/ Home & Energy

Confused between wood burning stoves & underfloor heating?

Feet in front of fire

Wood burning stoves or underfloor heating? To solve this mystery I waded through reams of information and spoke to tons of installers. But, does it need to be so confusing, and can it save you money?

The idea of having a wood burning stove is idyllic: the warmth from the stove, the glow of the flames, the crackling of the fire and the earthy smell.

Likewise with underfloor heating – just image getting out of bed or stepping from the shower to a toasty warm floor. Both sound almost impossible to live without.

Added to that, everyone talks about the savings you could make on your energy bills – 25% of the Which? members we surveyed last year bought a stove because they believed it would be cost effective. But is that true considering all the costs?

Is it really that easy?

The truth of the matter is that it’s complicated. Both are dependent on so many factors, which have a knock-on affect on the cost and how much you could save.

Let’s take underfloor heating as the first example. The type of underfloor heating you get – it can either be electric or water – and how much it will cost to install and run depends largely on where you are having it installed.

The size of the room, type of floor, whether it’ll be multi-zoned, how well the room is insulated and how far the room is from your main heating system are all factors.

As for wood burning stoves, the size of stove you get, and therefore how expensive it is, depends on your room size and current level of insulation.

With installation, factors such as whether you already have a chimney or whether your current one is in good condition, can bump up the cost. And the way you use it, including the type of fuel you use and the cost of it, will impact how much you might be able to save.

No one-size-fits-all

Sadly neither is a one-size-fits-all scenario. Which is why we recommend getting at least three installers to visit your home to give advice and a quote – and this should be free.

It’s also worth knowing the things to look out for, and having an idea of the costs and savings you could make with both wood burning stoves and underfloor heating, before you commit to one or the other.

So have you been tempted to go for a wood burning stove or underfloor heating? Did you find the process of choosing them confusing? And, most importantly, has it lowered your bills?

What type of heating do you have in addition to, or instead of, your boiler?

None of the above (64%, 384 Votes)

Wood burning stove (18%, 110 Votes)

Underfloor heating (10%, 60 Votes)

Solar panels (6%, 34 Votes)

Heating oil (3%, 16 Votes)

Total Voters: 604

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We once had a wood-burning stove in a holiday rental.

It was freezing as all the heat went up the chimney. The only way to get some heat was to have the door open which meant it could not be left unattended in case burning wood fell out.


The research you have done – I have only read the wood-burniing articles so far – is excellent. This synthesis of your reading and research is really pitched at an excellent level.

The discussion on costs was very thought provoking. My gold star for the year.

Which brings me to the general comment about Which? not dating its reference articles, putting a date when last reviewed for accuracy, or a future date for review. I believe Consumer Reports does do this on parts of its site

This Conversation and its linked area was such a relief from the parts of Which? that are unfortunately light on research and high on hyperbole.


Thank you very much for your kind comments, and for flagging the idea of labeling content with dates. We do put very old content in a ‘live archive’ state, to indicate that it’s something that hasn’t been updated in a long while.

For all our other content, we aim to keep it updated and correct as frequently as possible, and add dates for when things we checked, such as with tables, where possible.

Adding more prominent dates to content is something we will certainly look into though.

Thank you again

Marion says:
4 December 2014

I do not have any experience of wood burning stoves but for the last 10 years I have lived with underfloor heating and ceiling heating. The underfloor only applies to downstairs. The only draw back is the fact that nothing can be attached to the floor and lights etc cannot be moved in the ceiling.


I have had a woodburning stove for fifteen or sixteen years now which I feed with wood that is given to me. It has a back boiler and in the winter months when it is fired all day I make an actual saving as the hot water system is already full of hot water by the time the Economy 7 comes on and the immersion heater would, otherwise, be used.

There is probably a limit to the amount of free wood going spare in most inner city locations, however, as the only user of the stuff in my neighbourhood I’m generally offered far more than I can use. As tradespeople have to pay to ‘dump’ joists, beams, rafters, tree loppings etc., I don’t find it difficult to persuade them to simply saw it into useable lengths and drop it off at my gate.

I use a closed burner designed to burn at high temperatures without smoke, the ash I give to nearby allotment holders as fertiliser. With clean burning my chimney is checked every couple of years but has only needed sweeping once.

For people who can’t get free or reasonably priced wood I’d recommend a wood pellet burner. These also have the advantage of automatic controls so they can be left running when you go away whereas my fire goes out without attention every few hours.


+ = Very good points about :
** ‘Free’ wood, and what to do with the small amounts of ash produced – tho’ wood burns best on a bed of wood ash
** Feeding times for the fire – at least one doesn’t have to change its nappies.
** Overnight – best to bank up with smokeless (coal type) fuel – so buy a multi-fuel stove, NOT one dedicated to just wood burning
** Make sure that you check if you’re in a Smoke free zone -Env Health @ your Local Council will tell you. If you are, you MUST have an ‘SE’ stove, or you’ll end up with a hefty fine, and a pile of expensive scrap metal.
Wood is NOT a smokeless fuel.
There are lots of outlets which will sell you a non-SE stove, and then shout ”Caveat emptor” ** when you complain after the Stop notice arrives from the Local Council ** Or more probably ”Tough luck, mate. Now **** off.”

? = One difficulty is finding a back boiler stove which is powerful enough to generate the amount of hot water needed, without pumping so much heat out into the room where it’s installed that you have to sit in another room – or open all the windows. Max 4.5 – 5.0 kW into the room, unless you live in a barn.
? = Dry pallet, and joiners’ , wood – that burns very hot and very fast.
? = ”As tradespeople have to pay to ‘dump’ joists, beams, rafters, ”
True, but watch out for contaminants including : paint, preservatives, electric wires …
? = ” I don’t find it difficult to persuade them to simply saw it into useable lengths and drop it off at my gate.”
I don’t know where you live – but you lead a charmed life if you can get that done for nothing.
? = ” … tree loppings … ”
On NO account try to burn wet wood, buy a moisture meter, and check that the water / sap content has dropped from ~ 50% to near 20 – 25 % . If you don’t, you may very well end up with a very nasty chimney fire, and Insurance Coys do not look kindly on such conflagrations and their consequences – nor will the Fire Brigade and your nextdoor neighbours if their house burns down too.

— = ”For people who can’t get free or reasonably priced wood I’d recommend a wood pellet burner.”
And a VERY large :
Bank loan to buy it and its feeder.
Shed to house the beast, the pellet store and the auto-feeder

Also a local supplier of pellets

**** Stick to logs / split logs, clean waste wood plus smokeless ”coal” for overnighting.
**** If you run with the stove doors open – always put a fireguard in front – even when you’re in the room with it.
**** Have a fire extinguisher near to hand.
I’m off to listen to Arthur Brown’s ”Fire”, yet again ! I remember when I saw him ……..

Rusty nail says:
5 December 2014

I have a log burner which was initially bought to heat my conservatory which is 12×4 metres. After a lot of research I chose a Burley stove, it has been outstanding and is one of the most efficient in the marketplace.
As always, do your homework and you will get exactly what you pay for.


Well from the studies I’ve done I think the most economical system is a mains gas normal central heating system with radiators. Cheaper to run than oil, certainly cheaper than electric and even in most cases cheaper than a heat pump. Although a heat pump will be better than oil, LPG and conventional electric heating.
The key to all this is the cost per Kwh of the fuel you chose. Mains gas is about 4p electricity about 12p and oil I think somewhere in between. Heat pumps can produce as much as 3 Kwh of heat for every 1 Kwh of fuel but not always and that works out really no better than mains gas, and then there is the very large installation cost for a heat pump system to consider.

Underfloor cost effectiveness, whatever fuel source, is dependant upon a goodly level of underfloor insulation and again there is a higher installation cost.

Wood burning stoves are great provided you don’t have to buy the wood. If you do they are quite expensive to both install and run, you’re better off using mains gas. However if you’ve got a chainsaw and a ready source of wood heating from them is almost free.

Things like open fires and living flame gas fires are very inefficient with as much as 70% of the heat going straight up the flue. Only any good if the fuel is free, like your own logs but still a very inefficient way to use those logs you had to chop up. You only lose about 35% to 40% with a stove, and only about 10% with a condensing gas boiler.

Flueless gas fires are pretty efficient and good for heating say just one room but they are no substitute for a good gas central heating system and quite expensive to buy. Only practical as secondary heating

All in all your best bet is a modern conventional mains gas central heating system, well controlled with a programmer, a room thermostat and radiator thermostats. To this add copious amounts of insulation to your home, loft, walls and if practical floors, and decent double even triple glazing.
And that’s just about as good as it gets before you start with other long payback things like waste water heat recovery or flue gas heat recovery. Solar hot water is a complete waste of money unless you build a DIY system. Commercially installed systems have a payback of about 50 years.

Anyway this little lot is what I think based on the experience in my own home and is my confirmed conclusion based on the results I see from the surveys I do as an energy assessor.

About 80% to 90% of homes I see could save significantly on heating costs just by upgrading fairly cheap and simple things like loft insulation top ups and better heating controls like thermostats. Do that before exploring the more exotic measures, and do your sums too.


Thank you very much for this comprehensive breakdown, I hope it’ll be most helpful to people.

How much you could save is different for everyone because a lot of it, as you say, depends on the insulation of your home and costs per kWh.

We’ve actually detailed how people can use kWh prices to work out whether a wood burning stove would save them money: http://www.which.co.uk/energy/creating-an-energy-saving-home/guides/wood-burning-stoves/stove-costs-and-savings/.

Thanks again


A SUPERB summation of the situation.
I’d like to print out a copy and hand it to the people who call on me thinking that by installing a wood burner, and buying packs of logs from nearby petrol Stations, or Supermarkets, they’re going to cut their heating bills by 90% .


It doesn’t disturb the overall balance of advantage between different fuel types much but there is an additional servicing cost for any heating system other than electricity.

Most new-build flats still seem to have electric convector heaters installed and no gas supplies. Urban areas are seeing large incresases in the number of new apartment developments so the percentage of households having to use electricity for space and water heating and for cooking is rising. It is vital to keep bearing down on the price of electricity and not bask under the impression that the whole country is on gas or oil.


JW – “bearing down on the price of electricity”

With all the goodwill in the world the concept you can “bear down” seems to fly in the face of reason. There are more people using more electricity than ever before and the generating and transmission infrastructure has to be built to service the demand.

You are wise to point out that for most flats there is only electricity. For builders, providing only electricity, is a wonderful and cheap option – particularly if they sell off the supply rights.

I do believe that the UK needs a charity to take the issue by the scruff of the neck and come up with a report on what is acceptable to build. I am aware that Building Regs exist, and that builders do have to meet the rquirements however it does seem haphazard if one looks at a total package.

For instance window trickle vents are a requirement. Why are not heat exchanging air vents designed-in which pre-heat the incoming air with the vented air. I have seen claims of up to 84% heat gain.

Heating water is an expensive use of energy but how do heat pumps compare to immersion heaters in this respect? Are direct instant heaters more suitable.?

Double-glazed windows can have near triple glazing performance so has this been incorporated in new builds.

Should windows open inwards to allow shutters to be fitted giving additional insulation at night and allowing for much better ventilation on hot days and nights with security.

As you can see my thrust is to the long term running cost rather than than the immediate build cost which seems to pervade the industry.

Anotherwords perhaps consumers need a champion to press for effective designs to counteract the cheapest easiest build approach.