Before central heating, fire was the main way of keeping a house warm. But as radiators were rolled out widely during the 1960s and 1970s many fireplaces and stoves in older homes were removed or fell into disrepair.
The last time the Government took stock back in 2015, it found that only 7.5 per cent of the UK population was burning wood to help keep warm, with just 2.3 per cent using it as their sole heating source.
But now all the evidence suggests that households worried about soaring energy bills are turning back to wood-burning stoves to save money.
Burning desire: Britons are turning to log stoves in a bid to cut down their energy bills
The tradespeople that install and clean log stoves are working flat out to meet demand this year, according to clean fuel organisation Hetas.
Bruce Allen, chief executive officer for Hetas, said the firm has ‘seen unprecedented demand for solid fuel heating this winter’.
He added: ‘Demand has reached such a point that some of our approved chimney sweeps and heating installers are having to confirm bookings well into 2023 in order to keep up with the number of enquiries they are receiving.’
The average energy bill is currently capped at £2,500 a year for average usage, rising to £3,000 from April 2023 until April 2024.
We take a look at how much a wood burner costs to buy and install, and how much money it could save on bills – as well as asking whether it will do a good a job of keeping you warm.
Are wood stoves cheaper than central heating?
The answer is: it depends. To really tackle the question, individuals need to weigh up what size log burner they have, their central heating system, how warm they like to be and the cost of wood versus gas or electricity.
However as a rough rule of thumb it is almost always cheaper to buy and burn logs than it is to use gas central heating or electric heaters, provided you have a wood burner already installed.
Bruce Allen said that seasoned logs are ‘the cheapest domestic heating fuel after kerosene, costing homeowners 10.37p per kWh versus 12.81p per kW for mains gas and 39.21p per kW for electricity’.
Log cost: One cubic metre of wood is around 300 logs, and will set you back £120 to £200
But what log stoves do is different to what central heating does. That is because central heating normally warms every room in a house, whereas a log stove or open fire heats just one.
That said, some wood burner users claim they can heat multiple rooms with just one fire. It is possible to heat your whole house using a boiler burning wood, solid fuel or bioethanol, but these are not common.
But even a log burner that only effectively heats one room can still drive down heating bills, as it means your central heating does not need to be on as often or turned up as high.
Every 1C reduction in your thermostat temperature can save £80 a year on heating costs, according to experts at the Energy Saving Trust.
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How much does a log burner cost?
If you do not have a wood stove installed, a new one costs from around £400 to £2,000, plus labour and installation costs which will be £2,000 upwards.
If your property does not have a chimney, you will need to fit a ‘twin wall flue system’ – basically a big pipe that acts as a chimney. This can cost in the region of £3,500, or possibly even more.
The upfront cost is high, but with average energy bills likely to remain above £1,000 a year for the rest of the decade, getting a log stove fitted still may work out as a long-term investment.
Concentrated heat: A log burner usually heats just one room – although some users say that they can heat multiple rooms with a single fire
How much do logs cost?
If you have access to free wood, then logs cost nothing at all – but most households burning logs will buy seasoned firewood from a professional.
Logs are sold either by weight or by cubic size. One cubic metre of wood is around 300 logs, and costs around £120 to £200.
Depending on how often you use a wood stove you might need two to six cubic metres of wood a year, so from £240 to £1,200, but most sellers will give a discount for larger orders.
Are log burners banned in some areas?
On January 1 this year the Government brought in new rules on new wood burning stoves.
These rules mean all new wood stoves have to meet green Ecodesign criteria about how much pollution they cause. However, older stoves are exempt from these rules.
New stoves also have rules about the hearth – the heatproof area around the stove itself. These criteria state that a log stove has to have a 30cm space at the front, at least 15cm on each side and that the entire hearth much be at least 84cmx84cm in size and 1.2cm thick.
If your log burner makes the hearth hotter than 100C, it should be 2.5cm thick instead.
Since May of this year, firewood sold in quantities of less than 2 cubic metres has to have a moisture content of 20 per cent or below.
That is a rule for sellers, not people buying or burning wood. But burning firewood with a moisture content of more than 20 per cent is not advised.
Not only is wet wood harder to burn, it produces less heat and more pollution than drier firewood.
There are also several ‘smoke control areas’ where homes and businesses can only burn smokeless or low-emission fuel or use a stove which is green enough to meet government emissions rules.
For example, almost all of London is subject to these rules, as well as large areas of the post-industrial North.
Finally, when using a log stove or open fire, make sure to be safe. Only burn proper seasoned firewood or fuel, get your chimney swept once a year and buy a carbon monoxide alarm.