Turn on the heating

PUBLISHED: 11:26 17 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:32 20 February 2013

Volante Limestone

Volante Limestone

With the credit crunch hitting us all, and the increasing cost of energy a hot topic, make sure your heating system is not burning your cash

If this winter is set to be anything like our summer, and you are craving a bit of warmth, there are two options - emigration or a big heating bill.
Emigration will be out of the question for many, so it's time to whack up the radiators and stoke the fires. But this comes with more complications: you could literally be burning money if you have an inefficient heating system.

A traditional open fireplace may look great, but a lot of heat goes straight up the chimney. Modern fires are far more efficient, and are much easier, faster and cleaner. To install a new fireplace, you need to identify your chimney type - whether brick built, prefabricated flue, pre-cast flue or none at all - as this will dictate your choice of fire. Brochures usually have a quick reference guide to chimney types or ask your local retailer.
As the fireplace is typically the focal point of the room, it's important to get the right look and feel. If the room has a modern look, or you want to create one, choose a fire with a silver or chrome finish, a pebble fuel bed and a simple surround with minimal lines.

For a more traditional look, opt for a fire with brass or gold detailing and a coal fuel bed, and choose a surround with period features and more ornate detailing in materials such as dark wood or slate.

Kelvin Hopkins, at Stovax and Gazco, says: "The trend in fires is towards much-improved fuel efficiency. For gas, this means moving away from open appliances to those with glass fronts. Such products have 80 to 85 per cent efficiencies compared to the 50 per cent or so which were common until recently.

"People with the older, decorative gas fires will find their fires are only 20 to 25 per cent efficient. But better efficiency doesn't mean you have to compromise on style, there are some great designs!"

If you don't have a gas supply, you could consider an electric fire. They are available in a wide range of traditional and contemporary designs, and are easy to install. Kate Whittingham-Jones, head of buying at House of Bath, says: "Traditional-look fireplaces are ever popular, and one of the best ways to achieve the look is with the new 'plug and go' fire suites which are available. These are usually complete with surround and mantel, have no need for a chimney and just plug in for instant effect and instant warmth."


One of the most economical ways to heat you home is with a stove. Kelvin Hopkins comments: "In rural and suburban areas, wood burning is really taking off. It is the cheapest form of energy and logs are not only carbon neutral, but also a renewable resource.

"People are installing woodburners to augment their gas/oil central heating and reduce to impact of the rapid increases in fuel costs. Some woodburners are even approved for use in smoke control areas, too."

Iain Robinson from Jotul adds: "Stoves are designed to burn wood, coal or smokeless fuel. As well as heating rooms, some also heat water and a limited number of radiators. A stove, which only burns wood, operates at 70 to 80 per cent efficiency against an open fire at 10 to 15 per cent. In addition, wood burns more cleanly than coal or smokeless fuel."

"The other growth area is wood pellet heating, with wood pellet producers cropping up locally," adds Mark Knight, director, The Barn Stoves & Fireplaces Ltd. "Wood pellet heating is convenient, easy and currently more than 50 per cent cheaper than heating with oil or LPG, as well as being carbon neutral.

"You can choose from either pellet stoves, which can be purely room heaters with an internal silo which only need to be re-fuelled every 24-48 hours, or fully automated boilers which can heat your whole home (and swimming pool).

"If you're in a rural location, wood pellet heating is something to seriously consider".

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