How To Choose Your Perfect Wood Burning Stove.

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As a nation, we’re rather obsessed with our woodburning and multifuel stoves, but there’s a lot to consider before investing in one.

Before setting your heart on a woodburning stove, it’s essential to establish whether you have a supply of firewood readily and locally available.

You may choose to plan for the year ahead and purchase logs to season (air dry) yourself, which will happily bring cost benefits, but you will require a log store, preferably one close to the house, to do so.

If you’re unable to pin down a good, reliable supplier or are short on space to season and/or store wood, then a multifuel stove could be a very good idea; they give the option of burning solid fuels such as smokeless anthracite, peat or turf briquettes, as well as wood.

There’s a key difference between the ways in which these fuels are burnt; while wood burns best on a bed of ash with air circulating above, conversely, solid fuels require air circulating below. Multifuel stoves are designed for both tasks, although some woodburning stoves can be specified with a removable grate for the purpose of burning solid fuels.

Smoke Control Areas

On the subject of fuel, if you live in a town or city, do check to see if you’re within a Smoke Control Area; you can find out by contacting your local authority or visiting their website. If you do find yourself in one, then you’ll only be able to burn DEFRA-approved smokeless fuel (such as anthracite) — wood certainly is not one.

Alternatively, if you do want to burn wood or non-exempt fuels, you’ll need to specify a DEFRA-exempt stove; there’s a list available at smoke control DEFRA, but you’ll find that most manufacturers and suppliers are quick to mark out models with this stamp of approval.

Heating the Room

You’ll also need to consider how you want your stove to heat the room.

Radiant stoves, as the name suggests, radiate heat through the glass and stove body, providing a focal point to cosy up to (they’re still perhaps popular because they most resemble open fires in this way). This type of stove is safest when installed within a chimney breast or inglenook, and soapstone is sometimes used to clad the top and sides; this stone absorbs, stores and slowly radiates heat.

A convection stove, however, features an outer shell or additional side panels which clad the combustion chamber — the heat is transferred to the air caught within this outer shell and is, in turn, distributed around the room.

They’re a better option for freestanding stoves – as the sides don’t get so hot – and good in open plan spaces where they’re likely to be used as a secondary heating stove.

Heat Output

Establishing the heat output (which is measured in kW) required in the room is something to consider early on. Too small, and the stove will be inadequate for purpose. It’s perhaps tempting to opt for a stove with a considerably larger output than required, ‘just in case’.

However, stoves work best when operating at high temperature, achieving close to their heat output — with too large a stove, you could find yourself constantly cutting the air supply and dampening the fire right down (which in turn impacts on efficiency) to cool off. So, it’s important to get it right.

For every 14m³ of space, approximately 1kW is required to achieve a comfortable temperature. So to estimate the heat output required, divide the room in cubic metres (length x width x height) by 14.

This calculation provides only a rough estimate however, as factors such as the level of insulation, wall construction, the number of window or door openings, and features such as open stairwells have a bearing. It’s therefore a good idea to have an installer undertake a survey to ensure you specify the right model.

Air Supply

Stoves need air for combustion to take place. In order to obtain a sufficient air supply, the air within the room needs to be replenished.

In older, draughty homes, and particularly those with large rooms, this doesn’t tend to be an issue. However, in modern, well-insulated, airtight self-built homes, this is not the case.

The situation is further complicated by mechanical ventilation systems. Room-sealed stoves with a direct air supply (which basically means the air is taken from outside the house, not inside) have an important application here.

If you do have an airtight home, look out for models which provide all the air the stove needs externally — some only provide the primary air source, with air still drawn from the room.

Features to Look Out For

‘Cleanburn’ is a term which you’ll likely come across during specification. This involves the introduction of additional air which burns the gases given off in the first burn, preventing them from escaping up the flue, or sooting up the glass screen. On that note, ‘airwash’ also helps with the latter; air is blown over the inside surface of the glass to prevent combustion gases creating soot here.

Stovax offer a function called Opti-Burn. “It works by offering the best balance between heat output and the airwash function; the result is an efficient burn that is clean, so you can still enjoy the flames and embers through the glass,” says Stovax’s Matt Beckenham. Some manufacturers such as Hwam provide an autopilot feature which regulates air intake for maximum efficiency, meaning you don’t have to control the stove manually.

Burning Wood

Wood with too high a moisture content will be difficult to light, cause soot and even impact on the longevity of your stove and your flue.

“When newly chopped, most woods tend to have a moisture content of around 60 to 80 percent — they require a substantial amount of drying before being suitable to burn,” says Stephen Talbot of Logs Direct. “We wouldn’t recommend burning wood with more than a 25 percent moisture content, and ideally you should be looking for less than 20 percent.”

If you choose to season (air dry) your own wood, then it should be located in a covered, open-sided log store (allowing air to circulate, but protected from the elements) — it can take a year to season, and even longer with some hardwoods. Another option is buying kiln-dried wood.

If you’re intending to cut and season wood yourself, then it’s also worth checking the maximum log length your stove will hold; some can hold logs up to 550mm or longer.

If your interested in buying a woodburning stoves we have a full range with a variety of outputs and styles. We also have a full HETAS qualified team available for installations.
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