Costs of Running a Fireplace Compared: Wood vs Gas vs Bioethanol
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Cost per hour
Cost per day (8hrs)
Are you confused by the energy market?
If you are, you're certainly not alone. It seems we're at the precipice of change in the UK as we seek greener and cleaner ways to heat our homes.
As we aim to move away from fossil fuels such as gas and coal, the market for these fuels is raising its prices exponentially as they head towards inevitable obsolescence.
The average fuel bill in the UK will have increased by at least 80% by the end of 2022. So, naturally, many of us are looking for alternatives, heading back to those trusty wood-burning stoves.
But there are greener alternatives than wood and coal and this article will explain the current market prices of heating your home with wood and gas.
Let’s get started.
Like all great Facebook relationship statuses, comparing fuel consumption costs for different fuels is complicated.
Part of the problem is that the units are all different: BTU, kWh, cubic metres, litres, therms… The list is literally as long as your arm, making it particularly challenging to come up with a like-for-like comparison.
I mean, we even calculate car efficiency in gallons when we buy litres of fuel. You could be forgiven for thinking it's purposely opaque.
Not all fuels are complicated
Thankfully, some fuels, such as bioethanol, are pretty simple to calculate - especially as the price of the average litre of bioethanol fuel seems relatively stable in a volatile market.
You buy a litre of bioethanol, which burns for approximately four hours — so you divide the cost of the bottle (usually around £2.50-£6 depending on bulk buying) by the number of hours it burns for.
And you have your straightforward calculation. We'll explore this a little more later.
Unfortunately, other fuels are more difficult to calculate because there are multiple factors to consider:
- Is your central heating gas or electric?
- Does your fireplace heat the entire building or just a single room?
- Do you always need to heat the whole property?
How much does it cost to run a wood-burning stove for an hour?
This is a highly complex equation because there are so many variables. But we can help you calculate how much it approximately costs to run your fire.
The variables are:
The current cost of wood (and the bulk in which you buy it)
In 2022, it costs around £5 for a bag of wood. A bag of wood lasts for roughly eight hours, depending on the size of your burner.
So, this makes the hourly cost of burning around 63p, which is pretty reasonable. However, it depends on the size of your burner and its efficiency.
If you buy in bulk, the price comes down. According to The Edinburgh Reporter, running a log burner throughout the heating season (generally September to March) and using seasoned firewood (bought in bulk) would cost £837 — that's £5.34 daily.
For kiln-dried firewood, the same period would cost £945, or £6.03 daily.
We ran a recent survey, and the average cost of running an older, less efficient burner came out at around £10 a day — that's burning all day and heating the home's water.
Older burners in older houses (that are less insulated than modern builds) can cost a lot more.
Other variables to consider are:
- Hardwood burns more slowly than softwood but is more expensive
- The size of your wood burner
- Whether you’re running with vents open or closed
- Whether your wood burner also heats your water (and therefore your radiators)
- The additional kindling, firelighters, etc.
What is the kiloWattage of your wood-burning stove?
A wood-burning stove is usually defined by its heat output, represented in kiloWatts (kW). The heat output is also expressed in BTUs (British Thermal Units), but — for comparison's sake — we'll stick with kW.
A small wood burner, suitable for a cabin or a small living room, would be around 4-5kW, while larger rooms demand more powerful stoves — 10kW+. Of course, the larger the stove, the more wood you’ll need to power it.
Remember that wood burning is not 100% efficient — a lot of the heat is lost through your chimney. And new EcoDesign stoves burn hotter to increase efficiency and reduce pollution. This sometimes means it uses fuel more quickly because you're less able to turn the heat down if it gets too hot.
Of course, you might have a good supply of free wood, and — as long as it has been appropriately dried and seasoned — this means you get free heat all year round.
What other charges should I consider with a log burner?
Once you’ve obtained your wood, you’ll also need:
- Firelighters and kindling (around £30 a year)
- Chimney sweeping (around £50 a year)
You might also invest in a stove top fan (around £20-30) to evenly distribute the heat and a stove top thermometer (around £10-£20), although these costs won't be annual.
How to calculate how much energy your gas boiler uses to run your central heating
There are many complicated calculations at the heart of calculating gas energy usage (no surprise, there). But perhaps the most straightforward approach is to estimate based on the size of your boiler.
Gas boilers are sold according to their wattage. For example, a 24kW boiler will use 24kW of energy per hour (when running at full).
How much does it cost to run a gas boiler for an hour?
A simple calculation based on gas's October retail price of (on average, if paying by Direct Debit) 14.8p per kWh (price correct as of 01/09/22), running a 24kW boiler could be:
24(w) x 14.8(p) = £3.55 per hour
Remember, you'll need to add your daily standing charge to the daily gas fee, but that's usually less than £1.
So, running your boiler for eight hours, you’re looking at:
8 (hours) x £3.55 (ph) = £28.40 per day
That’s pretty eye-watering!
The standing charge varies depending on your energy supplier, ranging from around 27p a day to about 50p.
What about bioethanol costs?
This is a little easier to determine, mainly because bioethanol fuel prices have remained relatively stable while other fuels have skyrocketed.
It's generally safe to estimate that 1 litre of high-quality bioethanol fuel will burn for around 4 hours, depending on your chosen brand and the general ambient temperature.
It also depends on whether you burn it at full heat or partially close the burner, which makes the fuel last longer (but it doesn't burn as hot).
Bioethanol burns cleanly — there's no mess to clean up afterwards. It also means you don't need a chimney or a flue because it doesn't emit toxic chemicals.
However, bioethanol fireplaces don't burn as hot as wood-burning stoves. We generally advise that a bioethanol fireplace produces heat at around 3kWh — roughly equivalent to an electric heater on a medium setting. For smaller rooms, that's usually plenty of heat to raise the temperature between 3-4 degrees (Celsius).
Remember, heat rises. You can more evenly distribute the warmth of your bioethanol fireplace with a stove top fan.
How much does it cost to run a bioethanol fireplace for an hour?
As an example, ImaginFires bioethanol costs £3.75 per litre if you buy it in a pack of 12 bottles. There are cheaper alternatives, costing around £2.50-£3 a bottle when you buy in bulk, but we think you get what you pay for.
If £3.75 will heat your living room for 4 hours, it costs around 94p per hour. If you buy cheaper bioethanol in bulk at £3 a bottle, you’re looking at 75p an hour.
So, if you’re running your bioethanol fireplace for 8 hours, it will cost:
8 (hours) x £0.75(ph) = £6 per day.
Bioethanol raises the temperature to a comfortable, cosy ambience while providing a natural, dancing flame. Consider bioethanol fireplaces as a complement to your existing heating rather than a replacement.
Additionally, it’s worth considering whether you need to heat the whole house. Read on for more about this.
Heating from cold costs the most
Most boilers run at full to heat your home from the cold. Then they top up the temperature according to the ambient temperature, usually running at reduced power.
So, it's unlikely that it will run at full pelt for the entire time you run your heating.
But you could say the same for all powered heating - it requires more power to heat from cold. So, the first couple hours of heating are generally the most expensive.
How quickly does your house reach a comfortable temperature?
Many factors affect how quickly your home reaches the desired temperature, such as:
- the temperature outside
- the quality of your insulation
- the size of the property
- the suitability of the boiler/heater/stove for the entire home area
Gas heating is usually quite flexible when running from a thermostat, while you can reduce the burning aperture with a bioethanol fireplace to minimise the heat output. And you can generally close the vents with a wood-burning stove to minimise the heat.
Do you need to heat the entire house?
If you have a spare room or a dining room that you don't use, you could save money by heating just the rooms you use. This is where wood-burning stoves, electric fires, or bioethanol fires come into their own - making it easier to heat just one room.
It can be rather pleasant to sit in a toasty living room and then feel the temperature drop as you go out to the kitchen while making a cup of tea during the ad breaks.
The lower temperature refreshes your brain and clears your head; you'll feel the benefit of the warmth when you reenter your living room.
Also, consider NOT heating your bedroom to the same temperature as the rest of the house. It might be a little chilly as you undress and get between the sheets, but you’ll warm up quickly - and you’re less likely to get too hot in bed.
So, one of the benefits of using individual heaters is that you can save money by NOT heating unused rooms.
Costs of running a fireplace compared: wood vs gas vs bioethanol
According to our calculations, the prices of running a fireplace for an hour are:
- Wood burning stove — anywhere between 63p-80p per hour, ranging from between £5 and £10 per 8-hour's burning. This is mainly dependent on the fuel, your stove's size, and your burner's efficiency. This figure is before you factor in firelighters/kindling and chimney maintenance.
- Gas central heating — for a 24kW boiler, it will cost around £3.55 per hour (and this is due to increase in October 2022). For 8 hours of use, that comes to approximately £28.40 per day (including the standing charge). Of course, bear in mind that most boilers are thermostatically-controlled, so they won’t run at full pelt for the entire time. But it very much depends on the efficiency of your boiler.
- Bioethanol running costs — an hour’s burn costs between 75p and 97p per hour. You'll need 2 litres of bioethanol fuel with the aperture open at full for an 8-hour burn. That would cost between £6 and £7.50. No other costs are involved as bioethanol does not produce ash, soot, and poisonous chemicals — and doesn't require a chimney or flue.
Any questions about bioethanol?
Bioethanol burns cleanly, and our fireplaces require no installation. Just remove the package, fill it with fuel, light the fuel box and in minutes you're ready to enjoy the warm and cosy feel of bioethanol fireplaces.
And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.