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Warming Up With a Log Burner: A Comprehensive Guide for UK Homeowners

log burner with wood storage below it

With rising energy costs causing heating bills to soar, many UK homeowners are considering installing a log burner or wood stove to help reduce expenses. Log burners provide an attractive, renewable source of focused heat that can lower your dependence on expensive fossil fuel heating systems.

However, there are some important factors to research before deciding if adding a log burner is the right move for your household. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know, from how log burners work to costs, key benefits, potential drawbacks, safety considerations, proper installation, sourcing fuel, UK regulations, and more.

What Are Log Burners and How Do They Work?

Log burners, also known as wood stoves or wood burning stoves, are freestanding units that burn wood or wood pellets to provide radiant and convection heat. The stove contains a firebox surrounded by metal plates and tubes. A door allows you to load logs into the firebox.

As the fuel burns, the resulting hot gases, smoke, and flame heat up the metal elements of the stove. Room air passes over these hot surfaces and heat is transferred, known as convection heating. The radiant heat emanating from the firebox glass door also helps warm the room directly.

Inside the firebox, a baffle plate forces the smoke and hot gases to flow in a zig-zag pattern over secondary combustion chambers and catalytic combustors before being vented out through the chimney. This allows for thorough combustion and greatly reduces emissions and particulates entering the room.

The end result is a highly efficient wood burning system that warms the room the stove is located in, as well as adjoining spaces if you leave doors open. Log burners provide zone heating focused on the main living areas you use the most.

Key Benefits of Installing a Log Burner

Lower Heating Bills Using locally-sourced logs as fuel can provide significant savings compared to relying solely on gas, electricity or oil to heat your home. Wood is a renewable, inexpensive, and often carbon-neutral energy source. Seasoned hardwoods provide around 4 kW of energy per kg.

According to the Stove Industry Alliance, an efficient log burner costs about 3.5p per hour in fuel costs when burning wood compared to 14.5p for an electrical heater. Over the 5-6 month UK heating season you could save £100s compared to electric and reduce your household’s carbon footprint.

Cozy Ambiance The warm glow and mesmerizing flames of a wood fire provide appealing aesthetics and a comforting atmosphere. Sitting around a flickering fire on a cold winter night creates an unmatchable hygge experience. Log burners add character and a focal point to any room.

Self-Sufficiency Relying partially on a log burner reduces your dependence on centrally controlled gas or electric heat. Having a log burner gives you greater control over your home’s warmth while also saving money on utility bills. This self-sufficiency can provide peace of mind.

Zone Heating Log burners heat the space they are located in and adjoining rooms you leave doors open to. This zoned heating allows you to only warm the parts of your home you are using, without cranking up central heating in unused rooms.

Reliability Log burners don’t depend on external electrical power or fuel sources that could be disrupted in bad weather. As long as you have a log supply, you can keep warm if the power goes out or heating fuel deliveries are interrupted.

Environmental Benefits Burning wood harvested from sustainably managed forests and sources is carbon neutral. The carbon released is recaptured when new trees grow. Log burners have low emissions when properly installed and newer models are near zero emissions.

log burner in old fire place

Potential Drawbacks to Consider

Upfront Costs Purchasing and installing a log burner involves considerable upfront expenditure. Costs include:

  • Stove unit – £300 to £2,500+
  • Installation – £1,000 to £2,000 for flue, fittings, hearth, etc.
  • Building work/modifications – £200 to £1,000+

This investment may pay off long-term from lower heating bills. But factor it into your budget if funds are limited.

Sourcing Fuel Log burners require a steady supply of seasoned firewood. If buying rather than scavenging your own logs, quality sourcing nearby is key. Prices range from £90 – £180 per load.

Maintenance The log burner unit and flue need annual servicing and cleaning to operate safely and efficiently. DIY cleaning takes 1-2 hours per year. Or pay £50-100 for a professional sweep and service.

The glass window will need cleaning from soot build up every few weeks when in use. The ash pan must be emptied regularly as well.

Space Constraints Log burners range from compact 20cm width models to larger 70cm units. Even smaller units take up significant space in studios or bijou homes. Measure thoroughly to ensure your room can accommodate a stove.

Emissions Log burners produce particulates, smoke, and carbon monoxide if not properly installed and vented. Only use seasoned, dry wood. New models have greatly improved combustion and reduced emissions. But wood stoves can still contribute to local air pollution.

Installing a Log Burner Safely and Effectively

Given the complexities involved, it is strongly recommended to have your log burner installed professionally to ensure proper operation and safety. Follow these key steps:

Choose the Right Model Consider the size of the room, your heating requirements, the design style you prefer, and your budget when selecting a log burner model. Models range from traditional cast iron to modern steel. Key factors include:

  • Efficiency rating – 65% and above is optimal
  • Output – size for your space, typically 5kW to 15kW
  • Emissions – Under 2% smoke, DEFRA approved for smokeless zones
  • Design style
  • Features – riddling grate, adjustable air flow, lining options

Get multiple installation quotes and read reviews to compare options from quality manufacturers.

Suitable Flue and Chimney The flue system vents emissions safely outside and creates the draw that pulls air into the firebox. A proper flue up through the house brickwork or lining an existing chimney is vital. Avoid connecting to old flue tiles. Ensure adequate vertical draw of at least 4.5m.

Building and Ventilation Changes Some homes require modifications like ceiling vents, an external air supply, or wall stud changes to allow safe clearances to combustible materials. Get any needed building approvals.

Hearth and Log Store A non-combustible hearth extending at least 300mm around the front of the stove is required. Some stoves need rear heat shields. Create an external log store at least 1m from the property if possible.

Multi-Fuel or Wood Burning Only? Multi-fuel stoves allow burning smokeless fuels like coal along with wood. This gives flexibility but may result in more ash and emissions. Wood-only stoves optimized for logs give the best performance and efficiency.

Ongoing Safety and Maintenance

  • Sweep the flue and clean the stove yearly before winter use.
  • Check the rope door seals regularly. Replace deteriorated seals immediately.
  • Only burn seasoned hardwood logs with a moisture content below 20%. Burning wet or green wood results in more smoke, lower heat, faster creosote build-up, and higher emissions.
  • Never leave the stove unattended with the door open or overload with logs.
  • Dispose of cooled ashes in a metal bin away from combustibles.
  • Check for creosote build up annually and clean the flue if needed to reduce chimney fire risk.
  • Consider installing a CO alarm and fire extinguisher nearby.
modern log burner / wood stove in black

Sourcing and Storing Fuel for your Log Burner

Finding a reliable supply of well-seasoned firewood is key to getting the most value from your stove and burning efficiently. Here are some top tips:

Buy Local Firewood Look for firewood sold by the load rather than weight from suppliers within 25 miles. This avoids high delivery costs for heavy, wet wood from further away. Hardwoods like oak, ash, and beech give the best heat output.

Let it Season

Only burn logs that have been dried for 12+ months with a moisture content under 20%. Logs this dry light easily, burn hot, and produce less smoke. Buy wood in spring and dry it over the summer.

Store it Properly

Stack logs off the ground in a ventilated log store to allow airflow. Cover the top of the stack but leave the sides open. Locate the store at least 1m from your home’s exterior walls.

DIY Log Hunting

If you have the space, time and tools, sourcing your own logs for free can be rewarding. Always ask permission, fell selectively, and don’t strip trees bare. Cut logs to length and store outside for 1-2 years before burning.

Take Safety Precautions

Protect your chainsaw with safety trousers, boots and glasses. Sharpen the blade regularly for safe, effective cuts. Consider completing a training course.

Following UK Laws and Regulations

In the UK, log burners and other solid fuel burning appliances must adhere to regulations for safe installation and operation. Key laws include:

Smoke Control Areas – Only burn fuels or use exempt appliances that have passed emissions tests. Recent log burners meet this requirement.

Planning Permission – Most log burner installations don’t require planning permission. But larger stoves or chimneys may need approval.

Building Regulations – England and Wales require approval of stove installations. This involves informing your local council building control department.

Ecodesign Standards – All new stove sales must meet EU-wide ecodesign rules for efficiency and air quality. Look for stoves marked EN 303-5.

Chimney Sweeping – Chimneys serving log burners must be swept annually at a minimum when in use, under The Chimney Sweep Regulations 2014.

In summary, investing in a log burner requires careful research and preparation. If installed correctly, a wood burning stove can provide an affordable, renewably-fuelled heat source that reduces your carbon footprint and dependence on utilities. By following the guidelines and regulations outlined here, your new log burner will provide cosy, eco-friendly warmth for years to come.

‘Home’ isnt always a house, why not read this great article on the use of log burners in van conversions and campervans.

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