In March and April 2009 we organised the fitting of a wood burning stove. A friend of ours at the local Transition Town group put us onto a company called Nature's Warmth. We paid them a visit and had them come around for a quote. We liked the price (only in the region of £2500 - exactly what we expected) so asked them to proceed. There was quite a bit of discussion about which stove would fit. The previous house owners had bricked in the (already small) fireplace and fitted a tiny gas fire complete with fake coal. Needless to say, we never used it as we are a post-carbon family! To have one fossil fuel masquerading as another fossil fuel seemed absurd. So a wood stove seemed to be the way to go. We were not short of storage space for logs but were concerned for Milla's safety.
So along came the boys of Nature's Warmth who knocked out the fake fireplace and surrounding mantel. This revealed a larger gap into which they finally managed to shoe-horn a Dovre 250 without any further work. The Dovre is a smoke-free licensed unit so no worries there as we live in a smoke control zone. However this really limits your choice - as did the very small size of our fireplace. Even so the Dovre pumps out 4.9kw - not bad! The removal of the fire-surround had left some broken plaster but the boys came back and made-good. It only left us with a spot of repainting. They even furnished us with a neat metal edging strip for the newly exposed brick.
This has left us without a mantel so we are now going to have a sturdy wooden shelf mounted in its place. As we had hit the warmer months we have only had two opportunities to try the new stove. We had been left with a bag of wood by the installers so we gave it a spin one evening. The instructions for the device show it also using coal - which is a bit confusing. There are two airflow controls which you have to juggle by trial-and-error. The first attempt was not really successful and it didn't feel too hot. The advice of the Instruction book suggests not refueling more than 2 inches of the grate so we hardly put any wood on. So it really didn't get burning. Second time we filled it up with logs and this seemed to work a lot better.
The stove fits the fireplace very well and is inset completely into the wall. I was concerned that this would leave us no space on top to do any cooking. However there is more than enough space to boil a kettle and warm so food even if we haven't tried this novelty yet. As the stove fits so tightly in the wall there have been no concerns about child safety. Milla doesn't seem to keen to go too near it when it is alight as it is obviously so hot. The installer said that in their experience this is true of small children and seldom is too much protection required. We did have a look around for a fireguard but then abandoned the idea as unnecessary.
All that space above and below the stove is handy for storing and drying logs. We have now consumed our first batch of gifted logs so are shopping around for a bigger shipment. We have put aside log storage space on the gable-end of the house outside the garage. This has been cleared and a gate will be fitted to keep the children out. We have also had the broken fence replaced (at the end of April) leaving us with lots of spare wood for kindling and enough to build a compost heap. The household can now also boast an axe.
The last two pictures show here were added in August 2010 which show the stove after the first cleaning of the chimney. Note here the black metal surround that wasn't shown in earlier photos.
Update January 2011: We had a miserable few weeks and January and December when our chimney became blocked. We called in a chimney sweep but he found nothing wrong. His sweeping made it worse so we called the installers and after a long delay they finally ripped off the old rain-cap. The old one had a mesh that was choked with creosote. They told me they had a lot of problems with these kind of cowlings but stil charged me for replacing it with a larger cowl with a mesh with bigger holes. We weren't quite satisfied with what we had been told. The installer blamed our wood for being too dry or possibly treated. In fact the wood was old fence panels and posts that may have been creosoted many years ago. HOwever we knew from anecdotal evidence that this shouldn't block a chimney that is regularly swept. Some enquiries confirmed what we already knew - there is no such thing as wood being "too dry" and a rain cap should not block at the mesh. We have been told that rain-caps for wood fires do not require a mesh at all and if a mesh is used it muct have holes larger than 1 inch. The original cap fitted had much smaller holes and the height of the cap didn't allow it to be cleaned properly from the stove end. We assume our replacement cowl should perform much better and we ill ensure that it is kept clean in future. Maybe every few years we'll get a chimney sweep with ladders to do a roof-top inspection. We suggest that if anyone else has a new cowl fitted that, unless you are particularly paranoid about birds nest, then request one without any mesh.
New photos taken in December 2012. They were taken at midday. The fire is not lit although it had been working the previous evening. We guess the fire would have gone out around midnight so there was no heat for around 10 to 12 hours. The thermal image shows an impressive thermal footprint around the stove on on the ceramic hearth. The wall is generally 15C but closest to the unlit stove the bricks are 18C. The darkest are directly above the stove is as high as 20C. A stove is a gift that keeps on giving. The benefits of thermal mass!