With gas and electric heat prices climbing to record highs, more and more people are wondering whether or not it would be wise to buy a wood burner. But switching to traditional wood heat can be incredibly daunting, especially if you’re new to the idea.
How much does a wood stove cost? Can you install it yourself or do you need to hire a professional? Do you need to buy premium kiln-dried logs or are seasoned logs from the supermarket just as good? And what about the air pollution debate?
To help you understand whether wood heat is right for you, we’ve compiled this list of the top advantages and disadvantages of owning a wood stove.
Pro #1: Wood Heat Is Incredibly Cost-Effective
While wood stove users can talk non-stop about cosiness and the beauty of a natural flame, the real reason most people switch to wood heat is to save money on heating.
Wood fuel has always been far more cost-effective than any other source of heat. Up until last year, wood heat was (on average) about twice cheaper than gas heat and up to five or six times cheaper than electric heat. This year, with the cost of gas and electricity rising to record highs, the difference is much, much more pronounced.
These days, all firewood and briquettes sold in the UK must comply with Defra’s Ready to Burn standard, so chances are you won’t stumble upon any truly awful logs. This being said, we don’t recommend buying the cheapest wood fuel you can find. As with all things in life, it’s best to buy a top-rated product from a brand you trust.
Con #1: Firewood Requires Storage Space
One of the first frustrations people stumble upon when starting to use firewood is realizing how much storage space a winter’s worth of wood fuel takes up.
If you live in a small apartment and don’t have any storage space nearby, this can pose understandable issues. The best thing to do in this case is to burn energy-dense sawdust briquettes instead of firewood. Briquettes take up a lot less storage space than regular firewood and major online suppliers like Lekto Woodfuels sell them in quantities as little as 20 kilos. Buy as many briquettes as you can comfortably store and then restock as you see fit.
Pro #2: Wood Heat Is Eco-Friendly
There is a common misconception that firewood heat is not environmentally friendly. This idea stems from the scientific fact that wet wood releases harmful creosote and other pollutants when burned.
But if the firewood you buy is sufficiently dry and you burn it in a modern, Ecodesign-certified stove, it can actually be an incredibly clean heat source.
Let’s talk numbers.
Burning dry firewood in a modern stove produces just 0.008kg of CO2 per kWh of heat generated. Burning natural gas produces about 25 times more CO2 (0.198kg) per kWh. And electrical heating (depending on how it is produced) can give off upwards of a staggering 0.517kg worth of CO2 per kWh of heat generated.
Con #2: Preparation & Maintenance
If you’re used to receiving instant heat by simply turning a dial, then having to light a fire, periodically add firewood to it, and clean out ash may seem like a nuisance.
Eventually, many people grow to enjoy taking care of their wood-burning stoves and see it as a calming activity. Nevertheless, it is one extra thing to do in the morning and the evening. And there’s no way to get around it.
A modern log burner can operate at approximately 80% efficiency. This means that ⅘ of the energy stored in the logs will be converted into useful heat. In comparison, an open fire burns logs with only 20% efficiency, which means that 80% of the heat is wasted. And many older wood burners couldn’t achieve more than 40%-50% efficiency.
Modern logs are also dried to stricter standards than those of yesteryear, which further helps increase the amount of heat generated.
So if you’ve used logs in the past, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how little wood fuel you need to heat your home.
Con #3: High Up-Front Costs
Wood fuel is incredibly cost-efficient, so using a burner will save you a lot of money in the long run. But if we’re talking about short-term expenses, then buying a wood burner and having it professionally installed will cost you a lot more than both gas and electric alternatives.
You can get an okay electric heater on Amazon for as little as £100. A high-quality wood burner, on the other hand, can set you back around a thousand pounds. And professional installation can easily cost twice as much.
These high upfront costs are the primary reason why many consumers are reluctant to switch over to wood heat.
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