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Wood burning stove

Wood burning stoves

Wood stoves and ranges are available with outputs from 5 to 20kW and can be used to heat a single room or domestic hot water and central heating.

Important: before purchasing any equipment, read Managing a successful wood fuel installation and get expert advice.

A back-up system

Many people in the more remote parts of Scotland need heating that will operate during a power cut. Wood burning stoves and ranges can provide this.

It is possible to have domestic hot water as well, as long as the system is fed by gravity, rather than by electric pump. A pumped central heating system will, of course, not work in a power cut. Indeed, a fully pumped system should not be fired during a power cut as there would be a risk of boiling the water which cannot circulate.

Types of wood stove

Log stoves

Log stoves are often the cheapest option, particularly if you have access to your own log supply. Many are available with a multi-fuel option and can burn both logs and solid fuel, though it is not advisable to burn wood and coal at the same time.

Larger wood burning stoves can provide enough heat to run up to a dozen radiators, but will require frequent manual re-fuelling. These stoves are plumbed into a pumped central heating circuit which can be controlled by thermostats.

If the stove is used to heat water in an accumulator tank, the wood can be burnt more efficiently and the heat delivered to a central heating system in a much more controlled way - in this case the stove may need to be fired only once or twice each day.

Wood pellet stoves

Pellets burn very efficiently and require much less manual handling than logs.

Pellet stoves burn in a similar way to log burners. With a back boiler they can provide convenient hot water and central heating. Most stoves have a built-in hopper which can hold enough pellets for several days.

Pellet stoves are much easier to regulate than log stoves, and can be left to burn all day with minimal attendance. They are filled by hand using bags of pellets of 15kg upwards.

The flues for pellet stoves are sometimes smaller diameter than for traditional wood and multi-fuel stoves, making them more unobtrusive and installation easier.

A pellet stove consists of a hopper to store the pellets, a screw feed mechanism to transfer the pellets into the combustion chamber, electronic controls and electric fans to deliver the combustion air and distribute the heat.

The heat output is thermostatically controlled by regulating the flow of pellets into the combustion chamber. The stoves are ignited electronically and the ash falls into an ash pan at the base of the stove. Because of the high efficiency combustion the ash pan may only need to be emptied every two months.

The number of suppliers of wood pellets is increasing and you should be able to get them delivered in your area.

Range stoves

It is still possible to buy ranges that can be fuelled by wood. Esse, Rayburn, Stanley and Thornhill sell models that can be used for cooking only, cooking and domestic hot water or cooking, hot water and central heating. The Thornhill Range Cookers run on pellets using a patented burning system to ensure high efficiencies.

With the exception of the Esse and Thornhill Range cookers, these ranges were primarily designed to burn coal and solid fuel, and therefore burn wood less efficiently. However, they still work well with dry logs.

More information and technical details can be found by contacting the manufacturers.

Tile or ceramic stoves

Ceramic stoves are wood burning stoves which are made of fired clay blocks or from carved soapstone. They are quite large structures and can extend to ceiling height. The internal flueways are very long and this leads to complete combustion of all the gases from the wood. The ceramic blocks store heat and the stoves require firing only once each day.

Because of their size, ceramic stoves are best suited to new-build situations and can sometimes prove difficult to retro-fit into existing houses.

Maintenance

Stoves require regular de-ashing but a bed of embers on which to set a fire should be left.

Providing the stove has been installed and is operated within the manufacturer's guidelines, and wood burned is within the specification provided by the manufacturer, the only regular maintenance required will be thorough cleaning of the flueways, appliance flue connector pipe and the chimney.

Publication to download

The Biomass Energy Centre have produced a useful guide which includes wood burning stoves: Biomass Heating: a guide to small log and wood pellet systems [PDF]

HETAS are the official body recognised by Government to approve biomass and solid fuel domestic heating appliances, including the registration of competent installers.