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Log Burning Stoves: Your Guide to Choosing the Right Model

log burning stove
(Image credit: ACR Stoves)

A log burning stove seems to have become something of a must-have feature for many of us these days. No wonder really — they ensure comfort and character and provide a warming focal point too. 

Before buying one, do read on to make sure you choose the best log burning stove for your home. 

Types of Log Burning Stoves

There are several different type of log burning stove and they differ in the way in which they heat the space. 

Radiant stoves, as the name suggests, radiate heat through the glass and stove body, providing a focal point to cosy up to (they’re still perhaps popular because they most resemble open fires in this way). This type of stove is safest when installed within a chimney breast or inglenook, and soapstone is sometimes used to clad the top and sides; this stone absorbs, stores and slowly radiates heat.

A convection stove, however, features an outer shell or additional side panels which clad the combustion chamber — the heat is transferred to the air caught within this outer shell and is, in turn, distributed around the room.

They’re a better option for freestanding stoves – as the sides don’t get so hot – and good in open plan spaces where they’re likely to be used as a secondary heating stove.

(MORE: Get a quote for your log burning stove)

log burning stoves

The Small Farringdon stove from Arada has a heat output of 11.4kW and can burn at low levels for more than 10 hours.  (Image credit: Arada)

How Much Does a Log Burning Stove Cost?

Prices for log burning stoves tends to start from around £500 — although many models cost far more than this. 

You will also need to factor in the cost of installing a log burning stove. Costs range from £400 up to over £1,000 depending on the work that needs to be carried out and the existing fireplace opening and chimney. 

Editor's Note: Homebuilding.co.uk partners with the UK's best log burning stove suppliers to match your requirements with their products. Simply answer a few questions on what you need from your log burning stove and we’ll put you in touch with a suitable partner.

Log Burning Stoves and the Building Regulations

For your log burning stove to comply with the Building Regulations you will need to choose fireplace materials suitable for the type of stove you are fitting. The Regulations surrounding log burners can be found within Document J.

The easiest way to ensure that your new stove is in line with the buildng regs concerning sire safety is to have it installed by a HETAS-registered installer who can self-certify the installation. 

log burning stove

The Larchdale Woodburner from ACR Stoves (Image credit: ACR Stoves)

Is a Log Burning Stove the Right Choice for my Home?

There are several factors which will influence whether or not a log burning stove is the right choice for you.

If you live in a town or city, do check to see if you’re within a Smoke Control Area; you can find out by contacting your local authority or visiting its website. If you do find yourself in one, then you’ll only be able to burn DEFRA-approved smokeless fuel (such as anthracite) — wood certainly is not one.

Alternatively, if you do want to burn wood or non-exempt fuels, you’ll need to specify a DEFRA-exempt stove; there’s a list available here, but you’ll find that most manufacturers and suppliers are quick to mark out models with this stamp of approval.

The house itself may impact on your decision, too.

Stoves need air for combustion to take place. In order to obtain a sufficient air supply, the air within the room needs to be replenished.

In older, draughty homes, and particularly those with large rooms, this doesn’t tend to be an issue. However, in modern, well-insulated, airtight self built homes, this is not the case.

The situation is further complicated by mechanical ventilation systems. Room-sealed stoves with a direct air supply (which basically means the air is taken from outside the house, not inside) have an important application here.

If you do have an airtight home, look out for models which provide all the air the stove needs externally — some only provide the primary air source, with air still drawn from the room.

Finally, there are some small tasks associated with owning a log burner — for example, fetching in dry logs, and in the case of multi-fuel stoves, you'll need to clean out the ask pan. It's not for everyone; a gas or electric log-effect fire might an alternative for those who like the look without the maintenance.

log burning stove

Stoves from the Dartmoor Baker range from Ludlow Stoves  have an integral oven above the fire box utilising the heat from the fire to cook bake or warm delicious food.  (Image credit: Ludlow Stoves)

What are the Best Logs to Burn on a Log Burning Stove?

Before setting your heart on a log burning stove, it’s essential to establish whether you have a supply of firewood readily and locally available.

You may choose to plan for the year ahead and purchase logs to season (air dry) yourself, which will happily bring cost benefits, but you will require a log store, preferably one close to the house, to do so.

If you’re unable to pin down a good, reliable supplier or are short on space to season and/or store wood, then a multifuel stove could be a good idea; they give the option of burning solid fuels such as smokeless anthracite, briquettes, as well as wood.

There’s a key difference between the ways in which these fuels are burnt; while wood burns best on a bed of ash with air circulating above, conversely, solid fuels require air circulating below. Multifuel stoves are designed for both tasks, although some woodburning stoves can be specified with a removable grate for the purpose of burning solid fuels.

log burning stove

Contemporary Purevision freestanding stove from Ludlow Stoves (Image credit: Ludlow Stoves)

The efficiency of your stove is down to several things but, perhaps most of all, what you actually burn in it. The calorific value of timber does vary slightly from timber to timber but it’s actually the moisture content (MC) that has the biggest impact on how many kWh you get out of each log.

Wood with too high a moisture content will be difficult to light, cause soot and even impact on the longevity of your stove and your flue.

“When newly chopped, most woods tend to have a moisture content of around 60 to 80 percent — they require a substantial amount of drying before being suitable to burn,” says Stephen Talbot of Logs Direct. “We wouldn’t recommend burning wood with more than a 25 percent moisture content, and ideally you should be looking for less than 20 percent.”

If you’re intending to cut and season wood yourself, then it’s also worth checking the maximum log length your stove will hold; some can hold logs up to 550mm or longer.

How Efficient are Log Burning Stoves?

Establishing the heat output (which is measured in kW) required in the room is something to consider early on. Too small, and the stove will be inadequate for purpose. It’s perhaps tempting to opt for a stove with a considerably larger output than required, ‘just in case’.

However, stoves work best when operating at high temperature, achieving close to their heat output — with too large a stove, you could find yourself constantly cutting the air supply and dampening the fire right down (which in turn impacts on efficiency) to cool off. So, it’s important to get it right.

For every 14m³ of space, approximately 1kW is required to achieve a comfortable temperature. So to estimate the heat output required, divide the room in cubic metres (length x width x height) by 14.

This calculation provides only a rough estimate however, as factors such as the level of insulation, wall construction, the number of window or door openings, and features such as open stairwells have a bearing. It’s therefore a good idea to have a HETAS installer undertake a survey to ensure you specify the right model.

log burning stove

The Fintan from Ludlow Stoves is a DEFRA exempt multi-fuel stove. It can be installed in houses, conservatories, bell tents and houseboats! (Image credit: Ludlow Stoves)

Are Log Burning Stoves Being Banned in the UK?

In short, no, although there are a few new rules under the Clean Air Strategy coming into effect. The Strategy is aimed at ensuring that by 2022 only clean and efficient stoves will be available to buy and that wood fuel must have a moisture content of 20% or less. It also states that all new stoves must be Ecodesign models. 

However, there will be no ban on the use of existing log or multi-fuel stoves. 

You can find out more about Ecodesign compliant stoves on the HETAS website

Can I Burn Charcoal in a Log Burning Stove?

Charcoal, or coal, gets extremely hot when burnt. Stoves designed for burning coal should have been designed to do so and will need a grate in the firebox — many log burners will not have ever been designed to burn coal and should not therefore be used. 

If you want to have the option of burning coal or wood, choose a multi-fuel stove instead.  

How to Store Fuel for a Log Burning Stove 

In order to get the best from your log burning stove you need a good supply of dry, seasoned wood.

Once you have found a good supplier of dry logs and ensured they are chopped to a size appropriate to your stove, you will need to store them properly. 

Invest in a good log store that is situated so that it can keep the wood dry and sheltered from driving rain — a sunny spot is ideal.

Air needs to be allowed to circulate around your logs so keep the wood off the ground on a pallet if your log store is not already off the ground. Stack logs on top of one another but aim to keep the stack only one log deep to ensure air can get to them all and prevent rot.

If you choose to season (air dry) your own wood, then it should be located in a covered, open-sided log store (allowing air to circulate, but protected from the elements) — it can take a year to season, and even longer with some hardwoods. Another option is buying kiln-dried wood.

log storage

The Aldsworth Log Store from Garden Trading keeps wood off the floor and allows a good air supply.  (Image credit: Garden Trading)

Special Features to Look Out For

‘Cleanburn’ is a term which you’ll likely come across during specification. This involves the introduction of additional air which burns the gases given off in the first burn, preventing them from escaping up the flue, or sooting up the glass screen. 

On that note, ‘airwash’ also helps with the latter; air is blown over the inside surface of the glass to prevent combustion gases creating soot here.

Stovax offer a function called Opti-Burn. “It works by offering the best balance between heat output and the airwash function; the result is an efficient burn that is clean, so you can still enjoy the flames and embers through the glass,” says Stovax’s Matt Beckenham. 

Some manufacturers such as Hwam provide an autopilot feature which regulates air intake for maximum efficiency, meaning you don’t have to control the stove manually.

log burning stove

Arada’s i600 Slimline can burn wood or solid fuel at an output of 4.9kW. Shown here in slate grey, the stove comes in seven stylish colours.  (Image credit: Arada)

How Much Do Log Burning Stoves Cost to Run?

The key to success depends on the fuel you’re buying. For a start, hardwood logs are denser than softwoods and you’ll receive more kWh from a cubic metre bag of hardwoods than softwoods — but softwoods are usually cheaper. While the type of wood offers a variable in output, it’s not massive — by far the biggest impact is moisture content.

The table below is a very general guide to how moisture content affects kWh output.

Moisture contentApprox. kWH/kg
10% (kild dried/brickettes)5
30%3.5
40%3
50% (freshly cut)2.5

Most merchants sell in cubic metre bags but the weight of these bags will vary depending largely on the moisture content.

  • Kiln dried logs (where the moisture is below 10%) will cost £120-£140 per cubic metre bag. But the weight of these will be just 250kg.
  • A bag of ‘seasoned’ logs where the moisture content (MC) can still be up to as much as 30%, even after 12 months of air drying, will weigh on average 300kg per cubic metre bag and cost you between £70 and £90.
  • A cubic metre of freshly cut logs would come in at 500kg with a moisture content of 50% and be cheapest at £50 per bag.

So let’s work out the relative values of those different options based on the above assumptions.

Type of logCost/kgCost/kWh
Fresh (50% MC)10p4p (at 2.5kWh/kg)
Seasoned (25%)26p6.5p (at 4kWh/kg)
Dried/brickettes (10%)52p10.4p (at 5kWh/kg)

So, perhaps surprisingly, the figures show that the differences in price between dried and freshly cut logs are not usually reflected in the improved outputs you’ll receive (by paying more for dried). The best option is to store as much wood as you can and dry it out over two to three years. The trick is to buy cheap bags of freshly cut logs (at £50-£70 per bag) and then let them dry out to boost output to 4-5kWh/kg. You’ll then be enjoying costs of around 2p-3p/kWh.

In terms of your annual heat demand figure, heating a typical room to say 4kW all day (24 hours) would have used up 96kWh of energy — the equivalent of £4.32 at current gas prices (that’s assuming, of course, that the heating isn’t very well controlled and you lose a lot of heat). The cost for a woodburner to do the same (based on the above figures) would be £3.84£9.60, or as little as £2 if you can dry logs yourself over two to three years.

Maintenance for a Log Burning Stove

To ensure your log burning stove is working as efficiently as possible and continues to do so well into the future, there are several steps you should take to ensure its upkeep. These include: 

  • Removing a build up of ash every few days if using daily
  • Checking the baffle plate (also known as a throat or deflector plate) for sooty build up
  • Clean the glass regularly (damp newspaper dipped in the ash works a treat)
  • Regularly check the rope seal around the doors for signs of damage
  • Have your chimney swept at least once a year