Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

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10 Sept 2020

Wood Burners - A Beginners Rough Guide

It's been a funny old year hasn't it? I haven't been able to face blogging or taking photos for many months now. I have been one of the people considered to be at high risk from Covid due to having had chemotherapy which reduces the immune system. The panic of yet another life threatening illness was too much to deal with. So we locked in and built a vegetable patch and grew our own food over the months. I hope to blog about my learning curve of that another time.

The summer seems to have flown by, and suddenly there's a definite change in the air. I have to admit to lighting the wood burner once already and it got me thinking that perhaps I should just share a few basic pieces of knowledge that we have discovered since it was installed just before lockdown.

I always found it odd that when you are looking to buy a house they make a big deal out of it already having a wood burner. Now I know why. 

Firstly there's the cost. Not just the stove itself but in the installation which is likely to be more than the cost of the stove. It's really worth getting a lot of quotes on both the burner and the installation as these varied enormously. It's also worth asking around on local village forums for recommendations as the I discovered a better deal on both and neither had come up in google searches. 

When you go looking at stoves they will want to know the size of the room because then they can work out what size you need in terms of heat output. We basically got the biggest one you can get because the inglenook is so massive. We also chose the one with a large glass door because this is easier to clean than one with detail on it. You can get an eco fan to stand on top which blows the air out of the fireplace and I might get one of these to get the heat moving around the room. The fan is driven purely by the heat of the stove and is free standing and needs no power. 

Try to get the installation done during the summer months because as it gets cold these guys are super busy. Also the installation may bring up issues with your chimney so it could have a knock on cost as they have to put a liner inside your chimney so that it doesn't catch fire. For safety reasons they have to put a metal liner in your chimney, and a cap on the top of it. 

I discovered after one year of an open fire, that most of the heat goes up the chimney and not into the room. A wood burning stove is made of a heavy metal which itself becomes very hot and therefore radiates heat. They can be bought made of two different materials, the older ones being of cast iron, but the newer ones are just as effective.  The burning of logs becomes much more efficient as the stove has the ability to increase the heat and control it. You have sliders on the front which increase the pull of the air so when you first light the fire you have it so it pulls the flames up more fiercely and once going can be turned down. 

Having this extra heat source which keeps the chill off the room can save a lot on your central heating especially if you only need the one room heating at a time. It still feels like sitting around a cozy fire but much cleaner. There is only a small amount of ash with each burn and the stove works best when you leave about an inch of ash in the base. It is so much easier to clean out than an open fire too, plus you don't get the black dust and soot landing around the room. 

So let's talk about fuels. A log is a log isn't it? Well maybe you would think that until you try to burn damp ones. The reason that the log sellers make a big deal about them being 'kiln dried' or 'extra dry' is that this makes a massive difference. In an emergency we picked up some logs from a roadside chap and wondered why they took ages to get flaming and the burner just didn't heat up. The stove should become so hot that you can't touch it with bare hands, hot enough to boil coffee pots on, so if your logs aren't heating it up then chances are they are green, or damp. There is now a law against burning green wood I believe in the UK.

I find that a combination of fuels works the best and all of these can be delivered from one company - Lekto Wood Fuels 

I really like their firelighters and hardwood heat logs for getting the fire going with one match super fast. You can break the hardwood logs (the compressed round logs with the hole in the middle) by tapping them on something like the fireplace edge, and when in smaller pieces this helps to catch the flame quicker. Then there's their Extra Dry Easy To Light wood logs, always look very attractive piled up next to the fire too. For overnight they make a compact night brick. 

It's a worthy investment if you plan to stay in the same house for several more years as the installation cost will be spread out. The ashes gather inside and are contained in the bottom. I always clean my glass window with a specialist cleaner so that the flames are visibile and not hidden behind a thick layer of soot.

I hope this helps if you are trying to decide to take the plunge. Don't forget - get lots of quotes and  buy only kiln dried logs. 

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