Our Personal Experience of Living with a Wood Burning Stove

By Andy the stuff doer

This Guide and Analysis is for anyone looking to purchase a wood burning stove.  My views are totally independent and give a balanced opinion of the realities based on personal experience.  It’s the kind of information that  manufacturers and suppliers don’t focus on.   

If you are thinking about buying a wood burner or multi fuel stove then this is worth a read.

We’ve been runing a stove now for over 2 years.  From our experience, I’ve reviewed and analysed the choice we made to Live with a Wood Burning Stove.

I’ve tried to answer the question.  Is Living with a Wood Burning Stove worth it?

Looking at the money side, the environment aspects and the lifestyle change in some detail leads me to answer “YES it’s worth it”.

Have a read through and see if you agree with my conclusions. Please leave me any comments, suggestions or queries. 

<< Read – Wood Burning Stove – Is it Worth it?>> Includes my wood burning stove running costs.

<<Leave a response>>

And..  Feel free to link to the article if you think others out there may find it interesting. 

Thanks,

Andy

39 Responses to “Our Personal Experience of Living with a Wood Burning Stove”

  1. Wood burning stoves have some big plus points, they are carbon neutral, will still work during power cuts and of course they look great. Not as easy or clean as a modern gas boiler, but to be honest they dont take a huge amount of work to operate. It encourages you to reduce the amount of fuel you use as well – sometimes its easier to put a jumper on than light the fire.

    There is a bit of a technique to getting them burning just right, but its not too hard to master. Getting the right logs is essential, nicely seasoned logs will burn better without too much smoke.

  2. Hi Andy,

    I’ve spent the last half-hours reading through all this and I just wanted to say thank you for providing such an excellent (FREE TO READ!) resource on this subject!

    I know where to look now should I ever decide to go down this route and I also know where to direct family and friends for all the relevant information.

    You’re dead right though – draft-proofing and insulating is essential before making any such change.

    Have a good Christmas and all the best for the New Year!

    Olly.

  3. Thanks Olly, I hope it prove to useful.

    ALC, Good Points

  4. Hi Andy,

    Do you plan on doing an article on affordable draft-proofing for homes? It’s something we’re thinking about as I keep tripping over the towels my mum’s placing at the bottom of the doors!! 😀

    It would definitely be interesting and would fit in with your advice on wood burning stoves.

    Olly.

  5. Olly, Good suggestion, I’ve written up the draught proofing on our front door. Could give you some ideas to get rid of the towels < on the cheap door draughtproofing>

  6. Hi Andy,

    Just read your page on Draught Proofing (sorry, I couldn’t see a link for adding comments there?). I really like your cheap solution, which remains hidden while the door is closed.

    Only issue I can imagine (where you groove the door) is that, if the door swells in width during wet weather, it would be a right bugger trying to plane the edges down… (Unless you own a rebate plane!) Did you glue the strip in place? Could it be screwed in for easier removal or adjustment?

    I’ll definitely have to give that a try, some time. Do you think it would work as-well on an outward-opening exterior door?

    Our back door is only single-glazed, which also lets a lot of cold air through. Do you know if there’s anything that can be fitted to the inside of the glazing to reduce these draughts?

    (One day, I will get around to making an oak door to replace it…)

    Olly.

  7. Hi Olly, No appolgies required, my fault for not putting the link in.
    I’ve transfered your comments over to here

    Cheers Andy

  8. I’ve just read through your sash window blog and am now waiting for details of the detailed plans in whatever form they may take. Please add me to the list of interested peeps.

  9. Thanks Roger,
    I’ve got to start cracking on with with it. I’ll be in touch when Iv’e made some progress.
    Cheers Andy

  10. We have just had fitted a stovax riva 55 log burner and so far its been brilliant. Lights really easily and logs burn down to nothing with no fuss. Glass ashes up and cleans itself depending on how hot the fire is. With regard to running costs we have no gas in our village so we probably save money on alternative methods.

  11. Thanks Jon, It sounds like you’re in for a treat this winter. Having no mains gas, I guess your alternatives would be electric, bottled gas, oil or coal. If that’s the case then wood burning could certainly be the cheaper alternative.
    If you get chance, let us know how it works out for you.
    Cheers Andy

  12. Reading this has been most enjoyable. I live in a 3 bed detached with good loft and cavity insulation and k glass double glazing. I have oil fired central heating and 1000 litres lasts around 9 months. Normally this cost around £360-£380 to fill my tank.
    This year it worked out wrong and I have just paid £600, a price that frightens me, as I am about to retire!
    So I have decided on a twin approach for the future.
    1. Double my oil storage to 2500 litres (so I can always buy in the summer)
    2. Buy a multi-fuel stove, so no matter what the oil price goes to I will have at least one warm room.
    Thanks again.

  13. Thanks Graham, With those kind of prices for heating oil a wood burner certainly makes sense economically. It’ll keep you active during retirement as well!
    You’ll be able to heat more than one room with a multi-fule stove. If your insulation and draft proofing is good and you leave the internal doors open, the heat will spread through the whole house.
    All the best with it and happy, warm, retirement
    Andy

  14. Hi.
    Lovely artical.
    We have installed log cooker with back boiler, connected to thermal store, which also has solar in for sunny days.
    We also have x2 other wood stoves in other rooms, if we want we can run the back boiler to the radiators (this tends to dump and then you ahev no hot water, so timings of showers have to be thought about!)
    We get the wood mainly for free, we are ex tree surgeons so have connections!
    If you have to pay for wood not much price difference. i would say. We haev a condensing boiler which auotmatically tops up if we can’t be bothered, looking at the prices now we are going to have to be more bothered!!!
    Glad we did it but it is more messy than a gas fire.

  15. Thanks Sue,
    Ah! those all important connections. We have free sustainable supply of our own now, but I have to do the cutting, chopping and transporting. It makes me realise the effort that goes in to producing logs for burning.
    The heatstore + solar sounds great. We went for a combi a few years back so no tank. I never though at the time tanks would come back in fashion. I still keep thinking of ways to circulate the heat from our stove to the other ground floor rooms. A back boiler and heat exchanger might come someday.
    Thanks for your comments
    Andy

  16. Its not just the cost, many customers want independence from the utility companies. The russians have allredy cut off Europe,s energy supply, twice, Gas and oil can only bo up

  17. I have a wood stove which runs – when needed – one one load of wood £90 for a hwole winter!

  18. Hi Rod, Thanks for your comment. In the full set of articles on the iDoStuff website I mention “You can cock a snoop at the price of gas, power cuts, monthly direct debits, security of supply etc.” I’ve written about all the aspects I could think of. Have a read through, I’m sure you’ll find a lot that you agree with.
    Cheers Andy

  19. Great read Andy – your site is informative and helpful, especially for projects that I have limited experience with! I have written a post on my blog detailing my experience when we decided a wood burning stove was the way to go, we reached many of the same conclusions! You can read it here http://www.frugalsoul.co.uk/2012/01/05/fire-your-imagination-with-a-wood-burning-stove/
    Thanks,
    Nikki :)

  20. Great post Nikki, its certainly worth a read.

  21. Hi

    What a great source of information – I’m currently in the middle of looking at replacing our open coal fire (linked to hot water) with a multifuel stove, We have just moved into our new home and find its a cold house to heat (large 4 bed sandstone house) we have used £750 worth of oil in 3 months!! We have no idea what type of stove to go for boiler stove v room heater stove only. I would like to have the boiler stove although there are not many on the market that can accomodate our size of property, but I would like to be less reliant on oil and if there should be a power cut I would still have a source of heating and hot water!! Any further advise would be great.

  22. Hi Allyson, Your situation is quite complex and the solution would depend on your budget. A stove with a back boiler could suplement your you central heating but it needs to be done with a heat exchanger of some sort to combine the output with the oil fired system. A heat store system (big hot tank) would probably be the current recommend method. This however would also need an electric supply to pump the water unless a plumber could work out a gravity feed system. ( so no good in a power cut).
    I would be tempted to go for the “room heater” only option for low cost and simplicity. The heat from this will knock down the oil bill and if you can distribute enough hot air around your house the oil fired system might not need switching on. But this wouldn’t give you hot water, unless a pan on the stove will be enough to get by with.
    Bio mass / wood pellet boilers would be able to supply all the heat you need but wouldn’t be a replacement in a fireplace, you might want to look at what grants and payments are available for fitting and using these.

    Please dont forget to do all you can first with insulation and draught proofing (but keep the house breathing).
    Hope this helps, even if just a little.
    Andy

  23. Often overlooked here is the cost of the Flue liner. You should typically budget around £300-£400 for a typical household using a woodburner (more if you want to burn coal, as you’ll need 904 grade liner).

  24. Thanks Mike it’s alway good to hear from experts in business especially when the coments are relevent like yours ( I do get loads of spamy rubbish). I’ll look favourably on any more insights you might have. There might be mutual tie in with my current resoration job that’s in line for two stove instalations.

  25. Somerset…

    […]Our Personal Experience of Living with a Wood Burning Stove[…]…

  26. My multifuel stove ….have had a plumber to disconect gas supply , I have opened up the fire place in my 1874 property ( 1 bed large house)and found a massive old fireplace with a fair bit of work installed a stove myself with a back boiler and paid a plumber for final commisioning..not expensive …its all the heating I have but be warned you have to work to gather fuel chop logs etc, but i have bought no fuel for a year now and saved a lot of money , I use the gathering of fuel as a kind of hobby and am lucky to live on the coast with ample supplies of sea coal washed in which burns really well, this is sea coal from natural seams which you can see at low tide.
    Logs come from varios places but againg the shore delivers most of my fuel, yes you have to collect it but it keeps you warm collecting the fuel and walks the dog ?

    Just gone for a bigger stove so should be toasty this winter..I use a gravity heating system so power cuts are no problem.

    Seems daft going back in time to keep warm but modern stoves are very good now not like the open fires also smells and looks great

    Keep this web site going its good for all

  27. Thanks for your comments Tony. You certainly are right about the effort needed to run a stove for real heating, not just for the easthetic plesure of it. You are doing well gathering enough free fuel, I should point out though, that I have heard there could be problems with burning drift wood due chemicals given off, I don’t know if the same would apply to sea coal.

    It’s great to hear you’ve got your heating sorted, totally utilities free and thanks for the encouragement with the site.
    Cheers
    Andy

  28. Derek (eyes wide open) on July 25th, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Hi Andy,

    Many thanks for your refreshingly objective observations. Your article is worth it’s weight in gold (or a life time of free seasoned logs)!!
    We are of the generation brought up with coal fires and messy grates, to the side of which we would store orange peel and newspaper in readiness for use in lighting up the fire for the next morning :-)

    Our first new home with gas central heating was heaven sent, especially during our early years and the time restraints of young children.The hassle was over and we were young, modern go-getters with a disdain for old fashioned,labour-intensive methods of heating, not to mention panda eyes blackened nostrils and coal dusted clothing :-0

    Now in our twilight years,having downsized to an 1840’s cottage, with more time to spare and needing to remain active we have been seduced by the prospect of a warm, rosy glow emanating from our presently unfriendly, defunct fire place. We are lucky enough to have access to an endless supply of logs but will initially have to make a purchase of ready seasoned stock.

    At our ages we will never recoup the expense but will be living the nostalgia and who knows, may even encourage future owners of our cottage to pursue an eco-friendly existence :-)

    You have helped us to become more savvy when dealing with installation engineers and when making our imminent purchase from the vast array of stoves,.
    Very many thanks from a couple of wood burner virgin warriors!

  29. Derek, Thank you for your comment. You certainly have got your “eyes wide open” and its great to hear your reasons for going ahead. I hope your instalation goes smoothly and I’m sure you’ll get the benefits you are looking for. The log chopping and carrying will certainly keep you active and the satifaction and enjoyment of the rosy glow is a great feeling.
    All the best,
    Andy

  30. Maria Borrill on August 2nd, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    Hi Andy

    I read your article on wood-burning stoves with interest. When we purchased our house we had to reinstate the chimney breast as a previous DIY [destroy it yourself]owner had left the chimney unsupported. As we had to do this we installed a flue on readiness for a stove. So our installation cost was £30, and we installed a flat top stove. We have free access to wood [husband a self employed gardener] and our yearly gas for, cooking,, heating and hot water is £168. The importance of the flat top…. brilliant for boiling the kettle [drinks, fill thermos flasks and hot water bottles] and cooking soups, making stocks, boiling hams, stews, casseroles etc and fried bacon and eggs in a pan on top. You can also cook baked potatoes in the embers, Also got to try cooking salmon on a plank [ala Hugh Fearnley Whitingstall] and looking for a griddle now!

  31. Maria, Thanks for your comment I’m glad you found it interesting reading. It sounds like you’ve ticked all the boxes for lifestyle and money wise. It great to hear you are making full use of the flat top, my mouth is watering as I write. You should collect the best recipies and techniques for a book “Cooking on a Woodburner”. When youve sussed out the salmon it’ll be ala Maria!

    Cheers Andy

  32. Without a gas supply or a suitable location for a boiler flue (other than up the existing chimney, which would be a shame) or indeed an oil tank we ended up with a ‘hybrid’ kind of system (as someone above) where our woodburner heats a thermal store, which can also be heated electrically (preferably overnight on the cheaper rate, but lifestyle and demand doesn’t always seem that it works that way !)

    I did do some comparable costs a while ago, my basis was the calorific value of wood the weight and cost of a ‘load’ (logs seem to be sold by the fantastically random unit of ‘a load’) versus units of gas, oil and electric. I reckon a (fairly old, low spec) woodburner is about 70% efficient and it’s temperature (and therefore efficiency) fluctuates quite a bit during a burn. Anyway, my view was that buying logs in and using them for the majority of our heating and hot water (small 2 bed cottage, single glazed, some insulation where it’s easy to do) was about comparable with the night storage heaters that were here originally, but slightly more controllable. The plumbing for the back boiler to thermal store seemed quite critical (i.e. the thermal store should be above the stove for gravity to work) but not having the space (or floor strength !) opted for both on same level and it works okay.

    Had the flue lined, which is a good idea, and I’d recommend the more expensive pumice/cement option since I’ve heard stainless corrodes through in 10 years and it does need to be swept quite often, but that’s probably because (a) I close the vents down quite a lot so it ‘glows’ rather than ‘burns’ – probably not so efficient and less air = slower flue gas = more deposits (b) I’ll burn anything that I can source, so that means quite a bit of softwood and waste timber which is probably a bit resin-y or something.

    I’ve also been recommended to use a flue temperature sensor (no doubt by someone who profits from selling me one !) to ensure a more efficient ‘burn’. I’d sort of figured a cheap magnetic gauge that you can buy on eBay might do and stick it on the flue. But haven’t got ’round to getting one. Can’t remember the ideal flue temp now, but it’s out there in internet land somewhere and is thought to be the best indicator or efficiency and keeping the flue clearer.

    Yes, I’d agree, you buy a woodburner because you like it, not because it’s cheap or green. You put washing on a clothes horse next to it overnight because it’s too rainy to dry outside. You occasionally cook toast and warm soup with it, it signals autumn and winter’s here as you screw up paper and chop kindling, which flicking a switch on a programmer just doesn’t do in the same way.

  33. Hi Miles, Glad you’ve sussed out the commenting, I will try to make it easier.
    The very rough calculation I think of is: Electric being three times more expensive than Gas (Off-Peak rates with the night storage heaters bringing it down to 1.something). Then Gas to logs (if decent and at a good price) 1:1. But you’ve hit upon the big variable – How efficiently the logs give you heat.

    A modern gas boiler might give you 90% and the electric the best part of a 100% (of what you pay for even if Generation and distribution losses are more than 50%). A modern stove might give you around 80% when it’s used efficiently, less in normal use and a lot less if on a slow burn. With a heat store you should be able to burn at maximum efficiency, really hot for part of the day. Then the heat distributed from the store when it’s needed.

    With your system a couple of good, hot burns every day should knock a fair bit off your electric bill. It’ll be interesting to see what difference it makes.

  34. Comment from Miles via Email:

    In summary, yes, I’d very much agree with you, they’re mostly about lifestyle. Curiously heating systems are quite a lot about lifestyle. And not about how much margin is in the successful sale of any system or it’s components. Some of us work from home or located at home for much of the day. We can therefore take advantage of the thermal store effect that is now often ‘promoted’ as a good idea. However, an environment which is slow to react (heat up and cool down) isn’t the most effective means of heating for say a couple who go out to work or a family where everyone is out for, say, 8 – 10 hours a day. I know this particularly in respect of underfloor heating. Depending on the construction there’s a degree of thermal ‘lag’ in the concrete floor and I’ve know people ‘fighting’ their programmable stats trying to get it more instantly warmer or cooler – the system doesn’t work like that and they’d perhaps be better with radiators or even (if only they could be made less noisy and less ‘blow-y’) water element blown air heaters (which I’m somewhat unique in my liking of).

  35. Thanks very much! As someone very ‘new’ to wood burning stoves (literally today) – my builder suggested one in place of the purely decorative fireplace I asked him to install, this is the best and most practical synopsis I could find. I do like certain aspects of the stoves but we have just redone our entire heating system and changed from an old and very inefficient gravity system, where the hot water and central heating were linked and the water had to be heated the whole time the central heating was on, to a much more economical boiler with the water running totally separately. What this means to our annual bill, I don’t know yet but hopefully it will bring the costs down considerably. This being said, as much as I like the idea of a wood burner, I think (based on what I have read in your summary), we would be better off seeing how we go this winter and then deciding whether to go ahead or not. Great reading & your effort in putting all this together is very much appreciated. Cheers, Lindy

  36. Thanks Lindy, I really appreciate your comments. It sounds like a sensible idea to monitor how the new system works and what it’s costing you to run, it should save a lot over the old system. When you have the facts and figures you can make a proper judgement. The difficult bit can be judging what value to put on the “I just want one” element (it is a valid and powereful side of the equation). If the money & environment side of things is a big issue for you then the top priority should be insulation and draft proofing (but make sure the building breathes properly to avoid damp problems). A money spent wisely on reducing heat loss is well spent. Hope you’re toasty this winter and the recent engergy price rise don’t sting too much. All the best Andy.

  37. When you look into the costs dont just think of the stove and fuel costs. Installation, Chimney lining, Hearth and more all add to the price and then there are the endless stove accessories to choose from fire-irons to log baskets – take a look at http://stoveaccessories.co.uk and you will see what I mean. For me the best saving tip was to find a friendly tree surgeon to keep the fuel price low.

  38. You’re right Claire it can all start adding up. Lucky you found a tree surgeon willing to give you his “waste”, many are now using it as secondry income.

  39. Great blog which will be extremely useful for anyone looking for a wood burning stove. We often get asked “what is more economical to run, a wood burning stove or gas fire?” If you have access to free, seasoned wood then it’s obviously going to be a stove but if you are planning to buy small bags of wood from the local petrol station, then you may want to consider looking at a high efficiency gas fire as the wood cost will far outweigh the running costs of a good quality gas fire.

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