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As the impact of both the environmental concerns surrounding fossil fuels and the ever-rising price of gas and oil hits, many of us are turning to a tried and tested way of heating our homes - wood.

Wood burning stoves, installed correctly and used properly, can sometimes be used to heat an entire property; however, this will - of course - depend on the size of the house or flat in question. Investing in a wood burning stove can reduce your heating bill and protect our planet, so what’s not to like? Moreover, there is nothing like the atmosphere created by a wood-burner - they really do make a house into a home.

Open-plan living

The optimum layout for efficient heating via a wood burning stove is one that has a fully open-plan ground floor. Position the stove centrally - ideally in the kitchen, dining room or living area - and the heat could permeate around the downstairs living area.

Square footage

To maximise the efficiency of a stove, it is essential to do some research to ensure that the size of the stove matches the space it is to heat - too small and the stove’s output will be inadequate, too large and you could find yourself overheating. Each stove model will be marked with the square footage for which it is recommended; however, for real peace of mind, consult an expert. The layout of your property may mean that you require a slightly smaller or bigger stove than you had anticipated.

Maximum efficiency

To ensure that your home is well heated during the colder months, you will need to understand how to get the best out of your new wood burning stove. This means ensuring that it is operating at maximum efficiency, which can only be achieved if the heat can circulate properly.

Top tips

Try to keep one to two inches of ash in place at the bottom of your stove, which helps to keep the fire burning at a steady rate. The cut and type of wood you opt to use are also critical. Hard woods are preferable when the temperature really dips; conversely, in the milder autumn months, you could opt for a softer wood. Using a variety of thicknesses and lengths of wood is also advisable, as this should allow you to pack your stove proficiently. Try to stock up on wood a year ahead of time, as this is the optimum period it needs to season.

Posted By Paul Smith

Whether you are replacing an old model or installing an entirely new fireplace, choosing a new gas fire for your home is an exciting prospect. The right fire can be the focal point of a room and can instantly lift your entire space. Whether you opt for a streamlined contemporary design to give your room a new lease of life or prefer something more traditional for a cosy, rustic look, this brief guide to the different types of gas fire available will help you to decide which type of fire is best for your space and your needs.

Radiant gas fires

These fires make use of ceramic plates to warm the room, radiating heat into the space. Ceramic has excellent heat retention properties and can remain warm for a long while after the fire has been switched off. In addition to heating the room by radiant heat, they convect heat into your home through a heat exchanger. In the past, these fires were often considered old-fashioned; however, there are many contemporary models available that better suit modern tastes.

Glass front gas fires

Extremely energy efficient, these work with conventional flue systems. They radiate heat straight into the room, forcing warmth out with minimal energy waste. Warm air is also provided via convection, with heat being passed through an exchanger.

Open front/outset gas fires

These look just like a real fire and are extremely efficient at heating your home. Providing radiant heat and some providing both radiant & convected heat, they are perfect for anyone who wants the look and feel of a traditional coal fire without the mess and inconvenience of the real thing.

Outset fires are either glass fronted or have the ceramic white radiant pots and feature a living flame effect that sits on the fireplace hearth rather than inside the chimney area. They work in a similar way to most other glass front fires. They give off a lot of radiant heat

Balanced flue gas fires

These are ideal for homeowners who want a gas fire but do not have a flue or chimney in place. Balanced flue fires are supplied with their own flue terminals and vent out through an external wall. They have glass fronts and are completely sealed. They produce both radiant and convected heat, and are extremely energy efficient.

Posted By Paul Smith

There is surely nothing more welcoming on a frosty night than the cheerful glow of a wood-burning or multi-fuel stove. Stoves tick all the boxes; for example, they are environmentally friendly and comparatively cheap to run. When you factor in just how practical they are and their stunning good looks, most people searching for heating solutions for their home will agree that they are onto a winner with a decent stove. As a bonus, there are a number of initiatives run by the government that are designed to help homeowners to install a stove as affordably as possible.

RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive)

This initiative covers multi-fuel models; therefore, if this is an option you are considering, it could be well worth your while finding out whether you can benefit. Once fully consulted, this scheme will roll out and replace the current Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP) scheme. The RHPP allows landlords or homeowners who opt to change their heating source to one that is renewable to claim vouchers to help with the cost. This scheme is live across the UK, except for Northern Ireland, and it is possible to claim towards the cost of installing such items as biomass boilers and solar powered water heating in some cases. Although the homeowner or landlord will be required to meet a set of criteria before receiving their funds, the voucher will generally cover the cost of the new appliance; therefore, successful applicants need only find the extra cash to pay for the installation.

The Green Deal

The Green Deal is a rather more general initiative. Primarily aimed at making UK businesses and properties more efficient in terms of energy consumption, this scheme is a loan rather than a grant. Businesses or homeowners who undertake to switch to a greener heating system, install double glazing or insulate their loft space will qualify for a cashback payment. There are some guidelines that must be adhered to when applying to the Green Deal scheme, with businesses and homes visited and assessed before any works commence. The work must be completed by a Green Deal accredited installer, and those who qualify will pay for the improvements to their property via their electricity bills.

Before installing your new stove, it can be concluded that it is definitely a good idea to research all the government schemes available that may be able to help you with the costs.

Posted By Paul Smith

As we head into the final weeks of 2017, it is time to take a look at the fireplaces that will be the most-wanted in 2018.

Wall-mounted fires

Wall-mounted fires have been big news for a few years, but the trend shows no signs of slowing down. Not only is a wall-mounted fire a great way to save space in a smaller room but also it looks fresh, modern and clean. When it is switched on, you still get that wonderful cosy glow of a real fire, making it a great all-rounder for many homes. Wall-mounted fireplaces are extremely versatile and come in a huge variety of styles and designs to suit all tastes. They are also affordable and are usually simple to install, particularly those that do not require a chimney.

Brick & stone fireplaces

Brick and stone fireplaces never really goes out of style, but it is back in a big way at the moment. It has traditionally been used to create a utilitarian or industrial feel; however, today's homeowners are using it with great effect to create a homely, rustic style. Exposed brick or stone adds a modern finish to any space, with a simple brick fireplace a great way to refresh your living room. If you do not want to replace your existing fireplace but love the idea of brick detail in your home, think about whether there are any areas where you could remove your wall coverings and expose the brick underneath.

Landscape fireplaces

These won't be practical in all homes; however, if you are looking for an eye-catching way to heat your home and like to make a statement with your interior design, a landscape or horizontal fire could be the answer. They are extremely striking and are available in a range of sizes. They are often installed at a higher height than tradition fireplaces, adding further interest.

Wood-burning stoves

Wood-burners have enjoyed a huge resurgence in popularity, with 2018 looking set to bring more of the same. While they have long been a feature of country cottages and holiday homes, they are now just as likely to be found in townhouses and new-build homes. Homeowners have been looking for ways to make their homes more comfortable and welcoming, and the love for all things autumnal & for winter, does not appear to be dying down. Most areas have a reliable log supplier, making wood-burners a practicality for many homes.

Posted By Paul Smith

Gas fires are still the top choice of fireplace for British homeowners - and for good reason. Not only are they affordable and easy to use but also they are available in a wide range of styles, meaning there is a model ideally suited to every home. Whether your style is traditional or contemporary, you will find a gas fire to perfectly complement your decor.

Cost-effective heating

Gas is an affordable heating solution for many homeowners, and a gas fire can actually help you to cut down on your heating bills. If you tend to use one room in your home far more than others - usually the living room, for example - it makes sense to concentrate on heating this room. Heating the whole home when you barely use it at certain times of day is a waste of money and energy. Having a gas fire to heat your living room means you might not need to use central heating nearly as much. You might even be able to switch off the radiator in your living room for much of the time and simply have the fire on as and when you need heat.

Instant heat

A gas fire will heat your room far more quickly than a radiator. This is a welcome benefit, especially in very cold weather. With central heating, you often need to think about your plans in advance if you want to ensure your home is warm at a certain time; for example, if you arrive home earlier than expected and your heating has been off all day while you have been out of the house, it will take time to warm up your room. With a gas fire, you can simply switch it on and you will have instant heat.

The look of real fire without the mess

Many gas fires these days are extremely attractive. The traditional idea of a gas fire as an unattractive box fixture on the wall is a thing of the past, with today's designs modern, stylish and extremely visually appealing. If you love the look and feel of a real coal fire but do not want to deal with the hassle or the mess they entail, a gas fire designed to replicate the real thing is the ideal solution. You will be able to enjoy the ambiance and warm welcome provided by a real coal fire with instant heat and none of the mess or effort.

Posted By Paul Smith

There are so many options when it comes to picking the perfect fireplace or fire for your home - so much so that the choice can seem bewildering. Here we consider what factors you need to bear in mind when creating the right look and ambiance in your living space.

While many of us are driven by aesthetic considerations when shopping for a fire, there is no reason you can’t combine pure good looks with excellent usability and efficiency - provided you are prepared to do a modicum of research.

If you have central heating in your property, you are likely to be looking for a secondary heat source that can be utilised for a swift dash of extra warmth during the colder months or a fire that will work well in tandem with underfloor heating, for example.

The first thing you need to decide is whether you want an open fire or a fire with a glass frontage. While open fires undoubtedly inject a real sense of cosiness into any room, they are not as fuel efficient as glass fronted fires

A wood burner will provide an impressive flame coupled with a high level of heat efficiency; alternatively, if you are looking for the atmosphere that a flame adds to an environment but do not want the hassle involved with burning wood or other fuels, a gas fire could be a great fit for you. There are lots of models that offer highly-realistic coal or log fuel beds and the benefit of being able to control the flame and heat to your exact specifications, often via remote control.

Designs can fall anywhere between the starkly contemporary and the very traditional; in addition, they can be built in or freestanding, depending on your needs.

One obvious plus point of wood burning and gas fires or stoves is that they do not need mains electricity to work. This means that should you experience a power cut, you will still be able to keep at least one room in your home nice and warm.

If you are working on a large-scale home renovation or new-build project, you should try to make your decision about heating as soon as possible. Certain options may require a chimney or even an inglenook; therefore, settling on a heating scheme early on will leave you with the widest range of options from which to choose.

Posted By Paul Smith

If you have a blocked-up fireplace in your home, you may wish to open it up and install a gorgeous wood burning stove to really make the most of this lovely feature. This should be a fairly straightforward - if messy - procedure; however, if in doubt, always seek advice from an expert.

Chimney breast

If your chimney has been correctly blocked up, you should be able to see a vent in the relevant wall Carefully remove this and examine the opening using a torch. This will give you a good idea of what you are working with.

Take the skirting board off

You will either need to remove the whole length of skirting or a neat section.

Check the hearth

The hearth is the solid piece of raised floor just in front of the chimney. It is often made from concrete. Check this to ensure it is sound.

Board or brick?

If you hear a hollow sound when you tap the wall, you can be pretty certain your fireplace is covered with board. This should be fairly simple to prise off. On the other hand, if it has been filled in using bricks, these will need to be carefully knocked out. Go cautiously, starting from the bottom and working upwards from left to right

Brickwork

Bring the bricks right back to the border of the original fireplace opening and then make good any of the joints that require it, both at the side and back.

Ta-da!

Your fireplace is revealed! Now you can take a close look to see what sort of condition it is in. If the fireback is cracked, this can be repaired with specialist cement.

Draught

You will need to check your chimney’s draught by placing a lit candle just in front of it. It is essential that flames and smoke are drawn efficiently up the chimney. If this is not the case, your chimney may have been deliberately capped, or might be blocked. This will need to be actioned before you go any further.

Chimney and flue

Before putting in a new grate or fireback, you will need to get the chimney professionally swept. You must also ensure that your flue is in good working order.

Professional checks

Before you light a fire for the very first time, whether in a newly opened fireplace or a newly-installed one, always get a professional to check that it is safe and sound.

Posted By Paul Smith

If you are considering installing a wood burning or solid fuel stove - whether to save some cash or to be more environmentally friendly - it is likely that your main considerations thus far have been aesthetic; however, there are a number of crucial practical factors that come into play when putting in a stove, with the most important probably the location of the flue.

Positioning your stove

Before buying your dream stove, take some time to think about the best position for it. If you already have a chimney and fireplace, this is likely to be a decent site; however, this will not always be as straightforward as you may think. In a period property, the fireplace is likely to have been designed for a coal fire and is unlikely to conform to the current building regulation requirement that a chimney needs to be lined.

Existing fireplace?

If you are planning to place a wood burning stove in a vacant fireplace, you will also need to ensure that there is sufficient room around it for the circulation of air and that all smoke will be efficiently pulled from the room.

New flue

Since there is a fair bit of additional work and cost required when lining a chimney and carrying out safety checks, you might find it more economical to site your stove elsewhere. In this way, you can easily route a new flue through an outside wall.

Rules and regulations

There are several rules and regulations that you will need to navigate regarding the ventilation in the room, the flue size, and carbon monoxide detectors. It is often simpler all round to get the installation done from start to finished by a HETAS registered professional, as they will be used to ticking all the boxes when it comes to the practicalities and legalities. If you do not get the installation signed off by building control, you may find that you have hoops to jump through when it comes to selling your property; therefore, it is important get things done correctly right from the get-go.

Building Control

Building Control takes an interest in the fitting of wood/solid fuel stoves due to the plethora of rules pertaining to their safe installation. You could choose to do the work yourself, but remember that you will need to get the project inspected and signed off by a HETAS-approved engineer.

Posted By Paul Smith

A wood-burning stove is a great addition to any room, adding a touch of luxury and cosiness in addition to being practical and energy efficient.

Over time, you will probably notice that your stove is getting quite dirty and the surface may become marked or rusty. Inside, ash build-up may cause the glass door to appear sooty and the seal may become less effective.

Luckily, it is a quick and simple matter to set your stove to rights, leaving it looking as good as new. Here’s how:

Remove tar/soot

Before carrying out any maintenance on your stove, always ensure it is perfectly cool. If tar and/or soot deposits have come through onto the plaster, clean these off with a brush or damp cloth and apply a coat or two of stain block. Once this is dry, you can finish with your paint colour of choice.

Rust issues

Rub away any small patches of rust with some wire wool and vacuum up the resulting debris. You can then repaint if required.

Respray

If you want to respray your stove, ensure that you mask the handles and door using sheets of newspaper held in place with tape. Cover the surrounding area and ensure the room is well ventilated. Using stove spray paint, apply several coats until you achieve the desired effect.

Window cleaning

To clean the stove window, you can use a specific stove glass cleaner; alternatively, a dampened ball of newspaper dipped in ash and rubbed gently onto the window will bring it to a brilliant shine.

Check the seal

You should periodically check the rope seal on your stove. This will tend to lose its shape over time, allowing fumes to escape.

Stove health

To ensure your stove is working well, and more importantly safely, make a point of regularly cleaning out the firebox and emptying the ash pan. Ensure that the firebricks are sound. During the warmer months, leave the stove with the door ajar and the air inlets set to open to allow it to air properly. Summer is the perfect time to get your chimney swept in preparation for autumn’s chillier nights.

Hearth sealant

If you opt to seal your hearth, you will find it a lot easier to keep clean. First clean it thoroughly with hot water and floor cleaner, then rinse. Refrain from adding sealant for at least four days, as the surface needs to be completely dry for it to take properly; alternatively, you could treat it with a hearth-specific oil. Be sure to protect your carpets and soft furnishings before applying.

Posted By Paul Smith

You have made the decision to fit a wood burner or stove in your home, but now the questions start. Which type of stove will best suit my needs? What type of fuel do I want to use? How big should it be? Should I go traditional or contemporary in terms of design?

Fuel?

First things first - you will need to decide between a wood burning stove and a multi-fuel option. If you think that you will only want to burn wood, this decision is already made, although there are a few points you will need to consider before heading out to purchase your new stove. Be sure to establish whether you live in a smoke controlled zone; if you do, you will need to purchase a stove approved by DEFRA for this type of use. Alternatively, if you want to have the flexibility of burning other types of fuel, such as coal or peat, your best bet will obviously be a multi-fuel stove.

Size?

The size of your stove should reflect the size of the room in which it is to be installed. Stoves range from 4kW right up to 16Kw. Since stoves are an efficient heat source, it is important not to install one that is too big for its intended space; conversely, go too small and you won’t feel the benefit. If in doubt, ask your retailer for advice.

Aesthetics

Stoves are available in a wide range of styles and colour to suit all tastes. Whether you are looking for a cutting-edge design or an unashamedly traditional one, you are sure to find the perfect model. It is even possible to customise a stove, such as by adding a bespoke colour or finish, thereby ensuring your new heating source is unique to you.

Budget

As with any purchase, you tend to get what you pay for; however, it is possible to get a great model at the lower end of the price scale, particularly if you are looking for a smaller version.

Installation

It is generally a far better option to get your new stove professionally fitted by a HETAS qualified installer. The cost for this will relate to the size of the stove selected and how much remedial work needs to be done to your existing fireplace.

Posted By Paul Smith
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