Considering buying a wood burning stove?

Are you one of the 18% who are considering getting a wood burning stove or fireplace for your home, or are any of your friends and neighbours? As well as being a source of particulate pollution in your home and neighbourhood there may be other reasons to reconsider a purchase. Here we will dig under the advertising and unpack some ideas around wood burning stoves.


There are claims that running a wood burning stove is cheaper than than central heating. In reality kiln dried logs are usually more expensive per kWh of heat output than gas central heating. Global Action Plan recently published a study comparing the costs of different methods of heating, this also confirms that the only way that a wood burning stove can save money is if you have access to free firewood and, if you live in London, you are most likely to be living in a smoke control area and it is illegal to burn waste, or unseasoned wood in your wood burning stove.

Some commentators say that it is cheaper to just heat one room with a wood burning stove than heating the whole home with central heating. The use of thermostatic radiator vales (TRVs) to turn down, or off, the heating in unused rooms, will have the same money-saving effect.


A well maintained central heating system should be warm enough to heat the entire home, check the system, bleed the radiators and look at insulation to get the most out of your current system. Timers and  phone apps allow you to turn the heating on before you get home so that you can walk into a warm room, rather than spending time laying and lighting a fire when you walk in the door.

Lack of central heating

Some people will be looking to install a wood burning stove as a sole, or primary source of household heating. The Boiler Upgrade Scheme can offer a grant of £7,500 towards the cost of an air or ground source heat pump. The running costs of a heat pump will be comparable with the cheapest of kiln dried logs without the need to find, or build, somewhere to store cubic metres of logs out of the rain.

Nostalgia, atmosphere and entertaining

Many of us associate fires with warmth, cheer, and good entertaining. Christmas advertising is full of images of decorated mantels and toasting chestnuts and open fires. Looking past the fantasy, the reality is that burning wood in an open fire is illegal in a smoke control area and manufactured solid fuels (MSF) or anthracite don’t have the same emotional pull. If you want to be a good host it’s important to acknowledge that wood smoke, indoors or outside, can trigger asthma attacks and cause difficulties for guests with heart or lung disease.


There are claims made around the environmental benefits of wood as a local and renewable energy source. Please read our earlier article about the environmental impacts of wood burning.

Self sufficiency and energy security

There are few people in London who will be growing their own wood for burning. Some consumers will be buying wood from small, independently owned woodlands, but the UK is a large importer of wood, including wood products for burning. A significant amount of the wood that is purchased for domestic burning has been grown outside the UK and then transported and sold to consumers by companies that may be domiciled outside the UK. For many consumers this makes wood an insecure form of energy.

In summary the most effective way of reducing air pollution and protecting everyone’s health is simply to avoid burning any wood, coal, or other solid fuels at home and the best heating source for your home can be economical and less polluting.

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