Wood-burning stove vs central heating ‒ which is cheaper?

With households trying to spend less on energy, we compare a wood-burning stove vs central heating.

Woman putting a log into a wood burning stove
(Image credit: Getty images)

Wood burning stove or central heating? We ask which is cheaper because, despite the Energy Price Guarantee limiting costs for now, energy bills are still costing households almost double what they were last winter - and will go up again in April 2023.  

Demand for log-burning stoves has increased significantly this year: Specialist firms that install and clean log stoves are reporting dramatic sales figures and in some cases even having to suspend orders. 

Bristol-based Period Fireplaces has seen a 60% increase in sales compared to last year while Backwoodsman, a supplier in the Highlands, has reported a 165% increase in the same time period.

The Wallace family is one household mixing both wood burning and central heating, using targeted heating, dehumidifiers, logs and a laundry technique to cut their energy consumption by 30%.

We’ve looked into whether a wood-burning stove can cut your bills or if you should stick to central heating. 

Wood-burning stove vs central heating – which is cheaper?

The pros and cons of a wood-burning stove

A young woman is warming her feet by a wood burning stove

(Image credit: Getty images)


  • A wood-burning stove can offer you the closest experience you’ll get to a traditional open fire and they can cut a home's heating bill by 10%, according to the Energy Saving Trust
  • Provided you have a wood burner ALREADY installed, wood is the cheapest way to heat your home, costing 74% less per kilowatt hour (kWh) than electric heating and 21% less than gas central heating, according to the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA)
  • This is backed by clean fuel organisation Hetas which says burning seasoned logs is the cheapest domestic heating fuel after kerosene, costing homeowners 10.37p per kWh versus 12.81p per kW for mains gas and 39.21p per kW for electricity
  • The choice of wood burner available is immense: some can connect to to a thermal store so they can heat your hot water tank, some incorporate top ovens so that food can be cooked slowly above the burner
  • If you're lucky enough to get off cuts of wood from a local wood yard you won't pay anything for logs
  • There is also National Grid’s warning that households could lose power for up to three hours at a time this winter if gas supplies run extremely low to take into consideration: a log-burning fire would be the ultimate backup plan in this case.
  • Rural parts of the UK that regularly experience power cuts will find a wood-burning stove a godsend

One writer recently explained to The Telegraph how she has happily lived with only a wood-burning stove for 10 years.


  • The initial expense of a wood burner can range from £500 to more than £5,000 for fancier designs. Installation costs about £2,000 on average - and it can be more expensive if you need to add a fireplace or a flue.
  • Many modern properties aren’t designed to accommodate a wood-burning stove, even if you can afford to install one.
  • There are safety risks and extra costs that come with open fires: households need to ensure their chimneys are clean and have to take on the added expense of a chimney sweep if necessary (between £50 and £80 in most parts of the UK, around £90 in London)
  • The price of wood varies widely: A 1 cubic metre bag of hardwood logs from FFT Lumber costs £120 while in the countryside there is a vast supply of potential free firewood such as fallen timber, dead trees and offcuts from forestry yards
  • You have to have space to store wood carefully so that logs get plenty of air. That means raising them off the ground on a pallet or keeping them in a rack or wood store outside, with a roof to keep them dry. 
  • A wood-burning stove can’t heat your entire home. While burning wood will heat up the main room you depend on residual heat to spread to other rooms.
  • Wood burning in homes produces more dangerous tiny particle pollution, called PM2.5 than all road traffic in the UK, something that is known to seriously damage health and cause early deaths. And the standards of eco-design stoves are shockingly weak: stoves that meet new eco-design standards still emit 750 times more tiny particles than a modern HGV truck.
  • Air pollution in London reached the top score of 10 on the UK government’s index in one weekend in January 2023, with home wood-burning playing a majority role in this according to research from Imperial College London. If the soot particles were averaged out over the whole year, these home fires produce more particle pollution than the exhaust of all traffic on our roads.
  • Get it wrong and you could face hefty penalties. In 2022 new wood burning stove laws came into force in an effort to limit the UK's emissions. It means in England you can be fined up to £300 if your local council decides your chimney releases too much smoke or fined up to £1,000 if you burn unauthorised fuel without an exempt appliance.

Another writer recently explained in the Evening Standard the challenging process of converting her cottage to wood: she spent £4,500 alone on two wood-burners for two rooms, excluding installation costs.

The pros and cons of central heating

A person's hand adjusting radiator valve

(Image credit: Getty images)


  • The biggest advantage of central heating is the comfort it provides. It is the only form of heating that will heat your entire home evenly and let you make full use of every room in your home. That all-round warmth from central heating is just not possible from other forms of heating
  • Convenience. You can usually ‘set and forget’ an automated heating system or enjoy flexibility with app-based control systems
  • Flexibility to install new components and heat sources like underfloor pipes as and when required
  • Generally very safe: Gas boilers are tested and strictly legislated to make sure they conform to safety standards.

The verdict

Once the huge initial expense of installing a wood-burning stove is paid, the cost of running it is cheaper than gas and electric systems. But what wood-burning stoves do is different to what central heating does. Remember, a stove or open fire will only ever heat just one room in your home properly - possibly a couple of rooms depending on its position and other factors.

If a wood-burning stove is suitable for your home the initial upfront investment will take several years to pay off even if energy prices stay at record highs.

But you may feel it is worth it: If you take your personal circumstances into consideration (the size of your home, your needs, whether you work from home or in an office, your access to woodland to get cheap or free wood) and have a preference for a cosy-looking wood-burning stove, the log burner may be the better option. 

It’s likely you’ll get some good returns by focusing your efforts on getting your home properly insulated, managing your boiler temperature carefully and focusing on more environmentally friendly energy efficiency measures.

Read how Money Edit reader Natalie Ward sold her car to buy an electric cargo bike and solar panels to cut her energy bills.

For those who are really struggling, remember that energy suppliers have hardship funds to apply to.

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Katie Binns

Katie is staff writer at The Money Edit. She was the former staff writer at The Times and The Sunday Times. Her experience includes writing about personal finance, culture, travel and interviews celebrities.  Her investigative work on financial abuse resulted in a number of mortgage prisoners being set free - and a nomination for the Best Personal Finance Story of the Year in the Headlinemoney awards 2021.