Warm Up With Wood

As autumn approaches most of us will have reluctantly turned the central heating back on in the evenings. It’s not just the memory of a warm summer that’s vanishing into thin air – our hard-earned cash seems to vaporise too once the heating goes back on! In the Highlands, many homeowners buy heating oil if mains gas isn’t available and that seems to get costlier with each passing year. A wood burning stove offers a cheaper, greener alternative to oil or gas heating–but choosing the right one for your home should consider more than just how it looks. In this blog we’ll take a look at the main features to consider before making a purchase!

How do you like the heat?

Wood-burning stoves come in two types. Radiant models supply heat through the glass and stove body to warm the immediate surrounding area, which makes them attractive for use in smaller rooms or for additional heat. Convection models, on the other hand, heat the whole room. Cool air is drawn into a convection chamber, then warmed as it rises before flowing out. These models can be suitable for bigger spaces where the warm air can circulate.

All stoves are constructed from steel which heats up quickly, releases plenty of heat and cools quickly once the fire has gone out. A select range of radiant stoves can be clad with soapstone or indian night stone which provides a beautiful look and functions as a heat storage module. The stone has the ability to collect the heat energy and release it slowly for up to 13 hours after the last stoking.

Some wood-burning stoves are also called multi-fuel stoves, which enables burning of other solid fuels including coal and smokeless fuel. Multi-fuel stoves have a riddling grate which allows ash to be riddled into a built-in ash-pan to create the optimum conditions for efficient combustion. A multi-fuel kit can be added to some wood-burning stove models to make them suitable for these solid fuels.

Finally, a high output boiler stove is one which is designed to supply hot water and central heating in your home, and as such, performs best with high calorie solid mineral fuels. The stove has an in-built water jacket which is connected to your hot water circuits. Some models can perform suitably when burning wood.

Where will a stove look best?

The choice of stove types and designs available now can be quite overwhelming. Look at the room in which you want to locate a stove and consider how you move around the space. If space is at a premium you might want to consider a cassette stove – one which is inset into a wall or false chimney breast with a concealed flue. With this approach there is often scope to create a bespoke space for log storage within the wall too.  

Freestanding stoves can have a mount or legs or a base which often incorporates a small wood store. Many modern freestanding stoves are designed with a slightly elevated combustion chamber and a top mounted flue as a focal point. The traditional style stove is designed to fit within a fire surround and so tends to be smaller and more squat in appearance, with a rear mounted flue.  Whichever style you choose, the Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme (HETAS) recommends that a lined flue is fitted as part of the wood-burning stove installation process.

With the choice of inset or freestanding stoves, homeowners have the choice of location for their stove in the rooms they use most. Stoves can make a great focal point in any room, but with modern houses incorporating more open-plan spaces, kitchen and dining areas are becoming popular choices for a well-situated stove.

What fuel type is available in your area?

Wood is an attractive fuel source to many because of the beautiful flame effects and the environmental credentials – when burnt the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is approximately the same as that absorbed by the tree during growth making it a carbon neutral fuel. Unlike coal it also a renewable fuel source. When you purchase or harvest wood for burning, try to source wood grown in plantations or cultivated woodland, and choose hardwood over softwood to get the greatest calorific output (heat) from your stove.

Many town and city homes are located in Smoke Control Areas as designated by the 1993 Clean Air Act. A stove installed in a SCA building must be DEFRA exempt, meaning that fuel burns so cleanly within it that emissions of smoke are minimised. Many stove manufacturers are now striving to make their stoves so clean-burning that they are compliant both with DEFRA smoke limits and the forthcoming 2022 Ecodesign Regulations. If you live in a SCA, it is important to know which wood-burning stoves are approved for use in SMAs, and whether they need to be fitted with additional kit.

Energy efficiency

All manufacturers provide the efficiency of each model in their brochures or specifications and it is not now the USP it used to be. Combustion technology innovations mean that the most recently designed stoves are all highly efficient and clean-burning. Some will have airwash systems or have options for supply of external air supply which can be necessary for modern air-tight homes. The most efficient wood-burning stoves are between 80% and 90% energy efficient, compared with only 15% to 30% for open fires. This is because stoves use baffles, which move the hot air around the inside of the firebox ,and dampers, which slow the inward flow of cold air and the rate at which the wood burns. No matter which stove you choose, you will achieve better heating and hygge with a stove than a conventional fireplace.


Almost all wood-burning stoves bought from a trusted independent retailer such as Highland Home Centre come with a two-year warranty that can be extended to five years. It’s tempting to shop online, but only with a visit to an experienced retailer can you see a selection of functioning models in a showroom and discuss your individual requirements. Highland Home Centre has many models on display and can also advise on all the technical aspects of stove selection, operation and maintenance and can provide installation and after sales support.

If you are concerned with the costs and reliability of conventional power heating, the energy savings you can achieve over a stove lifetime make a wood-burning stove the best investment you could make this winter.