1. What fuel type are you looking for?
One of your first considerations is likely to be the fuel type you are looking for. Are you set on a real woodburning stove, with authentic flames from log burning, or perhaps you are drawn to the convenience of gas? On the other hand, electric heat offers an entirely different aesthetic and lends itself admirably to well-insulated properties. Deciding your fuel type early on may help you work out more about your project, and will also assist with budgeting for the work required for your unique needs.
2. What’s your style?
Today’s stoves and fires come in a host of different shapes and sizes, from inset industrial-chic woodburners, such as the Vogue 700 Inset from Stovax, to tall, Scandi-inspired freestanding models like the Loft from Gazco. Whatever your home interior, there is likely to be a style to suit.
3. Do you have a chimney?
Woodburning fires and stoves need a chimney or flue system to operate. Likewise, conventional flue gas fires also need a flue for the combustion gases to escape. If you do not have a chimney but are set on a woodburner or gas log burner, there are options available to you – depending on the level of budget and work you are happy to carry out.
If you don’t have a chimney, you may be able to have a pre-fabricated one installed that works in the same way as a standard chimney. There are options for you to have a chimney system that either runs internally or externally to your property, allowing you to enjoy a woodburning stove or conventional flue gas fire in your home.
Alternatively, many gas fires and stoves come as balanced flue versions which allow for a chimneyless installation, using a twin-wall pipe to vent directly through an exterior wall.
For complete ease of installation, electric stoves and fires do not require a chimney at all and can be simply plugged into the mains to function.
4. Understand smoke control areas
If you live in a town or city, you likely live in a Smoke Control Area. To meet the smoke emission standards for these areas, you can only burn authorised smokeless fuels on a multi-fuel appliance – a list of which can be found by visiting the DEFRA website. If you want to burn wood, your appliance must be suitable for use in Smoke Control Areas, which you can find on your manufacturer’s product information.
5. Check the latest regulations
The latest regulation you may have heard of is the Ecodesign directive. While this does not affect you as a consumer, it may help you make a more environmentally-considered choice when looking at woodburning or multi-fuel stoves and fires.
Ecodesign will become law for solid fuel stove manufacturers from 2022, requiring them to adhere to stringent emissions rules, helping to improve air quality. Ecodesign Ready stoves and fires reduce emissions significantly compared to older models, so it is worth keeping this in mind when looking at solid fuel appliances.
6. What heat output do you need for your home?
Your installer and retailer will be able to help best with determining the heat output you need, as factors such as the windows and age of the house can all affect the outcome. As a rough guideline, to achieve a relaxing room temperature of around 21ºC when the air outside your house is at freezing (0ºC) you will need approximately 1kW of heat output for every 14m3 of space. Measure the length, width and height of your room and multiply the three figures together – and then divide the sum by 14 for a guideline.
7. Choose a professional for installationInstallation of your stove or fire, be it woodburning or gas, is a job for the professionals. You can generally install electric appliances with ease by simply placing in the space desired, but some more elaborate installations – like TV media walls – can involve a fitter.
When installing a stove or fire, safety standards are paramount, so we would always recommend getting your product installed by a qualified installer, whether that is by HETAS if installing wood or solid fuel products, or Gas Safe if installing a gas product. The installation will need to meet the minimum hearth, distance to combustibles and ventilation requirements, and comply with local building control rules.
8. Get to grips with maintenance
A solid fuel stove requires an annual service, including stripping and cleaning the appliance thoroughly and removing all excess ash. It will also need to be checked for any broken or damaged parts that need replacing, and the door glass will need cleaning. Like your stove, your chimney also requires maintenance, as along with obstructions, deposits and tar can build-up in your chimney over time, reducing the draw, making the stove run less efficiently and putting your property at risk of a chimney fire.
If you are burning wood, ensure your chimney is swept at least twice a year; this can be reduced to once if you are using a multi-fuel stove to burn fuels other than wood. It is also essential to have your stove serviced by a qualified installer to ensure you see the best performance from your appliance.
A gas fire will also need servicing and its glass door cleaning – it is possible to clean the glass yourself, following instructions supplied with the product. It is recommended that gas appliances are safety checked and serviced at least once a year by a registered gas service engineer.
Maintenance of an electric fire is easy and straightforward. It usually just involves dusting and cleaning the fuel effects, plus any accessible air inlets and outlets to maintain the optimum heat output and efficiency from the fire.
9. If burning wood, burn right
If you opt for a new and efficient woodburner, it is worth looking after your investment by feeding it the right fuel. Poor-quality wood tends to have a high moisture content. When wet wood is burnt, such as freshly felled timber, a large amount of the heat energy created by the fire is wasted burning off the excess water, resulting in poor combustion. Aside from wasting energy, burning wet wood results in tars and creosote production, which can damage a flue and increase the risk of chimney fires.
10. Shop local
Shopping local is more and more at the forefront of our minds, but aside from supporting your local economy, visiting your local retailer has many further benefits. They can help you to choose the best options for your home by demonstrating live burning products and offering advice, alongside arranging site surveys, recommending installers or even offering bespoke installation packages. Additionally, your local retailer can provide aftersales support, servicing, often enabling you to extend your manufacturer’s warranty – all helping you to take the very best care of your new home investment.