The right stove can save you money

Replacing an open fire with a stove can reduce energy consumption by up to 10 per cent

Did you know stoves are up to three times more energy efficient than open fires and they keep the house warm even when not being used because of the reduction in ventilation heat losses? Replacing an open fire with an efficient stove can reduce the household energy consumption by 8 per cent to 10 per cent. So it’s no surprise that they have grown in popularity in recent years.

There are a lot of factors to consider before you buy to make sure you get the perfect stove for your home. An important part of this selection process is getting the right size and heat output. Many retailers have an online website calculator to help you figure it out.

Use the following calculation as a general rule of thumb. height (m) x length (m) x width (m) x .0606 will give you the required power output in kW. This calculation should be used as a guide. The heat required may vary depending on how well your room is insulated and how much natural sunlight you get. Typically a well-insulated room of 2.4m x 4.5m x 6.0m would need a stove of 3.6kW heat output. However, if poorly insulated, the room would need 5.4kW of heat output.

Survey

Don’t buy a stove based on this calculation alone, though, as there are other factors to consider. It’s advisable to get an approved installer to carry out a survey before buying. This survey should also inform you about issues relating to building regulations such as carbon monoxide detectors, the size of the hearth and flue, the distance between the stove and combustible items. Everything should be inspected again after fitting and smoke tested to ensure there are no leaks.

The space you have will also determine the kind of stove you choose. Insert stoves are integrated stoves built into the standard fireplace opening. These are the ideal solution for smaller rooms or narrow hearths. Freestanding stoves tend to be bigger and take up more space in the room. They can be located on an existing hearth provided it’s suitable for the size and weight of the stove.

Fuel

What kind of fuel source best suits you? Most people are familiar with woodburning stoves in which you can only burn wood, but there are also multifuel stoves which can burn anthracite, coal, smokeless fuel, seasoned peat briquettes and dried wood. Do not use high moisture content fuels as they will affect performance and damage the unit.

When it comes to wood the general rule of thumb is that the drier the wood, the better it will burn. Wood should be burned when the moisture content is below 25 per cent, or “air dry”. You can tell a log is dry if the bark comes away easily in the hand and the wood has splits across the grain.

If you have a back boiler in your fireplace it must be decommissioned before installing a stove. The existing connections can then be reconfigured to connect with your new stove. A back boiler helps to improve your heating efficiency and save money. The Stanley Cara+ Insert stove, for example, heats up to 10 radiators and provides a comfortable 3.6kW of heat to the room itself. (Recommended retail price starts at €1,699.)

Before installing your new solid fuel stove, ensure your chimney/flue has been professionally inspected and that any required cleaning or repair work has been carried out. It is important the chimney is thoroughly cleaned before and after installing the stove, and it will require annual servicing and inspection. You should also have your chimney swept annually.

Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant. optimise-design.com

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