Wood Burning Stoves Blog

Posted on: 08/07/2015 - 11:05 | Comments:0

stove sceneThe residential sector went through dramatic changes in the last few decades when it comes to heating. In the mid-20th century, wood burning stoves gradually disappeared from the British homes. They gave way to more convenient and cheaper fuel oil and electricity powered heating systems. By the end of the century, however, things started to change again. Evidence of the devastating effect of fossil fuel burning on the climate and the continuously rising prices of fossil fuels forced most home owners to return to the traditional heating systems. The main issue many face, however, is whether to choose a multi fuel or wood burning stove.

Both options, multi fuel and wood burning stoves have their advantages and disadvantages. Wood burning stoves are a lot cleaner and much more environmentally friendly because firewood is carbon neutral which means that it does not raise the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. At the same time, firewood is sustainable in contrary to coal for instance which will sooner or later run out. It is, however, a lot easier to maintain heat if you add a certain amount of coal or other solid fuel to the logs and keep the fire burning longer during the cold winter nights. But coal is just as harmful for the environment as fuel oil. In addition, it is messy and smelly. As a result, you are not allowed to burn coal in Smoke Control Areas with the exception of approved smokeless coal which is by the way considerably more expensive than wood logs.

If you live in a Smoke Control Area, you are theoretically also prohibited from burning wood logs. But if you have a DEFRA approved wood burning stove, you are not breaking any laws although it is highly important to choose fully seasoned logs because you must not produce too much smoke even if you have an approved stove. This, however, is also in your interest because fully seasoned logs have up to 50 percent more heat output, enabling you to keep your home pleasantly warm at a lower cost than by burning unseasoned logs.

Lastly, the choice of trendy multi fuel burning stoves tends to be limited because most of the leading brands are specialised exclusively in wood burning stoves. Although the main purpose of a stove is to keep you warm, its aesthetic appeal is not unimportant either. After all, a good looking stove can enhance the overall beauty and décor of your home. An unattractive one, on the other hand, can ruin its appeal and sometimes also the atmosphere.

Conclusion

Whether to choose a multi fuel or wood burning stove is of course up to each family to decide. But considering that the choice of trendy wood burning stoves is a lot better and that the prices of mineral fuels are projected to continue to rise, wood burning stoves seem a better idea. You can burn pure wood in multi fuel stoves as well but since they are designed to be used for burning multiple fuels, they are not as efficient as those that are designed to burn logs alone.

Posted on: 08/07/2015 - 11:00 | Comments:0

Given that the weather is becoming more and more unpredictable and that the prices of the traditional fuels are continuing to rise (and are expected to do so in the future as well), an increasing number of home owners is switching to firewood to heat their homes during the cold winter months. Wood is incomparably less expensive than electricity, gas and oil and is also carbon neutral which means that by burning wood, you will not increase your carbon footprint. However, since many people are having difficulties deciding between wood burning stoves and the traditional open fires, we will compare the key characteristics of both. So if you cannot decide between the two options either, the comparison below will hopefully make your decision easier.

  1. Energy efficiency. You will without a doubt save a great deal of money on heating if you switch to firewood, however, there is a major difference in energy efficiency between a wood burning stove and open fire. The latter is only about 15% efficient due to the heat loses through the chimney and the tendency to “feed” on warm air, replacing it with colder air. Wood burning stoves, on the other hand, have energy efficiency of over 80%. At the same time, they have a much higher energy output because enclosed fire reaches higher temperatures than an open flame. In a wood burning stove, you will burn as much as 50 or even 75 percent less logs than you would in an open fire to create a pleasant warmth. And by burning less logs, you will spend less money on firewood and emit less carbon dioxide.

  2. Aesthetics. Since wood burning stoves and open fires are typically installed in the very centre of the living room and often serve as its focal point, their aesthetic appeal is of course very important. At a first glance, an open fire may be a trendier choice. The sight of an open fire, after all, creates a very special atmosphere. However, where there is (open) fire, there is smoke and the latter can be very hash on your décor and furnishing. Wood burning stoves are much cleaner and are not any less trendy than open fires. They come in a wealth of styles and designs to suit just about every home but they also come with a glass front allowing you to admire the burning logs and give your home that unique sense of warmth that is created by the sight of fire.

  3. Safety. Both wood burning stoves and open fires are safe if operated correctly. But since stoves are enclosed with a heat-resistant glass, they virtually eliminate the risk of the sparks landing on the carpet causing an irreparable damage or even fire as well as prevent the burning logs from rolling out. Despite that, it is highly important to keep the stove well maintained and install a carbon monoxide detector that will alert you if the levels of this potentially very dangerous gas rise too high.

Posted on: 08/07/2015 - 10:57 | Comments:0

Climate change we are currently witnessing is probably one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced. The forecasts are highly pessimistic and if we all do not start to behave more environmentally responsible, the future is highly uncertain. Each one of us contributes to the rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere which is thought to be the number one cause of climate change. This, however, also means that each one of us can help reverse it.

Since the world’s forest play a highly important role in neutralising the effects of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, wood burning stove may not seem a particularly environmentally-friendly choice. But the truth is right the opposite. Wood fuel is classified as carbon neutral fuel which means that it has net zero carbon footprint. Surprised? Well, it is true. Let’s see why.

With every fallen tree, carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere increase because trees absorb this harmful gas and release pure oxygen. And while the wood is burning, the smoke that is released also releases carbon dioxide. So how can wood fuel have net zero carbon footprint? The thing is that carbon dioxide which is released when the wood is burned can effectively be absorbed by the tree that was planted on the site of the fallen one. And when the replacement tree is cut down, another one steps into its place. And this practice can go on forever. But even then, eco-friendliness is not assured.

In addition to making sure that the wood fuel is sourced from sustainably managed forests and plantations, it is also highly important to use energy efficient wood burning stoves. They give maximum heat output, produce little smoke pollution and do not need large amounts of wood fuel to create a satisfactory warmth even during the coldest winter months. The higher the efficiency of the stove (the best ones are operating with efficiency of about 85 percent), the less wood fuel is used. And the more the trees left standing the lower the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Just as important as choosing and operating wood burning stove efficiently is to choose the right wood logs. Your carbon footprint will not increase as long as you burn logs that are sourced from sustainably managed forests. But burning unseasoned wood for instance will not keep you warm during the winter nor reduce your heating costs as much as fully seasoned logs. These have up to 50 percent higher caloric value which means that you will burn less seasoned logs to achieve the same or even higher heat output than by burning unseasoned wood.

Considering that about 17 percent of carbon dioxide emissions are produced by households (for a comparison, business create 15 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions), mostly through heating, you can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint by heating your home with wood burning stove. And besides helping to save the planet, you can also save a great deal of money.

Posted on: 08/07/2015 - 10:51 | Comments:0

If you live in a town or city in the UK, you are most likely living in Smoke Control Area. Under the Clean Air Act that was adopted in the 1950s and 1960s to stop the devastating smog, the local authorities have the right to designate Smoke Control Areas within which it is prohibited to use appliances that emit smoke. And since wood burning stoves emit smoke, does this mean that you cannot burn wood logs to heat your home within Smoke Control Area? Not necessarily. Let’s see why.

According to the Clean Air Act, all smoke producing appliances with the exception of ‘exempt appliances’ are not allowed within Smoke Control Areas. This means that you may burn only smokeless appliances but you can also burn smoke producing appliances including wood burning stoves that have been tested and proven to emit low emissions by the DEFRA. How can you tell which are exempt wood burning stoves and which are not? You can ask your retailer for an advice or check the list of exempted appliances on the DEFRA official website. Keep in mind, however, that there are some further rules you must follow in order to avoid breaking the law.

In addition to burning a DEFRA approved wood burning stove, you are also obliged to burn exclusively authorised fuels. Since producing too much smoke is an offence, be sure to use only fully seasoned wood which has been dried to a moisture content below 20 percent. But guess what? This is exactly the type of fuel that will give you a maximum heat output and enable you to keep your home pleasantly warm at a low cost. Why? Because unseasoned wood is not only creating lots of smoke that can get you in trouble at your local authorities but it also gives up to 50 percent less heat output in comparison to fully seasoned wood. And besides failing to produce a pleasant warmth, burning unseasoned wood can also result in excessive build-up of soot and creosote in your flue which in turn can cause fire in your flue or chimney.

Besides making sure that the wood logs are fully seasoned, you are also highly recommended to always choose hardwoods over softwoods. As much as the Smoke Control Area rules are concerned, it does not matter if you use softwood or hardwood as long as the wood fuel is properly seasoned but it is worth to remember that hardwoods have a higher caloric value and burn a lot longer than same size softwood logs. You will pay slightly more for hardwood logs but you will burn fewer logs and still feel pleasantly warm.

All fuels which are not specifically authorised or ‘exempt’ by the DEFRA are prohibited. This means that you are allowed to burn seasoned wood logs and some smokeless coal nuggets but you are not allowed to burn manufactured or treated wood, flammable liquids, household rubbish with the exception of small amount of paper to lit the stove, coke and non-exempt coal.

Posted on: 08/07/2015 - 10:49 | Comments:0

If you want to keep your wood burning stove in top condition and function properly, it is of utmost importance to follow the maintenance and cleaning tips that can be found in the stove manual. But just in case, let’s go through the basics of wood burning stove maintenance and cleaning which will help you keep it running smoothly and keep you warm for many winters to come.

Before we get to wood burning stove maintenance and cleaning tips, let’s briefly take a look at wood fuel because it plays a very important role in stove maintenance. Although some wood stoves are designed to burn coal as well, most are intended to burn exclusively wood fuel. And wood fuel does not necessarily mean any kind of wood. You are highly recommended to burn only seasoned wood. Why? Because unseasoned wood contains high amounts of water which can cause problems with smoking, odour, creosote build-up in the flue system and chimney, and dirty glass and fire bricks. Also, never burn treated wood, driftwood, plywood, MDF, chipboard and all non-wood items because they can cause damage to the stove and release potentially toxic fumes.

Wood burning stoves are not as convenient as gas and electric heaters, however, their maintenance does not require much time and effort if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and burn seasoned wood only. Wood burning stove maintenance and cleaning mostly consists of regular removal of the ashes which also boosts the stove’s efficiency, occasional cleaning of the internal surfaces with a wire brush or scraper and keeping a close eye on potential problems such as holes in the ash pan, cracks, spots of rust on the finish and other unusual signs that may indicate damage. It is also advisable to clean the glass on a regular basis because the longer you postpone the cleaning the harder is gets to remove the tar deposits. Always leave your stove to cool completely before you carry out any maintenance or cleaning chores and make sure that the ash is completely cold before you dispose it.

In addition to keeping your stove clean inside and outside, be sure to have it inspected by a licensed professional at least once a year to make sure that everything is working perfectly. If there are any signs of damage such as cracks, leaks or warping, or if you have any problems with the stove have them repaired immediately. You are also highly recommended to have your chimney cleaned and checked by a chimney sweep at least once a year or more often if you use wood burning stove on a regular basis. Poorly maintained or blocked chimneys pose a serious safety risk because they can cause carbon monoxide poisoning and chimney fires. Outside the heating season, it is recommended to leave the air inlet or the door of the stove slightly open in order to prevent condensation build-up in the stove and chimney.