Is a wood burning stove a good investment?

Is a wood burning stove a good investment?

The wooden stoves are a special type of heating appliance that can burn wood fuel, as well as wood-derived material, such as wood pellets. The stove is usually made from solid metal (could be iron or steel) and has a closed fire chamber, a brick base and adjustable air control. Their price range varies between £300 to over £3,000.

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Once the fuel is ignited, the smoke passes through a ventilating pipes to a chimney or a flute. It is important that the chimney is hotter than the outside temperature in order for the gases to be drawn out.


Modern wood burning stoves can be incredibly efficient, along with looking great and creating a center-piece for your room.

The benefits of the wooden stoves are that they produce minimal to none smoke, minimal ash and need less firewood. Also, using a wooden stove proves to be much cleaner and energy-efficient. The wooden stoves emit far less carbon dioxide than and can be used even in smoke-free zones. However, customers should look for specific EPA-certified stoves, as they produce only 2 to 7 grams of smoke per hour (for comparison, the older, non-certified stove produce up to 4 times more smoke). Their greatest advantage is that they are cheaper than many other forms of heating. The Stove Industry Alliance (SIA) reports that the wood burning stoves are 77% cheaper (per kilowatt hour) than electric fire, nearly 30% cheaper than a gas fire and twice as cheap as oil or LPG fire. In numbers this means that a kilowatt per hour will cost around 4p, compared to 5p for gas and 15p for electricity! With these figures, it is not surprising that more than 170,000 households in the US are installing a woodburner every year (according to Dailymail).

There are different sizes of wooden stoves to suit different needs. The smallest stoves are suitable for a family room or a small cottage. They can also be attached to the central heating system of the whole house.

In general, the wooden stoves are divided into two types: based on catalytic and on non-catalytic combustion. Both are identically effective but as the catalytic stoves are more difficult to operate and require some technical knowledge, most of the stoves on the market are non-catalytic.

The non-catalytic wooden stoves, as their name suggests, don’t use a catalyst. They have a firebox insulation, a baffle which produces longer and hotter gas flow and small holes in the firebox which introduce the pre-heated combustion air. However, the non-catalytic stoves quickly deteriorate due to the high temperature and have to be replaced occasionally.

The most high-end stoves are catalytic ones. The mechanism is simple: the smoke is passed through a coated ceramic honeycomb, situated in the stove. These wooden stoves can produce long and even heat output.

It is important to note that different types of wood produce different results (as far as levels of heat are concerned). For example, if you want more heat, you should use hardwood instead of softwood. Softwoods are cheaper and are best suited for the beginning or end of the cold season, when the temperatures are not very low. Also, you should always store more than just one log in the fire. This is because a single log cannot keep the three stages of the fire process going. Experts advise on using 3 or 4 logs at one time to ensure long and even heating.

Also, never leave the wooden stove overnight! Most of the wooden stoves can burn up to 3 or 4 hours but if left overnight, they could cause air pollution and even chimney fire.

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Sande’s solar panel explanation

The solar panels are a way to utilize the renewable sun-energy. The photovoltaic (PV) cells consists of layer of special semi-conductor material (which is typically silicon) and are setup together in panels or groups. These are electrically connected and mounted onto a supporting structure – either the roof or the ground.

How do the solar panels work?

The PV cells absorb the light, falling onto them and create an electrictrified field over the semi-conducting layers. This means that the more sun energy received, the more electricity produced as a result. Each solar panel consist of PV cells and the solar panels themselves can be combined into larger photovoltaic systems which in turn are used to generate enough energy to supply electricity in larger areas (for commercial or residential uses).

There are three types of PV cells – monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline (also known as multi-crystalline) and amorphous cells. When choosing a solar panel, you have to think about the best solar cells to suit your needs. The monocrystalline are highly efficient and with high heat tolerance. The polycrystalline are mostly popular for residential areas and thanks to recent improvements in technology, they are now equally good or even better than the monocrystalline. The third type, amorphous or thin-film uses the smallest amount of silicon (hence the name). They are the least efficient. The cost of the solar panel depends largely on the type of cells used.

The power of the solar panel (or module) is measured in kilowatts peak (kWp). This is the rate at which energy is generated in perfect conditions – at high peak performance in direct sunlight during the summer. The modules can also be measured by their standard dc output under standard test conditions. Their energy production range is between 100 to 320 watts.

A 4kWp system can generate around 3,800 kilowatt hours of electricity per year – enough to supply the energy needs of a typical household. Moreover, using such a system saves approximately 2 tons of carbon dioxide each year.

One of the largest benefits of the solar panels is their cost-efficiency. Of course, there is a certain investment in the initial installation but as sunlight is free, the bills will be significantly smaller after that. Some types of solar panels also cost much than others. For example, the solar tiles, which are designed to be replace the roof tiles, usually cost twice as much as an ordinary panel system. They are also not as cost effective and should be considered only if the planning doesn’t allow for the placement of an equivalent panel system.

Also, a huge advantage of the use of solar panels is that you can actually get paid for the electricity you’ve produced (if you live in the UK). The UK government created special “feed-in-tariffs”, which means that you can get paid for the produced electricity even if you’ve already used it. Apart from that, you can sell the unused surplus electricity back to the grid and get some additional earnings.

Moreover, the solar panels decrease hugely the carbon footprint. The sunlight and the solar energy are green and renewable sources of energy and don’t release harmful pollutants or carbon dioxide

Usually, a solar panel will last around 25 years with the proper maintenance. This includes keeping the panels clean and ensuring that they don’t get overshadowed by growing trees.

Recent work by a multidisciplinary engineering team managed to create a special material, which allows the sun panels to convert 90% of the received sunlight into heat.

Warning for windfarms

Many wind farms in proposal stage will be scrapped altogether it has been revealed.  This is being attributed to the governments failure to award enough subsidies in this area.  Despite the subsidies effectively being paid for through levies on the consumers energy bills.  Which seem destined to continue to rise.

So far there are at least five projects which had been expected to recieve such grants according to industry bodies in the UK.  Of which it seems likely that only 1 will attain the required funding through the subsidies.

Wind turbines, whats the deal?

Wind turbines, whats the deal?

Wind is a form of solar energy, created by the combination of several factors, including the sun heating unevenly the atmosphere, the irregularities on Earth’s surface and the rotation of the planet. The terrain, the water bodies and the vegetation modify and affect wind flow patterns.

wind turbine energy sourceThe wind flow or the motion energy is what is harvested by wind turbines and used to generate green, renewable electricity.


The basic mechanism is simple: the wind turbines convert the kinetic energy of the wind flow into the mechanical power of electricity. This can be used later for specific tasks (such as water pumping) or it could be converted by a special generator into electricity, which is used to power commercial, as well as residential areas. It is the moving air and the electric generator that supply the electric current. Expert compare the wind turbines to the fan – but as the fan consumes energy to produce air, the wind turbines does the opposite. The blades get turned by the wind, which causes a shaft to spin.

The blades practically act like a wing of an airplane. A small pocket of low-pressure air is formed on the downwind side of the blade. The blade is then pulled towards it and the rotor turn – this is called the lift. The combination of the lift and drag forces (wind forces against the front side of the blade) is what causes the rotor to spin and, in turn, produce energy.

Types of wind turbines:

There are basically two types of wind turbines. The first type is the horizontal axis turbine, which is the traditional windmill wind turbine, used for centuries for pumping water. The second type is the vertical axis turbine. They can also be used as stand-alone applications (again, usually for pumping water) and as parts of utility power grids. The wind turbines can also be combined with PV cells.

Components of turbines:

The wind turbines consist of a blade, or a rotor – this is what converts the wind energy into the rotational shaft energy. The drive train is where the generator and the gearbox are situated. The tower of the wind turbine supports the rotor and the drive train. Other components include control, electrical cables and equipment for ground support.

Wind turbine sizes and power ratings:

There are various types of wind turbines to suit different needs. The largest have rotor blades more than the length of a football field in diameter and their height is approximately 20 stores. This huge turbine can produce enough energy to power 1,400 homes.

The so called utility-scale turbines range from 50 to 750 kilowatts. The turbines that are smaller than these, below 50 kilowatts, are used to generate energy for single homes or for specific tasks, such as water pumping.

The wind energy resources are abundant in the USA and are characterized by the density of the wind power. There are 7 classes, with 1 being the lowest. A good wind resource is considered to be from class 3 or above and with annual wind speed of 13 miles per hour.

The major advantage of the wind energy is that it is a renewable, non-polluting energy source. The electricity produced is “clean” and doesn’t release any greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. However, the initial investment is quite high and the associated cost issues are one of the major disadvantages. The environmental concerns include the impact of noise, generated by the blades and also the fact that many birds and bats get trapped and killed between the rotors.

Wikipedia article for  wind turbines here, for extra information

Can you install a wood burner yourself?

I found this instructional video which i thought was very good in explaining what is involved in installing a wood burning stove.

I had a customer asking this very question last week.  He wanted to know if he could install the stove himself, just connecting it to the existing “open fire” chimney setup.