Before You Install That Wood Burning Stove…

This is fairly light and slightly flippant overview – for a considerably more detailed examination of this subject, click this link instead.

Anyway… musing with the idea of installing a wood burner of some sort?

I say “some sort” because this is a field full of jargon that acts as useful shorthand for professionals and mostly baffles everyone else.

You would think that a woodburner, wood stove, wood burning stove, log burner, log burning stove (you get the picture) were all basically the same thing just described in different ways. And (pedants and hair splitters aside) you would be right.

But try typing each of those into a search engine and marvel at their ability to return significantly different results each time.

Anyway, this is a brief overview of the sorts of things you probably ought to be at least au fait with. Starting with the obvious advantages and hence main reasons for considering a log burner in the first place.

Actually Jess it IS About the Money, Money, Money

Arguably one of the most popular reasons for wanting to install a wood burner is to realise significant savings in running costs, especially with constantly rising prices for gas, oil and electricity. Wood is relatively cheap and modern burners highly efficient and clean. But you do need to check carefully to ensure your circumstances are favourable (mainly access to low cost fuel – we’ll get to that one in a bit).

Hey Good Looking…

The other driving force behind many a log burner installation is of course that they unquestionably look good. All the visual appeal and feel of a real fire but tucked up in a neat box that introduces a natural focal point for the room. C’mon now, when did you last feel like snuggling up to the condensing boiler? Enough said.

Hey Man! Gotta Help Save the Environment

It may come as a surprise to many people, but burning wood is considerably more environmentally friendly than using gas or oil or electricity even (the power station just burns the gas or oil so you don’t have to). Find that hard to believe?

Well just check out the various (usually financial) incentives that the Powers That Be are prepared to offer in a bid to encourage greater use of wood boilers and thus help meet their own CO2 targets. We’ll meet these very shortly.

But it’s not all undiluted sweetness and light. Log burning stoves are great – assuming quite specific conditions. Fail to comply with said conditions and it could easily all turn out to be far more trouble than it’s worth.

Rules, Regulations and Clipboard Toting Officialdom

Contrary to what many people seem to believe, you cannot in fact do exactly as you please in your own home. Various laws still apply and in the case of wood burners these are principally Smoke Control legislation and Planning and Building Regulations. You can almost always ensure compliance, but you may need to weigh up the cost and effort required to do so. On the other hand your own particular circumstances may mean this is a breeze.

Want A Wood Burner? You’ll Be Needing Some Wood Then…

Yes, the clue is in the name, but some folk don’t seem to notice a blindingly obvious flaw in their plans until it comes time to light it up (or not). But then some (admittedly very small) people apparently don’t grasp that fish fingers contain fish. Makes you wonder why we bothered to invent language at all. So do you have a cheap, reliable supply of chopped up trees and someplace to store them?

Hot and Toxic – What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Yep, it’s those words giving the game away again. In this case “burn”, “burner” and “burning”. Getting warm yet? Setting fire to wood within the confines of your own home does require at least some modicum of attention to safety. Not the least of which is ensuring that the various hot gases given off by combustion exit the property without damaging it or its occupants. Which typically involves some form of chimney…

What’s She Gonna Look Like With a Chimney on Her?

Not in fact a reference to the Wicked Witch of the East getting a house dumped on her, but chimneys and/or flues (the chimney is the structure, the flue is the funnel through which smoke is vented). One way or another they invariably feature prominently in any plan to install a wood burner, and continue to baffle, bemuse and bug their owners for years to come.

Well that’s covered the main appeal and most common pitfalls. Time for practical considerations – you know, what type of wood burner, what size, what does it all cost, what help is available, etc.

Different Types of Wood Burning Appliances

You can use wood to heat all sorts of things, but for most domestic purposes then air, water and food are the big three. So basically you have your bog standard wood burning stove that radiates and/or convects heat directly into a room, your wood burning boiler that stores heat in the form a hot water cylinder, and the good old wood burning kitchen range for cooking stuff on/in (which also leaks quite a bit of heat into the kitchen). Better yet, you can pick and mix and combine any two or even all three options in a single appliance.

Forget Everything You’ve Been Told, Size Matters – At Least Where Wood Burners Are Concerned

I’ve had more than a few queries (yes, you can ask questions) where it was abundantly clear that whoever it was had spotted a picture of their perfect log burner on this site and wanted to know where they might buy one. They neither knew or seemed to care what its heat output was. Which is a Big Mistake ™ and one you’re not going to make, are you?

Integrating A Wood Burning Boiler With An Existing System

Yes, it can be done and many people do indeed take advantage of dual heating systems. Depending on your circumstances you can designate either a conventional or wood burning boiler as the primary heat source and the other as an auxiliary and have both contribute to a common hot water and central heating system.

What Does it Cost to Install a Wood Stove?

How long is a length of thread? Cost to buy a car? What is the point of Simon Cowell? These are all questions with no particular answer yet as many answers as people to ask. But there are a number of ways to break it down a bit and get a feel for what the whole exercise might cost you personally.

Burn More Wood – It’s Official Government Policy

As alluded to above, there are indeed quite a few schemes aimed at encouraging greater use of wood burners. These tend to chop and change quite frequently, but there is almost always some form of financial assistance available for anyone planning a new installation. That said, the bias is very much in favour of wood burning boilers and larger installations in schools and business premises.

The Third Way – Fireplace Inserts

Got an existing and perfectly serviceable fireplace but not keen on either wasting money (open fireplaces are notoriously inefficient and ineffective at heating a room) or installing a traditional standalone log burning stove? In that case, a fireplace insert could be exactly what you’re after – a relatively cheap and easy way to convert a regular open hearth into something that looks and behaves rather like a built-in wood stove.

Sounds Great, So Who You Gonna Call?

No, not Ghostbusters, but HETAS. Why would you want to do that? Because it is far and away the best way to end up with an efficient, reliable and safe installation. It will also save you money in terms of compliance costs (that means that you do have to comply and it will cost you to do so) and save you from the misery that awaits those who would cut corners on this sort of project.

Hopefully that covers the major things to consider ahead of any log burning stove installation. If you think I’ve missed anything crucial, haven’t answered particular concerns, etc then either drop me a line or check out this more detailed article instead.


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