The exhaustive list of everything you need to think of before buying a woodburner

In this article we will consider all the things you ought to be thinking about before choosing and buying a wood-burning stove.

Size

By size what we actually mean is heat output. A wood-burning stove’s heat output is always given in the form of kilowatts (kW). The greater the heat output, the more heat the stove will generator. So bigger rooms require bigger stoves. The dimensions of a room are the major factor in determining the correct size of stove for the circumstances. Other factors, such as the draughtiness of a property and whether you will also be using the stove to heat radiators, may also be taken into consideration. This stove size calculator will help to guide you towards the approximate size of woodburner you need.

Dimensions

Another type of size is important: the dimensions of a prospective woodburner. Knowing the height, width and depth of any appliance will ensure it fits suitably in the space you have available. This will particularly be true if you need your stove to sit within an existing fireplace recess. In that case, these small woodburners might be of interest. Conversely, if you want your stove to make a statement in a large open-plan space, you might want to make sure it is big enough in stature for the job. Keep in mind that some of the things that follow might impact on the suitability of a particular size of stove.

Smoke control areas

Do you live in a smoke control area? If so, that is immediately going to have an impact on your choice of wood-burning stove. You will need to choose an appliance that is exempted by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for use in smoke control areas. Fortunately, there is an ever increasing amount of choice, with lots of stove manufacturers now keen to cater to this market. Here are some examples of DEFRA exempt stoves.

Chimney

In short, do you have one? If so, this will be the obvious place to install your stove. If not, you have two choices: build a chimney or (the more common option) opt for a twin wall flue that runs either through the property or through the wall near to your stove and up the outside of your home.

Building Regulations

The other main area in which your choice of wood-burning stove will interact with the law of the land is in relation to Building Regulations. Your woodburner must be installed in accordance with Document J of the Building Regulations. This will inform things such as how much space you need to leave around your stove; where the flue terminates in relation to the pitch of your roof, your windows and neighbouring properties; and the size and material of the hearth.

Location in room

Following on from the Building Regulations, you will need to think about where in the room you plan to place the woodburner. In particular, you will need to consider save distances to combustible materials as dictated by the Building Regulations. Consider too that some stove manufacturers give additional guidance on the air gaps needed around their appliances.

What type of fuel do you want to burn?

If you only want to burn logs, then you will want to buy a wood-burning stove. If you are also interested in burning anthracite and other smokeless coal, you will be better with a multi-fuel stove. A multi-fuel stove usually incorporates a raised grate because solid fuel needs an air supply from below in order to burn efficiently. A wood-burning stove will have a flat grate at the bottom of the fire box. Keep in mind that living in a smoke control area will also limit you to burning only wood or DEFRA exempt fuels.

Budget

Perhaps this should have been the first consideration, but your budget will definitely be a factor in choosing your new stove. As with all things in life, woodburners are available at a premium if they have an established and respected brand name or a particularly spectacular design. You can spent anything from less than £200 to upwards of £3,000 depending on what you’re looking for from your appliance.

Style and brand

As mentioned above, some stove brands cost more than others. The manufacturer and style of an appliance will also play a part in your decision making process. For instance, do you want a traditional or contemporary stove? A freestanding pedestal stove or one that will sit neatly within a fireplace recess? Perhaps you even want an inset stove that slots straight into a standard fireplace opening.

Efficiency

All wood-burning stoves comes with an efficiency rating. This will be in the form of a percentage of efficiency. So, with a stove with an 80% efficiency rating, 20% of the heat generated when you burn fuel will be lost. This is not an exact science, with manufacturers given considerable leeway to set the test conditions. However, working to the basis that all manufacturers get the same opportunities to make their appliance as efficient as possible, the efficiency ratings do help to establish some sort of pecking order. It is also worth pointing out that all stoves are more efficient than open fires, which are approximately 30% efficient.

Ventilation

All wood-burning stoves need a good supply of air in order to function properly, so at the stage of buying your stove it is worth thinking about where this air supply will come from. If your property doesn’t have sufficient ventilation, you could install a ventilation brick in the room. Alternatively, if you want to maintain an airtight home, you could opt for an external air stove, whereby the air supply is pumped directly into the stove from outside.

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External air stoves: woodburners that are suitable if you’re sealing your home

If you have invested or are planning to invest in making your home airtight, the prospect of introducing a wood-burning stove can be a troublesome one. A heating source that is dependent on a flow of air in order to function is not in keeping with a sealed property.

Whether you are planning to burn logs or smokeless coal, the fuel will be reliant on a supply of oxygen in order to burn. The air must be drawn into the firebox and up the chimney in order for the stove to operate efficiently and to avoid smoke seeping into your home through the stove’s vents. Without a greater supply of air in your room, it is unlikely that your stove would operate correctly in an airtight room. Increasing the level of ventilation, which is usually achieved by putting air vents in the wall, would unseal your sealed home, create a draught and potentially increase your central heating bill.

The good news is that it is possible to install a woodburner without undermining the airtightness and energy efficiency of your room. The answer lies in external air stoves.

These are stoves that come with a spigot to allow you to connect the appliance to an air duct that will provide a direct air supply from outside. Since the air only travels through the duct and goes straight to the stove, you will experience none of the problems we mentioned above, such as draughtiness and a less energy efficient home.

The spigot, which is sometimes included with external air stoves and sometimes sold separately, will usually connect to a discreet location at the rear or underneath of the stove so as not to change the aesthetic of the stove. The opening is smaller than you might expect. Remember, the fire in a stove would only usually be dependent on the amount of oxygen coming through the air vents, so it needs far less than would be case for an open fire.

Types of direct air connection

There are a few different options available when installing an external air stove.

Partial This is when the direct air supply provides some of the air needed. Perhaps there is some ventilation in your room, but not enough for the stove to operate effectively. It may be the case that the primary air supply comes from the direct air duct, while the secondary air supply is drawn from the room.

Total This is when the direct air supply provides all of the air necessary for the stove to operate. The stove is not reliant on air from the room at all in order to function correctly.

Leak-sealed This is when, in addition to a total air connection, the appliance is sealed to prevent leakage. This would ordinarily done in cases where the property needs to meet set standards in order to achieve a particular certification. A prime example would be PassivHaus buildings.

Examples of external air stoves

There are plenty of external air stoves available to choose from. Here are a handful of the best for your consideration if you want the comfort and warmth of a wood-burning stove without impacting on the airtightness and energy efficiency of the rest of your home.

Thorma Wikantica 8 kW Wood Burning Stove

Not only does the Thorma Wikantica immediately make your room look better, it also includes a large storage drawer to help you keep your hearth tidy. It is a tall, free-standing stove in the continental European style and can be adapted to function as an external air stove. Have a closer look.


Thorma Falun 8 kW Wood Burning Stove

Thorma Falun
The Thorma Falun is very similar to the Wikantica, which is also made by the Slovakian brand. Again, it can be upgraded to an external air stove with the aid of a kit, which is sold separately. Have a closer look.

Evergreen ST0311R Lymm 6.5 kW Multi Fuel Wood Burning Stove

One very reasonably priced option is the Evergreen Lymm. It has a 6.5kW heat output, which is appropriate for most medium to large living rooms and a very impressive return for an appliance that only costs £259 (price correct at time of writing). Have a closer look.

Thorma Andorra 7.5 kW Wood Burning Stove

The Thorma Andorra is a beautiful curved woodburner. Its stylish contemporary design and sleek lines are perfect for the modern decor of many airtight homes. As with the other Thorma appliances on this list, it can be amended to be used as an external air stove. Have a closer look.

Click here to see more external air stoves.