Robby Williams is a fan of fire places
A modern wood burner is more efficient than many central heating systems and far more appealing to look at than a traditional white radiator. According to the National Association of Chimney Sweeps, the number of stoves being installed each year has more than doubled over the past decade.
The appeal is not just about installing a middle-class fashion statement. According to British stove manufacturer Charnwood, regular use of a wood burner can knock a third off fuel bills, providing savings of at least £400 a year.
There is a huge range of stoves to choose from, ranging in price from £500 to more than £2,000. A key consideration is how much heat it will pump out.
Paul Chesney, founder of London-based stove and fireplace maker Chesney’s, says: ‘Years ago you had to live in the countryside to enjoy a wood burner, but technological improvements mean they can also provide a great heating solution in many town and city homes.’
New environmental standards for particle emissions come into force in 2022 aimed at creating a cleaner atmosphere. Already, stove manufacturers are rolling out eco-friendly burners with a Stove Industry Alliance Eco Design-ready stamp of approval. These reduce particle emissions by 90 per cent compared to an open fire and 80 per cent compared to an old stove.
Dealers such as Stovesonline offer kilowatt calculators that enable you to put in the dimensions of your room – they then suggest a suitable type of stove. A 5 kilowatt stove may suit a 10ft square room, while a 10 kw fire may be roasting.
Most important of all is that the chimney is safe to use. You should budget at least £1,500 to clean, line and install a metal flue pipe.
Then there is the cost of the fuel. You can choose either a wood burner or multi-fuel stove. Wood burners tend to be more efficient while multi-fuel allows you to use coal as well as wood. As a rule of thumb, you might spend between £10 and £15 a week on logs if you have a fire every night. A cubic metre delivery of wood might cost from £60, with three loads keeping you warm for a year.
THE appeal of a natural fire is far more than just aesthetic. It can also prove a shrewd investment. A fireplace can add as much as five per cent to the value of your home, thanks to its wow factor.
Owen Pacey enjoys his fireplace which he says is a sound investment
It can also save you money. While energy firms have been hiking up the price of gas and electricity by 10 per cent or more this year, the cost of fireplaces has remained constant. Even though the cost of firewood and coal has risen in line with other energy prices, you can get your logs for free if you have both access and permission to cut woodland trees.
Owen Pacey is owner of fireplace emporium Renaissance based in the City of London. He says top quality Victorian reproductions and porcelain log fires provide enthusiasts with a wide range of cost-effective options.
He adds: ‘A fireplace is a feature that sits right at the heart of the home. Invest wisely and you will more than recoup your money. You will get something that is not only visually appealing but it will help heat up your home.’ An original marble fireplace surround may cost £1,500 while a quality reproduction will set you back at least £1,000.
On top, you will need an insert fitting – an original metal ‘horseshoe’ insert costs around £1,000 if antique or £500 new. A freestanding grate to fit inside costs a further £150.
Owen says: ‘Open fires are not big environment polluters and are perfectly safe if you know what you are doing. Those in towns and cities can use smokeless fuel or adapt the fire so it looks just like the real thing but is a clean eco-friendly alternative.’
He points out that a top of the range gas fire with porcelain logs can cost £1,500 and looks just like a natural fire. It is ideal for urban living, adding heat without the need to stock up on fuel. Among the celebrities that have bought fireplaces from Renaissance in recent years are Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, actress Kate Winslet – and Robbie Williams, who sang Relight My Fire with Take That.
ENJOY FORAGING FOR FIREWOOD
There is a primitive appeal in staring into the flickering flames of a crackling fire.
Vincent Thurkettle, woodman and author of The Wood Fire Handbook, says: ‘Mankind has enjoyed fires for as long as we have existed – there are few equals to the pleasure of blazing logs. Fun can also be found in foraging for firewood.’
Vincent Thurkettle: The woodman says that cutting wood is a’ larder of future joy’
Foraging is a great source of free wood – but you must ask permission from a landowner before either felling a tree or cutting up a fallen tree on private land.
A chainsaw, sharp felling axe and bow saw will help but it is essential you know how to use them safely. Wear safety goggles and gloves. When a tree is chopped down the wood may comprise 60 per cent water. It is therefore important to ensure it is left to season.
This might mean storing it outside in a well-ventilated woodpile or shed for at least a year before burning.
Ash is one of the best burners because of its low moisture content. Other popular woods for burning include beech, birch and aromatic cherry.
Well-dried oak is great for slow burning. Conifer burns well but it has resins that spit and leave sooty chimney deposits.
For those who do not want to get their hands dirty, a local log supplier is the best option. It is cheaper buying in bulk – especially if the wood is freshly cut and ‘unseasoned’.
Thurkettle says: ‘Freshly cut wood should be viewed as a larder of future joy.’
Wood should be cut into logs before it has dried out, but rather than use a sharp axe you should opt for a splitting maul.
A short-handled axe can be used for making kindling – thin sticks to start a fire. This can save you a small fortune compared with buying kindling in bags.
You can also save money on firelighters by making your own. Thurkettle suggests orange peel as an alternative. It must be put on a baking tray in your oven on a low heat until it is dried.
The oils in the peel provide flashes of fire that help ignite kindling. Another free firelighter option is silver birch bark.
Logs are usually preferred to coal as an efficient heat source, although coal will usually burn for longer.
An alternative free fuel is paper packed together in a briquette maker.
These devices cost about £20 and create briquettes from old newspapers, packaging, junk mail and even dried teabags.
Wood briquettes can be used as an alternative to logs. Providers such as Wood Fuel Co-operative sell them in 10kg packs from £3.
Make sure your chimney is swept every year before your first fire
If you want to heat the home with an open fire seek expert guidance to ensure you are following the necessary safety and emission guidelines.
Even if you already have an open fire or wood burner you should not use it until it has been professionally cleaned in preparation for winter.
The National Association of Chimney Sweeps has more than 600 qualified members countrywide. It recommends that your chimney is swept at least once a year – with now being the ideal time just before you light the first fire of the winter.
Although you can save money if you have the necessary equipment to clean your own chimney, it is better to spend perhaps £50 for an expert to suck out all the soot and possible bird nests with the minimum of mess – and present you with a certificate that might be necessary for your insurer.
The Government body for approving domestic fuels, services and appliances is the Heating Equipment Testing & Approval Scheme. Bruce Allen, chief executive, says: ‘It may seem like a hassle but following the regulations is not a box-ticking exercise – it is about saving lives.
‘You should always get your chimney inspected by one of our registered installers or chimney sweeps. When looking at using a fireplace after a number of years or installing a wood burner you may need a chimney lined – giving it an extra inner skin. It is money well spent, ensuring you are safe.’
If a chimney has been left damp for a long time, acids in old soot can eat into the mortar and allow heat and fumes to spread to other rooms.
Fumes might contain the poisonous gas carbon monoxide so it is also important to ensure you have a carbon monoxide alarm and smoke detectors installed to alert you should there be any problems – sometimes your insurer will insist on it. A fire extinguisher on each floor is also recommended as a precaution.
An open fire can draw up to 17 cubic metres of air a minute so it is vital to ensure your home has the necessary ventilation to allow this.
Remember, if you do not tell your insurer about any changes or fail to follow their requirements then they are unlikely to pay out in the event of a fire.
Courtesy: Daily Mail Online