Chimney stoves: 10 reasons why we love them

Ulrich Safferling

A proper, solid bricked fireplace provides a pleasant feeling of warmth and is a sustainable source of heating, but retrofitting in an existing building is not always easy. A chimney stove, Swedish stove or wood-burning stove is a practical, attractive and popular alternative. Ten good reasons for making your home even cozier with a chimney stove.

A spherical chimney stove hangs from the ceiling by the flue pipe in an attic room furnished with lots of natural wood.
© Getty Images

In this article

1. A versatile fireplace

A wood-burning stove looks decorative, spreads warmth, and you can even keep your tea warm on it. It heats up a cold room very quickly, can be used as the sole source of heating or as supplementary heating, and provides pleasant radiant heat that lasts for a long time, even if the fire has been extinguished for a while. Like an exclusive piece of furniture, it forms an eye-catching feature in any room. And whatever you want to keep warm or dry out in the cold season, the Swedish stove is the ideal solution.

2. A romantic atmosphere

Chimney stoves are also referred to as atmosphere stoves – thanks to the roaring flames behind the glass pane, the smell of burning wood and the gently radiating warmth, everything seems as homely and tranquil as in grandmother’s day. Consequently, most people buy a wood-burning stove not (only) because of its heating capacity, but because it creates a very special atmosphere. Our ancestors out in the wilderness used to sit around the fire in the evenings and gaze into the flames – to them, fire represented a promise of warmth and security – a wood-burning stove has a similar effect today.

3. Easy installation

Whereas a fireplace is bricked in and can only be retrofitted in an existing building as part of a complete construction project, a wood-burning stove can be installed as a floor-standing appliance very easily and without having to call in a specialist. The only thing you need is access to the house chimney via a flue pipe or a separate stove pipe that leads outside through the roof. It is very important to have the installation approved by a chimney sweep to ensure that no carbon monoxide is able to escape into the living area.

Stoves are available in various dimensions, so there is a suitable solution for every room. As the stove can become very hot, it should be installed far enough away from other objects or furniture. Protect the floor directly in front of the stove with a glass, metal or stone plate in case embers or burning wood fall out as you are making a fire.

There is a wood-burning stove on the wall of a white kitchen/living room. A fire can be seen blazing behind the glass window.

Making things cozy: a wood-burning stove in a kitchen provides plenty of heat. And the blazing flames create a romantic atmosphere.

4. Economical fuel consumption

A wood-burning stove can be heated with two to three kilos of wood per hour. This is enough to make a beautiful, constant fire and create a romantic atmosphere. If you want to heat your home in this way on a regular basis, you will of course need more wood. In this case, a storage solution using a heat exchanger or tiles is recommended.

The efficiency – the ratio of energy emitted to energy supplied in the form of wood – is more than 80 percent for very good stoves. This means that very little energy is lost and that the heat produced is available for heating purposes.

However, this requires well dried wood. What’s more, although hardwoods are more expensive than softwoods as firewood, they burn longer and more consistently. Cheap pine is sufficient for a decorative fire, while expensive beech or oak is recommended for heating. And while oil and gas prices are rising continuously, wood prices are still quite constant. Beech, birch or ash costs around 200 francs per cubic meter. Alternatively, you can use pressed wood briquettes or wood pellets, which can be cheaper depending on the quality.

5. Sustainable heating

Wood is an environmentally friendly fuel. When burned, it releases only as much carbon dioxide as the amount absorbed by the tree during its growth. Wood is therefore considered to be climate neutral. That’s why a chimney stove is more ecological than other types of heating and can even be economical if it is coupled with a water-based heat exchanger, for example. Besides this, the smaller the stove, the higher its efficiency and effectiveness.

A hand can be seen opening the door of a wood-burning stove. The other hand is holding a piece of wood to keep the fire burning.

Wood is an environmentally friendly and sustainable fuel. And a chimney stove with a heat exchanger is even a very economical and efficient source of heating.

6. Flexible design

When you think of a wood-burning stove, you usually imagine the free-standing round iron variety, which was particularly commonplace right up until the post-war period. This type of wood-burning stove still exists today, but there are also plenty of alternatives. There are rustic shapes that fit perfectly into a country house, or stylish wood-burning stoves that represent ideal designer objects in modern lofts, for instance. And the choice does not stop there. There are virtually no limits to the selection and variety – in terms of height, color, coverings and heating value. Tiled or natural stone fireplace cladding gives the fireplace a completely different look and can be fully integrated into walls or rooms.

7. A comfortable heat accumulator

It’s undeniable: burning wood in a simple wood-burning stove looks good but is inefficient as a heating system – the hot air is simply blown through the chimney as convection heat. That’s why the warm air needs a storage medium, like in a tiled stove from the olden days: even when the fire was long extinguished, the heated tiles continued to give off heat for some time.

This still works today with tile or natural stone paneling and firebricks for wood-burning stoves. These are available in many shapes and colors, perfectly assorted to the stove, which then also becomes a storage stove. The higher the storage mass, the longer the heat emission: the storage heat can be maintained for between two and 12 hours.

8. Individual size

Wood-burning stoves are available in different shapes and sizes. The smallest are just one meter high. There are slim and corner models as well as wall-mounted systems. Before you buy, it’s always important to measure the calorific or heating value in kilowatts (kW). The general rule is that for a room height of 2.5 to 3 meters, about 0.1 kW of heating power is required per square meter. Six kW is sufficient for a living room of 60 square meters. Conversely, each stove requires oxygen for combustion. Approximately four cubic meters of air are needed per kW per hour. Every stove must therefore be appropriate for the size of the room.

A round chimney stove stands in a corner with a fire burning in it.

A classic corner stove radiates warmth into the whole room. The necessary calorific value of the stove is determined by the size of the room to be heated.

9. Economical alternative

Last but not least, deciding between a fireplace or chimney stove is a matter of cost. A real brick fireplace – without a chimney – costs an average of 9,000 to 12,000 francs. If an old fireplace has to be removed, you must allow several hundred francs for demolition. The price depends on the work involved – and is always higher for a fireplace than for a chimney stove.

A good wood-burning stove, on the other hand, starts at around 2,000 francs. Since the price increases with every plus in terms of functionality and heating or storage capacity, 4,000 francs is more realistic. Despite the additional cost of the chimney flue, which must be connected to the house chimney, a chimney stove remains the cheapest alternative to a fireplace.

10. Fast heat

Anyone who can make a fire and has dry wood available will be able to light their wood-burning stove in a flash. As these iron stoves heat up very quickly, coming home is a pleasure, because the stove can be lit in no time at all. Compared to central heating, another advantage is that hot water doesn’t have to travel a long way to warm up the radiators. The spark lights immediately, as it were.

Conclusion: fire at will in a wood-burning stove

A chimney stove offers quality of life. Watching roaring flames, appreciating comforting warmth, tending to the fire – all these things awaken the primeval man in us. The investment and costs are manageable, and a stove is also ecologically and economically justifiable.

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