When it comes to heating a country house wood burning stoves are overtaking open fire places in popularity. As fuel costs rise and pressure mounts to become more conscious of our environment, the issue of effective heating and insulation of our homes becomes ever more paramount. It’s hardly  surprising that many owners of draughty country houses now find it difficult to afford the heating costs especially when you consider that a standard oil tank costs the best part of £1,000 to fill up ready for the coldest winter weather.

Those who own a property which already has plenty of working fireplaces will not necessarily cut down on the heating bills, since, homely as they look, for the amount of fuel it burns an open fire sends a great deal of its heat up the chimney.

In these current times of energy efficiency, wood burning stoves are rapidly becoming a preferred option to other forms of heating. They use less fuel, give out more heat, cause no draughts and, in addition to being a simple heat source, they often heat the water and offer cooking facilities.

Period homes, in particular, suffer from poor insulation and old ill-fitting sash windows have a tendency to be draughty. Looking at the practical considerations of  heating a country property during the winter months is really important. When a property is difficult to heat and remains damp for six months of the year it means that anyone who lives there is going to have a miserable existence.

If fuel bills leave you poor, but you have access to a good supply of  wood and plenty of suitable storage for logs near the house, it might be time to install a wood burning stove or even two or three. After all a pound of fuel generates three times more heat in a stove than it does in a fireplace and logs are cheaper than Economy 7, bottled gas or oil, especially if you have your own woods or access to free firewood.

Once you decide to opt for a wood burning stove don’t rush into buying one. Do your homework first, for while some stoves may look very attractive they may not work as efficiently as a plainer model. You don’t want to end up with a stove that is smoky or that leaks tar on your polished floor. Always buy from a reputable company and remember some stoves can even burn peat, turf, straw or coal while others, because of the weight of their cast iron frames, retain the heat for longer.

Whichever wood burning stove you buy be sure to get it installed by someone registered with HETAS, the body that approves solid fuel domestic heating appliances. Make sure that any existing chimney you intend to use is in good order and high enough to avoid smoking you out when the wind changes. To increase efficiency, it is a good idea to buy an Ecofan. This device, which sits on top of your stove, circulates the heat 150cu ft in all directions.

Maintenance of your wood burning stove is important, a broken seal will mean lots of unwanted smoke in the house and be wary of burning too much green, unseasoned wood as it can cause an excess of tar in the chimney and possibly even lead to a chimney fire. A good way to counteract this problem is to let the stove burn at a very intense heat for a while – but you must keep a close eye on it during this operation for safety.

Finally bear in mind that a new wood burning stove when first lit can smell horrific for the first few days of getting hot so do ‘run it in’ before the bad weather starts; as you will need to open all the windows to avoid being choked by fumes.