How to Choose a Woodburning Stove

Mark Ryan, UK manager at Jotul, shares his tips on incorporating cosy woodburning stoves into your home building project
Articles by Build It magazine
by Build It
12th February 2021

At what point should self builders engage a supplier for their woodburning stove?

Speak to a specialist as soon as possible and try to create a dialogue between them and your architect. A house designer might not be able to advise you on some of the practical considerations, so bringing in an expert during the design phase can save you from costly mistakes.

What should people look out for when specifying a model?

First off, select a well-established brand that offers a high-quality warranty and aftercare service. A decent stove will give you many good years of operation, so it’s important to reassure yourself that you will still be able to get spare parts way into the future if you need them. Proper installation is paramount, too, so make sure you have a HETAS-approved professional on board.

Learn more: 10 Stoves and Fireplaces for Every Look

Used correctly, a woodburner will generate significant amounts of heat, so it’s important to match the capacity of the stove to the requirements of the room. While it’s tempting to choose your appliance just by its aesthetics, you need to consider heat outputs and the size of the area that will be taking in all that warmth.

The level of insulation and presence of any other heat distribution systems, such as underfloor heating or radiators, also need to be factored in. An experienced professional will consider these areas and advise you if a stove is going to be too big and overheat your room (or too small and fail to deliver on your expectations). Remember, this is a heating product, so your first priority should be matching the appliance’s output to its location.

What else should self builders consider while planning?

Good stove placement is vital. Don’t just tuck it away somewhere it will only give localised heating (unless that’s specifically what you’re looking for). Your flue system should also be mapped out in detail at the planning stage, much like your drainage or ventilation.

Most issues arise from a lack of planning, often because people haven’t sought early-stage advice. If you bring in a supplier later on, you might find there are challenges with running a flue, which could end up limiting the locations you can place the stove. The same is true of the air supply (required for the combustion process).

Jotul F163 wood stove

The F163 Wood Stove by Jotul

Although this might sound obvious, it’s still common for installers to be met with a property where access to bring the stove inside hasn’t been considered and newly placed windows and doors need to be removed. A new stove can weigh up to 150kg or more, so putting it in position can be a challenge, even at ground level.

How has clean air legislation impacted stove design?

New rules coming into effect from 2022 will see stoves having to perform to even higher standards, following the European directive on air pollution and particulate emissions, known as Ecodesign.

The industry has poured millions of pounds into making stoves safer and developing new models carefully designed to reduce particulate emissions and unburnt gases, as well as cut down on fuel consumption and be more energy efficient.

At Jotul, we have gone back through our entire catalogue of over 100 stoves to ensure that every single one is redeveloped to meet the air quality criteria. We took this work on well in advance of the 2022 timeframe, as many customers were keen to incorporate clean burning technology years ago.

Currently, independently tested appliances that demonstrate a good level of cleanliness can be used in smoke-controlled zones, of which there are quite a few across the UK. This type of stove is listed as DEFRA exempt.

What about indoor air quality?

There has been some negative press in this area recently, which does tend to grab people’s attention. But these articles are usually based around inaccurate or misleading data. The most recent sensationalist headline came off the back of a study of just 20 homes which, as the Stove Industry Alliance has highlighted, is far too small to draw any real conclusions.

The research also failed to consider any other factors that cause indoor air pollution, like cooking (particularly roasting or frying), using candles, hoovering, dusting and even using the toaster.

Learn more: Is My Woodburning Stove Safe?

Good indoor air quality is clearly important, especially as many of us are spending more time inside. We would welcome more research in this area, but it has to be done properly. Homeowners should also know we constantly strive to improve our appliances. Woodburners are still a good, reliable and sustainable option for heating your living space – especially where other sources of fuel are costly or difficult to obtain. I can honestly say that I have a wood stove in my own home and wouldn’t be without it.

How can people ensure that they’re using their woodburners safely and efficiently?

When buying a stove, check it’s an Ecodesign Ready model. This shows it’s already compliant with the upcoming air quality legislation. Plus, every appliance must carry a graded energy efficiency label – most modern stoves are A or A+, so they’re very efficient. But remember this does not necessarily mean they are Ecodesign Ready.

Burning wood is normally classed as carbon neutral, because the timber emits only as much CO2 as the tree will have absorbed from the atmosphere while growing. But to achieve a clean, efficient burn you must use well-seasoned or kiln-dried firewood. Emissions from wet wood are at least twice as high, and you won’t get as much heat from it.

From February 2021, you’ll only be permitted to buy wet fuel in loads of 2m3 or more (for storing and drying outside your home prior to use). So it’s cleaner, more efficient and more convenient to buy properly dried firewood. Look for the Ready to Burn logo from Woodsure, the UK’s wood fuel accreditation scheme. Finally, remember not to let the fire slumber (ie smoulder overnight, rather than fully burn and go out). This practice adversely affects the stove’s ability to burn off particulates.

For more information visit jotul.

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