Home improvement: Warm up your Suffolk home - and your feet - with a woodburner

Ellen Widdup interiors feature - woodburners

Ellen Widdup interiors feature - woodburners - Credit: Archant

January can be a miserable month. Christmas is over, the days are dark and the cold is setting in.

Ellen Widdup interiors - woodburning stoves

Ellen Widdup interiors - woodburning stoves - Credit: Archant

But just because your home is missing that festive sparkle, doesn’t mean you can’t flood it with warmth for the New Year.

Ellen Widdup interiors feature - woodburners

Ellen Widdup interiors feature - woodburners - Credit: Archant

Here Ellen Widdup looks at the rise of the most popular heating solution in interior design circles – the woodburner.

Ellen Widdup interiors feature - woodburners

Ellen Widdup interiors feature - woodburners - Credit: Archant

Everyone loves a wood-burning stove.

And with the onset of the January blues - caused by short days, miserable weather and cabin fever – sales of this popular warmth generator are on the up.

Most of us spend 15 hours a day cooped up indoors at this time of year, according to a recent survey.

So what better way to do this than curled up in front of something that is as stylish as it is practical?

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Warm it up

The blasting power of our gas central heating systems can certainly warm the cockles.

But while these modern solutions to home comfort are simple and effective, they are not cheap.

And if the thought of this month’s heating bill is enough to make you reach for another jumper, you’re not alone.

Average energy prices have jumped by 75% and gas by 125% in the past 10 years and now annual household bills stands at around £1,264.

This might explain why so many of us are considering other options.

Woodburners have long been a favourite for country folk cut off from the gas network and with a ready supply of fuel to burn.

But they are now being found in the homes of towns and cities across Britain.

So what is their appeal? And, after the Christmas splurge, are they really worth forking out for?

Get to the hearth of it

These stoves really took off in 2009, after gas companies started to drastically increase customers’ bills and fears were raised about Russia turning off the pipeline that provided much of Britain’s energy.

They were marketed as an environmentally friendly and cheaper alternative to heating your home and were snapped up as a design statement that harked back to the 70s Good Life movement.

The stove became the aspirational object of a new affluent frugality.

As such, the Stove Industry Alliance reported 180,000 wood-burners installed in a single year.

It estimates close to one million homes in Britain now have one.

Home is where the hearth is

Richard Fewings is the founder and managing director of Glowing Embers in Braintree, Essex.

Like other experts in the field, he says wood-burning stoves are the most cost-efficient and eco-friendly way to heat a home.

But he said there were a number of essential things to consider when choosing a wood-burning stove alongside energy efficiency.

“Contemporary stoves have extremely high efficiency ratings,” he said. “Overall, when compared with more traditional sources of heating - gas, oil and electricity, wood burning stoves are also more environmentally friendly.

“Heating bills plummet once a wood burning stove is installed so you should consider the cost of your heating and the savings you might make.

“But you should look at practicalities as well as style.

“The most important thing is to match your requirements with the stove you might choose.

“Calculating your heat output requirement is an essential part of this and we have a heat output calculator to help do this.

“It’s also important not to forget about building regulations as they are also an essential part of your decision-making.

“Stoves that are being fitted into fireplaces must be fitted with a minimum clearance surrounding them and combustible materials must be kept a certain distance away.

“There must also be a minimum amount of hearth in front of the stove in order to comply.”

A focal point for the front room

Stove designs have moved on significantly.

The chunky, black, country-style stoves of yore are still available but today they’re supplemented by an eclectic variety of design inspirations.

Richard said: “Cast iron stoves are by far the most popular style of wood burning stoves in the UK.

“But contemporary looking stoves have grown in popularity too, offering a unique mix of traditional charm with a modern twist.”

Whether you’re after Victorian Gothic, Fifties retro or ultra-contemporary minimalist, you’ll find it – and in matt or enamel finishes and colours ranging from red and cream to blue and green.

Wood-burning stoves also now look as effective in a contemporary urban home as in a country cottage.

And don’t panic if you don’t have a chimney.

Fireplace technology has developed to such an extent that you no longer need a hole in the roof and you can install a wall-mounted flueless fire.

Wood-burning stoves can also be used without a chimney although you need to have a special insulated stovepipe fitted, which will run through the roof or wall.

Woodburners by numbers

The average woodburner installation costs around £1,500, including sweeping and lining the chimney.

Opting to heat water or other rooms will increase the cost.

For the fuel, seasoned hardwood (dried for at least a year) costs about £80-£110 per 1m3, including delivery, which could last a 5kW woodburner a couple of winter months.

It’s cheaper to buy unseasoned logs and ‘season’ them, but you need storage space.

According to the Energy Saving Trust, a room heater will typically replace 10% of annual heating requirements.

For a largish stove with a back boiler providing hot water, this is 20%, but only saves a gas-heated three-bed semi about £90 a year.

Savings for a house using electricity are higher at almost £400 a year.