Wood burning stoves, Multi-Fuel Stoves and fuels

I think there’s a bit of a pyromaniac in me - loved the coal fires in my grandparents house, loved bonfires as a kid, especially the huge communal 5th Nov street bonfire my father often co-ordinated, also as a kid loved starting fires with a magnifying glass!

Having visited many ‘holiday cottages’ in recent years with our young family where there were wood burning stoves I had two Clearview stoves installed a few years ago.

I suspect many have been along a similar path trying varied woods, artificial logs, coal, coal substitutes with mixed results, and possibly acquisition of moisture meters, thermoelectric stove fans and infra red heat thermometers - I have anyway!

What are your favourite fuels? Are the gadgets any good?

I’ll share my probably non-environmentally favourite fuel shortly.

More interestingly - cooking - what and how do you cook on your stoves?

I’ve often cooked sausages/bacon, casseroles and similar on top of the stove in an enamelled pan - fat occasionally spatters but disappears over time. Coffee has not been particularly successful.

I have some jacket potatoes inside the stove cooking tonight and stuffed pork on top covered in foil which I may crisp in a proper oven.

Would love to hear your experiences and recipes.

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I have a clear view 650, had it for a good 12 years or so. Quite cheap to run initially, but good wood is getting expensive. But would not change it, it has a certain ambience.

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I certainly don’t think these stoves are as cheap to run as is often portrayed in the reviews, and in practice I also find those comments saying a stove ‘heats the whole house’ to be incorrect, but I guess that may depend on many factors in a given home.

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I have two 5kW Jotul stoves; sadly not the new improved variety (an extra baffle). These don’t require external air supply but the cottage is a bit leaky. They top up the underfloor heating.
I get my wood from the neighbouring farm; it’s seasoned about 12 months before I get it and it’s stacked outside until I need it. It has 20% moisture content before I bring it in; stacked beside the stoves it dries to between 5 and 15% before I burn it.
I’m not worried about the type of wood, as long as it’s a hard wood and the moisture content is below15%. The flues are insulated, so warm up quickly, which helps minimise build up of soot, and improves combustion. Nevertheless, soot particles are expelled and would be a problem in urban areas. Here they are diluted quickly. Future governments may legislate against less efficient stoves.
Those thermodynamic fans are great - Canadian I think in origin.
I’ve not cooked on the stoves yet - power cuts are less frequent now.

I get through 3 loads of wood each winter - £100 a load. A sweep costs £50 per chimney. I think they are cost effective and I hope my own wood will be ready as fuel in a couple of years.

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I think some modern stoves are good - namely those that are room-sealed, drawing their air from outside, so when not in use they don’t present a source of draught, and likewise don’t require an additional air inlet to the room, and don’t present a risk of carbon monoxide generation in the room. With well- designed heat exchangers they can be efficient, and some can even have water heaters fitted for supplementary central heating input. Nothing not to like - unlike open fires if stoves that are not room-sealed.

However, their adverse effect on air quality outside the house may be a cause for concern, especially in built-up areas…

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Excellent! A stove thread! Like Gazza I’m running a Clearview 650 flat top that I bought in 2006. I find it really good, its my main heat source and it’s running every night from end of September through to May. I burn a mix of sitka spruce softwood, sycamore ( I cut a few down!) cherry and my favourite would be good seasoned beech. This year so far I’m mainly burning spruce which if fully dry is really good. A good moisture meter is an essential accessory though. I did burn turf for a few years which when mixed with logs makes a great fire but it’s very dusty

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Part of my question about ‘fuels’ relates to experience on holiday.

Rental cottages occasionally had a bit of kindling, noxious firelighters and a handful of logs which would last 1-2 night at most.

Trips to local garages usually yielded expensive bags of sodden logs covered in mold (despite them supposedly being dry/seasoned) and they’d smoke very badly.

I rapidly found artificial logs (eg Homefire at Homebase outlets) gave high heat and were consistent provided you could see they weren’t damp and crumbly.

Home Bargains provided excellent Verdo brand artificial logs a few years ago but they no longer stock them - another brand I bought there once a few years ago seemed to have multi-coloured plastic bits embedded in the ‘log’ so I stopped buying those as I had no idea what their content was.

Home Bargains still seem to do the best kiln dried logs of similar outlets, though I think their bags have become smaller despite price remaining constant - these are imported from the EU so Brexit might affect the price.

When it comes to bulk wood purchases I think you’re lucky if you have a good local supplier, if not property access can be an issue for national deliveries if for example you don’t have a driveway for pallet drop-offs.

I got some great logs from a supplier 20 miles away a few years ago that I transported in a large rental van I was using for other things - their delivery process would probably not work for me. Had some amazing burrowing wasp like critters that emerged from some of those logs too! Do we give enough consideration to parasites in logs that might affect our homes?

I also got great hardwood logs from a farm a short distance away I piled into an old VW Polo a few years ago. The next lot I got from there were either very damp hardwood or poor quality softwoods.

Is the hardwood vs softwood concern really an issue if things are actually dry?

Must admit the Clearview has been brilliant. Have changed the ropes sealing the doors and tray a few times and one set of new bricks. Over the summer i replaced the rear brick only…not bad for the amount of use.

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I run two Chesney wood burners, one is dual fuel. Sourcing fuel is a bit like hifi and guitars, you largely get what you pay for, unless you source your own. Over the years after trying various suppliers, some with really bad wood, I keep coming back to Luxury logs, they have a good selection by the pallet, ash, birch, oak, etc also peat and heat logs, they also seem to have a good distribution network. Have a wood store attached to the cottage keeps wood dry and ready for use, also keep some coal and peat.

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I’m a little annoyed with my installer who are a fairly ‘premium’ outfit in South Wales - I’d decided on the stoves and placed an order, but after more investigation I found out that Clearview had optional fittings to allow an extra attachment below the grate to bring air in directly through the rear wall - they said they didn’t have experience with this and instead I have a ridiculously large ‘airhole’ in an adjoining knock through room which is both inefficient and draughty - my calculations suggest its diameter is considerably larger than needed. I guess however this is an ‘upgrade’ I could avail myself of in future.

I think the calorific value of soft may actually be higher then hard when measured by weight, the Sitka I have burns extremely well and I can’t fault it, I buy 4 x Dyna tipper loads a year and keep it stored in an open shed and I mix this with various hardwoods that are well dried out. The wasp thing is interesting, I noticed over the years that queens hibernate in the logs in the shed, when you bring them inside to the heat they wake up after a few hours and you have these enormous slightly confused wasps flying around your living room in December which can be a bit scary

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I’ve done the door seals once in 13 years along with the back brick which seems to always crack in the middle but causes no problems.

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I gather cracks in the bricks are cosmetic issues only which is good to know.

Yes I did query it with Clearview and that’s what they told me too. I reckon the back brick is made to large and when it expands in the heat it bows outwards and cracks. They do cut a groove in the rear which I’m guessing is to stop this but it doesn’t seem to work. On my next replacement I’m going to shave it down a bit and see if it helps

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I’ll take a look at that supplier in the future.

Most of the kiln dried stuff available locally is Europea n birch.

I really want to try oak and other woods.

I find the kiln dried stuff provides great heat but is used within 60-90 minutes and topping up is a chore.

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Yes you are correct to some extent; my data source on these things is Norwegian Wood by Lars Mytting. They is the potential heat yield, kWh per a given weight. For example, holly can produce 3591 kWh, whilst spruce gives out 2022. This assumes 0% moisture. Softwood gives out less heat than hardwoods. Norwegians like birch, here abouts ash is favoured because it catches quickly. Beech is marginally better than ash.

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I always have a mix of ash/birch and oak, the oak is great for when the fires up and running but a bit of a bitch to start off with, gives off less flame but good heat and longer lasting.
I think they operate out of Nottinghamshire but as I said delivery is quick and not too costly, can be delivered pallet, nets or builder bags. The main thing is over the years their wood has been consistently good.

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Peat, marvellous peat!

I found a supplier not that far away selling various coal products including Welsh Anthracite and Steam Coal - fuels recommended by Clearview for my stoves.

Unfortunately the coals don’t seem to burn well with lots of ‘clinker’, perhaps I wasn’t getting the stove hot enough, perhaps poor quality fuel, but certainly not easy to work with though I may explore again with the remaining coal I have.

‘Synthetic coal briquettes’ are pretty good in terms of long fairly constant heat output, great for staying in overnight but difficult to rekindle anything but wood. I am however concerned about the various additives (details I think on DEFRA or similar site). They also produce lots of ash.

Seeing some Irish peat at the aforementioned supplier I tried a few packs and it’s simply marvellous - relatively long burn time, and great heat output in a far cleaner presentation than coal or coal type briquettes. Poor carbon footprint and industry being wound down, but I really like the stuff.

The fact it reminds me of the aroma of Ardbeg whisky is another bonus!

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Cherry is fantastic, I cut down a large one a few years ago and I still have some left, it burns really hot and for ages. I actually felt a bit guilty burning it as it’s beautiful wood.

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Appreciate the recommendation.

I think it’d be fair to say there’s a bit of an art to starting and maintaing a good fire, and it’s something I suspect I’ll be learning for many years to come - environmental impacts aside it’s certainly something that puts me more in tune with nature.