The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting a bit nippy, and I don’t know about you, but I feel ready for cosying up.
You won’t be too surprised to know that now is prime season for buying a stove or log burner. These appliances have a fair bit of heat output and are more economical than central heating.
But there’s more to these appliances, if you ask me. When I grew up, we had a fireplace – I still miss it. Curling up on the sofa with a book was the best thing, even when I was only 11 years old. (Yes, I hogged the spot right in front of it.)
If you’re considering buying a stove or log burner, there are a few things you should know about.
Ready to dive in?
What fuel do I need?
Log burners are also called wood-burning stoves, which is self explanatory. However, there are different types of wood. A log burner, as the name suggests, requires whole logs. But you can also finds designs that run on pellets.
There is also smokeless solid fuel, which often comes in the form of briquettes. Many stoves or log burners are actually multi-fuel designs, which means they can burn both of these – but make sure that’s the case before you try it.
Some appliances run on natural or LPG gas. Bioethanol is another option.
And finally, of course, there are fires fuelled by electricity. They’ve come a long way, so these days they look realistic and cosy too.
What’s the most important thing I need to know about buying a stove or log burner?
Apart from the classic ‘don’t let pets or kids near it’, there’s actually one big need-to-know.
Before you set out to make your purchase, make sure you are actually allowed to burn your chosen fuel. ‘But it’s just wood!’, I hear you cry?
Well, it still causes very visible (and smellable) emissions. And many parts of the UK are classified as smoke control areas.
You see where I’m going with this?
Living in a smoke control area doesn’t make buying a stove or log burner impossible, it just means you need to double check. Some retailers will indicate if an appliance is suitable, but it can’t hurt to make absolutely sure.
How can I tell if I live in a smoke control area? And what does it mean?
If your home is in one of these areas, you need to limit how much smoke comes from your chimney. You can also only burn certain types of fuel, unless you have an exempt appliance.
Your council can fine you up to £300 if your chimney emits too much smoke. However, this only applies to England – there are other rules for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
If you burn unauthorised fuel without having an exempt appliance, the fine can be up to £1000.
So, first of all, before buying a stove or log burner, you should check if you live in a smoke control area. All you need to do is contact your local council’s environmental services department – they’ll know.
Once you have that information, you’re good to pick your appliance.
What else to I need to know when I’m buying a stove or log burner?
Apart from these, there are a few other considerations.
Let’s start with the design. Do you want a freestanding model? Maybe even with a 360º view? Or would you rather integrate it into an existing fireplace or chimneybreast?
Also consider the material when buying a stove or log burner. They’re usually made from either cast iron or steel, which behave slightly differently.
Cast iron stoves take a little longer to heat up, but radiate warmth for a long time, even after the fire has gone out. If you’ve ever experienced a range cooker with radiant heat, this will be somewhat similar.
A steel design, on the other hand, heats up very quickly but also doesn’t retain heat for as long as cast iron does. This means it’ll cool down much more quickly.
Still, both materials are excellent heat conductors and will get you nice and cosy. You simply need to decide which characteristic is more important to you.
When buying a stove or log burner, you also need to get the size right. Pick one too small and it’ll constantly be running too hot (and burn a lot more fuel than necessary) to heat your room. This can actually damage your appliance too.
But buy one too large and you’ll find yourself roasting. However, you’ll not only be too hot, your stove will also be underperforming.
Not ideal, right?
Is there a way to find out which size I need?
Of course there is! All stoves typically give you the amount of floor area they can heat. You’ll also find its heat output, measured in British Thermal Units (BTU).
There are lots of online calculators out there to help your find the right BTU. This one, for example, is from Direct Stoves.
I’ve heard about DEFRA approval – is that something I need to know about when buying a stove or log burner?
It’s certainly helpful to know about. If a stove is DEFRA approved, it counts as an exempt appliance. (Remember? It came up a little further up.)
This means they can be used to burn wood even in smoke control areas.
And to make it easier, DEFRA – which is the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – has published a list of all exempt appliances. It’s searchable, too, and shows you which countries an appliance is exempt in.
Featured image: Autumnal fireplace decoration with TruGlow candles and light-up pumpkins, £19.99, Lights4fun.
And if you’re interested in heating your home efficiently, then read this feature next.