More and more people seem to be buying wood burning stoves these days, but their leap in popularity is also causing a leap of the criminal kind.
Managers of nature reserves have been complaining that people are coming on site and stealing wood for use as firewood for wood burning stoves. The rise of wood burning stoves coupled with the economic situation is being blamed, although obviously that’s no excuse to go around pinching wood.
The Daily Mail report on these incidents talks to Phil Dykes, East Lancashire reserves officer for the Wildlife Trust. The nature reserve at Colne, Lancashire (not far from me) has been particularly singled out, with a lot of wood having gone missing from the site. Thieves haven’t been deterred, despite signs being put up warning that the areas were being patrolled by police.
The problem stems from stacks of wood usually being left in the area for donation or to help with bio-diversity and encourage the arrival of insects, birds, fungi and eventually new trees. People are seeing these stacks and taking their pick. Worse, in one case a tree was even felled and a chainsaw used to cut it up.
The people picking up the wood may not be aware that what they’re doing is wrong, although Carol Riley, chairman of Alkincoats Woodland Nature Reserve Group in Colne, said that some of the warning signs had been ripped down. If you’re going to buy a wood burning stove then you should really read up on the rules regarding wood foraging to be absolutely sure what you’re doing is legal. You can’t just go on to private land and pick up wood, and even in public areas – such as places owned by the UK’s Forestry Commission – it’s most likely that you need a licence to pick up fallen wood.
By buying a wood burning stove you’ll cut your heating costs significantly, but you should be aware that it’s not always possible to get hold of free wood to burn as fuel. However, there are still a number of ways to get it for free or at least at a low price. We’ve put these methods together into a handy post.
To Install a Stove Your Need to be HETAS Registered
HETAS stands for the Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme, and it was set up by the government as a body to regulate the wood burning and solid fuel stove industry here in the UK. From a consumer’s perspective, using an engineer who is HETAS registered to install a new wood burning stove or service an old one means that you are getting a guarantee of quality and should be safe in the knowledge that your wood burner is not going to poison the family with carbon dioxide. Wood burning stoves are hugely fashionable at the moment, partly because using one to heat your house often works out cheaper than heating it with gas or electricity, and partly because the warm glow from a stove gives a focal point to any living space. HETAS also regulates other forms of alternative energy such as biomass, and as the country becomes increasingly energy aware these sorts of heating systems will become more important in the future. Many heating engineers and builders feel that adding HETAS accreditation will enhance their business, and becoming registered is not as complex as you many think.
Through the year, HETAS runs a variety of different courses which are the best starting point for ticking all of the boxes required for accreditation. Some of the courses are aimed at builders or plumbers who have previous experience in installing and maintaining heating systems, others are more general courses which are aimed at beginners or people with no prior knowledge. Courses are outsourced to a variety of training companies which operate at training centres across the country from Glasgow to Exeter, including Wales and Northern Ireland too. A full listing of the approved training centres and the courses offered is available on the HETAS website in the section aimed at professionals rather than consumers.
Curriculum and Certification
The courses offered at HETAS approved centres vary in terms of length and what is covered. For example, the course covering the installation of chimneys in domestic properties only lasts one day, and all that is required is appropriate work experience. However, the in depth Biomass Installation course lasts five days, and one of the prerequisites is the successful completion of the more basic course. Once any of the HETAS courses at an approved centre is successfully completed, the candidate is awarded a certificate which they can then use to be listed on the website.
Once you have done the appropriate courses and have the certificates, you can then apply to HETAS for listing on their website under their approved installers section. This gives enormous benefits to any business in the heating business, as HETAS are rapidly becoming the only port of call for consumers who are looking for a competent, approved engineer to install their biomass or solid wood burner. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the problems surrounding a shoddy installation of a wood burner, and are advised to go to HETAS to find a qualified person. It may cost several hundred pounds to go through the HETAS training and gain the certificates, but this outlay is more than justified by the increased work which will be gained when listed on the website.
Once you are HETAS registered you have the added advantage of being able to self-certify your own work. For example, if you are HETAS registered and are asked to install a wood burner in a client’s new extension, you simply issue them with a certificate saying that the work has been carried out to HETAS standards. If you are not registered, the homeowner then has to get someone else in to certify the work instead. This adds time and cost to the overall process, and it’s easy to see why customers and project managers prefer working with people who can provide an all in one service. Many people who have been installing wood burners for decades with no accreditation may feel that HETAS certification is an unnecessary hoop to jump through, but having the certificate opens so many more doors in terms of attracting and keeping customers.
The Harshest Winter In 60 Years – Are You Ready?
We’re all well aware of how the country operates when there’s a bit of snowfall – it doesn’t. Everything comes to a halt. Even with weeks of notice; our preparation for dealing with the harsh temperatures and weather associated with winter just isn’t up to scratch. Whilst the country on a whole might not be able to get it right, that doesn’t mean you, as an individual, have to be the same…
So, just how bad is it going to be you ask? To sum it up, pretty horrific. All major news sites and papers are predicting huge snowfall and record low temperatures; if it’s a scare tactic, it’s certainly working. The Express has detailed that there will be 3 months of unrelenting snow and terrible weather, Sky has suggested everywhere will start flooding due to a wet October and further rainfall, Brits will be exposed to a ‘super freeze’ where Scotland face temperatures as low as -6°C and England -3°C.
I’d love to say there’s some good news, but there isn’t. Everything that has been predicted and forecast so far makes it seem that this winter really is going to be ‘the daddy’ of all winters. For those who aren’t old enough to remember the winter of 1947 – which featured some of the coldest temperatures on record and unprecedented amounts of snowfall – this will likely be the worst winter you’ve encountered.
Expert forecasters who have been doing this for many years have predicted with confidence that the next 3 months will be treacherous. With unrelenting snowfall, freezing temperatures and ice-cold winds all battering the UK, there won’t be much we can do except sit back and take it. You can expect to see temperatures dip to these levels starting next week as arctic air whooshes in from the North Pole and kick starts the winter weather perils.
At first the temperature drops will only affect Scotland and the rest of the UK is only supposed to ‘slightly’ dip below the average for November. However, these lower than average temperature will soon start to manifest problems throughout the entire country with wintry showers of snow and rain. For those who haven’t already, it’s time to invest in a nice coat and pair of gloves (and maybe a sled for the kids)!
Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/avail/2354760888/ - Snowfolk by Andrea Vail on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons Licence.
What does this mean for the country?
Well, let’s be honest. A few inches of snow usually render the entire country useless. Public transport is usually the first to take the hit with train services and flights being delayed, if not completely shut off, with the buses not too far behind. That often leaves people to make their own way to work or to the family house for Christmas which isn’t easy when roads are covered in half a foot of snow or closed due to crashes. And even when the snow gets cleared, the ice that remains is usually enough to keep people off the road.
So, in summary, it’s safe to say that the country will slowly grind to a halt as all transport links and methods of getting around become near impossible. Unless you live close enough to walk to work or have the ability to work from home, your winter may be considerably different to what you’re used to!
Obviously there are some people that will remain sceptical; after all, it’s in our nature to not believe people without strong evidence. Online forums, websites and general chat around the office gives off the impression that nobody really believes the so-called-experts and that “they’ll believe it when they see it”, which may well be too late…
How can you prepare?
Well, the government and local authorities have already stockpiled grit (much more than previous years, thankfully) in order to try and keep the roads open. But, who knows how long that will work for? We don’t want to say go out and panic buy things, because it’s pointless. Remember the whole Francis Maude panic-buy-petrol kerfuffle? Yeah, that was ridiculous and we don’t want to turn this into anything like that. We just want people to be safe, warm and fed.
Bad weather usually leads to a loss of power; maybe for a couple of hours, maybe for a day or two, who knows what to expect. But make sure your source of heating doesn’t rely on power from someone else. We might be a bit biased, but a stove which is capable of burning wood or other fuels is a good investment to make, especially with this around the corner. Buy in a load of logs that will last you until spring and you’re sorted – no worries!
Following that, you want to make sure you’ve’ve got essential foods and staples in your diet. Don’t go out and buy half a year’s worth of food, but it might be wise to do a ‘monthly shop’ rather than a ‘weekly shop’ towards the start of December. As well as that, if you’re planning on doing some travelling, make sure you have some emergency equipment on hand. Things such as torches, foldable snow shovels, warm clothes and car-care kits are strongly recommended.
Personally, we’re hoping this turns out to be a bit of an exaggerated winter, but at the same time we’d rather be on the safe side if it does turn out as predicted. We wish you all the best over the winter period and hope everyone stays warm and safe.
Getting a Professional to Install Your Wood burning Stove
Deciding to invest in a wood burning stove is a big step and one which makes some people a little nervous. There is so much choice out there and how do you know where to find a reputable installation expert? One thing is for certain and that’s the fact that you should never attempt to install your own wood burning stove unless you are appropriately qualified. Wood burning stoves are quite complex to install properly and every case is different…no two homes will have the same requirements with regards to installation.
One way to ensure that you find a properly qualified person for the job is to visit the HETAS website; HETAS are the official body of solid fuel domestic heating appliances and fuels. HETAS is recognised by the government in terms of recommending qualified installers and services related to solid fuel appliances such as wood burning stoves. HETAS are a good source of advice when it comes to looking for chimney sweeps and flue specialists too…so once your wood burning stove is up and running, you know where to go for maintenance.
HETAS also offer an excellent downloadable guide to approved products and services related to wood burning stoves and other solid fuel appliances. Although this guide is aimed particularly at retailers and professionals, it would also be useful reading for home owners who like to be well informed and contains useful figures regarding the efficiency of various appliances and whether the appliance is DEFRA exempt or MCS certified.
Understanding the rules and regulations regarding wood burning stoves is an important factor when it comes to choosing a professional to install your stove. Once you can speak with confidence on the subject, then you will be more confident in choosing who to employ for the job!
A good professional will come to look at the room in which you want your wood burning stove to be fitted before they make another appointment to carry out the actual installation. Call a few different professionals to compare prices and to get a feel for what the job involves; details such as cost and timescale can be very helpful or busy households!
If you know anyone who has recently had a wood burning stove fitted, then speak to them about their experience and about which professional they used…personal recommendation is always a good thing!
Using a professional to install your wood burning stove will provide peace of mind and you can be safe in the knowledge that your installer has been properly trained and assessed before beginning any work. You will also receive a certificate of compliance for the installation which can be very useful if at a later date, you wish to sell your home.
A competent amateur is no competition for an experienced professional and no matter how busy you are there is no reason not to seek out a properly qualified fitter for your wood burning stove…especially as wood burning stoves can cost a significant amount of money! Don’t save on fitting…get the job done properly.
Image courtesy of the www.grateexpectations.com
When we first moved into our new home at the beginning of 2013 we’d done so during one of the coldest winters I could remember. Soon enough we had the central heating on for most of the day, but we were still finding that the living room was way too cold for our liking. Given how much time we spend in there, watching TV or tapping away at the computer, it was a major problem and one that was beginning to affect our health.
At first I suspected that a cold draft was coming from the front door area. As you walk through the front door into our house you’re confronted with an inner door. This small cubby space is where we dump our shoes and coats before going into the living room, and given its position it can get mightily cold in there. It was definitely colder than it should be though, and the culprit was a break in the brickwork above the door frame. However, even after I blocked it up we still managed to get cold draughts in the living room.
It was then I realised that the fireplace was probably to blame. The problem had been staring me in the face all along!
The gas fireplace had been disconnected from the gas supply, but we’d left it in just for the aesthetic benefit. However, the chimney was still pulling warm air from our living room up through its shaft and out into the night. Similarly, when it was cold outside the chimney was drawing in cold air from outside and depositing it straight into what was supposed to be our comfy new home. Something needed to be done – otherwise we’d be turning blue before long! – so I started to research about blocking a chimney.
Blocking a Chimney Shaft
The answer was obviously to block the chimney shaft, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. Capping the chimney at the top still won’t solve the problem of warm air being sucked into the shaft, and you’ll be getting rid of any ability to have a fire in the future (plus, it’s not cheap). While we didn’t want to get a new fireplace at that moment we didn’t want to never have that opportunity either. Another concern is that blocking up the shaft fully will give you further problems. The shaft needs some ventilation to allow the bricks to breathe; otherwise you risk getting damp and having an even more expensive problem on your hands.
A temporary solution was to fill up a black bin bag with scrunched up newspaper and put that up the chimney. You need to ensure there is a big enough gap for air to still travel up the chimney, although not too big that you’re still suffering from draughts. I wouldn’t recommend this in the long run though. Instead we got a chimney balloon, which is a specially made balloon that can stay inflated for years. It will help block the cold draughts coming down, but it will also leave enough room to ensure that you don’t start suffering from damp.
You can also get transparent guards that you can fit around a chimney hole much like a fireplace (although they should never be used as a fireplace). These guards also have a vent slot in them to allow the minimal amount of air to travel back and forth.
Blocking Up The Chimney For Good?
If you’re not bothered about having a fire and want to block the fireplace up for good you can simply fill it in with bricks. However, you can’t just brick it up and be done with it as you’ll end up causing damp. Instead incorporate plans to fit a vent into the new wall while you’re bricking it up. That way the air has somewhere to pass through but it won’t be enough to start cooling down the room.
Being warmer in our harm isn’t the only good thing to come from this. We also save money on heating bills by not having half the heat escaping from the room all the time and having to turn the central heating up to compensate. Somewhere down the line we may end up getting a wood burning stove to replace the old fireplace in our living room, but until then we’re happy to enjoy watching Coronation Street without shivering!
So you’ve made the decision to invest in a beautiful Woodburning stove; you’re looking forward to long, cosy nights enjoying the comfort of real flames and hopefully saving some money on your fuel bills too! The question is, which accessories do you really need to invest in to help you to maximise your pleasure and keep maintenance simple?
Which Stove Accessories Are Crucial?
The best way to begin looking at the must-haves and the would-likes in terms of woodburning stove accessories is to separate them into two sub-groups. These are the accessories which set the scene and improve the aesthetics of your woodburning stove and the items which are important for both safety and for maintenance.
Must-have accessories for woodburning stoves
- A fire guard sometimes called a “child guard” is a definite must have; not only do these fold-out screens keep small fingers away from dangerously hot surfaces but they can also help to keep errant sparks from landing where they shouldn’t! There is a huge range of styles available to suit all tastes, from ornate and classic through to functional and contemporary.
- Companion sets are another must-have; these are small tools designed to assist you in the management of both your fire as well as your actual stove. They usually include a small brush on a long handle to assist with cleaning in addition to a shovel and a poker. Again these come in a wide range of designs and materials and all tastes are catered for.
- Storage for logs is another must. Some people opt for the economy of an old box or similar whilst others enjoy the rustic look of a large basket or a sleek, lidded metal container which will hide your fuel away. You will need to have some kind of receptacle handy for your fuel as it’s not always practical to go to outside storage areas to refuel!
With these basics, it is possible to keep your woodburning stove in good condition and running well but there are other items which you may like to add to your shopping list which could not only prolong the life of your stove but also make your life a little easier!
Which Stove Accessories are Useful?
Useful accessories for woodburning stoves
- A moisture metre is a very useful tool to add to your list because it’s a foolproof way of knowing if your timber is well-seasoned before you burn it! Comprising of a hand-held unit with digital display these units also include two strong spikes of metal which you simply insert into the timber you would like to burn. The moisture content is then revealed to you and you will save yourself the trouble of burning green wood which can cause damage to flues.
- Leather glove or gloves; extremely useful for dealing with your stove when it’s hot!
- Glass cleaner is another very useful accessory which can make your stove look better and last longer. Although you don’t need to purchase specialist brands, there are many on the market which are excellent at removing tough marks from glass doors.
Looking after your woodburning stove is an important part of protecting it and ensuring that you have it for as long as possible. Regular cleaning and a once yearly flue check by a professional will help to keep things running smoothly for as long as possible!
Wood burning stoves are extremely popular right now; partly due to the fact that they’re very attractive, partly due to the fact that they’re eco friendly and partly due to the fact that they save money on fuel bills! It’s a fact that wood burning stoves will allow users to save money on energy bills on a yearly basis. So, while they may be expensive to buy and install, you will get your investment back over the years that follow.
As gas heating costs rise on a yearly basis, many homeowners are beginning to look for alternatives; a wood burning stove can stop those high cost bills altogether and although you will need to pay for fuel, the costs of this are negligent when compared to the costs of a heating bill for an average sized house.
The figures on the actual savings to be made through installing a wood burning stove are always variable because of the differences in the type of wood burning stove in question and also the differences in various houses and their fabric. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a large stove with a back boiler for heating water up will save around 20% of an average household’s bills whilst a house which was previously using electricity can expect to save up to £400 a year in heating costs which is a very significant amount.
Another fact to take into consideration is that you won’t typically notice the savings until the initial outlay has been paid for by the savings which you will make. This can take around five years but many people are pleasantly surprised immediately as they notice the savings straight away.
There are grants available for some households when it comes to installing wood burning stoves; the government offers incentives to those who qualify and this financial help could see you feeling the benefit of the savings much faster than other people would expect to.
To see if you qualify for a grant, check the Energy Savings Trust website which has information relating to the Renewable Heat Incentive which is a government run scheme for encouraging the uptake of renewable heating sources among householders, organisations and businesses alike.
Considering that there is financial help available for some people, it would seem foolish not to assume that a wood burning stove can’t save you money as well as reduce your carbon footprint significantly. Wood burning stoves are the future for many households and not only do they save money but they look fabulous too!
Before you get a wood burning stove fitted you should also do your utmost to ensure that you are conserving all the heat possible within your house. Leaking door frames and windows will cause loss of heat and should be repaired before your new wood burning stove is installed. The same goes for insulation; make sure your loft insulation is in tip top condition so that your wood burning stove can do its job properly. Wood burning stoves are a great investment for the long term and there is plenty of advice out there for those who are interested; especially in these cashstrapped times when we could do with attempting to save money on energy bills in any way we can.
In fact, like most human tales, the story is told to weave a thought or an idea into our heads and help us learn one thing or another. Because of this the same themes tend to enter and surface in these olden stories. Of course, because of their constant popularity and constant modern updates these stories are still as valuable now as they were when first conceived.
In the fairy tale mould there are a number of different items that tend to stand out and are regularly seen and one of these is the wood burning stove. The stove is often close to the centre of these tales, just as it was at the middle of life then and still is now. So, let’s take a look at the often important role of the wood burning stove in fairy tales.
Hansel and Gretel
The fairy tale created by the Brothers Grimm was published in 1812 and follows the tale of a brother and sister who are threatened by a cannibalistic witch who lives in a cake house in the centre of a dark forest. The children are locked up and held captive in a cage when the witch prepares the oven to cook the two children. The children manage to outwit her, pushing her into the oven and setting off home with a treasure pot of gems and stones.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
The three bears live in a house together deep in the woods. Little, middle sized and great bear are seen as a hospitable trio who are both good natured and tidy. Each of the bears also has their own porridge pot, bowl chair and bed. After cooking their porridge on the stove, the bears set off for a walk before a woman enters the house eats the small bears porridge and then sits on his chair and breaks it. She then finds his bed and decides to go for a sleep before the bears find her and the infamous line’ someone’s been sleeping in my bed’ is used and she runs away.
The Three Little Pigs
The Three Little Pigs and the Wolf ends with the wolf entering down the chimney of the last pig’s house before landing in a pot of warm water placed on top of the stove or fireplaces and boiling to death.
The Juniper Tree
The Brothers Grimm once again focus their tales around the fire and The Juniper Tree is based on a stepmother making stew out of her stepson’s body and her daughter’s tears after the death of the original mother.
Before meeting her prince, Cinderella’s days are spent cleaning before she spends the nights huddled and sleeping beside and in the fire place to stay warm. She would often arise covered in cinders hence her name. Of course, like all fairy tales the happy ending comes about and Cinderella becomes the princess we expect her to. Showing graciousness is priceless.
So, as you can see the stove and fireplace play a central part in the fairy tale and we’re only touching the cusp. Think of the likes of Santa Clause and the focus on the chimney and you realise how much it’s central.
If you have been wondering about installing a wood burning stove in your home but are not certain about the laws regarding burning fuels in your area or indeed whether or not it would be legal to install a stove in your home, you can rest assured that in most cases, installing a wood burning stove will not pose any difficulties.
So you live in a smoke control area?
The Clean Air Acts which were brought into being in 1956 and 1968 were the answer to the terrible smog and poor quality air which had been prevalent in our cities since the turn of the century when countless factories and homes were churning out coal fumes which were damaging to not only the environment but also to the health of the general public. More than four thousand people died in 1952 after an extreme incidence of smog and this was enough to set the wheels of change in motion.
If you do not know if your home is situated in a smoke control area, contact your local council to enquire. Smoke control areas have strict laws in place to prevent the burning of any fuel which emits smoke. In these areas however, it is permitted that residents burn smokeless fuels such as a variety of purpose made briquettes which are designed for use on multi-fuel stoves.
So I live in a smoke control area…do I have to buy a multi-fuel stove?
The simple answer to this question is no. There are new and very well designed ranges of “cleanburn” stoves which are made with modifications to ensure that the gasses which would normally escape up the chimney are burned off before that happens by the ingenious addition of an extra air source within the stove itself. Simple engineering has ensured that it is now possible to burn wood without affecting the environment outside. Some of these cleanburn stoves are cleared for use in smoke control areas and the good news is that they are extremely efficient and can produce more heat than an ordinary wood burning stove.
Where can I get more information?
The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have a vast amount of information and advice available including a list of smoke control areas and also a list of exempt appliances. DEFRA will be happy to discuss any concerns or questions which you may have about your new stove before or after installation.
So the good news is that even those people who reside in a smoke control area can now benefit from the joys of a wood burning stove or a multi fuel stove. Looking after our environment is a top priority and one of the best things about wood burners is that they can play a real part in reducing your carbon footprint. Arranged properly and well planned, your new stove could mean that you will soon be benefitting not only from cheaper fuel bills but also the knowledge that you are helping the environment at the same time