Thinking about a Wood Burner for Winter?

Thinking about a Wood Burner for Winter?

Thinking about the winter glow of a log burner or the warmth and comfort of an evening around the fire with friends - the pros and cons ...

Are you thinking about changing to a Log Fire or Wood Burner this winter?

In the current climate of rising fuel costs – as I write we are approaching a trebling of household fuel bills in the winter of 2022-2023 – we are all having to consider how best to heat our homes in the most efficient and economical way.

It may be the case that log burning is not an option for you, some local authorities do not allow it in built-up areas but, for those of us that can source a supply of firewood, then a wood burner or log fire may be something to consider.

A Woodburner in a fireplace nookBetween a Wood Burner and an open Log Fire there are, of course, pros and cons e.g. open fires produce less heat and burn more wood, but if your home has one already then you have no installation cost.

A wood-burning stove has a higher initial cost, but a modern stove is far more efficient at burning the logs and produces more heat.

By law, from January 2022, all wood burning and multi-fuel stoves sold in the UK must meet 'Ecodesign' standards of efficiency to ensure minimum particle emissions. For further information about Ecodesign emissions, you can visit the HETAS (Heating Equipment Testing & Approval Scheme) website. 

It may be a concern for you that using firewood means chopping down trees. However, I should note that often the trees used for firewood have to be felled anyway (e.g. due to danger or age) or, tree surgeons have had to prune large branches as you would with any plant.

Equally, felling trees in managed forests ensures the care of wildlife habitats and the replanting of trees. All of these are surely eco-friendlier than using our precious fossil fuels.

Log Stores are commonly thought of as only used by those who heat their homes with open fires or log-burning stoves. However, many people who don’t even have log burners purchase log stores as ornamental features, or for outdoor storage in their garden.

Gorgeous Brick Outdoor Oven (Jamie Oliver)

Nowadays, many of us have outdoor fire pits, outdoor ovens, or a chiminea, for example, so keep a few logs to hand for this.

If you ever find yourself without conventional power for a while, then this is a great backup plan for heat and cooking.

All of these are best served with a nice log store to keep the wood dry and ready to use. And we would say, if you use logs for fuel then a log store is almost a must, otherwise, your fuel will get wet, which can reduce the heat produced and create a lot of smoke.

In some rural areas, especially remote parts of the UK, using gas or oil power is simply not an option, it is not available. Electricity is the only power option and, at times of the year, or bad weather, even that is not forthcoming.

Therefore, heating and cooking with wood is the only solution. This may be hard to comprehend in the 21st century, but it is a fact, and many town dwellers find rural life like this difficult to comprehend too.

Types of Log Store and what you may need

Log Storage comes in many styles, shapes and sizes, and the right log store is available for just about any type of back garden.

Grow-Top Log Store in the garden

If you are new to log-burning as your heat source, it may be hard to calculate how much you might need for the winter. Finding a local firewood supplier might help you work out what is necessary.

Log Stores are considered not only for the actual dimensions and style, but also for log capacity by volume.

If you wish to keep your back garden looking tidy, then the aesthetics will be important to you as well as volume. But, if the volume is most important, then function and capacity is the driver.

Designs range from small rustic back door log stores for just a say, 0.2 cubic metres, up to much larger purpose-made wood stores holding over 10 cubic metres of chopped logs.

Stronghold Log Store with bag of logs

The usual method for logs to be delivered is by ‘Builder’s Dumpy Bag’ of 1 cubic metre although, you can equally buy a sack of logs from a supermarket.

Even with a large-capacity log store, you could be surprised how quickly you get through your firewood and may soon want to move to get delivery by trailer or lorry load.

This ensures you're less likely to run out on cold, dark evenings and keeps costs down.

It pays to store your logs in a ventilated store, so they dry out to give a cleaner and more efficient burn. For example, wood-burning stoves ideally need wood with a moisture content below 20%, otherwise, they can lose as much as 60% of their efficiency in terms of heat generation.

If you are burning wood, it should be the best type of wood for efficient wood burning. See our information about which trees make the best logs.

Wood with a high moisture content also gives off much higher levels of smoke and pollution which is more damaging to the environment and reduces the life expectancy of your flue.

Using a Wood Moisture Meter

A Wood Moisture Meter may be a good investment – available from specialist stove outlets (or Amazon) from £20-ish – it will tell you when your timber is sufficiently seasoned for burning.

Burning dry wood gives efficient, cost-effective heating with wood burners and is (arguably) carbon neutral. For more about seasoning your firewood see our Knowledge Base information - Buying & Seasoning Logs.

Depending on the type of wood, diameter, and length, split or not split, the seasoning process can take anywhere between six and twenty-four months. For example, Oak and Elm will take 2 years to dry out enough to call them seasoned.

Dry wood is a must for any kind of wood burning. You can either buy pre-dried timber, known as kiln-dried, which can be expensive and keep it dry or, with planning, you can season your own in a well-designed wood store.

Hints and Tips for Log Storage

Arch Log Store against a Virginia Creeper wall

Knowing how to season firewood, and how to store it once it is seasoned, will make sure your wood burning experience is much easier and far more cost-effective. By managing your log storage efficiently, you can save money too.

Investing in larger quantities, especially in summer, can save considerable money in the long term. Your time and effort in learning this process and finding a reliable log supply company, purchasing a solid log store, or making one yourself, will be worth the effort in money saved.

Dry seasoned firewood burns cleaner with less smoke and produces more heat from less wood. If you use your firewood for cooking too, such as in an outdoor oven or chiminea, then (arguably) your food will taste far better too! 

Pile of Firewood Logs

One of the most common pitfalls is to pile firewood logs onto the ground and completely cover the whole pile with tarpaulin or plastic sheeting. Covering them this way simply seals moisture inside which will encourage mould and ultimately decay within the logs.

Creating a raised tarpaulin tent would be a better idea and will allow airflow. So, it is best to choose the right log storage solution for the job at hand.

Many people who depend solely on logs for heat often have two or three log stores side by side for 3-years’ worth of logs.

One can be storing newly felled wood, one is in its first year of seasoning, whilst you use the third. If you store your firewood in a closed shed or storage unit, it is advisable to let it season outside before putting it in the shed.

Okeford Log Store full of logs, with Terrier

Lastly, when stacking chopped firewood in a big loose pile, safety should be a priority.

Make sure your stacks are stable and not liable to tip over, either onto you or your children and pets.

We suggest that stacking loose logs more than 4 feet high is asking for trouble.

Keeping them neatly stacked in a ventilated log store – whether home built or bought – would be much safer.

A Google search will show you many, many different ways to do this - in the US it seems to be quite an art!

Swapping to logs as fuel

The number of people in the UK choosing to swap to logs, from other sources of heating and solid fuels as a method of heating, has increased significantly recently. This is certainly due to the huge rise in the cost of power during 2022, with probably more increases to come. 

Outdoor Woodburner on patio

Many of us have invested, especially during the long hot summer of 2022, in more outdoor furniture, barbeques, gazebos, perhaps also a fire pit, a brazier, a chiminea, or especially the passion for outdoor ovens lately.

We find many more people are enjoying their outdoor spaces while the weather is good during spring, summer, and autumn.

If what is predicted (at the time of writing) for the autumn of 2022 comes true, then having an outdoor oven or wood-burning fire pit may not have been such a bad investment.

Energy prices have skyrocketed, and power cuts are predicted for the UK in late 2022 and early 2023.

Solar Panels generating power on the Flyte so Fancy workshop

Conventional fossil fuels have increased in price, as we all know, but equally, there are large increases in the price of wind and solar power too - although none of us can understand why - has the sun’s output and the wind suddenly become more expensive? No, we are told (by our green energy company), but the ‘processing of the power’ has. Now, oddly, it’s the same price as gas and oil!

It may be that the price of logs increases to meet the new demand, as is often the case, so it would be a good idea to do the planning and economics first.

There are many romantic ideals and a vision of wood-burning fires for heat, but it does need a little more effort to do than flicking a switch for electricity.

Gathering around the fire

Gathering Around the Fire with Friends

There is something quite wonderful, relaxing, and mesmerising about watching a natural kindling flame dance in a fire. The faint aroma of wood smoke and watching wood embers glow - it's no wonder we choose to sit around the fire in a circle and recount times past with family and friends. It is very therapeutic.

Wood burning emits a lovely aroma, especially from fruit woods, and if you use kiln-dried logs, you will get the extra benefit of producing a consistent, high heat output too.

Sitting out in the garden in the summer or autumn months and enjoying the comfort and gentle warmth of a log fire as the sun goes down is very relaxing and good for the soul. Back to our roots perhaps!

Toasting Marshmallows

Imagine creating a small log fire in your garden and cooking sausages on sticks, making toast or toasting marshmallows and chestnuts on an open fire. Add a little summer music perhaps, and put away our electronic devices, it is a very memorable social experience that brings people together.

Romantic and idyllic it may be (in my humble opinion), but it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t stress the importance of supervision and safety when making open fires.

Keep children and pets away from open fires. Ensure flames are shielded from combustible materials and people. During very dry weather, do not use open fires outdoors to avoid grass fires (remember summer 2022!).

Decisions, Decisions ...

Whether you’re trying to be more proactive in being prepared for oil or electricity outages; want to save money on heating expenses; are looking to be more ecologically friendly; or you just love the smell and feel of a real wood-burning fireplace or wood stove, there’s a lot to consider before switching over to one completely.

There are pros and cons to wood-burning systems, and you’ll want to have all the information you can to make a decision about whether or not to have a wood-burning fireplace.

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