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Take control of your heating bills

With the cost of living constantly on the rise, the major energy companies all increasing their prices and industry experts predicting they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, the prospect of living ‘off-grid’ has never been more enticing.

The phrase off-grid has rapidly increased in popularity and so has the lifestyle choice itself, although the concept of sustainable living is a much longer-established one.

It essentially refers to being able to live without relying on the helping hand and pricing structures of the big corporations. At the most basic level (at least using modern measures) that involves being able to provide your own food, warmth and power. There are people better qualified than me to discuss food and generating electricity, so I'll stick to my specialist subject: warmth.

Off-grid with a woodburner

Wood-burning stoves are the go-to form of heating for many people choosing to live off-grid. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it’s a cheap, reliable form of heating.

Not only that, it’s also reassuringly straightforward. You’re not at the mercy of temperamental technology with a wood-burning stove.

Another reason is that, if you’re planning on going off-grid, you tend to pick a rural or semi-rural location. After all, you need somewhere to grow the veg! That location usually brings with it a ready supply of trees and, as a consequence, free fuel.

Finally, many people who decide to follow the subsistence route tend to have strongly held beliefs on sustainability and green living. The clean heating provided by a wood-burning stove appeals to them on environmental grounds as well as economic ones.

What to do once you’ve decided to go off-grid
When you’ve decided to start generating your own heat, the first consideration is to work out what you need your stove to do. This will largely depend on what other forms of energy you have in your home and what purpose they serve. For instance, many of those living off-grid combine a wood-burning stove with solar or wind energy to generate electricity and, in some cases heat their water.

The most comprehensive option available is a boiler stove. This will not only provide heat for the home directly, but also heat your water and radiators. These are very welcome home comforts for anyone living off-grid!

If you opt for a normal wood-burning stove rather than a boiler stove, it’s important to buy one that will provide sufficient heat for your home. You might choose one that is ‘too big’ for the room its in. This will allow you to light small fires in normal conditions and operate the stove at its maximum when you want to heat adjacent rooms, too.

Have you had snow yet this winter?

Whenever the UK experiences any significant amount of snowfall it usually leads to beautiful scenery… and chaos.

For some reason we just can’t seem to cope when that blanket of white covers our country. With the temperatures below freezing, the last thing you want to be affected is your heating.

That’s when a wood-burning stove becomes particularly useful. Here’s how…

You can overcome cracked pipes
If you’re reliant on radiators, you can suddenly find your main source of heat knocked out by a cracked pipe. You have no such worries when you’ve got a wood-burning stove to provide the warmth you need.

There are no cancelled deliveries

Many rural households get oil delivered by a tanker to provide their main form of heating. Unfortunately, when the snow falls and those households need oil most, deliveries are often cancelled due to the treacherous road conditions.

Providing you keep a good supply of wood, or can collect wood within walking distance of your home, you’ll never have to rely on somebody else delivering your heating.

It’s not the end of the world if the boiler’s on the blink

Like so many of the things on this list, boilers tend to let you down when you need them most. If your boiler packs in at the worst possible time at least you’ll be able to generate some replacement heat with a wood-burning stove.

And if you opt for a boiler stove, you’ll be able to heat your water and radiators, too.

It’s a reliable backup
As demonstrated by everything we’ve mentioned so far, even if you usually favour an alternative form of heating, it’s great to have a stove in reserve. There are fewer things to go wrong, which means it’s easier to maintain regardless of cracked pipes, closed road, broken boilers, fallen power lines or anything else that could possibly go wrong.

Unbeatable cosiness
On top of all those very practical reasons, there’s nothing quite like coming in from the snow (or hiding from it altogether) to sit in front of a roaring wood-burning stove. May I recommend a nice cup of hot chocolate?

How to get more for less from your stove

Once you’ve got your wood-burning stove installed, there’s the obvious temptation to throw on lots of wood and just enjoy not having to use the central heating.

we thoroughly understand that sentiment. But once the euphoria has partially subsided and you’ve got your thinking cap back on, I would suggest you follow these tips to make sure you’re stove is costing as little as possible and heating as much as possible.

1.Use dry kindling to light your stove
Lighting your fire with fast-burning kindling heats the firebox quickly. You’re essentially getting your stove heated up so your logs have less work to do.

2. Use seasoned wood
Wood burns far more efficiently when it has been seasoned. That means chopped, split and left to dry for at least a year. The reduced moisture levels mean you get more from your wood.

3. Use free wood
If you’re inclined to collect your wood from fallen trees, you can reduce the cost of your fuel to absolutely nothing.

4. Choose what type of wood to burn carefully
Different types of wood have a different burn. How quickly it burn and how much heat it gives off has a big impact on the performance of your stove. Ash, beech, apple, birch or hawthorn would be a good starting point.

5. Open the vents when lighting your stove
It’s common sense really, but sometimes people forget their school science lessons when confronted with a new stove. Open both air vents on your stove when lighting the fire because the oxygen will help the fire to get going.

6. Close the bottom air vent once the stove is going
Once the logs are burning well, close the bottom (primary) vent. This stops the wood from disappearing too fast and gives a steadier burn.

7. Wait for the logs to burn down before reloading

It’s nice to look at roaring flames, but as long as your logs are burning they are still heating your stove and, as a result, heating your room. Wait until the logs have been reduced to embers before adding more logs.

8. Remove your ashes – but not all of them
A thin bed of ashes can help your stove to burn well. Too much will block the flow of air and damage the efficiency of the stove though. It is important to find the right balance. (NB. This applies to woodburners, not multi-fuel stoves).

9. Get your chimney swept
The draw of air up your chimney is vital in ensuring the efficiency of your wood burner. Call upon the services of a chimney sweep at least once a year, twice if you’re a prolific stove user, to ensure there is no blockages.

10. Improve your insulation
Away from the stove itself, improve the insulation in your home to ensure all that new found heat isn’t escaping prematurely.

Is it possible to keep a woodburner lit all night?

The answer is yes, but there is some skill involved. There’s also likely to be lots of trial and error involved. But with a bit of practice – and perhaps even a bit of luck – you should be able to keep your stove burning through the night.

Is it safe to keep the stove burning at night?

There is inevitably some risk attached to leaving a lit stove unattended for hours at a time. While this was not only commonplace but practically a necessity in many homes in yesteryear, nowadays some people would rather know that their stove is extinguished before they go to bed for the night.

Equally, we know from speaking to customers that being able to keep the stove in at night is one of the things that they’re most looking forward to about their new appliance. With that in mind, here is our explanation of the best and safest way to keep a stove lit overnight.

How to keep a woodburner going at night

As we’ve already mentioned, an unwatched fire always poses a slight risk so what you’re aiming for from a safety perspective and to ensure a long burn is to dampen the fire as much as possible before you leave it for the night.

The first step is to build up the stove with a good load of fuel about an hour before you want to go to bed. Place the fuel near the front of the stove to allow charcoal to build up towards the back. Before you go to bed, you should see glowing charcoal embers with no flames.

Secondly, close all the air flow dials to minimise the amount of oxygen getting to your fuel. This will encourage a slow burn.

You can further dampen the fire by coating the embers with coal dust or dross.

Starting the stove up the next morning

When you return to the stove the following day, open the air vents to allow more oxygen into the firebox as if you were about to light the appliance. If you’ve been successful, the fire should immediately start up again from the embers.

At this point you can add kindling and get a proper fire going once again.

Why do people love woodburners in holiday cottages?

Tradition: People are often escaping from modern life when they book a break in a holiday cottage. Lighting a traditional form of heating such as a stove instantly evokes a simpler time.
Romance: There is something very romantic about a roaring wood-burning stove. It’s an immediate mood-setter.
Cosiness: Even if it’s a family booking rather than a romantic getaway, a stove creates a lovely, relaxed atmosphere.
Weather: Let’s face it, the weather is out of your hands. But at least you can make it a treat if people are forced to stay indoors during their stay in your cottage.

How to treat your woodburner for rust

If your wood-burning stove is exposed to moisture then it can start to rust. Modern stoves are much less susceptible than older stoves to this problem, but issues can occasionally arise even in a contemporary appliance if it is out of use for an extended period.

Rust is an easy problem to tackle but it’s important that you deal with it as soon as you spot it. The easiest way to ensure that you don’t miss any is to incorporate a quick check for rust into a monthly MOT for your stove. More on that here.

Once you’ve found some rust, it’s important to act as quickly as possible to get rid of it. If the rust is left it can spread and damage the metal.

Given the temperatures at which your stove operates, the metal takes considerable punishment. As a result, a rust spot could develop into a hole in the stove over time if left untreated, which is clearly dangerous.

Aside from that, it can also spoil the appearance of you stove, which is a shame when it is such an easy problem to tackle.

Treating rust on a wood-burning stove

To treat rust, you first need to wait for you stove to cool fully after using it. Once it is cool, you can use wire wool to remove the rust. Rust particles are not the most pleasant thing to tread into your carpet so you might want to put down some sheets beforehand.

Using fairly gentle small, circular motions, rub the wire wool over the affected area until all of the rust has been removed. Once all the rust has gone, wipe the stove down with a damp cloth and make sure that all the rust particles are removed.

You can then leave it to dry.

Restoring your stove’s appearance

Having got rid of the rust and given your stove time to dry, it is time to restore it back to its former glory. To do this, you need a specialist stove paint.

Don’t be tempted to try any old matt black paint – stove paint is made to withstand very high temperatures (usually up to 600°C). Ordinary paint would start to peel off almost immediately.

You’ll probably need to give the stove two coats, but make sure you give the first coat time to dry before applying the second. Aim for an even covering over the area you’re painting.

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