Britain could soon be facing a flue epidemic, according to leading wood fuel supplier, Logs Direct, which is warning of trouble to come for those who don’t get to grips with their wood-burner and the wood they burn.
Wood-burners have become tremendously popular since 2009, when the cost of gas and electricity forced homeowners to turn to more retro methods of heating their home. This led to a boom in sales that now sees over 1 million British homes fitted with a wood-burner for a variety of reasons. Whilst some homeowners are worried about fuel costs, others are fitting a wood-burner knowing a feature fireplace can add around 5 per cent to the value of their home. Some see it as a design statement, as they follow in the steps of celebrities such as Kate Winslet, Robbie Williams and Georgia Jagger by installing a wood-burner, whilst others wish to be greener by emitting less CO2.
The temptation to become a wood-seeking hunter-gatherer can be irresistible, according to Logs Direct. Wood-burner stove owners go foraging for wood, raiding skips and buying unseasoned logs from farm gates and timber suppliers. They fail to understand that burning this type of wood could invalidate their wood burner’s warranty, due to the harm it can cause to the appliance.
Public enemy number one for a wood-burning stove owner is wet, unseasoned wood. The composition of freshly cut wood is around 90% water, which makes it burn inefficiently, at a much lower temperature than a dry, seasoned log and at an efficiency level at least one third that of a kiln-dried log. The water content of the latter is only around 20%, which is why you only need around a third of the number of logs to burn, if using kiln-dried wood, that you would otherwise use with unseasoned logs. Kiln-dried wood makes a big difference; to your heat output, the health of your flue and the space that you require for storing wood – a big consideration if your space is limited.
Some experts say that freshly cut logs offer a heat output of 1kWh per kilogram, whilst kiln-dried logs have a heat output of 4.5kWh. Whilst this is a warming fact, it is, however, as important to consider how freshly cut, damp wood can damage your flue and chimney, according to Logs Direct.
When wood is damp, moisture-laden and burning inefficiently at a low temperature, creosote deposits build up in the chimney. This is because there is an incomplete combustion process when wood is burnt at a lower temperature. Wood tar is taken into the flue and chimney in the form of vapour and it condenses there, to create deposits that stick to the walls. This highly combustible creosote is dangerous and can easily lead to a chimney fire, or block the chimney. Additionally, you can easily damage your flue liner, shortening its life even if your liner is double-walled stainless steel. This is because condensation caused by burning wet wood is acidic and will corrode the inner surface of the metal liner. This will cause perforation and lead it to fail ahead of its scheduled lifespan.
Another big no-no for wood-burner owners is burning MDF painted or varnished wood, which releases pollutants into the atmosphere and can be harmful to health. Old CCA-treated wood should never be used as a fuel. Most properties built before 2004 were constructed with wood pressure-treated with CCA (chromated copper arsenic) – a preservative containing copper, chromium and arsenic.
Naturally, if an appliance is under warranty, it should be operated according to guidelines, which would include using the correct type of wood fuel. Homeowners new to heating their home with wood can easily be caught out and unwittingly burn wood that is damaging their appliance. This flue epidemic, consisting of blocked, damaged liners and chimneys, could easily lead to a vast number of homeowners finding their warranty invalid, due to their choice of fuel. Whilst manufacturers may have been more lenient when numbers of failures were fewer, the boom in wood-burners could well lead to more warranty claims being refuted, if proof of misuse can be found. In many cases, where wood stoves have a glass enclosure, blackened glass can be a telltale sign that unsuitable wood has been used.
Logs Direct’s Stephen Talbot says: From a homeowner’s point of view, burning wet wood is unpleasant, leading to spitting logs and a nasty smoking fire, but many put up with this, oblivious to the harm it is doing to their appliance. This is because damp, freshly cut wood can be very cheap, but the old adage, ‘you get what you pay for’ applies. It is actually not only a false economy, because more logs have to be used to generate the same amount of heat as kiln-dried wood, but also dangerous and damaging to their appliance.
“Other homeowners who think it more environmentally friendly to buy locally sourced wood have two options. They need to either store their wood for two years, under conditions that will enable it to dry and season enough for use, or look for a supplier like ourselves that offers kiln-dried British wood, as well as sustainably sourced wood from the Baltic, that can be used instantly. In the Baltic, we support local communities, who find our custom invaluable for their economy and ensure that we continue to act in the way that has made us an FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) accredited supplier and which has enabled us to gain every accreditation in our industry.
“In our view, given the massive increase in the popularity of wood-burners, it is inevitable that we will have a flue epidemic in this country unless consumers are better educated when it comes to the wood that they burn.”
More information about Logs Direct and its sustainably sourced and local British kiln dried woods can be found at www.logsdirect.co.uk or by calling 01524 812476.