating on less when yours is lit.
When it comes to the wood you burn, it’s not as simple as you might think. Freshly cut wood contains up to 90% 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. The important thing is to allow air to circulate all around the logs so they dry out.
The installation of a wood-burning stove must comply with building regulations. Rather than involving your local council’s building control department (which can check and sign off the work for a fee), it’s often easier to get a qualified fitter to do the job.
HETAS-registered installers deal with wood, solid-fuel and biomass domestic heating appliances and can self-certify that their work complies with building regulations.
Another consideration is whether the chimney needs to be lined before the stove is installed.
Homes dating from the mid-1960s onwards should have had a concrete/clay chimney liner fitted when they were built, but older properties won’t necessarily have an adequate liner.
Get your installer to smoke-test your chimney to see if it leaks - if necessary, they should be able to line it.
There are lots of benefits to having a chimney lined, including better energy efficiency - and who doesn’t want that?