With autumn chill on its way, here’s our buyer’s guide to choosing a stove that will ensure warm evenings and may even reduce energy bills.
Words by Rachel Webb
Stoves are a great way of adding a cosy focal point to living spaces, and the right design can lift a room scheme – especially as you can choose from bold colour, streamlined modern or elegant traditional models. There’s a stove to suit just about any space and you don’t even need a fireplace for many designs, just a suitable outside wall or roof space to accommodate the flue system. But there’s another good reason to consider investing in a new stove this autumn – bills. Unless you’re planning an extended trip to the sun, staying warm this winter is a very real concern. It’s something the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA) is certainly hot on, also reminding us of the benefits of reducing reliance on central heating.
Stoves are never a recommended alternative to central heating, but an efficient modern design will ramp up the cosiness and potentially offers a way of saving on other energy costs. This is something that SIA is emphasising, pointing to recent research about the “zonal heating” approach. This suggests that using a wood burning stove while turning down your gas central heating to 18oC for three hours five times a week could save almost 8.5% on average heating bills – potentially more if fuel bills continue to rise. Not only that, but you have the reassurance of staying cosy during a power cut (outages do happen), bringing peace of mind that can justify the outlay.
If you’re warming to idea of snuggling round the fire while saving money, here are five tips for choosing and running a stove.
1. GO ECO-FRIENDLY & EFFICIENT
If you’re sitting in front of an open fire or running an older stove (10 years plus) it’s almost certainly worth considering an upgrade to an Ecodesign-compliant model (for example clearSkies certified). The latest compliant stoves generate 80% less emissions than the oldest stoves, and 90% less than an open fire.
2. CHECK LOCAL REGULATIONS
If you’re in a Smoke Control Area (most of London and many surrounding areas are), you’ll need to choose a stove that is Defra exempt. The penalties for breaching Smoke Control regulations can be hefty – so upgrading makes financial as well as ecological sense. Get advice from your stove retailer but, as a guide, look for clearSkies Level 3 and above stoves.
3. CHOOSE THE RIGHT SIZE
While the idea of a toasty room can be enticing, overheating (or underheating) will be a serious problem if you buy the wrong size. This is why it’s important to get a proper survey of the room you’ll be heating. An authorised stove dealer and installer (HETAC or OFTEC registered) can advise on the right wattage, as well as undertaking a survey to ensure your chimney or other flue point is safely prepared. Also look for a stove with responsive controls – you want a design you can adjust quickly and easily.
4. BURN THE RIGHT FUEL
The right fuel is essential for safe and efficient stove operation. If you buy logs from a local dealer, they should be at or below 20% moisture content – this is for safety as well as smoke control compliance. If you buy logs from a variety of sources, look for the ‘Ready to Burn’ logo. Never burn wood that has been chemically treated or use the stove to incinerate paper and other rubbish. Also, ensure you store logs safely. While it’s a good idea to stack the evening’s supply conveniently close to the fire, too large a log pile can create a fire risk.
5. SERVICE YOUR STOVE
Your stove chimney should be swept at least once a year by a registered chimney sweep (visit the Federation of Chimney Sweeps’ page for local members). This is the best way to ensure safe and efficient running – and many insurers also insist chimneys are swept regularly. Sweeps are also a wonderful source of practical expertise on all things fireside.