Friday, 20 September 2013

Wood burning stoves with back boilers

Wood burning stoves cover a range of technologies, from old fashioned pot belly wood stoves through to state-of-the-art wood pellet burning stoves.   

This Blog focuses on stoves with back boilers, which provide heating and hot water to the home.  Are these systems just a fashionable new technology to show-off to your friends?  Or do they really stack up as a cost effective way of providing energy for your home? What are the pros and cons of the different types?  This Blog helps answer these questions.

How do wood burning stoves with back boilers work?
Wood burning stoves burn logs, wood pellets or wood chips to power central heating and hot water boilers.

The back boiler works in the same way as the traditional back boiler connected to an open fire.

Wood burners typically burn logs, but more sophisticated versions burn wood pellets and will usually feature automatic ignition and pellet feeding systems.

How much energy will a wood burning stove with back boiler generate?
Depending on type of system installed, wood burning stoves with back boilers can be used in support of your existing heating system or, in many cases, to fully power your heating and hot water.  The typical system can generate 10 - 15kW of energy, which is more than enough to provide hot water and heating throughout your home.

Log burners Vs pellet burners

The advantages of log burners:
  • Log burning stoves provide a great way to dispose of (and recover energy from) surplus wood and timber.
  • If you are lucky enough to have your own wood source you could become self-sufficient in providing heating and hot water to your home.
  • Log burners require less maintenance than the more complicated pellet burners.
  • Log burners tend to be less expensive than pellet burners. 
  • Log burners can provide that special cosy feeling inside, just like the traditional open log fire.
  • Contemporary ceramic wood burning stoves can provide an attractive feature in a living room.
The advantages of pellet burners:
  • They are more efficient as the wood fuel is drier and denser.
  • Wood-pellet stoves provide for greater convenience and control than a log burner, with the majority of pellet burners featuring automatic ignition.
  • Pellet burners offer greater control over the temperature of the room in which the stove is situated.
  • Pellets are denser than logs, which makes them easier to transport and reduces the amount of storage space needed.
  • Pellet burners need to be topped up less often than log burners as they are denser and will usually have an integral hopper.
  • Pellet burners are cleaner, produce less ash and are generally easier to look after than log burners.
Are there any constraints with wood burning stoves?
  • You will need space to store the wood, logs or pellets.
  • The market for wood fuel is still in its infancy in the UK.  The cost and quality of wood fuel can fluctuate greatly.
  • Stoves need to be manually fed, log burners in particular will require regular 'topping up'.
  • You will either need to upgrade your existing chimney for fume extraction or install a separate flue
  • The chimney / flue will require regular cleaning.
  • If you are using your own wood source, the wood will need to be "seasoned".  This means it needs to be stored to dry it out (Freshly cut trees have a high moisture content which makes them less suitable as a wood fuel).
What consents will I need before fitting a wood-fuelled heating system?
Planning permission is not normally needed when installing a wood-fuelled heating system in a house if the work is all internal. 

If the installation requires a flue outside it will not need planning permission if the conditions outlined below are met:
  • Flues on the rear or side elevation of the building are allowed to a maximum of one metre above the highest part of the roof.
  • If the building is listed or in a designated area it is advisable to check with your local planning authority before a flue is fitted. Listed Building Consent is also likely to be needed for internal alterations.
  • In a conservation area or in a World Heritage site the flue should not be fitted on the principal or side elevation if it would be visible from a highway.
Wood burning stoves will have to comply with the Building Regulations.  Your installer should take into account factors such as ventilation, noise and general safety. The installer should be suitably qualified, preferably one who belongs to either the Microgeneration Certification Scheme or a relevant Competent Person Scheme.

How much does a wood burning stove with back boiler cost?
Expect to pay upwards of £4,000 for a good quality, pellet burning wood burner with back boiler. This typical cost includes installation and the cost of basic upgrades required to your existing chimney or the cost of installing a flue.

Wood pellets will cost up to £200 per tonne.  Expect to burn at least 10 tonnes of pellets a year.

For log burners, the price of logs fluctuates widely, but you may be in the fortunate position of being able to source your wood fuel for free.

Wood burners are viewed by many energy analysts as a smart long term investment.  Using local wood fuel to heat your home will reduce your reliance on oil, gas and electricity, prices of which are projected to continue to rise over the coming years.

Are there any grants or other funding support available to help pay for wood burning stoves with back boilers?
The Green Deal scheme may be able to help you pay for the upfront costs of the installation through Green Deal financing.  The installation costs will then be paid back over time, with interest,  through your electricity bill.

Your wood burning stove with back boiler could earn you money under the Government's Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.

  • If you have a reliable, local log, wood chip or wood pellet supplier, or even better, if you have you own wood supply and space where the wood can be dried out, then a wood burning stove with back boiler could dramatically reduce your energy bills.
  • Your wood burning stove with back boiler could earn you money through the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme.
  • A top tip from the Energy Saving Trust website is that a wood burning stove with back boiler and solar heating are a great combination as the stove can heat your home and provide hot water in winter and the solar can heat your hot water in the summer when no central heating is required.



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  2. I liked the combination of the wood burning stove with back boiler & solar heating as it can be advantageous in winter & summer.

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