Wood Burning Stoves and Their Benefits

For many homes, a good wood burning stove offers a great deal of comfort and warmth. Not only are wood burning stoves a functional and stylish addition to your family room, they also come with many advantages, including their cost-effectivity, and their limited environmental impact. Lee Davies Fireplace and Brickwork Specialists are available to offer you advice on your wood burning stove installation in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Bedfordshire, and London.

For many people, it’s the quality and sheer quantity of heat that wood burners produce when they’re fitted and used correctly that is the real joy of stove ownership. Many of my customers have told me that since their stove has been installed they have been able keep their whole home warm and to delay turning their central heating on until well into the Autumn when it’s really cold and then to be able to switch it off much sooner when the warmer Spring weather arrives. Some stove owners have also told us that they have been perfectly happy and warm and only use their central heating at the weekends, since on work days they essentially only use two rooms: the living room in the evening where the wood burner stove and the TV are located and the bedroom above. These extended periods of doing without central heating offer tremendous scope for significant savings without you ever feeling that you’re depriving yourself of a basic human comfort.

If you use central heating as well as your wood burner there’s still a saving to be made because long after you’ve put the last log on and gone to bed a wood burner stove will act like a storage radiator exuding heat for a good few hours after the stove has gone out and your central heating has gone off, thus helping to maintain a higher the ambient temperature in your home so that the central heating will not have to work quite so hard to get to its desired temperature in the morning. Even a modest 2C rise in the ambient temperature of your home will deliver significant savings on the costs of running your central heating.

So how does the cost of heating by wood fuel actually compare to other fuel costs? The Stove Industry Alliance, along with Hetas and GasTec, the stove testing laboratory), have just published a new leaflet (Jan 2013) on the comparative costs between wood logs, gas, LPG, oil and electricity. It demonstrates that by replacing an open fire, gas effect fire or an electric appliance with a modern clean-burning stove you can significantly increase your heating efficiency and at the same time reduce your heating costs without compromising on a cosy focal point that truly makes a house a home.
For example, the official government SAP calculation, which determines a dwelling’s energy efficiency (and carbon footprint), shows that burning wood in a stove to heat your home is 25% cheaper per kilowatt of heat per hour (kWh) than natural gas, 43% cheaper than oil and a staggering 50% cheaper than LPG or electricity. This is because the higher efficiency of wood burners (70 to 85%) compares extremely favourably with all of the other popular forms of domestic secondary heat such as gas effect fires (20 to 55% efficiency) and open fires (20 to 30% at best) and this consequently makes a noticeable difference to fuel economy and the overall warmth and comfort of your home. When replacing an open fire, a stove will also virtually eliminate the typical drafts caused by the open fire drawing air from your room.

So per kWh, hard wood logs can work out significantly cheaper than oil, gas and electricity (see SIA graph). However, this pre-supposes that you buy your wood in bulk and not from somewhere like the local garage where you could pay around 7 Pound for a net bag of approximately 15 to 20 logs (probably 2 or 3 times more than you’d pay if you’d bought them in bulk). Remember too that these logs can often be seen sitting in the damp and even in the rain re-absorbing any moisture that they may have previously lost. Whilst you might get away burning such logs in an open fire they should not be burned in your stove, unless you can determine their moisture content with a moisture meter.

The cheapest and most environmentally friendly way to bulk buy logs is to use a local supplier, often a farmer or tree surgeon, and then season the logs yourself. That way you can be sure that the moisture content of your logs will get to less than 20% – the figure recommended by most manufacturers. It is said that a well-seasoned log will produce 50% more heat than the equivalent damp or unseasoned log and ultimately create less problems with dirty glass and creosote deposits in the flue system. There are also bulk buy kiln-dried logs available from various nationwide suppliers which are naturally going to be a bit more expensive, but offer the additional advantage of the logs generally being of uniform size and quality and with an assured moisture content. If storage space is critical then these also come neatly packaged in a builders bag or on a caged wooden pallet, thus minimising labour in re-stacking and sorting and reducing the overall storage footprint. There’s also a useful section on Burning Wood Logs on this website.
When comparing a stove with an open fire, open fires draw much larger quantities of air out of the living room and up through the chimney making it much more costlier for an open fire to heat a room than it would when using a stove. For an average size room (40m3), an entire room-full of air can be drawn up the chimney every 5 minutes thus drastically limiting the efficiency of an open fire. In fact, research has shown that if a home is also centrally heated, then use of an open fire will usually cause an overall loss of heat (ie negative efficiency). The large airflow into the fireplace also cools down the flames which leads to the relatively high emissions of smoke from open fireplaces. (Source: Australian Government Department of The Environment & Heritage).

Compared to their old open fires, My customers tell me that they’ve generally managed to reduce the amount of logs (and coal) they use by between about half and two thirds , as well as now having more controllable and abundant heat from their new wood burners.

You can download the new SIA leaflet here and if you’re renovating or building a new home then the SIA have also produced a leaflet on how installing a wood burner could dramatically improve your SAP rating and you can download this byclicking here. Finally, there’s two interesting real life case studies in the ‘Heating your home with a wood stove’ leaflet from the Low Carbon Cairngorms initiative in the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland, which you can also download here.

Wood burning stoves are potentially one of the most renewable and environmentally friendly heat sources available to install in your home, so much so that an increase in the use of these stoves across the UK could result in self-sufficiency in wood fuel. This would be achievable if the wood is harvested from a sustainable source, resulting in no net increase in CO2 emissions as the carbon released from burning wood would be recaptured by the replacement trees.

The UK’s leading woodland conservation charity, The Woodland Trust, supports the use of wood fuel, and encourages the planting of trees to replace the wood harvested for this purpose. They attribute their support to wood fuel being a low-carbon alternative to oil, coal, and gas, however they state that this fuel should be supplied sustainably. Using wood fuel also avoids any extra emissions that would be incurred by using alternative fossil fuels, which has a more favourable impact on the atmosphere. Well managed and maintained woodlands also allow for a diverse habitat for wildlife.

The efficiency of wood burning stoves also adds to their eco-friendliness. A wood burning stove operating at 85% efficiency loses less heat through the flue system when compared to an open fire that is operating at 10%, and subsequently also produces less smoke pollution than an open fire. Wood burning stoves are also more efficient than a traditional gas fire or room heater by at least 20%, as they usually only operate at 60% efficiency. Additionally, while modern central heating systems are more efficient at providing evenly dispersed heat, wood burning stoves have virtually no carbon footprint.

Recent Building Regulations also highlight the unique benefits involved with installing a wood burning stove in your home. The changes to the Building Regulation serve to meet the carbon emissions reduction target of 20% set by the government, as well as ensuring aesthetic and comfort appeal to all homeowners. The new regulations stipulate that all secondary heating appliances, which includes wood burning stoves, are required to be included and specified in the Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) calculation. This calculation is used to determine the energy efficiency and carbon output of residential homes. Appliances that need to be taken into account with this calculation to arrive at an accurate carbon emissions reading includes chimneys and flues, thermal insulation, and glazing.

One of the main elements in the SAP calculation includes the adoption of electric heating as a default method of secondary heating. However, wood burning stoves will offset the carbon intensity of central heating systems, and create a large amount of carbon credit which can then be traded off with other home appliances. By adopting a wood burning stove as a secondary heat source, many homes can achieve remarkably lower SAP ratings, while still retaining a stylish and functional heat source, proving to be an asset in any home.

One of the most popular incorrect assumptions about wood burning stoves centers around is the idea that they are synonymous with excessive smoke production. In reality, smoke from wood burning stoves is usually caused by burning inappropriate fuel, such as household rubbish or damp wood, or by a faulty flue. A wood burning stove that has been approved by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), or a Smoke Exempt Appliance, will allow you to burn wood with a 20% moisture level without creating any smoke. Every winter, improvements, such as pre-heated secondary and tertiary air, to stoves are being applied to further reduce the levels of smoke and pollution.

Get in touch with Lee Davies Fireplace and Brickwork Specialists today to get on the right track to environmental efficiency with your new wood burning stove.

Using a DEFRA approved wood burning stove will allow you to move away from using finite fossil fuels such as oil and gas to power your heat sources, regardless of whether or not you are in a Smoke Control Area. The appeal of a wood burning stove, which operates independently of fossil fuels and will continue to supply heat in the absence of electricity, is obvious when this is taken into account.

Additionally, energy prices will also continue to rise in the future. Five of the ‘big six’ UK energy companies have announced a price increase of around 10%, which is modest in comparison to some of their previous annual increases, but well ahead of the current rate of inflation. All of this should make the prospect of owning a wood burning stove more attractive than ever.

A wood burner not only provides cheaper heat and a cosy focal point to your room, but also gives you the option to boil a kettle or heat up food without additional electricity. You can keep warm and secure in the knowledge that you do not have to worry whenever your power is cut, and that your fuel supplies will not be affected by a volatile world market and regular price hikes from electricity, oil, and gas suppliers