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Buying a wood-burning stove

ABOVE: S11, (H)58.5x(W)37x(D)33cm (with legs), 4kW, 76.9 per cent efficiency, £1,025, Morsø.

Whether you are installing a natural, gas or electric model, follow this expert guide.

With fuel prices threatening to spiral out of control, it is easy to understand the appeal of a wood-burning stove. If you choose a natural model, it can heat your home without the need for electricity or gas, plus wood is a carbon neutral fuel so you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint.

‘Glass-fronted freestanding stoves are considerably more efficient than the older traditional open fire,’ explains Greg Taylor, director of stoves specialist Stovax (stovax.com). ‘An open fire is usually only about 10 to 15 per cent efficient in heat output, while a glass-fronted model can achieve heat efficiencies of between 70 and 80 per cent.’

Thanks to the availability of modern flue systems that run straight out of the house and don’t require a chimney, you don’t have to restrict the location of your stove to the traditional fireplace or chimney breast.

With hundreds of designs available, ranging from cutting-edge contemporary models to more traditional cottage styles, there is a wood-burning stove to suit every room scheme.

What to consider

Building regulations
Installation can be complicated with government regulations (see Part J at planningportal.gov.uk) and Building Control to consider. If you’re placing a wood-burning stove in an existing fireplace, you’ll need to have the chimney swept and lined with a high temperature flue. The stove should be positioned a minimum of 30cm from flammable surfaces and be placed on a hearth of stone, concrete or slate.

Heat output
Greg Taylor, director of Stovax, says that you should always discuss your solid fuel requirements with a HETAS-registered heating engineer (hetas.co.uk).

‘They will be able to provide the best specialist advice, taking into account the proposed location and suitability of the chimney, plus ensuring compliance with the Building Regulations,’ he says. ‘They can also give you guidance on the heat output, ensuring that your stove is not too big or small for its position.’

The stove you choose will depend on the size of the room to be heated. Stove heat output is measured in kilowatts (kW). As a rule, you’ll need 1kW for every 14m³ of space, but ask an expert – if you get it wrong it won’t generate enough heat and could cause a fire.

Most stoves now come with an efficiency rating shown as a percentage. Over 75 per cent is considered good and will generate more heat per log burnt.

Where you live
If you live in a city, ask your council if your neighbourhood is in a Smoke Control Area. These were introduced to limit pollution after fatal smogs in 1952. However, you can now buy stoves that are DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; defra.gov.uk) exempt and produce virtually no smoke.

Additional features
‘Clean burning’ stoves use oxygen sucked into the top of the stove to slow the heat escaping up the chimney, while models with ‘air wash’ help keep the glass clear for easier cleaning. For the ultimate in eco-heating, look out for stoves with a built-in boiler. These heat water for radiators around the home.

The right wood to use
Seasoned logs are best as they will burn longer and hotter. Logs take at least six months to dry out, so you’ll need dry space to store fresh and seasoned timber. Plus it is far cheaper to buy logs in bulk (find firewood suppliers and compare prices at yell.com).

Gas and electric options
Several stove manufacturers, including Charnwood (charnwood.com) and Chesney’s (chesneys.co.uk), make authentic-looking gas and electric stoves. They’re not as eco-friendly and cost more to run, but they need no cleaning, light up instantly and are easier to install.

The cost
Stoves cost from £300 to over £6,000 for a central heating model. For installation, you should budget £400 to £1,000. You’ll also need to factor in a chimney sweep to check everything. Prices vary, but expect to pay around £40 per chimney.

All prices and stockists correct at time of publishing.