Wood burning stoves are very much in demand these days for two of the most compelling reasons since the dawn of time: money and good looks.
First there is potential to make serious savings compared to conventional fuel sources, and second nothing ever quite pushes the warm ‘n cosy buttons like a real fireplace. Whether you like your cost savings dressed as stylish and ultra modern or prefer them wrapped up in the guise of a traditional country kitchen range there’s a wood burning stove that’s just perfect for you.
But wood burners are not for everyone. The cost savings can indeed be very significant, but only if your circumstances are suited to owning a wood burning stove. Also there is that matter of “installation” to consider. Here then is a guide through some of the many points you need to check if you are contemplating installing a wood burner.
Is there a reliable and cost effective supply of solid fuel local to you? What type of fuel is it exactly? Wood burners can accept well-seasoned logs and other form of solid wood, wood chips and/or wood pellets. But some wood burning stoves are better suited (or sometimes restricted) to particular types of fuel.
You must understand how you plan to fuel your burner before choosing a particular make to install or even going ahead with the project at all. Solid fuel is heavy and bulky and the costs to transport it any distance can quickly mount up to the point where any potential cost savings have vanished.
For information: seasoned wood has been left to dry naturally for at least a year; wood chips are small pieces of wood such as what comes out of those wood chippers that tree surgeons use; wood pellets are manufactured as uniformly sized small blocks of compressed sawdust.
You will need somewhere dry, easily accessible and fairly spacious to store your wood fuel. Ideally it should also be close to the wood burner itself (lugging logs from the shed at the bottom of the garden wouldn’t count as ideal). If plan on using an automatic fuel loading hopper (for wood pellets or sometimes wood chips) then it is even more important that the fuel store be located in proximity to the burner.
A wood burning stove requires a flue lined with a vent material suitable for burning wood fuel. If you already have a chimney then it is possible to have this fitted with a lined flue suitable for a wood burner, but factor in this extra cost. If you don’t have a suitable chimney then you will need to consider where you might be able to have a flue installed, bearing in mind that you might well need to also comply with planning and building regulations.
Wood burning stoves are most efficient when working at full capacity, in other words burning Multi fuel stove at a fast rate rather than gently smouldering. This presents an obvious dilemma in that a fast burn will typically produce more heat than you really need or desire, but shutting the fire down then means that no heat is being generated.
A common solution to this is installing an “accumulator” tank – basically an insulated hot water cylinder on steroids. This plays the role of a “heat battery” that accumulates the excess heat from a fast burn so that it can be released as required over several days in the form of hot water to the household radiators and for bathing.
As a side note, many people who install solar power and heat collection also install an accumulator tank to trap useful heat in the same way as they store solar electricity using deep cycle batteries. The two systems, solar and wood burner, can easily share an accumulator in order to optimize energy savings.
There are more regulations and items of legislation covering the issue of domestic heating than you could shake a stick at. Then there are the carrots – the grants and assorted incentive schemes that could significantly reduce your installation costs if you know what’s available and how to apply.
The above points, including additional detail on compliance with regulations, are covered in further detail in both this lengthy article that examines installing wood burning stoves in particular and this one that covers wood stove technology in general.