5 questions to ask before choosing a wood burning stove
Ten years ago we made the decision to heat our home using wood.
Up until that point we had electric heaters. They were expensive to run and we didn’t like the way they dried out the air; they made it more stuffy than warm.
Choosing from the wide variety of wood burning stoves available is not a decision to be taken lightly. As well as the stove itself you need to have access to a regular supply of fuel, somewhere to store it and be reasonably strong and active. Oh, you also need a love of dusting and somewhere to empty the ash!
Once you’ve made the decision to go ahead, here are five other factors to consider before making a purchase.
Heating the room or home?
Do you want your wood burner to heat just the room it is in or will you choose one with a boiler to heat water and radiators around the house? We chose one with an integrated back boiler to heat 7 radiators and provide us with hot water.
Next you’ll need to decide how big your wood burner needs to be. For example a room of 12 ft by 12 ft that is well insulated and does not have stairs leading off it will need a stove with a heat output of roughly 2.3Kw. We opted for a 12kw model and are fortunate enough that our downstairs is open plan so it never gets too hot!
Wood burning or multi fuel?
What fuel do you prefer to burn? If you’re going for the truly ‘eco’ option you’ll need a wood burner. A wood burning stove has a flat bottom without a grate and the wood burns on a bed of wood ash. By using a solid base the wood burns more slowly and is therefore more efficient than burning wood in a multi fuel stove.
Multi fuel stoves have a grate in the bottom to allow you to burn solid fuels such as coal as well as wood. They are better suited to keeping the fire in at night time, although it *is* possible to keep a wood burning stove in throughout the night as long as it’s big enough to hold a decent amount of fuel.
Do you want to cook on top of your stove? You’ll need to choose a design with a flat top plate if you do! Some modern wood burners are tall and slim or have ornate or shaped tops which don’t allow for cooking so easily. We chose one with a flat top, big enough for three saucepans and a kettle. This helps us to reduce our cooking bill during the winter.
I’ve deliberately put budget at the end of the list because although it’s important, it really shouldn’t be your first consideration; especially if you’re investing in a model that will heat the radiators and water. We’ve had two stoves now and have learned a lot in that time. The first time around we bought the biggest but cheapest we could get. The one we have now, although twice the price of the first, uses around 1/3 the amount of wood because it’s smaller and more efficient.
Do you have a wood burning stove? Do you have any tips to share with our readers?
over the last 35 years we’ve had a an assortment of various open fires, wood burners and multi fuel stoves, some inherited from previous owners at various properties, from back boiler multifuel stoves, to the more efficient totally wood burning stoves.
We currently have a Jotul 600 model which is rather a large stove, with a side access door which is very handy for our Inglenook fireplace, we’ve found over the years that the larger stoves are more adaptable, and the cast iron models and don’t distort due to the heat buildup, as we have found on pressed steel models, particularly so due to their heavier construction, and retain latent heat far more effectively than pressed steel,as in the ‘hunter’ and ‘villager’ models seem to demonstrate. even though our stove is rather large for the size of room, it has the advantage of being able to burn much larger diameter logs then our previous models, which were a pain, And one only needs to burn less wood when needed, Saving resources,
And I’m not convinced that the smaller models are more efficient, especially with a back boiler as these induce a relatively cold area into the fire box exacerbated the need for a clean hot burn, and also tar up the chimney far more, in our experience, which needs cleaning at least once per year anyway Which can cause chimney fires!
We are very fortunate in our locale due to the fact that we live in a vast wooded area, and have access to free dead timber that would otherwise go to waste,
We currently live in a thatched property where one must be very aware of the potential dangers of wood burning stoves due to the obvious danger with the thatch spontaneously combusting, due to heat to build up and also sparks emanating from the chimney, so I wouldn’t recommend in these properties NOT to cut costs on installation by not employing a well qualified heatas engineer to oversee the rather expensive installation, otherwise the consequences could be rather unfortunate, as demonstrated in our location in Suffolk in recent years, due to skimping on installation costs,
In 95% of houses that have been burnt down in recent years most where due to the fact their flew system wasn’t up to the required standard, or had substandard chimney pointing. So be warned
We have had any trouble over the years in this respect.
And we’ve never had anything but I open fire, even when we were children, but like anything that produces fire, it needs respect and understanding to be safe!
I love wood burning stoves and these are some great tips! We got our first one about 25 years ago and my goodness have they come a long way since then!!
@stephen: thanks for such an informative comment Stephen; I appreciate the time you took writing it.
@Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking: they have moved on somewhat! our first was a dinosaur compared to the one we have now!
@stephen: Some great points there, Stephen.
In terms of your point on steel stoves, I would say that has certainly been the case in the past and that they often didn’t hold-up well to very high temperatures in comparison to cast iron stoves.
I think that has changed in recent years though, as the quality of both the steel and the manufacturing processes have improved.
And I definitely agree with your comments on safety. Good maintenance, common sense and the respect you mention are certainly key to using a stove safely.