There are few things more comforting than watching logs burn, especially on a freezing winter night, favourite tipple in hand. It’s certainly an experience more and more of us are enjoying. According to the National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS), the number of people installing wood burning stoves in their homes has risen dramatically in recent years.
However, most people aren’t turning to them specifically for their calming effects, says Martin Glynn, NACS President: “The primary reason for the increase is the rising cost of gas and the volatility of that market in general.” He has a point. Being able to heat your own home with locally sourced wood means you are self-sufficient and provides reassurance that whatever happens elsewhere in the world, your home will at least remain warm.
And in the case of wood burning stoves, usually very warm, they provide far greater thermal efficiency and far less smoke than conventional open fireplaces. You get more heat from your hearth. And as many of them can be integrated with central heating systems, they can also drastically reduce energy bills. More up-front, maybe, but the long-term savings can be exceptional.
The manufacturers of wood burning stoves — and new entrants into the market — have responded to the rising demand for their products by offering far greater design choice. They are no longer big, functional lumps of pig iron but come in no end of designs, from the Victorian to the ultra-modern. There are plenty of websites to search for the perfect stove for your home with designs by Invicta, La Nordica, Nordpeis and Hwam very much on the cutting edge. Expect to pay £500 for a basic model to £2000 for a top-of-the-range stove.
One of the biggest decisions if you’re considering installing one is whether to opt for a steel or cast iron model. Steel stoves heat up a lot faster than cast iron although cast iron models will radiate heat for far longer, often for many hours after the fire has died. Which you opt for should depend on how you plan to use it and where it is installed. For example, if it’s going to be the sole source of heat in your small country cottage that you visit every other weekend then you may want to opt for a steel stove that will heat up your home up far quicker when you arrive on a Friday evening.
Stoves can be installed in almost any home. Even if your property doesn’t have a chimney, a flue system can be constructed and pass either through the roof or out of the wall, although in some cases, you may need to check if there are any planning restrictions. In terms of maintenance, Martin Glynn recommends you have them inspected and ‘swept’ twice a year, as tar can collect more quickly than in brick chimney stacks and represent a fire risk.
As for storing your logs, while casual users may keep them in the home — in firewood racks or alcoves — regular users may need to store logs outside. Damp or wet wood will simply smoulder rather than create heat so it’s crucial that any wood stored outside is stored correctly and in a dry and airy environment out of the rain and raised off the ground.
If you’re handy with a hammer, it’s not too hard to knock up a basic log store yourself, but if the thought of DIY sends a shudder down your spine then there are many off-the-shelf options. Cheshire-based Harviglass, for example, sells Log-STOR, a simple and modern-looking home for your logs complete with roof, base and rain curtains made out of reinforced plastic. If you’re after a more traditional wooden log store then there are plenty of options online, such as green and easy.
And for those who want to extract the maximum possible value out of their wood, the US industrialist Henry Ford has a few wise words: “Chop your own wood, and it will warm you twice.”