The 5 Most Important Checks Before You Install A Wood Burner

Wood burning stoves (or more simply, wood burners) are very much in vogue at the moment and for two very good reasons that usually command attention – money and looks.

To begin with, sizeable savings can be achieved compared to using conventional fuel sources, and furthermore nothing still come close to the cosy warmth of a real fire. And regardless of whether you want your cost savings kitted out in stylish, modern garb or dressed up as a traditional kitchen range there’s almost certain to be a woodburning stove that’s just perfect for you.

But be aware that wood burning stoves don’t suit everyone. Yes, the cost savings can be quite sizeable, but this very much depends on your own set of circumstances. The following provides a guide to the main things you should consider if you’re thinking about installing a woodburner.

Local Supply Of Fuel

Is there a reliable and cost effective supply of solid fuel local to you? What type of fuel is it exactly? Wood burners can accept well-seasoned logs and other forms of solid wood, wood chips, and/or wood pellets. But some wood burning stoves are better suited (or sometimes restricted) to particular types of fuel.

Well-seasoned logs have been naturally dried out for a minimum of one year. Wood chips comprise small bits of wood similar to what is output by a tree surgeon’s wood chipper. Wood pellets are specially manufactured small blocks of uniformly sized compressed sawdust.

It is vital that you know how you will be able to fuel your woodburner before going further with the project or considering any specific makes or styles. Solid wood fuel is both bulky and heavy and if you have to have it transported any distance then the costs can easily outweigh any possible cost savings you hoped for, even to the point that it actually costs more than a regular gas boiler would.

Storing Fuel

You will require a dry space that is both easy to access and large enough to store your wood fuel. If possible, the best location is somewhere near to the burner itself – manually carting logs about tends to lose its appeal quite quickly. If you are contemplating having a fuel hopper that automatically loads wood pellets (or wood chips) into the burner then close proximity is even more vital.

Heat Capacity And Storage

Clearly it is vital that you select a wood burning stove that can output the necessary amount of heat, whether you only want radiant heat for one room or plan on running an entire household central heating and hot water system. Many newcomers to woodburners quite reasonably assume that the obvious solution would be a burner that is over-powerful but then run it “turned down”.

Woodburners operate most efficiently when run at full capacity rather than at a reduced rate, which both wastes fuel (and hence also money) and can cause a build up of soot and other deposits. Yet operating at a fast burn rate means the choice becomes either delivering maximum heat output (which is frequently going to be way too much) or zero output.

A common solution to this is to install an “accumulator” tank – basically a super insulated hot water cylinder. This plays the role of a “heat battery” that accumulates the excess heat from a fast burn so that it can be released as required over several days in the form of hot water to the household radiators and for bathing.


A wood burning stove requires a flue lined with a vent material suitable for burning wood. If you already have a chimney then it is possible to have this fitted with a lined flue suitable for a wood burner, but factor in this extra cost. If you don’t have a suitable chimney then you will need to consider where you might be able to have a flue installed, bearing in mind that you might also need to also comply with planning and building regulations.

Incentives And Regulations

The subject of domestic heating has more red-tape, regulations and legislation associated with it than you would think possible; it also has a bewildering variety of financial grants and other incentive schemes that offer the potential to bring your installation costs down, assuming of course you know what’s out there and how to access it.

The advice here is to check with your local authorities to understand what restrictions or incentives might apply in your particular case. Alternatively, locate a reputable specialist woodburner installer (since you are likely to need their services anyway) and ask them.

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Originally posted 2009-06-21 11:15:37.

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