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Wood burners vs central heating? A comparison.

wood burners vs central heating - a wood burner has its chamber open showing burning red wood inside

Winter is extending her icy arms, grabbing us in a cold embrace. So when you return home and shut the door, you need to feel some seriously soothing warmth. Ah yes, heating our personal castles is of paramount importance. However, given the current energy crisis and cost of living situation, we think it might be useful to assess some of the heating options out there. That’s why today we’re going to indulge in a little bit of a comparison. It’s time to breakdown wood burners vs central heating.


Wood burners vs central heating

Before we get into the deets, we’d like to just throw out a quick disclaimer. We’re not here to tell you which one is best. Best is a subjective term. We just want to give you some information, so you can draw your own conclusions. With a little extra knowledge, you will know what’s best for you. Makes sense? Ok great. Let’s get into some Big K wisdom here!


What is central heating?

Did you know that the concept of central heating goes all the way back to about 5000 BC in Korea of all places? History lesson aside: we’re sure the majority of you have some kind of central heating in place at home. However it’s always good to brush up on your knowledge. The more you know, the further you go and all that. Now, central heating is basically a heating system that provides warmth to various spaces within a building from one main heat source. Central heating usually consists of pipework and radiators – all of which are connected to a boiler (usually gas or electric). The boiler provides the heat and the pump moves all the heated water from the boiler through the pipework and into to the radiators, and back to the boiler for further reheating. Your central heating also provides hot water to the hot taps in your home.

Looking at boilers for a second: sure they come in all shapes and sizes. However, generally there are two types of boiler. Let’s take a closer look.

A conventional boiler – say hello to a basic system with a pump, programmer and a room thermostat. You can control both the heating and hot water by using the programmer. Your boiler heats hot water and stores it in a cylinder, usually found in your airing cupboard.

A combination boiler – this system consists of a programmer and a thermostat. Your combination boiler controls the heating, as it heats hot water on demand – as and when you need it. This means that hot water is available whenever you turn on the hot water taps, therefore no storage cylinder is needed.


Discover the different types of central heating systems

Ok so we’re not going to get lost in the granular here. We’ll keep things nice and broad for you. Basically the  different types of central heating systems are determined and differentiated by how the heat is generated and distributed. Check out the info below.


Wet system

In a wet system, your boiler heats water which is then pumped through a network of pipes connected to radiators in the house. Here In the UK, wet systems usually have two clear functions. They heat your home and supply hot water.


Warm air system

Going back to the old school (1960s-70s), warm air systems  take cold air from outside and bring it to your boiler. Here it is heated is heated and then circulated through your home via air ducts and vents.


Storage heater system

Electric storage heater systems store heat overnight in various firebricks. This heat is then slowly released into the house throughout the day.


District heating system

Introducing centralised power! In a district heating system, heat is generated form a singular centralised power source. Then it is distributed to several buildings through insulated pipes. This clever system allows different properties to share heating systems, which can help lower carbon emissions and save on energy bills. Currently only 2% of homes in the UK are powered by district heating, so it’s still very much in its infancy.

Is central heating safe?

We’re pretty certain that your central heating system is a crucial part of your home, especially in the winters. So it’s reassuring to know that central heating is very safe to use. Just make sure you get the system serviced regularly.


Is central heating cheap?

Here’s another stat for you: roughly 40% of your energy bill is spent on electricity and gas. Now in the past, we would have said that central heating is a fairly economical heating solution. However given the current circumstances in the UK, one cannot deny that the cost has risen considerably. As much as we wish that we didn’t have to say it, we would suggest perhaps setting your central heating system to shorter periods of time rather than keeping it on constantly. This is one way to try to reduce your bill at then end of the month. Oh and another thing, central heating is definitely cheaper than using electric heaters. This is because electricity costs three to four times more per unit than gas.


wood burners vs central heating - a dark room is pucntuated with the glow of a fire coming form a wood burner


Introducing the incredible wood burner

So that’s conventional central heating covered. But there’s more options out there to explore. And given the increasing gas and electricity prices, you might want to consider alternate fuel systems for heating your home. This is where wood burners can come into play.


What’s a wood burner?

For the uninitiated, the words wood burner might be conjuring up all images of all kinds of flaming contraptions. It’s all very simple to be honest. A wood burner is basically just a heating or cooking appliance that burns wood fuel and wood derived biomass fuel. Heat is released when the fuel is burned. Soooo basic! Want more details? Check out this deep dive wood burner blog.


How does a wood burner work?

Naturally we’re sure you’re itching to get familiar with the underlying mechanics here. All you do is take your wood and pop it inside your wood burner’s firebox. After this, just light your wood and you’re all set. Looking at the firebox specifically, picture an enclosed chamber with fireproof walls. These walls act as protection, enclosing the fire and the wood fuel. Air vents are there to control airflow into the firebox. Controlling the air means you can control the burn, choosing between hot and fast or steady and slowly.


wood burners vs central heating - a close up of wood burning in a wood burning stove


Can I use a wood burner for central heating?

This is a very valid question. The answer is a definite yes. In other words you can use your wood burning stove to both heat you home and keep your water steaming hot. Now, there are different ways to integrate your wood burner into your central heating system. However the core principal is this: your word burner will produce heat that is transferred to the water in your tank. This water is then pumped into your radiators. Let’s take a closer look.


Connecting a wood burner to central heating

The process of connecting a wood burner to the central heating can vary in complexity depending on your property. In the majority of homes, it’s vital that the central heating system includes a vent. Without the vent, there is a high chance pressure can increase in the system (as it has no escape option) and perhaps blow your wood burning stove. This means that heating systems using a combi boiler are automatically out. In a nutshell, please don’t try and connect your wood burner to the central heating yourself. Call a professional heating engineer before you let any wood burn.


Can my wood burner deliver domestic hot water?

Again we can say yes here. The key is ensuring that your wood burner is connected to a hot water cylinder. If this is the case then your wood burner will be able to provide domestic hot water. You will need an indirect connection to connect your wood burner to a hot water cylinder. Why? Well, rather than directly heating the water, the wood burner will heat up a coil within the cylinder. The heat from the coil is transferred to the water, warming it up. If you want to know the cost of connecting your wood burner to your central heating or stare cylinder, contact a heating engineer ASAP.


Heating with a biomass boiler

Are you up to speed with biomass boilers? These boilers are specifically designed wood burning stoves that supply both central heating and hot water to an entire property. This is a great solution for off-grid properties. How does it work? When we burn the organic material, the heat produced warms up your water through a heat exchanger. This water is then circulated through the central heating system or hot water cylinder. So if you’re not so keen on integrating a wood burning stove into your central heating system, you could choose a stand alone biomass boiler instead.


wood burners vs central heating - a close up of wood logs burning in a log burner chamber


Are wood burners a cheaper form of central heating?

We can definitely say that integrating a wood burner into your central heating will help reduce your energy costs. This is because wood burning stoves are more energy efficient. Check out the table below.


Wood is also a much cheaper fuel source per kilowatt hour than electricity, oil and even natural gas:

  • Gas: 10.3p / kWh
  • Oil: 9.2p / kWh
  • Electricity: 34p / kWh
  • Wood Chips: 2.9p kWh
  • Wood Pellets: 7.9p / kWh

A wood burner will reduce both your carbon footprint, as well as your monthly fuel bill. And with the cost of electricity and gas on the rise, many people are adding wood burners into their homes as a long term investment.


Central heating vs wood burner? Which is better?

As per usual, we can’t hold onto a binary interpretation of life. Not to get too philosophical here, but things aren’t black and white. Both central heating and wood burners have their own pros and cons. It’s more about digesting all the information and relating it to your particular circumstances. Once you have done this, then it’s easier to make a decision. However we can provide some general info to help give you a steer.

It is hard to guarantee that using a wood burning stove in isolation will warm up your entire home. However integrating a wood burner into your central heating system, can be costly (initially) and complex. But there is a long term return for this investment.  The one thing we can say for sure is that using a wood burner as part of your heating solution will definitely help lower your energy bill and increase your heating efficiency.


What fuel can I use in my wood burner?

2 words: Big K. We’ve spent decades in the winter fuel game, so we know a thing or two about wood. We have a range of super high quality wood products to feed your wood burner.  Here’s a quick overview below.


Compressed Heat Logs

  • 100% natural compressed heat logs
  • Made with no additives or binders
  • Contains only by-products of managed forests and recycled wood
  • Suitable for fireplaces and stoves, leaves little ash
  • Under 8% moisture level with no sparks or spitting
  • 12 logs per pack


Instant Light Fire logs

  • Buy 9, get 1 free
  • Individually wrapped instant light fire log
  • Made from recycled saw dust and wax
  • Instant light with no firelighter or kindling required, just light the wrapper
  • Each log burns for approximately 2 hours
  • Authorised for use in smoke control areas
  • Ideal for stoves, open fires, fire pits and bonfires


 Kiln Dried logs FSC®

  • Kiln dried hardwood logs, 100% Grown in Britain
  • FSC® & GiB certified and Woodsure Ready to Burn accredited
  • Consistent moisture level of under 20%
  • Easy to light and long lasting
  • High heat output with less smoke and a better flame
  • Ideal for stoves, chimineas, fire pits, pizza ovens, cookers and open fires


We aren’t wood fascists guys. All Lolzers aside, this is a personal choice for you. We hope that we have given you enough info to help you make an informed decision. Stay warm. Stay positive. Until next time.




Fill your boots




    • 100% natural compressed heat logs
    • Made with no additives or binders
    • Contains only by-products of managed forests and recycled wood
    • Suitable for fireplaces and stoves, leaves little ash
    • Under 8% moisture level with no sparks or spitting
    • 12 logs per pack



  • Product shot of one of Big K’s Instant Light Firelogs in wrapper on white background



    • Buy 9, get 1 free
    • Individually wrapped instant light fire log
    • Made from recycled saw dust and wax
    • Instant light with no firelighter or kindling required, just light the wrapper
    • Each log burns for approximately 2 hours
    • Authorised for use in smoke control areas
    • Ideal for stoves, open fires, fire pits and bonfires