Hot advice: wood-burning stoves

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In this time of rising fuel costs stoves have never been more popular. Not only do they look good - instantly creating a cosy atmosphere in any home - but they are extremely heat efficient too, allowing you to turn down the central heating.  

Stoves provide the romance of an open fire but are more efficient  - if you put your logs in a stove instead of on a fire you will benefit from at least three times the amount of heat. They are cleaner too because, as the fire burns behind closed doors, smoke does not blow back into the room. And they are safer - you can shut the doors and leave the room, safe in the knowledge that sparks are not landing on the hearth rug.

As a rough guide to the size of stove suitable to your home, 1kW of heat output will comfortably warm 14 cubic metres of space. In terms of style, black is still the most popular colour, although there has been increased interest in ivory and red. Single doors, with plain glass windows are currently the trend rather than the more ornate double door designs.

Why wood

Wood burning stoves are currently popular as logs are the cheapest form of fuel there is, and if you choose a DEFRA-approved clean-burn stove it can be used even in a smoke-control area, as the technology allows the stove to burn off gases that would otherwise escape up the chimney.

Burning wood is also kinder to our environment as Dawn Meldrum from The Fireplace Store explains, "Because burning logs releases into the atmosphere only the carbon that the tree absorbed while it was growing, wood-burning stoves are considered carbon neutral. Wood is also a renewable resource and is often available locally reducing the need for transportation.”

Ease of installation

The type of chimney and flue you have, usually dictate which type of fireplace or stove you can choose. If you are opening up a disused chimney arrange for it to be swept. The sweep will be able to check for any obstructions and verify whether your chimney is sound. The chimney must be lined and you will also need a fireproof hearth.

A site visit by a HETAS qualified heating engineer is highly recommended before buying your stove as they will be able to advise on factors such as building regulations and flueing systems. They will also appreciate local idiosyncrasies like prevailing winds and how the chimneys of period properties in the area were constructed.

HETAS is the Government's heating equipment testing and approval scheme find out more from www.hetas.co.uk

Before you buy

• Decide on the style of stove you prefer including the colour and size. Don’t get too large a stove for the room, 4.9kW is fine for the average lounge.
• Consider your budget, stoves range from £300 to £5,000. Don't forget you will also need to pay for installation.
• Find out if you live in a smoke-control area by visiting www.uksmokecontrolareas.co.uk
• Get your chimney swept and ask advice from your sweep and your stove supplier as to what preparation is required.
• Do you have easy access to logs? This affects how much you pay for your fuel.

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