Is it cheaper to heat your house with a woodburning stove or central heating? (2022)

Date: March 31, 2022

A wood burning stove may feel like a luxury, but it may be cheaper to run than you think!

While we love the warmth of having a real fire in our house, and wouldn’t be without our woodburning stove on a cold winter’s night, we couldn’t help but wonder… How much does it cost to run a woodburning stove compared with other ways of heating your house? Is firewood a cheap way to heat your house, or are you better saving your logs for a special occasion?

The rising price of gas and electricity

As I’m writing this, gas and electricity prices are reaching an all-time high, and it looks like the only way costs are going to are up. On the 1st April, the gas and electricity price caps go up again, and it looks like it will increase yet again in September.

While we’re now coming into spring, next winter’s heating bill is something that many people are already worrying about. With this in mind, it’s important to know if it makes sense to run your woodburning stove as day-to-day heating, or whether you should treat it as a luxury. 

What is the cheapest way to heat your home - the results!

If you are lucky enough to have a free supply of firewood, it’s pretty obvious the stove will be your best option, however if you aren’t quite that lucky, here are the results…

Heating MethodCost per usable kWhAnnual cost for average home
Mains Gas condensing boiler£0.0761 £933.33
Air Source Heat pump£0.0930£1,116.23
Wood Burning stove (85% efficiency)£0.1036£1,243.42
LPG condensing boiler£0.1096£1,344.63
Wood Burning stove (75% efficiency)£0.1174£1,409.21
Oil condensing boiler£0.1282£1,538.04
Electric heating£0.2791£3,348.70

What does this mean?

If you are on mains gas, this is still probably the cheapest way for you to heat your home. If you are not on the gas grid however, your wood burning stove is probably cheaper to run than your fossil fuel based heating, and is able to hold it’s own against everything including the latest tech - a modern ultra-efficient heat pump.

If you are on electric heating only, it’s a no brainer – your stove is much, much cheaper to run!

This will all change by the winter, and burning logs will become even more competitive.

It feels strange writing this at the start of Easter, when we tend to turn off my heating and stop using the stove. Come September, it’s very likely there will be another big rise in the cost of gas and electricity, which could make logs competitive even with mains gas. We’ll keep this post updated when the new prices are announced, so watch this space!

How did we calculate this?

First, we had to work out the cost of 1 kWh worth of energy for each of the different fuels.

Logs

We chose a common order our customer chooses – 2 giant bags of firewood, which cost £195 delivered to your door and weight about 540kg. We know that logs kiln dried to 20% moisture have an energy level of about 4.1 kwh/kg, so we can calculate the cost per kWh to be £0.0813

Electricity and mains Gas

The new price cap is £0.07/kWh for gas and £0.28/kWh for electricity. While the actual amount charged by different providers will vary depending on location, it’s unlikely you’ll pay much less than this. We  have used the prices Bulb Energy charge for our Scottish location, which was £0.07/kWh for gas and £0.2791 for electricity

Oil

BoilerJuice tell us that the average price per litre of heating oil in Scotland is £1.1939 as of the 29th March. Heating oil contains 10.35 kWh per litre, so the cost of 1 kWh of heating oil is £0.1154

LPG

It’s currently quite difficult to get a cost for home LPG unless you are already a customer. We took the average UK cost from the website globalpetrolprices.com on the 30th March 2022.

Putting all this together give the following table:

Heating FuelsEnergy ContentRetail PricePrice per kWh
Logs - 20% Moisture4.1 kWh/kg£361.11/tonne £0.0881
Heating oil10.35 kWh/litre£1.1939/litre £0.1154
Mains Gas1 kWh£0.0700/kWhr£0.0700
LPG7.08kWh/litre£0.7140/litre£0.1008
Electricity1 kWh£0.2791/kWhr£0.2791

How efficient is the heating method?

Different heating methods have different efficiencies. For example, an open fire is only about 10% efficient, meaning that only 1/10 of the energy in the fuel you burn goes towards heating your house.

Wood Burning Stoves

Wood burning stoves vary in efficiency from about 60% for a multi fuel stove, all the way up to over 90% for some of the most efficient models. Most stoves however are in the 75-85% efficiency range, so we will use these two numbers to give you a reasonable idea of what to expect.

Oil and gas boilers

A modern oil or gas condensing boiler will typically have an efficiency of about 90%. Older models can be much less efficient.

Electricity & heat pumps

If you have an electric heater, efficiency is close to 100%.

Some modern houses however have heat pumps which do even better than 100%. Heat pumps extract energy from the air outside and transport that energy into your house to heat your home. Air source heat pumps generally product 3 times more heat energy than they use, meaning that they have a 300% efficiency!

Heating TypePrice per kWhEfficiencyPrice per kwh of useful heatAnnual cost to heat an average home
Wood Burning stove (75% efficiency)£0.088175%£0.1174 £1,409.21
Wood Burning stove 85% efficiency£0.088185%£0.1036 £1,243.42
Mains Gas condensing boiler£0.070090%£0.0778£933.33
LPG condensing boiler£0.100890%£0.1121£1,344.63
Oil condensing boiler£0.115490%£0.1282 £1,538.04
Electric heating£0.2791100%£0.2791£3,348.70
Air Source Heat pump£0.2791300%£0.0930£1,116.23

Some other things to consider

While these numbers are accurate as of 1st April 2022 and we’ll try our best to keep them updated, please remember these numbers make assumptions about how efficient your heating system is – they might not be accurate for you. In particular, if you have a heating system more than  a decade old, it’s likely to be much less efficient and cost more to run.

© Pentland Biomass is a trading name of Pentland Plants Limited.
Company Number SC259669, registered in Scotland.
Our registered office is 6 Pentland Nurseries, Loanhead, EH20 9QG
cartchevron-down