How to choose a multi-fuel or woodburning stove

If you’re looking to install a multi-fuel or woodburning stove in your home, follow this handy advice to make the most of this versatile heating option

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Woodburning stoves are a surprisingly versatile heating option, as freestanding options make it possible to site a stove in almost any room of your home. 

With the right type of smokeless fuel, woodburning stoves are safe to use in Smoke Control Areas, and, if you invest in bags full of freshly cut logs that you’re able to dry out over time, they are an inexpensive source of heat.

The woodburning or multi-fuel Stovax Stockton 5 is a high-efficiency stove that produces a heat output of 4.9kW. Measuring H68.5 x W50.3 x D33.5cm, it costs £829 from Stovax

Types of stove

Multi-fuel stoves

Multi-fuel stoves are easy to clean and offer the greatest flexibility, burning a variety of authorised fuels, such as coal, wood and smokeless fuel. 

These stoves have a grate inside for the fuel to sit on, making them ideal for coal, which needs air to reach it from below to burn effectively. 

Wood, on the other hand, burns best when sitting on a bed of ash, with air circulating from above. Because of these differences, a multi-fuel stove may not be optimised for burning both fuel types at the same time.

Work out what type of fuel you want to burn and what you have access to first, then base your buying decision on that.

The Midi T wood-burning stove has a powerful airwash system, which ensures flames can be appreciated through the large window. It can be installed with the Midline log store base for increased height. With a heat output of 5kW and ultra-clean-burn capability, it is H67.4xW41.6x D35.9cm, and costs from £1,445, Stovax

Woodburning stoves

Woodburning stoves burn all types of wood. Hardwood logs are denser than softwood, giving more heat output, which is measured in kWh per bag. 

Dry wood burns more effectively, so the best option is to store as much wood as you can and dry it out over two to three years.

Buy cheap bags of freshly cut logs (around £50–70 per m3), let it dry out to boost its output, then, you’ll enjoy costs of around 2–3p per kWh. 

Avoid burning the below as they can release toxic gases and cause a build-up of resin in the hearth and flue.

  • Pine
  • Fir
  • Spruce (and other conifers)
  • Salvaged or treated wood
  • Chipboard offcuts
  • Rubbish

Gas and electric stoves

Gas and electric stoves provide flames, or a flame-effect, and heat, without the mess and storage requirements of other fuels. 

Electric stoves are an easy, plug-in choice for homes without a chimney or flue. Look out, too, for new pellet-burning stoves, some of which can be controlled by a mobile phone and timer.

The 6143 woodburning stove’s compact oval column with built-in log storage makes it the perfect choice for rooms where space is at a premium. With a heat output of 5.5kW, is measures H94.7 x W45.1 x D38.6cm. £1,650, Morsø

Where can my stove be fitted?

Stoves can be safely installed in just about any room in the home. If you didn’t want an electric stove, steel chimney systems can be fitted in most locations if there is not an existing chimney. 

The space-enhancing, wall-mounted multi-fuel NEO 1W is ideal for a contemporary setting. It has a simple-to-use single air control, and you can burn wood in it in smoke-controlled areas. Measuring H69.8xW49xD39.7cm, it is made from steel with a cast iron door, has a heat output of 5kW, and costs £1,460, from ACR Heating

How can I get the heat output right?

As a rule of thumb, work out the cubic metre capacity of the room (room height x length x width) and divide it by 14 (or by 20 for a modern, well-insulated home). This will give you the output in kW that you need to be looking for when viewing stoves. 

Before investing, it’s important to have a site survey conducted by a professional registered with the Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme (HETAS). Also make sure that the room is well ventilated to help the heat circulate effectively.

The wood-burning Ergofocus is more replace than stove, but it’s worth considering for a minimalist scheme. It can be suspended from the ceiling or fixed on a base. It is made from stainless steel and finished with heat-resistant matt black paint. Heat output is 5kW, and each one is made-to-measure according to the height of the room; this one has a circumference of 95cm and the height of the flue is approximately 150cm. It costs from £6,508, Focus Fireplaces

Safety considerations

  • Make sure you have a flue in place to safely remove smoke, hot gases and other by-products
  • Avoid positioning the stove too close to walkways and possible combustible materials  
  • Choose suitable fireplace materials and dimensions to match the type of stove you are installing in line with Building Regulations and gas safety rules 
  • Consider a safety gate if you have young children 

The Solution 400 is an efficient, clean-burning convection stove, with a hot airwash system creating fascinating flame patterns. It has an output of 5kW and measures H67.5 x W53.3 x D39cm. £1,662, Clearview

Can I install a stove myself?

It is recommended that a HETAS-registered engineer assesses the area and installs the stove. 

Maintenance

 A service should be carried out annually and the chimney should be swept once a year (or twice if you only burn wood) - this is best done in the summer or autumn to avoid carbon monoxide problems. This is the time to also check the glass seals and internal fire linings.

In wet weather, leave the air supply open to prevent corrosion from rainwater coming down the chimney. 

If the glass of the chamber appears milky, it is because the stove is running too hot and needs some attention.

The wood-burning C310 looks more like a media unit than a stove if you opt for the additional log box and drawer. You can have it freestanding, or slotted into a fireplace or purpose-built chimney. In black or white with a cast iron or glass door, it has a 7kW output, measures H85xW75xD37.5cm, and costs from £1,695, at Contura

Which style of stove should I choose?

For a contemporary home, look for stoves with minimal detailing, dramatic curvaceous or angular shapes, and large glazed doors. 

Taller, slimmer units tend to look more modern than squatter ones; while stoves with concealed back flues also look more streamlined than those with chimneys. 

Choose black or steel finishes for a very minimalist room, white or cream for a traditional Scandi feel, or a colourful one to brighten up a monotone scheme. 

To add texture and interest to your space, as well as practical storage, consider stoves with built-in log stores, too. And don’t forget you’ll need to factor in somewhere dry to store extra fuel until it’s needed.

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