Is a woodburning stove for you?

An old tabby cat soaks up the heat in front of a wood burning stove.

With winter well and truly under way, householders up and down the country will be dreading the arrival of their next energy bill. Many Brits have turned to woodburning stoves in recent years, in a bid to cut their energy costs and enjoy the warm glow of a log fire, but is it really worth the money? If you're considering your options, here's what you need to know.

What are the options?
The standard woodburning stove does what it says on the tin and runs on logs. Most have logs delivered, but if it is not seasoned (i.e. dried for at least a year) you will need a log store in which you can dry the wood yourself before use. Others take pellets or chips, many of which can feed into the stove so that it requires less filling, but they are also more expensive than a logburner. On the other hand, multi-fuel stoves will burn smokeless fuel and coal as well as wood, but if your reasons for buying are the desire for a more eco-friendly home, then a dedicated wood-burner is the best option.

Each of these options will heat only the room that the burner is in, so if you want to heat your whole home, you'll need a wood-burning boiler, and if you require the burner to provide hot water, you'll need an additional back boiler fitted.

What does it cost?
You'll need to fork out a fair price before you start seeing the benefit of a wood burning stove. Of course prices vary greatly, but expect to pay at least £500 for a basic model, and as much as £1,500 for the high-end, designer stoves. And that's not all - installation is the biggest cost you'll have to front. The existing chimney must be swept and lined, and the hearth and surrounding plaster made good, so you could be looking at a cost of anywhere from £750 to £2,000. If you require your woodburner to heat water or more than one room, then you're looking at a good deal more in terms of cash layout, with an automatically-fed pellet burner setting you back around £11,500 including installation.

Then you need to factor in the cost of fuel. Unless you're lucky enough to have your own wood from which to take logs, you'll need to buy them and have them delivered. For one cubic metre of seasoned hardwood, you can expect to pay in the region of £100, more if you live in a city, and this should last you around eight weeks during the winter. Buying unseasoned wood will almost certainly be cheaper, but you'll need that log store and a good year or more to dry the wood properly before you can use it. The chimney will need to be swept each year, which typically costs between £40 and £60 each time.

What are the savings?
Many Brits dream of no longer being a slave to the utility companies thanks to their woodburner, but the truth is, it'll be some years before you start seeing any real financial benefit. Remember that a standard woodburner is only going to heat the room in which it is situated, and if your insulation is poor, you could end up burning through fuel at a rate of knots. Besides that, you'll more than likely need a standard energy supply to heat the rest of the house and provide hot water. According to uSwitch, a single woodburner household could save as much as £130 a year on energy bills, but given the cost of installation, it will be some time before you recoup the initial outlay.

Even if you go the whole hog and replace your gas central heating system with a wood-burning boiler, the savings amount to only around £90 a year, though if your central heating is electric-based, the potential saving of £630 a year and a massive CO2 reduction of 7.5 tonnes just might be worth the money.

Is it for you?
As per the previous point, if your motivation is saving money, then you need to think carefully about whether the cost of installation and the hassle of having logs delivered each year is worth it, particularly if you'll need your central heating to keep the rest of your home warm. Bear in mind too that your woodburner will require a good deal more attention than your average gas or electric central heating system - you'll need to keep feeding the stove in order to ensure heat 24/7.

On the plus side though, they look a good deal prettier in the home than the average radiator, and there is something wonderful about that warm logburning glow.

Have you recently installed a woodburning stove? Was it worth it and why? Leave your comments below...
How to Start a Log Fire in a Wood Burning Stove