Which wood heater to choose?
Finding the best fireplace to suit your home
Selecting a wood heater for your home relies on more than just aesthetics. Between technical specifications, performance and safety requirements, the selection process can be very daunting and equally confusing.
So which heater is best for your particular home? We compare the different styles of wood heaters to help you find the perfect fiery fit.
Freestanding Wood Heaters vs Inbuilt Wood Heaters:
The location of your wood heater as well as the configuration of your room has to be taken into consideration. While freestanding heaters can create a dramatic focal point, an in-built fireplace uses far less space and can blend seamlessly into a wall.
The materials used to construct your walls and floors will also impact the decision. Inbuilt models will need to be installed in a non-combustible surround casing, with adequate ventilation. Freestanding heaters are more flexible and can be positioned at a safe distance away from a combustible wall, or right up close to a non-combustible wall such as brick or stone. There are also several technical solutions to manage the installation of a wood heater close to combustible surfaces. Easy to install heat protection panels for freestanding heaters help reduce the safety distance required, whilst zero clearance boxes are available to place a fireplace in a wall built with combustible materials. Close to any walls, heat protection shields can be installed which will be less costly than any structural work. The wood heater seller or a qualified installer will be able to advise you.
What’s the difference between Radiant and Convection wood heaters?
Wood burning fireplaces, or stoves, heat through a combination of radiation (which warms objects) and convection (which warms the air). Various models are predominantly one type or the other.
Convection wood heaters work on a cycle of air-current, drawing cool air from the room, heating it up and then rising. Convection wood heaters tend to work best in well-insulated rooms with lower ceilings.
Radiant wood heaters disperse heat into the room by radiating an infrared heat from the outer surfaces of the fireplace onto any surface close by. As a result, the heat stays lower in the room, which is ideal for poorly insulated homes, large open plan spaces, or rooms with high ceilings.
What are Pellet stoves?
Pellet heaters burn a compressed pellet usually made of recycled wood waste (sawdust) and biomass. These are particularly efficient heaters where the combustion is automatically fed fuel from a storage compartment as required. The pellet stoves can then run for long periods of time without requiring any attention. The flame and heat output can be adjusted via a control panel, or sometimes via remote control.
A pellet wood heater is a good option for someone looking for maximum efficiency and convenience. However one must take into consideration that the appliance requires yearly servicing and maintenance. The flame it produces is also noticeably different to that produced by a classic wood heater.
Should I choose an open fireplace or slow-combustion heater?
Though it’s difficult to beat the crackling sound, smoky smell and mesmerizing flames of an open fireplace, this form of wood heating is not particularly efficient, with most of the heat going up the flue. Open fireplaces also tend to consume more wood. Freestanding open fireplace are, however, more efficient than inbuilt open fireplaces, because more of the appliance surface radiates heat into the room.
At the other end of the efficiency scale are slow-combustion wood heaters, with some models recording close to 80% efficiency. With reduced air intake, primary, secondary and tertiary airflow controls (and features such as secondary combustion chambers), these increasingly technologically advanced appliances are a great way heat a home efficiently.
The latest generation of slow combustion wood heaters have been developed especially for ultra energy efficient houses, designed according to passive design principles. These models draw cold air from outside the house and no longer require oxygen to be drawn from the room they are in.
How do suspended fireplaces compare to other heaters?
If you’re looking to add some serious ‘wow-factor’ to a room, it’s difficult to surpass a suspended fireplace. Striking and sculptural they command attention and can instantly add value to a property.
Suspended fireplaces are currently available as open fireplaces or slow combustion wood heaters – and even room air independent models suitable for passive houses. There is currently no gas burning suspended fireplace available, but Focus, the company who invented the concept of a hanging fireplace, is working on the first one.
Wood Heaters VS Gas Fireplaces – Which is better?
If you love the ambiance, smell and general feel of a wood fireplace, a gas model won’t come close. There’s nothing quite like lighting a fire at the end of the day and seeing the wood crackling as it takes hold. For the environmentally conscious wood is also a more sustainable fuel option, as it can be grown and sustainably sourced.
If you do, however, prefer to pass on the firelighters, the stoking, the ashes and the flue cleaning, to instead simply press a button for your instant fire – gas models may be the way to go. They are certainly more convenient, but gas models do have limited heat capabilities, so if you have a larger space to heat, a wood-burning heater could be a better option for your home.
How much heat power do I need from my heater?
Heat is rated in kilowatts, with each wood heater graded to the amount of kilowatts it can produce. Deciding how much power you need depends on how large and well insulated your room is. The heating power of wood heaters varies widely, with some appliances producing as little as 4KW and others up to 16KW.
Before settling on a particular model it is best to ask an expert. The retailer selling the appliance should be able to point you towards a model suitable and adapted to your needs.
Still unsure about which heater is best for your home?