Our essential guide outlines what to look for when buying a new stove.
On long, dark days there’s nothing nicer than curling up by a real fire and enjoying the warmth and glow of flickering flames. And with fuel bills rocketing, homeowners are increasingly turning to wood-burning stoves as a cheaper alternative to other forms of heating. The Stove Industry Alliance reported a 40% increase of sales in the second quarter of 2022, and this trend shows no signs of abating. Whether you are replacing an older model or purchasing a wood burner for the first time, what are the key considerations?
Efficiency first and foremost
Since 1st January 2022, all newly manufactured stoves have had to comply with Ecodesign regulations relating to efficiency and emissions. Some stoves, however, are more efficient than others. Look for the clearSkies label, which shows models that go above and beyond the regulations. In fact clearSkies level 5 – the highest – is almost 30% better than the standard Ecodesign requirement. In addition, stoves also have energy efficiency labels, just like fridges or washing machines, which range from A++ to G.
Smoke control areas
If you live in a smoke control area (find the map online at uk-air.defra.gov.uk/data/sca/ or check with your local authority), you may only use a DEFRA-exempt wood burner. Look for the round, green logo that says ‘DEFRA approved’. The clearSkies accreditations 4 and 5 are automatically suitable to use in smoke control areas. Always discuss these requirements with the manufacturer or retailer.
What size to buy?
Buy too small a stove and it will place stress on the appliance, while if it is too large it will underrun, which can be damaging to the stove, the flue and the environment in general. “Before purchasing a stove, you should verify the heat requirement for its intended location,” says Declan Kingsley-Walsh, managing director at Morsø UK. “To calculate the heating demand of a specific space, simply work out the volume of the room in cubic metres and divide by 14.” You’ll find that stove capacities vary tremendously, from 3kw to 15kw.
Storing your wood
Think carefully about where you will store your log supplies. Will you have them delivered in bulk – which takes up a lot of space – or are you able to buy smaller amounts on a regular basis? Some stoves have a small, built-in section in which logs can be stored, and you may have space near your stove or fireplace for a basket or other container. Bear in mind that logs must be kept in a dry and well-ventilated area, and if you are planning to buy or collect ‘wet’ wood and dry it yourself, this process can take at least two years.
Comply with regulations
New stove installations must comply with building regulations to do with the flue, the hearth and the distance from combustibles. Provided you use a ‘Competent Person’ to install your stove, however, they can certify it for you. They will do a smoke test to check that your chimney is sound – if it leaks you may need a liner. Remember that you must have a carbon monoxide detector in the room, and consider fitting a fireguard to keep pets and young children safe from the heat.
A stove can take time and effort to light, needs to be fed with fuel at intervals and the ash has to be cleaned regularly. A removable ash pan will help with this task, a feature worth looking out for when you make your choice. When it’s time for a spring clean, polish up the exterior with a lint-free cloth or a clean shoe brush, says Jon Butterworth, director of Arada Stoves. “For the interior, make sure to clean the glass by dipping a damp cloth in the wood ash and using it to clean the door, then vacuum away any soot or remaining ash. When the stove isn’t being used in the summer, remove the throat plate and leave the air inlets open to allow a flow of air to prevent rust.” Don’t forget that you must also budget for having the chimney cleaned at least once a year.
By Katherine Sorrell
The Stove Industry Alliance’s tips for cost-effective, low-carbon, low-emission wood burning
- Ensure your stove is fitted and maintained by an appropriately qualified, competent person such as HETAS or OFTEC.
- Only use wood fuel that has 20% moisture content or less, such as Ready to Burn (look for the round, orange and red flame logo).
- Never use waste or chemically treated wood in your stove.
- When re-fuelling your stove, open the door by just a small amount and wait a few moments to allow the pressure in the stove to equalise, before opening the door fully to refuel. Close and latch the door immediately afterwards.
- Have your chimney swept at least once a year by a qualified chimney sweep. You’ll find links to all the main UK chimney sweeping associations via the Federation of British Chimney Sweeps.
1 Available in a gorgeous range of colourways, this traditionally styled wood burner has a lifetime guarantee and is available in 4.9kw and 7kW outputs, as well as a 4.9kW widescreen option. Ecoburn S3 in Sandcastle, from £1,350, Arada Stoves.
2 A classic design incorporating the latest technology, this wood burner is suitable for heating areas of up to 75 cubic metres. 3112 wood burning stove, £1,550, Morsø.
3 This striking pedestal stove is DEFRA-exempt and features an airwash system that keeps the large glass door clean. NEO3P-ECO wood-burning stove, £2,530, ACR.