This is such an important question, which we are frequently asked by potential wood burners, but one which it is notoriously difficult to answer. The factors to bear in mind are:
- How much you are going to pay for your wood.
- How much you already pay for heating.
- How much of the heating burden you are realistically going to be able to shift onto your new stove.
- How long it’s going to take to offset the costs of installation.
It is always surprising to hear how many of our customers have access to free wood from their own land, from a friend or a work contact or just from a local company or sawmill keen to dispose of pallets or off-cuts. For others who use their stoves only on occasion, it is just more convenient to buy sacks of logs from the petrol station, but the majority of stove users buy their wood in bulk from log merchants, tree surgeons or farmers.
The price of wood varies dramatically, depending on its source and condition, and the cost of logs, like any commodity, is benchmarked to supply, albeit quite loosely.
For all these reasons, it is notoriously difficult to put a price on firewood. Nonetheless, the Stove Industry Alliance has had a stab at comparing the cost of heating your home using wood with using other fuels or energy sources. In the diagram below, wood is represented by zero; the gravity-defying pound coins represent the extra percentage you would pay to use gas, oil, LPG or electricity. As you can see, moving to using wood as a fuel can create significant savings.
For most people, in most houses, a suitably-sized and situated wood burning stove can make a huge difference to the cost of heating a home. In some situations, it can even render the central heating entirely redundant.
Having a wood burning stove is not a panacea for all situations, however; if your house costs a fortune to heat, it might be because it leaks like a sieve and suffers heinous heat loss, and substituting one heat source for another might not make much of a difference. Alternatively, if it’s because your house is a fifty-room mansion, putting an enormous stove into one downstairs room will turn that room into a sauna but won’t do much for the rest of the house. The diagram below gives a rough idea of the heating costs of old, new and future domestic buildings.
Obviously, you are more likely to recoup the costs of installation faster when your existing fuel bills are higher.
After you have your stove, how much your wood is going to cost is really a question of finding the right balance for you between sourcing, preparing and seasoning green wood yourself and out-sourcing a proportion of that work to somebody else.
If you are really keen on self-sufficiency, then you might want to take a look at The Woodland Trust’s offer of free tree packs. If you can put forward a good case for a community tree-planting project, they might give you an acre’s worth of birch, cherry, oak and rowan saplings.
In their own words: ‘Planting native trees for firewood is a good way for communities to grow a local, sustainable, source of fuel that will help keep the wood burners going.’ Firewood from woodland that you grow and manage yourself is of course not exactly the same thing as free wood, but then owning a wood burning stove should never be just an economic proposition.