Category Archives: Stove articles

Are Wood Burning Stoves eco-friendly?

In the 21st Century, protecting the environment has become a major issue which has become increasingly hard to ignore. The need to find renewable energy sources and sustainable ways of living have never been more important to the everyday individual and, when it comes to heating, this concern is no different.

There are currently over 1.5 million households in the UK with a wood burning stove and nearly 200,000 stoves are sold annually. Over the last few decades this large proportion of wood burning stoves has caused some concerns amongst Government institutions, local councils and environmentalists alike.

As recently as September 2017, Sadhiq Khan proposed a ban on wood burning stoves in certain areas of London at certain times of year. Thought to be introduced by 2025, this ban was prompted by fears that particles produced in smoke and other emissions may lead to lung cancer, heart conditions and even death. As part of the Sadihiq Khan’s plan, homeowners that do not conform to these ‘smoke-free’ zones could be fined up to £1000 and all but the most eco-friendly, low-emissions stoves (EcoDesign Ready) would be prohibited from being sold after 2022.

Although there has yet to be an approval of the London Mayor’s plans from the Government, support for his proposals from the Green Party and Client Earth couple together with the ever present threat of air pollution and global warming means that something does have to be done to cut the emissions of wood burning stoves.

With the creation of smoke free zones in most large UK cities and this recent proposal by the Mayor of London, it would at first appear that burning wood is one of the least sustainable or ‘eco-friendly’ means of heating your home. However, in reality the truth is quite different and you may be quite surprised at how ecological they actually are and what you can do to help them produce less harmful emissions.

 

Logs vs Fossil Fuels

The first key element which makes log burning stoves far more eco-friendly than gas or electric heaters, is the fuel itself. Wood is a carbon-neutral fuel which means it does not produce more carbon dioxide (CO2) than is already present in the carbon cycle. Any CO2 that is produced by burning wood is simply reabsorbed by plants and trees and converted back into oxygen or stored as CO2 in the plant.

Fossil fuels, on the other hand, produce far more CO2 when burned and increase the amount presently current within the carbon cycle, the condensed carbon having been locked inside them for millions of years and being released into the atmosphere. Therefore fossil fuels are not carbon neutral and can harm the environment in a way burning wood could never match.  Furthermore, most coal and other fossil fuels also have to be imported, only adding further to their carbon footprint. By choosing to burn wood you are already helping the environment.

Aside from being carbon neutral, the kinds of emissions given off by burning wood are far less harmful than those given off by fossil fuels. What we commonly call air pollution is made up of several particles and gases, the most harmful being CO2, NOx and PM2.5. In terms of climate change and damage to peoples’ health, it is CO2 and NOx which are the key dangers and need a reduction in their production and unsurprisingly it is the burning of fossil fuels which contribute to this the most. Gas and cars are the biggest producers of these dangerous gases, with 38% of central London’s emissions being produced by gas heaters alone.

When compared to gas and electricity equivalents, which produce 0.198 kg and 0.517 kg of CO2 per kWh respectively, modern wood burning stoves only produce 0.008 kg, clearly demonstrating the environmental benefits of switching to a stove. Not only do they produce less CO2 than fossil fuels, they also produce so much heat that you can quite easily heat a room and the rooms around the stove with the log burner alone, with no need to use up fossil fuels heating up your central heating system. This means that you are not only saving the planet but also saving a lot of money on your heating bills.

 

Of course some multi-fuel stoves can burn fossil fuels, in the form of coal, however this has become an increasingly unpopular means of running stoves as coal not only produces more CO2 than wood but also a lot more smoke, something that has become a major issue in many urban areas. Smokeless coals have been developed and these do indeed reduce the amount of smoke released during combustion. However, when compared to burning wood, even smokeless coal falls short in terms of efficiency and sustainability.

It can also be argued that, whilst more sustainable and eco-friendly than fossil fuels, burning wood can still harmful to the environment due to the amount of particle matter (PM2.5) they produce. However, the key issue, and particular in the example of London above, is that it is not necessarily log burning stoves which are contributing to air pollution the UK to a serious degree. 70% of wood burnt in the city is used for open fires which produce far more emissions than their stove counterparts and are far less efficient. In contrast, most EcoDesign Ready stoves can reduce emissions by up to 90% when compared to open fires and make the most out of the fuel they burn. Furthermore, levels of PM2.5 are increasingly being cut by these modern stoves, with many of the factors contributing to their EcoDesign Ready status originating in their ability to reduce particle matter production, and hence air pollution.

 

Seasoned Wood and Briquettes

Yet burning any old wood is not necessarily the most ecological way of fuelling a wood burning stove. To make the most out of your stove and ensure you are causing as little of an impact on the environment as possible, it is important to understand the type of wood you should be burning and even more eco-friendly alternatives.

The type of wood you should burn on a wood burning stove should be dry and seasoned. This means that the fire does not have to work hard to combust the material given to it and, hence produces less smoke. In terms of efficiency this means that your stove will heat up quicker and produce far more heat than damp or unseasoned wood.

The most efficient and environmentally friendly humidity for logs is under 20% whilst newly cut logs can be as high as 60%. To counter act this, leave new logs in a dry place with plenty of air circulation for over a year and, if you want to improve this further you can buy kiln dried logs which have a moisture content of around 18%.

An even better alternative to seasoned wood is the use of briquettes to fuel your stove. These compact pieces of fuel are made up of pieces of old waste wood, harvested from broken furniture and other disposable wood sources.

By their very nature briquettes have the qualities of dry and seasoned wood however they are much more efficient and cost effective. Briquettes produce roughly 50% more heat for each pound spent on them when compared to logs and can last up to four hours. This is helped by the fact that most briquettes have a moisture content of below 10%, furthering their burning capabilities and ensuring they produce the most heat they can for the least amount of smoke and CO2. Furthermore, because of their incredible efficiency and heat production, the use of briquettes instead of logs could save you up to £150 a year when purchasing fuel for your log burner.

 

 

Eco-stoves and EcoDesign Ready

Whilst burning wood rather than coal, and using a stove over traditional central heating systems can be more efficient and ecological for your home, there are even more eco-friendly alternatives to the conventional wood burning stove.

In the last decade the development of the ‘eco-stove’ has been a major breakthrough in ensuring stoves can be as environmentally friendly as they can be.

Certified by DEFRA (Department of Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs) in meeting Government standards on air pollution, these stoves differ to their predecessors as they try to prevent the fire from being starved of air as much as possible. Via secondary and tertiary air in-takes, these stoves ensure air gets to the fire, and hence, ensures that it gets the oxygen it needs to burn at maximum efficiency. Not only does this mean that the fuel inside the stove produces the most heat it can, but also it reduces the amount of smoke produced by the fuel as a result if this efficient combustion.

Eco-stoves always burn at over 70% efficiency and help keep your chimney clean due to their lack of smoke output. Compared to open fires, which have a minimum efficiency of 40%, it is clear to see the immense difference this can have in heating your home. Their minimal smoke production is also a huge benefit as this does not only help the environment but also allows air to flow down in to the fire, feeding it and increasing efficiency even further. Not only will these factors help you keep air pollution down and smoke levels low in urban environments, but they will also save you a lot of money on your heating bills and chimney sweeping.

 

In the coming years, older forms of wood burning stove are expected to be phased out and re-placed by these eco-stoves. Tests by the SIA (Stove Industry Alliance) found that eco-stoves reduced particulate emissions by between 80-84% when compared to older models and the independent standards body for heating appliances, HETAS, is heading a campaign to make sure all wood-burners can be as efficient as possible.

These new eco-stoves are at the heart of the SIA initiative to limit the amount of emissions produced by wood burning stoves. This initiative aims to give an EcoDesign Ready label to most modern Eco-stoves, a label which verifies the low-emission status of the stove in line with requirements outlined in Regulation (EU) 2015/1185 24/5/2015 regarding EcoDesign solid fuel heaters. In partnership with HETAS, the SIA aims to lower emissions further on EcoDesign Ready stoves and meet the ever more stringent guidelines imposed upon them before 2022.

With rising concerns over the impact of fossil fuels on the planet’s atmosphere and the increasing problem of CO2 and smoke levels in cities, eco-stoves look set to be the most efficient and eco-friendly alternative the standard wood burning stove. In the future, only stoves with the EcoDesign Ready label will be able to meet the demands placed on lower-emissions and smoke production and, due their incredible efficiency, these stoves, if fuelled correctly, may prove to be more ecological than your central heating.

What Size Wood Burning Stove Do I Need?

You can find out the appropriate wood burner size in kilowatts by:

  1. Calculate the cubic space of the room by multiplying the width, height and length.
  2. As a rule of thumb, divide the cubic space by 14 and this will give you a KW output needed for the room.
  3. If your room needs a wood burner between 4-6 KW then you need a small wood burning stove.
  4. If your room needs a wood burner between 7-9 KW then you need a small wood burning stove.
  5. If your room needs a wood burner between 10-15 KW then you need a small wood burning stove.
  6. Using our calculator, you can take into account how well insulated your house is.
  7. Using our calculator you can also take into account if you like the room to be warmer than 20°C or not.

When choosing a wood burning stove it is difficult to know what size stove to buy to suit your home. First thing to note is that people often buy a stove that is really too big for their needs, whilst it is tempting to just buy the largest stove possible this isn’t necessarily the best option.

First, any stove that you get which is over 5kw needs an air brick or ventillation kit installed in the room that stove is in to ensure adequate air flow but it is recomended for any burning appliance of any size.

Second, all stoves have an optimal performance efficiency and to acheive this they need to be running at their nominal heat output, if they are running at less or more than this they become less efficient, meaning that you spend more on fuel and the exhaust is more damaging to the environment. Accordingly getting a stove with a nominal heat output that matches your room is desirable.

To get a better idea of what heat output you will need from a wood burning stove you can use our heat output calculator. You should remember that this is only a guide as factors such as how well insulated your room is etc will affect the output that is needed.

Another important factor to consider is the physical size of the stove, you need to physically have enough room for the stove, allowing 150mm of clearance to the sides and rear and 225mm to the front of your hearth to comply with the building regulations. Your stove should also be 950mm away from any combustable materials, so you should always check the dimensions of the stove and measure up before buying.

Once you have spent some time to consider what size of stove to buy you can then look through our range of wood burning stoves that will best suit you. We have a complete range of small 4-6kw wood burning stoves, medium 7-9kw wood burning stoves and large wood burning stoves from 10-15kw.

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How to Keep Your Wood Burning Stove Running

You should not have too many difficulties in making a fire in a wood burning stove and keeping it burning. There is no standard ignition procedure because it all depends on the stove and its user. However, the first step usually consists in opening the air vent found at the bottom of the stove and it is followed by a thorough check for any kind of debris that might block the airflow. The state of the grate should also be checked. Surprisingly enough, it should not be perfectly clean, but covered with a bit of ash for more heat retention and a longer burn time. However, the remaining ash should not block the airflow.

Once these checks have been completed, you can proceed with the proper ignition of the log burner. First you need to take some crumpled paper, throw it on the grate and then throw a few pieces of kindling wood onto it. Naturally they will burn out very shortly, but they are very effective. You can use pieces of softwood of all sizes to make kindling wood. Just chop them into small pieces and your ignition material is ready. You need to make sure there is enough kindling wood on the grate, otherwise your wood burning stove will not light up, though also ensure you prevent any airflow blockages. Then add a layer of larger wood pieces and ignite the paper. You should always leave igniting the front parts of the kindling to the end, otherwise you might burn your hand. Now you can close the door.

Once the kindling wood has caught fire, you can start throwing logs onto it and then wait for your room to heat up. You can throw in as many logs as you want to maintain the fire, but you should avoid cramming the stove. If you have a multi fuel stove, you can maintain the fire by throwing coal onto the fire instead of logs.

The burn rate and temperature of a log burner can be adjusted. These adjustments are made by controlling the air vent, which is the part of the stove that determines these two parameters. Once you have made these adjustments, you can sit back and enjoy the fire in your wood burning stove and the warmth of your house.

How to save money by heating your home with log burners

The good news so far is that, possibly due to climate change, the UK winters have become milder. However with continuing cold snaps for December through to March predicted, for many consumers the financial burden of growing heating costs is concerning.

The combination of gas & electricity providers raking off significant profits year after year hits consumers in the pocket, particularly in these winter months. Specifically with domestic gas bills; these seem to be constantly rising in real terms. Do you switch providers, do you go for fixed cost plans or do you seek alternative heating methods?

Log burners now occupy over 1 million UK homes, with popularity in supply and demand increasing each year. With many more houses in the UK that are suitable for wood burning stove installation, is this the best route to cut your heating bill?

How important could log burners be to our finances?

A Q2 2014 report from the Office for National Statistics demonstrated that 23.5% of average household expenditure went on ‘housing’ – which includes gas and heating bills.

Household Prices

Oil barrel costs go up and down – gas has been creeping steadily up in price. For the right house owner, log burners could be an effective way of controlling ballooning fuel costs.

Do we buy wood burners to save money?

The fashionable, trendy appeal of the wood burning stove is undoubtedly a contributing factor to rising sales of over 175,000 units per year across the UK. However many of these households have both gas central heating and wood burners. 21 million UK homes are heated by mains gas (83%) so it is safe to say that there is a good degree of overlap.

What is cheaper – burning wood or using natural gas?

The methodology of energy performance for both efficiency and the environment is called the Standard Assessment Procedure or ‘SAP’. Studies indicate that it is 29% cheaper per KWh to burn wood than to use natural gas. An average annual gas bill would have cost £690 in 2013, so if you were to purely rely on wood burning stoves for heating you could save £200.10. This is compelling, particularly if your property would be well suited to log burners. The comparison against other fuels gets quite interesting. The cost saving for oil is a considerable 43%, 50% for LPG and 77% when benchmarked against electricity. For home owners in remote areas of the UK, heating oil costs can rapidly fluctuate and so burning wood could save nearly £300 per year.

Installation costs

Making the burning wood vs. using natural gas cost comparison work is where things get a little bit complicated. The consumer champion Which? estimates the total cost, including installation, of a log stove is usually around £2,000. The average for a gas central heating system is £2502, which is where gas has the upper hand because obviously this cost covers the entire house. The media have created a more negative angle against wood burning stoves for this reason, which focuses your attention around the multi-room installation cost in comparison to the longer term cost savings (and environmental benefit of using renewable energy).

Depending on how serious you are about saving money on your heating bills, don’t worry – help is at hand. To navigate around this disparity in installation costs and contribute towards ambitious carbon reduction goals in the next 30+ years, the Department of Energy & Climate Change created the renewable heat incentive, or RHI. Since 2014 the RHI has been extended to cover domestic renewable heating.

What is the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)?

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is the world’s first long-term financial incentive scheme using for renewable energy to heat property (commercial and domestic). If you are classed as one of the following then you can apply:

  • Owner occupiers (including second homes)
  • Private landlords
  • Social landlords
  • Self-builders
  • Legacy (those who installed eligible renewable heat measures between 15 July 2009 & 8 April 2014

The following heating system types are eligible:

  • Air source heat pumps
  • Biomass boilers and wood pellet stoves with a back boiler
  • Ground & water source heat pumps
  • Solar thermal (hot water)

Your heating system must be MCS certified and your installer needs to be a member of the energy consumer code (RECC) and be MCS certified as well.

Wood pellet stoves that qualify for the RHI

The Government provide a manufacturer and model list of stoves with back boilers that qualify. You may however find that the exact model you are looking to buy isn’t on the list or of course it could be marked as ineligible. Either way you can either request a review of its eligibility or of course apply if you and your stove retailer are very confident that the wood pellet stove with back boiler meets the requirements.

How much could I save on the RHI?

Based on the 15,000 average KWh usage (and no saving from cavity insulation) the government would pay you an estimated £11,900 over 7 years – £1700 per annum. You would need a green deal assessment of your property to firm up your numbers, with the result of an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). You can then apply direct to the Government for this financial incentive. A good place to start would be to get a green deal consultant appointment to discuss the different heating system options and get your EPC.

What is the environmental benefit?

The most positive model of burning wood is that while we are tree chopping, we are tree planting and the new trees soak up the CO2 emissions from the burned trees.

A recent DECC report suggests that burning waste wood from a felled forest is better in terms of CO2 emissions and works as ‘renewable’ when new trees are planted as substitutes.