Our wood burner was finally fitted yesterday so I thought I’d share our experience so far. We’re in the countryside with a lot of forestry around so able to source logs at a reasonable price plus the wood we have around for free. Eventually we hope to grow enough wood to feed the beast without buying in, but that is at least 5 years away.
Buying a Woodburning Stove
We looked around and asked advice from the forums before making the decision as to which stove to buy. Saltfire in Dorset were highly rated and had some very attractive prices so we chose a Wimborne from them. This is a multi-fuel stove so we can burn coal on it if we wish. A useful back up.
How Big a Stove?
Saltfire give a formula on their site of 1Kw output per 1.4 cubic metres. We have a very open plan house and hope the heat will go through into the other rooms so went for 9Kw
This is a bit overpowered for our room but it’s not a huge fire, almost looks lonely in the fireplace. What we didn’t realise was that stoves over 5Kw must have a clear vent into the room of 550 square millimetres per kilowatt above 5. So we need a hole of 2200 square millimetres, or 3.41 square inches.
Now I must admit to thinking this was crackers. We draught proof, install double glazing and insulate like mad only to knock a big hole in the wall. The idea is to ensure the stove has enough oxygen to burn without producing carbon monoxide.
Well it’s not as crackers as I thought. Apparently there are a number of cases of people dying from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by woodburning stoves. This brings me onto rules and regulations.
Woodburning Stove Regulations
I’m old enough to remember when an Englishman’s home was his castle. Well not nowadays. You have to have building regulations approve the installation of your woodburner. The fee for this varies council to council but can exceed £350!
So the only real choice is to use a HETAS engineer. HETAS is a bit like Gas Safe (used to be CORGI) for solid fuel installs. They will install according to the regulations and certify the installation to the council etc.
OK, we could have done the job ourselves and not mentioned it to the council but, if nothing else, an uncertified installation would probably invalidate the insurance if we had a fire. I’m not betting the house and our safety against saving a couple of hundred pounds.
Apart from the vent mentioned above, the HETAS engineer checks the chimney is OK, the draw sufficient and that we have a correctly fitted carbon monoxide alarm. I’m glad I didn’t try to do the install myself anyway, it was a bigger job than I thought. For a start the stove weighs 95Kg – that’s a two strong man lift. Including installing the vent, the job took two experienced tradesmen with all the right tools about 4 hours. I doubt I could have done it in a week!
Some HETAS engineers are only qualified to do ‘dry’ installations but others can do ‘wet’ where the stove heats a back boiler to supply hot water or central heating. We didn’t go for a wet system as the existing boiler is a combi and we’d need to install tanks, new boiler and so on.
Woodburning Stove Prices and Costs
How much you pay for the stove will depend on which one you buy. You can buy a basic stove for as little as £299 but adding a back-boiler will lift the price up to £750. These are minimums, you can easily double those prices. We paid £329.00 for our stove.
Installation is probably going to cost you more than the stove. We’ve a good, lined chimney and a straightforward installation. It cost us £435.00 So total cost was £764.00 I dread to think what fitting a lined chimney or plumbing in a back boiler would cost.
Woodburning Stove Installers
HETAS have a good system where you pop your postcode in and they give you a list of local installers. The first one we called basically wasn’t interested in the job and refused point blank to quote. The second was recommended to us and agreed to come out to quote but then cancelled. I rang back and asked (nicely) if he still wanted to quote and he said he had a member of staff off and would call back in a few days. Left 3 further messages on his voicemail but never heard back.
Third came out but quoted without including for the vents, which left things a bit open ended.
Fourth chap, Gwynedd Safeflue Specialists, came out and gave us a slightly lower price than the third including the vents so we said yes. The workmen were friendly, efficient and went to great lengths to avoid dirtying the carpets by laying down sheets and even vacuumed up afterwards.
Need a job? Train as a stove installer and you’ll make a packet!