A wood burning stove offers many benefits when compared with other forms of domestic heating, but perhaps the most apparent is the quality of the heat produced. A wood burning stove transmits heat energy, a.k.a. radiant heat, via electromagnetic waves, rather than by conduction, or convection, which require particles. Heat energy radiates through a full 360 degrees around the stove, warming the surrounding area more effectively than, say, an open fire, which allows up to 85% of the heat produced to disappear up the chimney.
An open fire also tends to create an updraft, which sucks warmth out of the surrounding area. In the case of a wood stove, though, manual or automatic inlet controls supply, or deny, air to the firebox to maintain clean combustion and pleasant, comfortable warmth throughout your living space. Of course, this type of stove also continues to radiate heat after the fire has been extinguished, so your home remains warm and cosy for hours afterwards.
Aesthetically, log burners and wood stoves come in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes that can be accommodated in most homes. Indeed, they can create a contemporary, stylish focal point, which adds to the appeal of your living space visually, as well as functionally.
Hardwood or softwood logs are cheaper than coal, oil and natural and, if burnt efficiently, in properly engineered systems, produce less smoke and fewer airborne pollutants than fossil fuel alternatives. Trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow and when the wood is burnt an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere. Small amounts of carbon dioxide are released during the processing and transportation of wood fuels so, while the overall operation is not quite carbon-neutral, burning wood from sustainable sources, such as cultivated woodland, is much more environmentally friendly than burning fossil fuels. In fact, in rural France, many people rely on wood for domestic heating and cultivate woodland specifically for that purpose.
Furthermore, according to the Stove Industry Alliance, wood burning stoves typically have an efficiency between 60% and 80%, whereas open fires have an efficiency of approximately 32% and gas fires have an efficiency of approximately 55%.
The amount of energy produced by the complete combustion of a fuel is known as its calorific value. As far as fuel for a log burning fire is concerned, hardwoods, such as ash, beech, sycamore and softwoods, such as pine, larch and spruce, have the same calorific value, by weight. However, softwoods are less dense than hardwoods, so you may need as many twice as many logs to achieve the equivalent energy output. In any case, burn only kiln-dried, or at least ready-seasoned, wood, with moisture content below 20%. Kiln-dried wood is the more expensive option, but it is also the more efficient. Any moisture in logs burnt in a log burning fire simply boils away as steam, reducing the amount of useful heat produced. According to Which? households with a wood stove typically burn between three and four cubic metres of logs each year.