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Alford Tiles & Woodburning Stoves

Frequently Asked Questions - Buying and using a stove

FAQs - Buying and using a stove

Woodburning or multi-fuel stoves are an attractive focal point in a room and can potentially provide a cleaner, greener source of heat for your home. But which type of stove should you choose, what size are you likely to need, how easy are they to install, what exactly can you burn on them and are they really as green as they are claimed to be? These and other frequently asked questions are answered for you here!

There are two main types of stove - woodburning stoves and multi-fuel stoves.

Woodburning stoves are only suitable for burning wood, whereas multi-fuel stoves can burn wood, smokeless fuel and coal. Whilst wood will burn on a bed of ash coal needs air entering from beneath.

A multi-fuel stove will therefore have a grate that can be adjusted to suit the fuel being used and collect the extra ash generated when burning coal. Some multi-fuel stoves can burn eco-friendly wood pellets.

You’ll probably have to clean a wood burner just once a week while if you’re burning smokeless fuel on a mulitifuel stove you’ll need to remove the ash daily.

Boiler stoves that can heat water are also available.

There's a huge variety of styles for modern woodburning and multi-fuel stoves. We are stockists for major manufacturers, including Carron, Broseley, Mendip and Hamlet. Between them they offer freestanding pedestal versions, three-legged models and cylindrical designs. Some look great freestanding on their own, whilst others will suit being installed with a fireplace.

Stoves will usually be manufactured from cast iron or steel. If you're seeking a traditional look there is a huge choice of 'old-style' stoves in black. For an up-to-date look and stoves finished in colourful paint or enamel are readily available. Whichever you choose, stoves today make best use of modern technology to burn efficiently and safely.

Wood-burning stoves are highly efficient. In comparison to a traditional open coal fire, which is up to 25% efficient (in other words, you lose 75% of the heat up the chimney!) a modern stove will run at up to 87% efficiency.

The most efficient stoves use clean burn technology. This introduces pre-heated air into the smoke at the top of the firebox, allowing the hydrocarbon gasses in the smoke to be burnt off, rather than escaping up the chimney, and thus reduces particulate emissions. This all results in less pollution.

As well as improving efficiency, clean burn technology ensures that the glass on your stove door stays clean. Air vents at the top of the stove window allow air to circulate over the inside of the window, reducing blackening and tarring. This is commonly referred to as an Airwash system, giving you an unrestricted view of the flames and providing a cosy ambience to your room.

Well-designed wood burning stoves may be lined with vermiculite. This helps to increase the stove temperature and thus improve efficiency. This saves money on fuel, as less wood is burnt. It also helps to reduce carbon emissions.

Wood as a form of fuel energy is green, sustainable and renewable. If burnt cleanly it can be 100% carbon neutral. This means it gives off as much carbon dioxide when burnt as it absorbed during the lifetime of the tree, leading to a net zero carbon footprint.

An even greener approach would be to replace the wood you are taking out of the ecosystem by planting trees or buying fuel from a sustainable source. If you live in a rural area, you may even be able to salvage or source fallen wood yourself.

This question should be neat the top of your list since it is easy to end up with a stove that is much too powerful for the space that it is installed in.

Just because you have a big space or a big hearth to take a big stove, it doesn't necessarily follow that you actually need a big stove. Choosing a big stove and then reducing the fuel load to compensate means that the fire-chamber may not reach the correct operating temperature. The stove will simply not be able to do its job properly. The result will be a lacklustre fire, disproportionally poor heat output, reduced effectiveness of the flue updraught and the Airwash system leading to problems keeping in the glass clean. Importantly, running the stove continuously on a lower setting to reduce heat output can cause a build up of resin. Over time, this could result in a chimney fire.

Heat output is measured in kilowatts (kWs) and the stove size as well as type of chimney, flue and wood burned, determine how much heat is radiated per hour. Stoves vary in heat output from around 4kW-11kW. As a rule of thumb you need 1kW for every 14 cubic metres of space. However, as your home most likely already has central heating and may be insulated to varying standards this needs to be taken into consideration - if you don’t want to sit and swelter!

The following formula is based on the standard industry calculation using a multi fuel stove or wood burner to heat a room to a comfortable temperature (22Cº) when it's 0Cº outside and generally works well in most situations.

Firstly, multiply the room Length x Width x Height (in metres) and divide the total by one of the three figures listed below. The figures take account of homes with virtually no insulation (eg a Victorian house) to state-of-the-art insulation (eg modern, recently built home). You can, of course, benefit from our expertise in calculating required stove output. Please contact us for advice at any time.

Insulation Type Figure to divide by
No double glazing, loft insulation or cavity wall insulation - e.g. Victorian terrace

10

Some or minimal double glazing, loft insulation and cavity wall insulation - e.g. 1930's semi

15

Full double glazing, loft insulation and cavity wall insulation - e.g. home built in last 10-15 years

25

Example: Height 2.5M x Length 4.5m x Width 3.9m - Volume 43.875 m3
For a recently built dwelling this would mean 43.875 ÷ 25 = 1.755 kW
Therefore the stove output required would be approximately 2 kW (rounded up)

Finally, remember that if you have to pay for your wood then you should ensure that your stove doesn't cost any more to run than it needs to!

A stove needs a flue to take the expelled gases safely out of the room. If you have a large fireplace opening or inglenook, the stove's flue pipe can rise straight up the chimney. Stoves can be set in front of a smaller fireplace and have a short horizontal flue that connects to the chimney opening.

For a contemporary look a stove can be sited within the room and the flue can be on view, rising straight to the ceiling instead of up the chimney. However, the body of the stove gets very hot so wherever you site it. If you have a young family you will need a good fireguard. The stove should be sited on a hearth made from concrete, stone, slate or terracotta, which complies with current building regulations. It must also be sited 30cm away from any combustible surface.

If you already have a chimney this might be a good place to start. A Class 1 chimney was common in house built up until the 1960's. This consists of a brick built "stack" situated on either an internal or external wall. Some chimneys may need relining before a stove can be fitted to ensure that it does not 'leak'. This can be determined by having a smoke test carried out. The flue needs to be checked to ensure it wasn't designed only to burn gas, quite common with post 1960's houses. Should relining be required there are several methods to choose from.

If no chimney is in place, then it will be necessary to install a flue sytem. The most common solution is to install a 'double skin', sometimes called 'twin wall' flue. This can be installed internally, rising through the house and exiting the roof, or externally, exiting a wall in the room where the stove is sited and then rising to a level above the eves of the building. There are regulations that must be followed when installing a flue system so it is always best to seek professional advice, which we are happy to provide.

Logs

Seasoned wood has a lower moisture content than freshly felled wood which burns quickly.

Kiln-dried, seasoned logs from Alford Tiles & Woodburning Stove Company are supplied ready to use in builders' bags or by the net and can be delivered free locally. Seasoned hardwoods such as ash, oak and birch have twice the calorific (heat) value of softwoods, will give a slow burn and should take up less storage space as the quantity required will be less.

Wood must be completely dried out before use and, to keep your log pile in good condition, you will need a dry, airy and adequately sized area for storage. You should expect to use four to five cubic metres a year.

Around 80% of problems arising from woodburning stoves are due to the use of poor quality, unseasoned wood. It reduces stove performance and gives off higher carbon emissions; not to mention blackened windows and clogging up the stove's innards and flue.

Wood Pellets

Some stoves are able to burn wood pellets, which are made from timber by-products such as compacted sawdust. These are automatically fed into the stove by a hopper, which can hold sufficient fuel to last for two to three days. Wood pellets are more expensive than logs, but they are a dense heat source with a higher calorific value so will 'go further'.

Coal and Smokeless Fuel

The advantages of multi-fuel stoves that burn smokeless fuel or coal is that the fire will last longer. They are therefore more suitable for overnight use. They are practical if you are running a boiler stove, as you don't need to re-fuel as often. However, they are not as eco-friendly as wood.

Am I Allowed To Burn Wood in a 'Smokeless Zone'?

Most of urban Britain is a 'smoke control area'. This means it is legal only to burn wood or smokeless fuel in a stove that meets the requirements of the Clean Air Act 1993. Thanks to clean burn technology, the list of stoves approved by DEFRA is growing fast. All stoves sold by Alford Tiles Woodburning Stove Company are approved for use in smoke control areas.

The installation of a wood-burning stove is a controlled service under Document J of the Building Regulations 2000. It is possible to install a stove appliance yourself providing you have a reasonable understanding of general building work.

A key requirement is that you must file a building notice with you local building control department. This is a simple process but normally carries a small charge. Our HETAS registered engineer is available to offer advice in all aspects of stove installation so please feel free to contact us.

HETAS registered installer