As gas and electricity prices rise by an average eight per cent this month there has never been a better time to invest in a wood burning stove. Sales of wood burners have jumped by a third since this time last year, says London fireplace specialist Chesney's. Installing one could save you about £300 a year — though the initial cost, including fitting, is generally upwards of £2,000.
Strict clean-air regulations deterred London home owners from buying wood burning stoves in the past. However, today's models have become so green and "clean" that most are exempt from the rules. To find out more visit the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website at defra.gov.uk.
"Wood is sustainable and carbon neutral, and efficiency in a stove can be as much as 85 per cent," says Chesney's director, Paul Chesney. "Compare this to, at best, 25 per cent for an open fire."
Design, too, is a powerful attraction. The Scandinavians consistently lead the way, taking stoves as a matter of course. Morsø, has been making stoves in Denmark for more than 160 years, coming to the UK in 1971. About four fifths of the enquiries it receives are from women aged 25 to 44. "They see stoves as room furniture, too," says Morsø UK's Declan Walsh.
Cast iron is a traditional stove material, and steel offers curvy, streamlined shapes. New technology keeps large glass panels clean — "so you really can enjoy the beauty of a log fire", adds Walsh. Find Morsø at Natural Fires of Catford, SE6 (020 8461 5006, naturalfires.net); Croydon Fireplaces (020 8684 1495); Kindle Energy, Teddington (020 8973 3995, kindlestoves.com); and Galleon Fireplaces, Surbiton (020 8241 5700, galleonfireplaces.co.uk).
Jøtul from Norway is another popular Scandinavian brand, established for 150 years, and also in the UK since the early Seventies. It is stocked by Croydon Fireplaces (as before) and loved for traditional features including Gothic windows and filigree cast iron, now updated with enamel coatings in elegant white or dashing colours. Find more stockists by visiting jotuluk.com or calling 01527 506010.
British Charnwood Stoves (call 01983 537780 or visit charnwood.com) on the Isle of Wight is a family company which has been designing and making stoves since 1972. A smaller model from Charnwood costs from about £750. Stockists include Ash & Embers of Abridge, Essex (01992 815972; ashandembers.com) and Embers, in Kensal Rise, NW10 (020 8964 3365, embers.co.uk).
"Always go to a specialist and see stoves for yourself," advises Max Davies, director of Westcombes, a fireplace and stove shop in Lee High Road, SE13 (call 020 8852 6204; westcombes.co.uk). "Open and shut the doors and vents, and feel the warmth from live displays."
Be sure to use an installer registered by Hetas — the Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme — adds Barney Dorman of the Cast Iron Fireplace Company in New Malden (call 020 8942 8881; castironfireplacecompany.com). "Otherwise you will need approvals and certification from your local council's building control department, adding time and costs."
Dr David Morgan, technical manager of Orion Heating in Takeley, Essex, remarks: "Typical London fireplaces were built well, but can be small." Orion's purpose-built showroom offers both wood burning stoves and cookers (call 01279 813591, orionheating.co.uk). Morgan recommends a Morsø model, controllable from 2-5kW.
Other brands available from Orion are Barbas, Stovax, Heta, Franco-Balge and Westfire.
Family of four cut their fuel bill by a quarter
Julius and Anna Reeves live in Muswell Hill in a lovely, five-bedroom Edwardian house with their son Seth, 17, and daughter Isabella, who is four.
Their black Chesney's Salisbury 4kW wood burning stove cost them £804, but with installation that included a chimney flue liner, the total cost was about £2,500.
The family pays £7.30 for a large bag of kiln-dried logs, which lasts about a week. So how much are they saving on their household bills? Says Julius: "The stove radiates warmth throughout the house, and we've turned the groundfloor heating off. It has cut our heating bills by about 25 per cent."
Chesney's can be found at 194-202 Battersea Park Road, SW11 (020 7627 1410) and at 734-736 Holloway Road, N19 (020 7561 8280).
Hot tips for buying a wood burning stove — and keeping it stoked
- Explore design options online — but also visit showrooms.
- Measure up your room (including height); measure and photograph your fireplace.
- Visit a specialist. Defra-exempt stoves will cost from about £500. Ask about efficiency and controls.
- Visit the Defra website and its pages devoted to wood burning stoves (smokecontrol.defra.gov.uk). These list all the stoves currently available in the United Kingdom, what you can burn in them and whether they are exempt from smoke controls.
- Consider (with expert help) heat output, measured in kilowatts — 1kW will heat about 14 cubic metres. London stoves are typically around 4kW (adjustable). More information at stovefittersmanual.co.uk.
- Get a survey from a Hetasregistered installer (go to hetas.co.uk/ find-retailer).
- Installation will cost from about £500. Top up home insulation and draughtproofing if necessary.
- Get your chimney swept — it should cost about £50. The National Association of Chimney Sweeps is at chimneyworks.co.uk (call 01785 811732). Chimney lining — for about £400 — is recommended.
- You will probably need wood supplied to your door. Costs are about £75 a cubic metre (consult nef.org.uk/ logpile/fuelsuppliers/woodstoves). Typically, you can expect to burn about four or five cubic metres of wood a year. Log-Delivery.co.uk can deliver in a timed slot at weekends.
- Do not burn wood collected from woodland or picked out of skips as it is likely to have a high moisture content. It is illegal and dangerous to use it, as doing so can cause chimney fires.