Before you buy a stove, fireplace, or stove-fireplace due to rising utility costs — it’s good to know…

Due to the increase in utility costs, many people are considering wood heating as a replacement for gas and electric heating. In reality, it’s normal to think about winter heating in the summer, but most people seek a solution in winter when the trouble has already begun. Be careful not to focus only on cheaper offers. With quality and attention, you can save on firewood. Wood heating can be economical, but it can also be environmentally polluting and wasteful.


When selecting our wood-burning device, it is important to consider the following:

  • Material thickness is important, whether it’s a stove or fireplace made of welded boiler plate or assembled from cast iron.
  • The combustion air supply needs to be adjustable; if there is too little air, the combustion is imperfect, and valuable combustible gases escape through the chimney. If there is too much air, we cool the fire chamber with excess air.
  • There should be a butterfly valve in the smoke pipe stub to regulate the chimney draft because a larger draft is needed for ignition and reviving the fire, while less draft is needed for economical burning so that the warmth does not escape through the chimney.
  • By regulating both the combustion air and the butterfly valve, we can set the ideal combustion intensity.
  • It’s good to know that a fireplace primarily performs radiant heat transfer through its glass window and secondarily provides convective heating from lower and upper openings in the fireplace cladding. Radiant heat, in conjunction with the fire’s intensity, immediately warms up, while convective heating takes longer to start.
  • Compared to a fireplace, a tiled stove takes longer to warm up but emits heat for a much longer time.
  • If the sight of the fire is important, choose a fireplace; if you want to snuggle up, choose a tiled stove.
  • There are hybrid solutions; a larger glass door can be added to a tiled stove, and the mass of the fireplace cladding can be increased for longer heat retention, but any combination comes at the expense of something.
  • There should be a deflector plate in the smoke chamber of the fireplace to make the flame take a longer path and, by heating it, transfer more heat to the fire chamber and not the chimney. Consequently, the deflector plate will also need cleaning. So, this is also a flue, found in other stoves or mixed-fuel boilers, but in a more substantial construction. And yes, the longest and most complex flue is found in tiled stoves and mass stoves. If the fireplace insert does not even have a smoke chamber (there is such a thing), it’s better to forget about it.
  • Secondary combustion air supply is essential for every heating device. This means that air is drawn in from below, usually from the ash chamber, rising through the grate, and there is a secondary air inlet introduced in the upper third of the combustion chamber. This also plays a role in energy efficiency and reducing harmful emissions. When wood burns, wood gas is formed (this is how wood gasification boilers work). This wood gas flows upward in a good burn, but there is not enough oxygen entering from the lower air intake to ignite it. It ignites due to the secondary combustion air. When you see in the fireplace window that nothing is burning in the upper third of the fire chamber, and the fire is flowing in nothingness, the secondary combustion air ensures this. If you see this, you can know that you have a good fire chamber, and you are burning well.
  • If we have a fireplace and want to keep the glass door clean, we must choose a fire chamber where the secondary combustion air falls on the glass door in the eyebrow area. This way, it rinses the glass because the airflow descends in front of the glass and then, flowing toward the middle of the fire, mixes with the wood gas, pushing the combustion away from the glass.
  • It’s advantageous to supply combustion air from the external space. Such fireplace chambers were available even 20 years ago. This way, the air in the fireplace is completely independent of the air in the living space. We’re not exhausting the air from the heated room through the chimney, but that’s not the main issue. The problem arises if our windows seal well, and, for instance, there’s a strong extractor fan in the kitchen, the toilet, and the bathroom, and there’s insufficient ventilation in the windows (either built-in or not). In such cases, the extractor fans can draw air (chimney odor) from the chimney, or, when we’re burning, smoke, and in worse cases, carbon monoxide. If our fireplace is a closed system (like a convector or a condensing boiler), this cannot happen.
  • If possible, choose a fireplace with a chamotte-lined fire chamber. Behind it, there is boiler plate or cast iron, but on one hand, the flame pattern will be more beautiful, and on the other hand, the accumulated soot will drip off, while with metal, you might see soot and tar residues, and the fire chamber might be darker.
  • They say there’s a shortage of firewood, and the shortage will only end with the start of autumn cutting. — I have bad news; you won’t be heating with autumn cuts during winter. You can burn wet wood, but it burns slowly and unevenly, causing tar deposits. It will burn, but a significant portion of the combustion energy will be used to evaporate the water. Burning wet wood might be more expensive than the increased gas price. If you can, buy wood briquettes instead; they’re usually made from woodworking waste, and they are hot during pressing, so the water evaporates.
  • If you buy wood briquettes, you can also buy straw briquettes, but only if you have a removable ash pan and a movable grate. Because straw briquettes expand massively during combustion as they release from pressing, and when they’re done, the ash remains just as large. A fireplace chamber usually allows for a week’s worth of ash at the bottom, so you only need to clean it weekly. Also, you can only remove the ashtray by taking out the grate from the fire side. So, if you have such a fire chamber, forget about straw briquettes, no matter how favorable their price is, because you’ll need to clean ash every day. Moreover, if you load them during ignition, you may not be able to add a second batch to the fire because the swelled ash won’t collapse.
  • If you have a fireplace, or call it whatever you want — a relatively large doored one — again, only place wood on the fire when there are embers, meaning no smoke. At that point, close the combustion air, open the butterfly valve, and only then open the door. After loading it, close it quickly; we let the combustion air in, limiting the butterfly valve, by opening the large door, letting smoke into the house.

Water-jacketed fireplace insert:

Every owner of a water-heated (gas boiler) heating system has thought about buying a fireplace and how nice it would be to heat every room with it. One solution is air ducting, which works without electricity, but you need to be careful with duct cleaning; sounds can be heard, and you have to drill large holes in the house. Moreover, for air to get there, the air needs a return path, and if we close the doors, that won’t help. So, few undertake this; they prefer to warm the radiators with the heat from the fireplace. This is where the installation of a water-jacketed fireplace insert comes in handy. However, for this convenience, considerably more is needed than many would think. Here it is:

  • The fireplace needs a separate water circuit, and it can only transfer heat to the existing water heating system through a heat exchanger.
  • Firstly, today’s heating systems are closed, the fireplace’s must be open, and you need to place an open expansion tank, usually in the attic.
  • For this open circuit, you also need a circulating pump.
  • Now you’ll have a minimum of 2 circulating pumps, and you’ll need a uninterruptible power supply, but be careful; it must be a sinusoidal one. Because if the power goes out, the water will boil there, and that’s only the better scenario.
  • You can’t regulate a fire caused by wood as quickly as a gas boiler. Okay, you can dampen the burn, but the ember mass will remain until it completely burns out.
  • The water jacket starts from room temperature and cannot exceed 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius), i.e., it constantly cools the fire. During ignition, condensation on the combustion chamber wall can occur more strongly, which not only looks ugly but also makes achieving the right temperature for proper combustion difficult, allowing more combustible material to exit through the chimney. To eliminate this, a thermostat control is needed to ensure that the circulating pump does not turn on until a certain water temperature is reached. This shortens the heating time.
  • On the other hand, the nice chamotte-lined solution is likely to be forgotten.
  • So, it’s possible to heat nicely and economically with a water-jacketed fireplace, but more things are needed than most people initially think.