We have been burning wood to keep warm since the Stone Age, and while gathering around the fire still holds the same primal, atmospheric appeal as it has for millennia, things have moved on significantly from the rudimentary fires of our cave-dwelling ancestors and the homely open fires of our grandparents!
Over recent decades we have become increasingly aware of the need to reduce our energy consumption, shrink our carbon footprint, and limit air pollution. As one of the single biggest sources of energy consumption, the way in which we heat our home has become subject to increased scrutiny and necessarily tough regulation and this had led to a dramatic evolution of the humble log burning fire.
Today’s wood burning stoves are precision engineered to offer a wealth of benefits that have seen their popularity soar. According to figures by the Stove Industry Association, the UK trade association for manufacturers and retailers of wood burning stoves, sales of log burners in 2022 were up 40% compared to the previous year – a clear indication that homeowners recognise and value the many benefits they offer.
In this article we will take a close look at those benefits, exploring five of the key advantages a modern log burning stove has to offer, some of which may well surprise you!
Energy Efficiency of Log Burning Stoves
The most recent technological evolution of the log burning stove began to gather momentum in early 2017 when the stove industry made a commitment to respond to legislation for solid fuel space heating appliances, that would come into force in January 2022.
To comply with the Ecodesign Regulation ((EU) 2015/1185) stoves needed to become more energy efficient. The Ecodesign Regulation would see minimum appliance efficiency increase by 10%, along with a significantly lower CO emissions limit (than previously required by UK Building Regulations) and the introduction of limits for particulate matter (PM), organic gaseous compounds (OGCs) and NOx (nitrogen oxides).
In the five years leading up to the implementation of the Ecodesign Regulation here in the UK, the percentage of stoves being sold that met the requirements of the Regulation steadily rose, so much so that in the last quarter of 2021, 85% of stoves sold met these tough new standards. (Source: Stove Industry Association sales figures).
As well as this being a clear nod to the innovation skills of stove manufacturers, this is excellent news for stove users too. Improved energy efficiency means more heat from less wood fuel, and this means you save money. To put this into context, an open fire will need 16 logs to produce 4kW of heat over a 5-hour period, whereas an Ecodesign complaint stove will only need 5 logs – that’s a 69% reduction.
Most modern stoves achieve an efficiency of over 80%, meaning that over 80% of the fuel used is converted to heat. Compare this to the 25% achieved by an open fire and you can see why the energy efficiency rating of a new stove, typically A+ or A, far exceeds an open fire or much older stove and is one of the key benefits of a modern stove.
Cost-Effectiveness of Log Burning Stoves
It is thanks to this improved efficiency that a modern wood stove is one of the most cost-effective ways of keeping your family warm.
Data from climate change charity, Nottingham Energy Partnership, shows that kiln dried wood logs represent exceptional value for money coming in at a whopping 68% less per kWh than standard rate electricity. During the winter fuel crisis of 2022, they were also significantly cheaper than gas, and while the worst of the energy crisis appears to have passed, industry experts have warned that energy bills are set to remain at record highs for the foreseeable future.
Not only can they save you money, a wood burning stoves also offers you energy security. Not as easy to measure as the pounds in your pocket, a sense of energy security may be less tangible, but it is no less significant.
We’ve all experienced a power cut at home, and for many of us these have become increasingly common during poor winter weather than even before. It’s bad enough when the lights go out, but it’s even worse when you can’t keep yourself and your family warm.
Having a log burning stove as a secondary heating source protects you against this scenario and it also helps to relieve pressure on the energy grid and our reliance on fossil fuels, such as oil and gas, for heating. If all the 1.7 million UK homes using solid fuel for heating were using a modern, Ecodesign compliant stove, the draw on the energy grid for heating in the winter months would be measurably reduced by during peak evening consumption.
As pressure on the energy grid increases, so too does talk about energy storage. You may well have heard of thermal stores and batteries being used to store generated energy or heat until it is needed, but if you use a wood burner, the log store in your garage or behind your shed is its own energy store, waiting to generate heat right when you need it.
These are some of the less well-known benefits of a wood burner, but ones that simply cannot be underestimated.
Sustainability & Environmental Impact of Wood Fuel
As well as being one of the most cost-efficient fuels, wood logs are also inherently very low carbon, emitting the least CO2e per kWh of any type of heating fuel.
At just 0.024 KgCO2e per kWh, a kiln dried log is 88% less carbon intensive than mains gas and 91% less than electricity. (Source: Nottingham Energy Partnership).
If trees that are harvested for wood fuel are taken from sustainably managed forests, logs can be classified as a carbon neutral heating fuel. As a tree grows it captures carbon dioxide and water which combine in the presence of sunlight for photosynthesis to take place. In turn the tree produces sugars which are converted into wood.
Felling a tree and using it to make furniture or another product locks in the carbon that it has captured during its growth cycle, but if the tree is left to fall and decay the wood is converted back into carbon dioxide. While burning a log for heat speeds up the process of carbon dioxide being released back into the atmosphere, providing wood for heat is taken from sustainably managed forests, the planting and new growth generated by this process offsets the carbon released, making the log carbon neutral.
Furthermore, well managed woodlands tend to be more productive which encourages woodland health and biodiversity. The more local your supply of wood fuel is the better, as when the miles a wood log must travel before it is burnt increases, so too does its carbon footprint.
Schemes such as the Woodsure Assured Quality Woodfuel Scheme are designed to raise the standards of wood fuel supply here in the UK and includes clauses for required evidence of sustainability.
Choosing to burn wood logs that have been responsibly sourced in a modern wood burning stove is therefore a very low-carbon and sustainable way of heating your home using renewable fuel, further adding to the benefits of these 21st century appliances.
Wood Burning Stoves Look Good
Gone are the days when stove design was restricted to a simple black box. You want the heart of your home to look truly beautiful and you will find yourself spoilt for choice when it comes to the various stove design options available to you.
There really is a stove to suit every home interior. From Scandi chic to country casual, ultra-modern and sleek, to curvy and contemporary styles, you can also choose from a range of colour finishes and options such as built-in log stores and handle choices.
All Chesneys’ stoves feature user-friendly air controls and are built to last from cast-iron, the ideal stove body material that will deliver both radiant and convection heat to your home.
And your wood burning stove is not just designed to look good, it will help you feel good too. A real fire is a truly sensory experience; from stacking and collecting your logs, to laying your fuel bed, striking the match, and then sitting back with a glass of something special or a warming cup of tea, owning a log burner is very much a hands-on affair, and with that comes a great sense of satisfaction.
We lead increasingly busy lives, and many stove owners report spending more quality time with their loved ones, as the flickering flames, comforting sound and aroma draw family members to the focal point of the home.
Studies have also found that a real fire can reduce blood pressure. A study by researchers at the University of Alabama found a participants showed a consistent decrease in blood pressure when watching a real fire, with researchers noting that this is due to the fire inducing relaxation “as part of a multi-sensory, absorptive and social experience”.
Although it is unlikely you will ever want to move once you have a wood burning stove, if you did decide to sell your property, installing a freestanding stove or enhancing a period fireplace with a modern wood burner is certainly going to help catch the buyer’s eye and may even help enhance your home’s market value.
Wood Burning Stoves Air Quality
Lastly a word about air quality. There has been much written in the press about the damaging health effects of particulate matter emissions and the sources of these emissions, and we should all play our part in helping to protect and improve air quality.
Emissions of PM2.5 come from a wide range of different sources; some are obvious such road traffic, manufacturing industries and garden bonfires, others are less obvious such as cigarette smoking, wildfires and even firework displays. Domestic combustion is another source of particulate emissions, so it is vital that when we burn responsibly.
It is reassuring to know that burning good quality, dry wood logs in modern, Ecodesign compliant wood stoves contributes less than 0.1% of total UK PM2.5 emissions. To put this in context this is 14 times less than the emissions generated by bonfire night each year. (Source: National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory Data, 2021).
All of Chesneys’ wood burning stoves achieve a Level 4 or 5 rating within the clearSkies scheme. This means that they have even lower levels of PM, CO, OGC and NOx emissions than stipulated by the Ecodesign Regulation and that they operate even more efficiently than the Regulation requires.
The way in which modern stoves are designed and built has a lot to do with their very low emissions. The arrangement of the baffle, a stove component designed to trap heated air inside the firebox for longer, and controls designed to regulate the intake of primary and secondary combustion, help to ensure very high burning temperatures. This boosts the efficiency of the stove, helping ensure completeness of combustion. Modern stoves using the correct fuel dramatically reduce the amount of smoke and particulates produced, compared to an open fire or a much older stove model.
It may also surprise you to know that a modern stove can help to improve the air quality within your home. A literature review carried out by the University of Manchester on behalf of the Stove Industry Association found that the natural draught created during wood stove operation helps pull air from the room into the appliance and from outside, thereby helping to lower levels of particulates found inside the home.
As stove users we must remember that our choice of stove appliance is only one part of the puzzle, however. To ensure maximum efficiency and minimal emissions we must commit to ensuring our stove and chimney system is well maintained and that we only ever burn good quality, dry wood fuel such as Ready to Burn logs.
In combination, these steps will give you and your family a very low emission, low carbon and cost-effective way of warming your home for many years to come.
Benefits of Wood Burning Stoves
There are so many benefits to choosing a log burning stove. Whether your priority is aesthetic appeal, lowering your heating bills, reducing your emissions, improving your energy efficiency or a combination of all these things, we hope this article has shown you that there are a whole host of advantages from heating your home with wood.
A modern stove is a very safe method of domestic heating and a way of harnessing a tried and tested technique within a cutting-edge appliance. A stove has timeless appeal and the added benefit of helping you to be more independent of the energy grid, protecting you against fluctuating energy prices, by choosing a sustainable and renewable fuel.
Take a look at our beautiful range of wood burning stoves here.