Use stoves to future-proof your home

Kya deLongchamps basks in the warmth of stoves that will help future-proof your home.

A Faber Blokhus gas stove. Flame by Design (Cork).

BY 2020 an increasing roll of European countries will be outlawing oil, and potentially other fossil fuel central heating solutions, for new builds and renovations in the domestic and commercial sector. Future-proofing your home is essential wherever you have the chance to do so. Little wonder the retrofit market for room heating and full central heating stoves served by multi-fuel, logs or wood pellets is seeing a determined bump. If you’re looking for a stove this winter, read our tips sheet — rather than lighting the fire with it.

Hot to trot

The KW guide for a fire is just that — a guide. The size of the room, position, insulation levels of the house, habits of use, fuel quality and the job demanded will all influence performance.

Reviewing property we hear modern builds at near PassivHaus standards overheating with a small 4-5KW stove alight and owners of older houses complaining that their ideal Scandinavian whopper cannot handle the ambient heating and back boiler thermal despite promises on the brochure. Have a home survey from a professional heating consultant without a marketing iron in the fire.

A rough idea? Measure the room in sqm and divide by 14, use 10 for a weakly insulated room and 25 for an A-A3 BER.

Looking for more than a glow and a few decorative KWs?

Up the capital investment for maximum efficiencies and service. Start at the top with a free standing passive heat-storage stove that works safely around the clock.

The Scandinavians have used insulated heat retaining panels for centuries, and teaming up convection and radiant heat is the hottest talk in the trade.

Hefty thermal mass in insulated metal boxes and soapstone panelling as auxiliary à côté de detailing, sips heat from the fire while its alight, gently radiating a gentle warmth back to the room passively or with mechanical aid for up to 24 hours.

How important the view is to you?

The Contura 596 in Powerstone, is available with a cast iron or glass top with an optional external air supply and with a nominal 3-7KW output, from €2,350, fentonfire.ie.

A closed door is essential for maximum thermal performance and in the case of wood, to keep the biomass particles out of the room and out of your lungs.

Choose a stove with dual, three aspects or all round glazing and well detailed “air-wash” if you want a contorting flame show and the glass buffered from staining residue.

The larger the cms of flame show on offer, the greater the KW output of the stove is likely to be.

This makes more sense for large rooms or boiler stoves serving as (or augmenting) your gas/oil CH. Remember, the available heat is shared (and diminished to the room) between the space and the back-boiler where you are using the stove for CH — explore both outputs maximum/minimum readings.

Commissioning

No real flame, bar electric and space heaters are plug and play devices. They are the combustion end of a tightly engineered heating system that terminates out a flue or at the sky end of a chimney.

Both freestanding and most especially floating stoves will demand remedial structural work whether to frame in a fireplace, lay a heath, reline the chimney and take a pipe up and over the ridge.

Even with a new house, you must include these costs in your calculations — a full survey by a HETA registered heating engineer is the only way to determine that number and the extent of invasive renovations. It may well outstrip the price of the stove.

Understand airflow and burn?

The means and calibration of airflow will determine the control and success of the burn. With MVHR managed ventilation, a closed combustion stove (CC) with an exterior cool air supply from a set spigot will be needed.

There are three sorts of combustion possible inside your stove depending on its fire-box detailing. The primary burn just like any conventional open fire. Secondary burn which adds air to ignite the available gases (aiding those pretty flames dancing in the stove) and tertiary burn — a third intake of air that washes through the stove, keeping the glass clean, reducing hydrocarbons, and increasing efficiency.

Architectural drama?

JC Bordelet (France) offer stoves with glass or mesh (Pharos). Double the price of the project for this sort of structural punch, POA, bordelet.com.

Go for vivid, vertical flash with a fully suspended or hanging feature fire with tertiary burn and clean-burn to keep glass sparkling, heating the space and adjacent rooms.

Keep in mind — going right to the floor or hanging by a wall provides greater potential for log storage than a pure centre drop. Always keep the wood store in mind.

A number of companies including Scantherm have put their design energy into modular wood storage box/radiant unit collections you can stack and even use as room dividers in an open space — these will make a serious impact on the room’s look — ensure you think it through.

Suppliers include Nagle Fires, Mallow.

Smart real-flame fires?

Spatherm’s SEO stove can be controlled by smartphone.

Now, you’ll have to wait a beat for this technology to fire up the entire market, but my guess is that it’s not IT gone mad, but likely detailing for new stoves in the coming years.

German manufacturer Spartherm has introduced their SEO stove which is titivated and coaxed by interactive control via smartphone or tablet. Sounds fire-crackers doesn’t it?

The stove is equipped with their Neo Control System, which they claim balances and matches the hot triumvirate of fuel, temperature, and air supply during the heating process.

The SEO dispenses with manual air control levers altogether, eliminating the possibility of human error. A small display panel below the fire area lights up as soon as the stove is operating, and it flashes slowly and determinedly when wood needs to be added. Wait, we’re still carrying the wood? You lost me at SEO, spartherm.com.

Fuel for thought

  • Wood foraging has become something of an urban obsession for DEFRA rated wood stove owners. Don’t burn green or processed wood. Too much moisture (50% in green wood) compromises the burn, reducing the stove’s efficiency and releasing sticky residues that build up in the flue. Season for one year or invest in kiln-dried timber.
  • Keep the vital secondary air vent open to ensure a good wash to the fuel and don’t use your stove with the door open unless it’s a gas or electric fan-assisted model that allows you to do so. It kills efficiency and potentially releases microscopic biomass to the atmosphere of the room.
  • Wood pellets burn well because of their 10% moisture content. Store in a good dry place. Buying in bulk will reduce your pellet cost, and larger bins are available to handle in-house storage.
  • Fossil fuels and wood ignite and burn differently and require different engineering in the firebox. Ensure your multi-fuel choice of stove is not an apprentice-of-all rather than a master of one particular fuel type. Grill your supplier.
  • Eco friendly, carbon-neutral, kiln- dried wood is not free. Fossil fuels due to their dense composition offer the higher heat output in British thermal units per KG. For cost comparisons use the SEAI fuel charts at seai.ie.
  • Emptying ash is a physical burden and a potentially dirty nuisance. Examine the pan size and performance of your potential stove. Look out for Boru’s new AshClear system that requires no shoveling or tipping work at all, just a vacuum out every three weeks. Also offered by Morso and many other makers. borustoves.ie.
  • For real KW of heat per unit comparison by the quarter (wood is of course dependent on wildly varying sources) check out the fuel cost comparison charts at seai.ie.


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