So you want a stove, but are unsure where to start?
Well the good news is you are reading this post and have made the first step in choosing a stove to suit you and your home. There are several different factors to consider when choosing a stove. The first, and perhaps the hardest choice is to decide the style of stove that you want. Choose from freestanding, cassette, wall mounted or suspended styles. Next you need to decide if you want to burn wood and solid fuels, or if you would rather the ease and convenience of gas or electric. Depending upon your room and the location you may wish to consider either a traditional or contemporary design. The output of your new stove is also an important factor that shouldn’t be overlooked. Lets explore these factors and few other considerations.
Choosing a Stove Style
While an important starting point, quite often the room/location that you are looking to place a stove into can often dictate both the style and design, however we feel it prudent to point out all of the possibilities available to you as not everyone is aware of all of the stove options available in the market today.
The most common and popular style of stove is freestanding. Chances are if you have seen a stove in a movie or at a friends house its a freestanding stove. Most stoves can be classified as either traditional looking or with a more contemporary design. Typically when it comes to freestanding stoves traditional stoves tend to be more compact and designed to fit into existing fireplace openings. Contemporary stoves tend to be taller and more modern looking making them an ideal choice when you do not have an existing chimney and wish to simply place it into a room and connect onto a flue system. That is not to say contemporary stoves can’t be placed into a fireplace opening, and often work really well in a minimalist setting paired with a simple granite hearth and wooden beam. Likewise traditional stoves can be placed outside of fireplace openings, and can often have log-stores underneath to lift them up to create more in room presence.
The term ‘cassette’ is a common word used to describe any kind of stove that can be inset or recessed into a wall. At Fireplace Products we define a cassette as a stove that can simply slide into an pre-made opening and connected to a flue or liner. Cassette stoves are typically contemporary in design, and are often installed part way up the wall. There are a wide choice of frames available in several colours and sizes and even frameless options for those looking for a more minimalist style.
Freestanding stoves require an air gap around them of varying amounts to allow the heat to be distributed and moved around the room. Cassettes have a convection chamber around the stove meaning such a gap is not required. This means they can be fitted into tighter spaces and do not require an air gap around them, the advantage of which is that a larger stove can be fitted into smaller space. Convection stoves also pull cool air in from the room beneath the door and pass it up behind the stove before pushing the now warm air out into the room from above the door.
Within cassette stoves, you also have inset and built-in stoves. Inset stoves are designed to be hearth mounted and fitted with fireplaces. Many models are shaped so that they can fit into a standard British fireplace opening with or without a fire chair insitu. Built-in stoves are similar to cassette stoves, except rather than sliding a cassette into a pre-made opening, a built-in stove is placed first and the wall built around it. Built-in stoves offer alternative designs that are not possible with regular cassette stoves, such as vertical sliding glass doors and wrap around corner and three sided models.
Wall Mounted and Suspended Stoves
As the name suggests, Wall Mounted Stoves fix directly to non-combustible walls are are a great choice for when space is at a premium. Unmistakably contemporary, wall mounted stoves offer an alternative look, to freestanding and cassette styled stoves. Suspended Stoves hang from the ceiling and appear to float of the floor creating a magnificent centre piece in any room or open space. Suspended stoves tend to feature glass on all sides and are ideally suited to the middle of a room where they will have maximum impact on the space around them.
Choosing a Fuel Type
Having selected the style of stove, it is time to choose which fuel type is most appropriate for you. When it comes to choosing a fuel for your stove there are a wide range of choices, including wood, multifuel, natural gas, bottled gas, electric, pellet and bio-mass. Hot debate continues amongst consumers as to which is the best choice of fuel. There are a number of factors to consider including how green a fuel is perceived to be in addition to cost and heating efficiency profile. Consumers are also increasingly concerned about maintaining more control of their own energy bills instead of putting another company in charge of them.
Wood and Multifuel Stoves
Wood burning is very popular at the moment, and owning a woodburner has become somewhat of a status symbol. In the past wood and multifuel stoves were used as a primary heat source, burning fuel to keep warm, but more often than not people are choosing to have a woodburner installed today to give a the room ambience and sense of well being. This is referred to by the Danish as Hygge, as is becoming increasing more popular. That is not to say there are some drawbacks, we have found that the people who get the most from owning a woodburner or multifuel stove, have to want to use it. If you don’t like the idea of chopping wood, getting your hands dirty loading up the fuel, and emptying out the ash pan between burns, then you should perhaps consider a gas or electric stove, but for most the feeling of seeing a dancing flame picture and listening to the crackle of the wood while it burns, makes it all worthwhile.
Gas today is a much more viable option than it ever has been. There are more manufactures building better looking and more realistic gas stoves than ever before and there is a wide choice of styles and designs to choose from. Gas is a great option if you like the idea behind owning a ‘woodburner’ but dont want the mess of hassle of chopping your own wood and building/tending to a fire. Simply switch it on, turn it up and sit back to enjoy an almost instant fire. Many gas stoves are available in both mains natural gas and bottled LPG gas, making them widely accessible to many homes.
Gone are the days of fake looking plastic flames and pieces of ribbon flapping in the wind. Electric stoves today are a real alternative to wood and gas. Manufactures have spent a lot of time in developing more realistic flame effects over the years, and electric is sometimes the only option for a small room that doesn’t have a chimney or gas supply. Available as freestanding, cassette, and wall mounted, electric is defiantly an option you should consider and with the likes of Dimplex introducing revolutionary flame effects with their Opti-Myst and Opti-V models, you just might be surprised how convincing an electric stove can look.
Bio-Mass and Pellet Stoves
Popular in Europe, bio-mass and pellet stoves have not yet seen the success that they have on the continent. Bio-Mass boilers are a great choice for commercial properties looking to produce large volumes of hot water and store it for heating warehouses, office blocks and farms, their appeal is some what limited in the domestic home market. Pellet stoves on the other hand combine the lifestyle and renewable benefits of owning and operating a woodburner while having the control-ability and convenience of a gas stove. Pellet stoves burn compressed pieces of waste wood, making them very eco-friendly and part of the bio-mass family of products. They feature a hopper allowing you to store several days worth of pellets inside the stove itself and set timers and programs to control when the stove comes on how long it is on for and how much heat you require. As such an electricity supply is required for all pellet stoves to run meaning you are reliant on electricity in order to use the stove.
Choosing a Stove Design
So you have decided if you need a freestanding, cassette, wall mounted or suspended stove. The next choice is the design. Many companies break design down to traditional stoves that are placed into fireplaces and contemporary stoves that can be placed outside of a fireplace into a room or open space. At Fireplace Products we take this one step further and introduce some additional design elements you should consider first.
Double Sided Stoves
Not to be mistaken with double door models, double sided stoves have doors on opposite sides of the stove making them the perfect choice when you have a chimney breast located between two rooms. One of the advantages of choosing a double sided stove is that you can heat two rooms with one appliance, another is that when the stove is not under fire it can act as a window into the adjacent room, letting light into the room and making the space feel larger. Contemporary double sided stoves can act as space dividers, breaking up a larger room into two spaces linked by a central double sided stove, utilising a 1st floor chimney stack or twinwall flue system. Double sided stoves are available in both Freestanding and Cassette styles.
While most freestanding stoves can be placed into a corner without much difficulty, if they are not designed to be used in a corner often the sides of the stove to not run parallel with the walls meaning the distances required around the stove push it quite far into the room, taking up valuable floor space. Corner stoves on the other hand are designed to be placed into an internal corner with minimal gaps between the sides of the stove and the walls. As they have been designed to fit into a corner you will also benefit from a larger firebox that maximises the otherwise wasted space behind the stove. Furthermore corner stoves often have either angled or shaped glass to offer more panoramic views of the fire so it can be enjoyed from anywhere within the room.
Cassette and built-in corner stoves open a new door to what was otherwise an unused location for a stove – exterior corners. Utilising an existing chimney breast, or even constructing a false wall to contain them, exterior corner stoves are a great solution to odd shaped floor plans. By placing the stove on the outside corner, you have an opportunity to centralising a single stove to heat and benefit a larger space. The corner glass will allow the fire to be seen from anywhere within the room.
Again it is possible to place a contemporary freestanding stove on an exterior corner, but unless it has glass on three sides the benefit will not be felt throughout the room. Previously people used to place a rotating freestanding stove in this location so you can simply turn the stove to face wherever you are in the room, but thankfully due to the rise in modular freestanding corner stoves there are other options to consider now.
Three Sided and Central Stoves
Three sided stoves are available as freestanding, cassette or wall mounted models and feature a main front door/glass with two pieces of side glass. The exception to this is built-in stoves which typically feature a single large piece of glass that takes up three of the four sides of the stove. Central stoves are designed to be placed into the centre of a room as a focal point. The majority of suspended stoves are central and feature glass on all sides of the stove. Available in a wide range of shapes and sizes from triangular models all the way up to octagonal designs. Central stoves are the wow the factor and designed to make a lasting impression.
Choosing the right Output
It is also important to ensure the size of the stove you choose is adequate to warm your room. The calculations to work this requirement out can be quite complicated, but as a simple rule of thumb, for every one kilowatt (kW) of heat that a stove produces it is able to heat a room volume of approx 14m³. So all you have to do is calculate the volume of your room (length x width x height) and divide it by 14 to give you the kW output you need to heat your room or use our Output Calculator.
Keep in mind that how well insulated a room is can be a big factor in how much heat you will actually require to heat the space. The above example uses 1kW = 14m³ but this can be as much as 1kW = 10m³ on an older property with poor insulation, compared against 1kW = 18m³ on a new build with triple glazing a superior insulation. Significant savings in fuel costs can be also be expected for rooms that are well insulated, so it is also important to consider how well insulated your house is and whether there are any financial benefits to be found in making some improvements to the insulation of your home before you make a decision on output.
The output of your stove is important, large stoves with big fireboxes have larger outputs and are designed to run a minimum output. You can’t install a 14kW stove in a room designed for an 8kW stove and try to run it at half speed. Doing so will dramatically effect the efficiency of the product as it will not be burning at its optimum the fuel inside will not burn as designed and will soot up the glass, produce higher emissions and leave much more ash.
If you are choosing a stove as a secondary source of heating, as you want the effect over the heat, then 5kW is often a good choice for you. Stoves that have a nominal output of 5kW or less can typically be installed in a room without having to make additional alternations to the room such as air vents or additional air supplies.
So now that you understand what styles, designs and fuel options are available to you, there are a couple of other considerations that you should consider before making your choice. Air supply is a factor sometimes over looked when choosing a stove. For the most part homes built prior to 2004 that have a wood or multifuel stove installed with an output greater than 5kW will require additional room ventilation in order to safely use the stove. This falls to 4kW in homes built after 2004. Many stoves now feature external air supplies allowing for partial if not all combustion air to be supplied from outside of the room. Great if you have a larger space requiring a larger output as you can avoid placing an air brick within the room.
Chimneys and Flues
A good chimney or flue can be the difference between enjoying your new stove or loathing it. If you are placing a woodburning, multifuel, or conventional flue gas stove into an existing chimney you need to find out of it is still of sound construction, particularly important in older homes where the chimney brickwork is old and possibly a little porous. Lining a chimney with flexible flue liner will assist in getting your stove to light faster and more easily and make your new stove more efficient thus saving you money on your fuel bills. A lining will ensure that the chimney doesn’t leak smoke inside your house and will improve the draw of the chimney which once again ensures no smoke escapes into your room when you open the stoves door to refuel. An improved draw also helps to reduce the build-up of condensation in the flue system and also the risk of chimney fires. Flexible liner is made from high grades of stainless steel which tar can’t stick to as easily as brick which helps further reduce the possibility of chimney fires.
If you don’t have an existing chimney then you can use a pre-fabricated double insulated twinwall flue system. These flue systems are often used with freestanding stoves and can run straight off the top of the stove and through the ceiling or up and out through a wall. Twinwall flue systems have opened up the possibilities when it comes to choosing where you can place a stove within a room giving you greater flexibility when it comes to choosing a stove style and design that is right for you.
DEFRA – Smoke Control Areas
Something whcih you may or may not be familiar with are smoke control areas. Under the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968, if you live in a smoke control area any wood burning stove must be ‘Approved Exempt’ or designated ‘DEFRA Approved’. These are stoves which have passed tests to confirm that they are capable of burning an unauthorised or inherently smoky fuel without emitting smoke. Most major UK cities are designated smoke control areas but much of the countryside is also classified. You can check with your local council or visit the governments official listing for smoke control areas to find out if your home falls into one or not.
HETAS, GASSAFE & Installations
While this post is a guide to assist you in making a decision on which stove to purchase, it is worth consulting with an approved installer throughout this process. Speaking with someone who has years of expertise in installing stoves can offer valuable insights into what is and what is not possible as well as advising upon the costs of having your chosen stove installed. By sure to confirm that your installer is certificated to carry out the work you are asking them to do. This means checking they are GAS SAFE registered if it is a gas stove, and HETAS registered if it is a wood or multifuel stove. There are alot of rogue builders and installers out there who claim they can install these appliances but are not qualified to do so, choosing the right installer is important, you only have to look online for horror stories from people who choose to do it themselves or get a friend to help install it.
So then, now that you are ‘warmed’ up we hope that you now feel more confident about the styles, designs, fuels and options available to you. Knowing this will help you ensure that your chosen stove will deliver what you need from it and you should now feel much more confident about discussing any aspect of your new stove purchase with any retailer or installer. We hope you have found this post interesting, it is by no means an exhaustive list of things to consider but a good start to get you looking in the right direction. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below and we will be happy to help.