Is wood fuel cheaper than gas, oil or electric?

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This is an important question that many of us might be asking these days.  With energy prices in the UK rising rapidly it’s prudent to start considering alternative options for heating our homes during the colder months of the year.  In this post I’d like to talk about some of the pros and cons of wood fuels and compare pricing to gas, oil and electric heating.

Is wood fuel cheaper than gas, oil or electric

Can burning wood save you money on your heating bills? 

This is an interesting question and one that is often open for debate.  The trouble is, there are so many different variables involved with burning wood.  For example: 

-       What type of wood are you burning?

-       What appliance is being used? Open fire, stove or biomass boiler?

-       The appliance location.

Sourcing your wood fuels is also an important factor.  Good quality wood is essential in getting the best heat output from your appliance.  Moisture content should be low and the type of wood should be suitable for burning.  There are many companies online who make it easy to compare wood fuel and order products directly to your home. Lekto Wood Fuels provide some of the best types of wood suitable for stoves, open fires and other appliances.  We are currently using their hardwood heat logs in our wood burner which have many eco-friendly and money-saving qualities, as well as ash wood.

Firstly, let’s take a minute to discuss the different types of wood fuels and their heat outputs.

What are the best wood fuel types?

Most wood is flammable but certain types of wood are best suited for burning.  These types of wood will give a good heat output, burn for a long time and won’t spit and pop.  The three most common wood types for burning are:

-       Ash

-       Oak

-       Birch

You might also come across some companies selling these types:

-       Beech

-       Maple

-       Ironwood

-       Apple

Ash is generally known to be one of the best woods to burn due to its density.  This makes for a long burn time.  Ash also gives a nice steady flame and when properly seasoned can last a long time with no splitting or popping.  Whilst ash can be more expensive to buy upfront, it is a higher quality wood for burning and can be cost-effective due to its longer burn time, meaning you’ll get through your wood stock slower in comparison to other types of wood which burn much quicker.

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Which is the most cost-effective appliance type for wood fuel?

There are many different appliance types on the market for the purpose of heating your home.  The most common of these is the wood burning stove.  You will also come across open fires and perhaps a biomass boiler which uses sustainably sourced wood pellets to heat water, very similar in how your gas boiler would.

Each of these have different heat outputs and are suitable for different applications.  As we are looking at heat output in this article, I’d like to put the biomass boiler aside for now as they are less common and focus on the other two.

Open fires are great, they can look beautiful and provide a nice centrepiece setting to enjoy in your home.  They are however far less efficient at heating a house, or room, as a good 70% of the heat created is lost up the chimney.  This is not going to be a cost-effective solution for heating your home, no matter how wonderful an atmosphere an open fire creates!

A wood burning stove, on the other hand, can retain much of the heat created within its walls and allows that heat to easily emanate into a room, staying warm even once the wood has finished burning.  It’s become commonplace today for homes to have wood burning stoves installed as opposed to open fires due to their heat retaining benefits and safety features.  A stove is the most cost-effective way of warming your home when compared to an open fireplace.

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Does the location of the wood fuel appliance make a difference?

This is an important factor.  How can we make a fair comparison when looking at gas, oil, electric and wood as a heat source?  Gas, oil and electric are traditionally used as part of a central heating system.  Heating water which is then pumped around a house into radiators.

The location of these units also pays a big part in heating your home.  Electric heaters can often be found in many rooms around a home, whereas gas fires are generally located in one room, the living room as a centre piece. 

The location of these appliances can make a huge difference with regards to heating a single room or more of the house.  We noticed a big difference when we moved into a new house in which the log burner was located more centrally and close to the stairs.  This allowed the heat to travel more easily around the house, particularly into the first floor.  In our last house the log burner was at the back of the house and nowhere near our stair case.  Heat tended to get trapped at one end of the house and didn’t heat the second floor at all.  

So, it makes a big difference in terms of saving money where a wood burner is located, should the aim be to reduce the need to use fossil fuel to heat you whole house.

There are also options to link up a wood burning stove to the rest of the house to reap the benefits of the heat throughout the whole home.  However, this installation will need to be completed by a professional and could be fairly costly. 

If you are new to installing a wood burner in your home then think wisely about its location and whether investing in a suitable heating system for the burner to heat the rest of the home will save you money in the long run.

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The cost comparison of wood fuels compared to electricity, gas and oil

Finally, the moment you have been waiting for!  Is wood fuel a cost-effective solution for heating a house when compared to the cost of oil, gas or electric? 

Here’s a look at the direct data which has been taken from https://nottenergy.com/resources/energy-cost-comparison/

The data shown was taken in August 2021

  • Average Electricity price per Kwh – 23.31p
  • Average gas price per Kwh – 5.32p
  • Average oil price per Kwh – 5.85p
  • Average wood price per Kwh – 4.63p

As you can see the current pricing for seasoned wood is slightly more appealing compared to the other sources.  Whilst this data cannot be 100% accurate it is a good indicator for the average house size in the UK.

Conclusion

The burning question (excuse the pun) and point of this article was to find if it was beneficial to use your wood burning appliance to save money heating your home.  Whilst there are so many different factors involved in this and scientific studies to calculate heat output there is no simple answer. 

However, if you have a good source of wood and a newer style stove which is installed in the optimal location you most certainly could save money compared to gas, oil or electric heating.

You can find out more regarding the testing of heat efficiency on this Government website.  The data is very detailed and should answer any further questions you have regarding the efficiency of wood burning stoves.

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