The idea of coming home to a ‘real fire’ has always been a popular one. There are romantic notions of crackling logs and glowing embers, as you curl up on the sofa sheltered from the raging blizzard outside. As warm and comforting as an open fire can be, the reality is less appealing.
Open fires are far from efficient, with much of the heat lost via the chimney. In fact, between 80 – 90% of the heat from log or coal fires goes straight up, out into the air along with the smoke and fumes. Then there’s the daily task of cleaning the grate and setting the fire for the day, and so the allure of an open fire soon begins to fade. And that’s before we even mention chimney fires, problems with draughts, or backflow, where the choking smoke and fumes are drawn down into the room.
Over the past couple of decades, wood-burning stoves have experienced a huge boost in popularity. There are a number of reasons for this, not least the fact that they offer an excellent means of reducing our environmental impact. Aside from this, they are now available in a wide range of styles to suit all tastes. But before having one fitted it makes sense to take a closer look, to find out more about wood-burning stoves. For example, do you need a wet or dry system? And what does that mean?
Wood burning stove dry system
To keep things simple, stoves are either wet or dry. A wet system heats a boiler (for hot water/heating) as well as sending heat into your room. A wood-burning stove dry system, however, only heats the room in which it is situated and is not connected to a boiler. All straightforward so far!
Once you have decided which type you need, it is a good idea to think about where it’s going to stand. Many people in older properties already have a hearth and a chimney. In this case, a wood-burning fireplace insert can be slotted in. Prior to this, the chimney should be inspected to ensure it is safe, and any repairs made accordingly. The flue will be placed inside an existing chimney – if there is one. One added bonus is that the insert will strengthen the hearth and fireplace, and a liner will be used to stop any draughts or to stop fumes and smoke leaking back into the room.
Most modern wood-burning stoves operate between 70 – 99% efficiency, meaning that most of the heat remains in your home, and your heating bills should fall dramatically. You can increase your level of sustainability by following these tips:
- Only burn seasoned wood – dry, well-seasoned wood (with between 15-20% moisture content) will burn more efficiently and create less smoke and fumes.
- Keep the flue/chimney clean – deposits of creosote and tar can build up within the flue or chimney, restricting the airflow. Flues should ideally be cleaned annually by a professional.
- Use mainly in cold weather – seems an obvious one, but operating the stove when there isn’t a large temperature differential between indoors and outdoors could make the air inlets could shut down.
- Use the right fuel! – some stoves are built for wood/biomass fuels, others are better suited to solid minerals such as anthracite.
- Check the seals regularly – when seals are no longer performing their function, they need to be replaced. Try placing a piece of paper in the door (against the seal) and close it. If you can pull the paper away easily and it isn’t trapped, then the seal needs replacing.
- Build the fire correctly – pack the logs tightly rather than just chucking them on. This gives a longer, hotter burn. Before adding more logs, rake the embers and ash forwards.
- Have the system serviced annually by a HETAS registered installer – the Heating Equipment Testing and Approvals Scheme is an organisation that specialises in approving appliances, fuels, and services that connected with the use of biomass/solid fuels. They also keep a register of competent installers.
Some things to consider….
Placement of a wood burning stove dry system
If you have decided on a dry system, you then need to think about the next steps. If you have an existing hearth this would be the best place in which to house the stove. If not, then you will have to find the most practical place for it.
Homes without a chimney will need to have a twin-wall flue system installed (also called high-temperature or double-wall flue). As there is no existing fireplace, you then have the option of a ‘free-standing’ stove, which will increase the range of the heat, as well as adding elegance and flair to your home.
Costs of a wood burning stove dry system
Some people have been put off by the costs of wood-burning stoves. But while it’s true that the cost of the unit, as well as installation, can be fairly steep, the overall long-term savings can be in the high hundreds when compared to ever-rising gas, oil, and electricity prices.
Smoke control areas
Within the UK there are designated Smoke Control Areas, where it is illegal to emit smoke from a chimney or to burn ‘unauthorised’ fuel under the Clean Air Act 1956. In order to comply (and avoid the £1000 fine), the stove and the fuel must be on the ‘exempt’ list.
Safety of a wood burning stove dry system
When it comes to installation and the proper running of the unit, safety should never be compromised. Although some people are tempted to install the system themselves to save money, it should always be fitted by a qualified ‘competent person’. Obviously, all combustible matter should be stored well away from the unit, a fireguard should be used if children are present, and you should fit smoke and carbon monoxide alarms nearby.
Once these issues have been considered and addressed, investing in a wood stove dry system makes perfect sense. It won’t only look great, but it will also provide years of effective, sustainable warmth while increasing the value of your home.