Thursday, 29 December 2011

Wood-burning Stoves in 2011: A Beginner's Guide

High oil prices and eco concerns have led to a surge in demand for wood-burning stoves…


Wood-burning stoves are hot property at the moment. From traditional use in country cottages to cutting edge architecture, they are the latest word in green heat.
Suzie Nightingale from Stovesonline says that demand has become overwhelming: "We’ve probably sold three to four times the number of stoves in the last two years. We didn’t even have time for a break last year."
So who wants one? "It’s a whole range, from people interested in saving the planet to people who want to save money.
"But we also deal with a lot of architects who are building them into their plans because they know having a secondary green heating source will be looked on favourably by planners."

Hit With Buyers

Estate agent Tom Deville at Savills in Nottingham says that wood-burning stoves are increasingly popular with potential buyers.

"People love them, they make a nice homely feel, and buyers are often aware that they’re cost effective and better for the environment. They probably don’t add anything to the value of a property, but they make it more desirable and saleable."

Although most of the wood burners Tom sees are very traditional, he is encountering more and more contemporary designs.

"People like them if it suits the property. We sold a converted barn recently with a chimney breast in the middle of the room and a double glass-sided log burner. It made the room complete."
So what is all the fuss about? Why are stoves so popular? There are four main reasons:

1. They’re very energy efficient
Everyone likes an open fire, but the efficiency of burning logs in a grate is very low. An open fire has to suck a lot of the (warm) air out of the room, and it is replaced by cold air from outside.
An open fire is estimated to be only about 20-25 per cent efficient, but it can be much lower, even falling into negative efficiency, potentially making your room colder than before you started!
But a modern wood-burning  stove can run at over 80 per cent efficiency. So if you put your logs in a stove instead of on a fire you will benefit from at least three times the amount of heat.
In addition, you may be able to use the top of the stove to boil a kettle or make toast, and some models even have ovens built in, so you can bake a cake while you’re warming your home.

2. They’re carbon neutral

Wood is the original carbon-neutral fuel. True, it releases carbon dioxide when it’s burnt, but the amount given off is the same as was stored by the tree when it was growing.
And, if the tree were left to rot in the woods it would produce the same amount of carbon emissions as are released by burning it.
Most firewood in this country comes from sustainable sources, so for every tree cut down another is planted, and the carbon released from the felled tree will be absorbed by another tree.
And, with the aid of new technology, a wood-burning stove can be even greener.
With the cleanburn or cleanheat system the gases created when the wood is burnt are circulated back into the stove and burnt off. This increases heat and reduces emissions. 

3. They're Clean

 
Both in terms of smoke and the amount of ash produced for the owner to clean up, modern wood burners are very impressive.
Even in daily use the stove should not need cleaning out more than every few weeks. In fact, a bed of ashes helps the wood to burn.
And if the stove has self-cleaning airwash glass a clear view of flickering flames is guaranteed.
As for the emissions, many stoves are now clean enough to be legally used in urban smoke-free zones. 


4. They look great

There are many manufacturers, both here and abroad producing the comforting traditional-style wood burners that look fantastic in period properties.

But if you fancy something a little more adventurous, the ultra modern freestanding stoves with big glass windows certainly make a statement.

In traditional black iron, shining steel, or even a white ceramic finish, there is something to suit every décor.


THE PRACTICALITIES

What do you burn?

It depends on your stove. You can have a wood only, a multi-fuel, or a pellet stove, which burns small pieces of compressed sawdust that are automatically fed into the fire.

Most people use logs, but they should be dried under cover for a year to reduce the moisture content.
And, if you want to save money, your fuel doesn’t have to cost you a penny.

Eco consultant Donnachadh McCarthy, whose new book Easy Eco-auditing is coming out in the new year, uses his wood burner, combined with an ingenious Ecofan, that distributes the warm air around the house, as the sole heat source for his terraced home.

So far Donnachadh not spent a penny on fueling his wood-burning  stove.

"I get all my wood between my house and the corner shop. You’ll be amazed how much wood people throw away. I get untreated wood pallets from a local plumbers merchant who used to pay a guy to take them away.

"And a lot of people doing up houses throw away good wood. You can use it all, as long as it’s not painted or treated."
Geoff Hogan from the Biomass Energy Centre approves of using waste wood, but advises caution: "You have to be particularly careful with wood that has been treated for outdoor use, such as fence posts," says Hogan.

"In the past CCA, which contains arsenic was commonly used. And you have to avoid wood treated with halogens, chlorine, fluorine and bromine, or treated with heavy metals."

Smoke-free zone?

There’s no fire without smoke. And, particularly in America, people are starting to be concerned about the levels of particulate pollution produced by burning wood.

Geoff Hogan doesn’t believe that we should be overly concerned.  
"It is a potential problem, particularly in built-up areas, but the particulate emissions are three to four times less than with an open fire."

And, says Hogan, if you’re planning to use a wood-burning stove in an urban environment, you will have to use one that complies with the Clean Air Act, and will have been designed to have even lower particulate emissions.

How much?

 
Wood-burning  stoves usually cost between around £400 and £2,000, but you could spend up to £6,000 for something very special.
Stoves suitable for use in smokeless zones are more expensive, starting at around £750.
But installation is costly. For a standard Victorian house budget for £800 for materials alone.
Donnachadh McCarthy‘s 5 Kw Clearview Pioneer burner cost £800, but installation, including a new chimney flue, added another £2,000.

Moving Story

Anna Travers and her family are selling their Tenterton home, which comes with a wood-burning  stove in an inglenook fireplace.
"Having lived with open fires before I definitely prefer the wood-burning  stove," says Anna.  "I don’t use it every day, so I just clean out the cinders when they become too bulky, about twice a year.
"It’s far more efficient than an open fire, you can forget the central heating when it’s on because the heat filters through the house. "We’re downsizing, and I’ll be sorry to see it go."
Can I have one?

1. You need a chimney with a large enough flue to cope with the output you’ll need for your room. If you haven’t got a chimney can you use a twin wall flue system. Ask your supplier for advice.

2. Check the prevailing wind. If it blows back down the chimney you’ll may need to fit a vent to the top of the chimney.
3. If you live in a smoke-control area (check on Smoke Control Areas ) look for an approved wood-burning stove. 


1 comment:

  1. Yes, I believe cheap woodburning stoves save a lot every month and they are becoming hot property at the moment. So, every home should have woodburning stoves.

    ReplyDelete

Subscribe by Email