Not only is the energy crisis creating an unprecedented demand for wood-burning stoves: clean-burning technologies, app-assisted controls and new designs based on wood alternatives are also changing the possibilities.
“Stove sales are off the charts,” says Paul Chesney, who founded Chesneys, a fireplace and stove company almost 40 years ago. “We can’t do enough to keep up.” He believes the demand is driven by his customers’ desire to be more self-sufficient and also better control their spending.
According to the Stove Industry Alliance, aged logs are currently the cheapest domestic heating fuel, costing 74% less per kWh than electricity and 21% less than gas. The Nottingham Energy Partnership also found that using a modern Ecodesign wood-burning stove is 29% cheaper than using an air source heat pump.
Leaps in furnace technology are also fueling demand, but how clean are they, given concerns about particulate levels? “The current generation of wood stoves are much more efficient, use less fuel to generate more heat, and are much cleaner,” Chesney explains.
A key step in this area was the introduction of ecodesign rules, which came into force a year ago. “All ovens manufactured after January 1, 2022 must comply with ecodesign requirements,” explains Cedric Wells, creative director of oven specialist Charnwood.
“A modern eco-design woodstove emits 90% less particulate matter than an open fire and 80% less than the old base model.”
If you live in a smoke control zone, your stove must also be exempt from the Defra program, but the good news is that there are options for “ultra” clean-burning models: for example, Charnwood sells ClearSkies-certified stoves, a UK-based organization . a broad independent emissions and energy efficiency program to help reduce emissions and improve air quality. “A device marked clearSkies level 3 or higher enables the Defra exception,” Wells explains.
Clean combustion technology exists in several forms. “Most is based on careful control and direction of the air entering the furnace to achieve optimal combustion efficiency,” says Mr. Wells. “Then, the volatile by-products released from the initial combustion ignite and are burned again in the fire. This dual combustion subsequently reduces emissions and ash deposits and provides even more heat to your room – so more heat with less fuel.”
Although wood is generally considered a sustainable and more affordable fuel, all wood stove manufacturers emphasize the importance of using seasoned wood with a moisture content of 20% or less. “This will keep emissions to a minimum and greatly improve efficiency and protect your stove and chimney,” says Mr. Wells. Look out for the Woodsure Ready to Burn certification mark on pre-packed wood logs to make sure they are dry enough.
More developments to come: Charnwood expects to introduce its first app-controlled wood-burning stove in the UK next year. “Start the fire, close the door, set the room temperature with our app, and let the stove do the rest,” he says. An intelligent microprocessor controls the oven by adjusting the airflow for maximum efficiency.
Despite technical advances and ecodesign rules, there are concerns that safety rules don’t go far enough. For those looking for an alternative, Chesneys has developed a range of bioethanol stoves, as well as a new generation of electric stoves that use water vapor and LED lighting to create what Mr. Chesney describes as a “very realistic illusion” of fire. “People still want the living room to have a focal point, like fireplaces have for hundreds of years,” he says.
Another step forward? Bioethanol stoves
Chesneys recently released a collection of bioethanol stoves that mimic the look of a conventional wood-burning stove, but use odorless plant-sourced bioethanol to generate heat up to 3.5kW. The stoves are 100% energy efficient and the combustion process provides a burning time of 11.5 hours without the need to refuel.
“One of the challenges with installing a wood stove is that the house has to have a working chimney,” says Mr. Chesney.
“Many modern homes are built without them, and some older homes have problematic chimneys that are difficult and expensive to fix. A bioethanol stove gives you the opportunity to install a stove that generates heat and looks great with a live flame, without a chimney.”
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Photo: Graeme Actins-Hughes/Renassiance London
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