Author: Suse Coon

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Friday, November 30th, 2012 at 4:27 pm
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Homes

Thinking About a Good Old-Fashioned Log Fire?

With a 63 per cent rise in fuel bills since 2008, lots of us are looking for alternatives to oil and gas. Wood burning stoves are obviously popular as they take some of the control away from utility firms and back to your own resources. And nowadays, the good old-fashioned wood stove doesn’t have to look old-fashioned. Modern designs and technology mean they can look as trendy as you like and also work very efficiently.

There are three main options for using wood for heating: Boilers that provide heating and hot water for the whole house, stand-alone stoves that provide heating to individual rooms, often as a secondary heating system and stoves with back boilers that heat the room directly but also provide hot water.

While open fires will still be draughty and send most of the heat up the chimney, enclosed stoves can be used to provide space and water heating in the home. Wood is the most common form of renewable energy with around a million tonnes  used in UK homes every year and can usually be incorporated into an existing central heating and hot water system.

Ah but is burning wood sustainable?
Yes,  burning wood does release carbon dioxide (CO2), say the Energy Savings Trust, but only be the same amount as was absorbed by the plant while it was growing. If you can use local timber to reduce fuel miles a wood stove can be very sustainable.

There’s an old joke that a wood stove heats you twice – once when you chop the logs and once when you burn them. If you have your own supply of wood, say from an old tree that has come down, you’re quids in. If you don’t, you can get a Scavenger’s Licence from the Forestry Commission, which lets you collect wood from selected areas. You need to plan ahead if you are using logs, collecting them well in advance (at least a year) so that they can dry out and you need a decent-sized and accessible log store so that they can be kept dry. If you don’t have your own supply, you should still be able to purchase wood in bulk. To find your nearest supplier visit logpile.co.uk where contact details and fuel types supplied are provided using a simple postcode search.

Pellets and Chips
Log, Pellet or Chip boilers operate in the same way as a gas or oil boiler and so they can be used to connect to an existing system. Pellet boilers may have an integral hopper which is often topped up automatically from a larger store outside the house. Suitable for running central heating systems, and operating at around 88-90% efficiency, these are higly automated and easier than logs. Chip boilers are still marginally cost-efficient for domestic installations.

Permissions
All wood heating systems have to comply with the Building Regulations so check the current requirements which will normally require a flue and ventilation. They also need to sit on a non-combustible hearth.

Costs and Savings
Wood fuelled appliances currently cost at least twice as much as a conventional gas or oil fired appliance. They are generally more cost effective if you live in an area that doesn’t have a gas supply and/or if you have access to a ‘free’ supply of wood.

Government Incentives.
For information on the The Renewable Heat Premium Payment (a one-off fixed payment of £950) and The Renewable Heat Incentive (due to commence in 2013) your best source is energysavingtrust.org.uk who will also give you advice on other energy saving measures, such as insulation.

 

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