Stoves in draughtproof homes

Here is the problem. We love open fires / stoves in the UK as they are part of our heritage, but we are sealing up our homes, thus starving the fires our oxygen. The answer? In the UK we have regulations that state that if you have an open fire (solid fuel, gas) you have to have the appropriate ventilation to ensure that it is safe with regards to carbon monoxide etc. All very sensible, but many people only use their fires / stoves occasionally so get left with a great big vent that just lets in cold air and negates any benefit that having a fire might give.

I was in a rented property a few years ago and my visit (for damp diagnosis) accidentally co-incided with the service visit from the gas engineer. The house had a disused gas fire, but because it was a rental property the engineer insisted that a 30cm square vent was installed otherwise he could not sign off the property and hence it would not be available for rent. So the landlady was forced to install a 900cm2 vent into a house for an unused heat source. This of course meant higher consumption of valuable resources and higher bills for the tenants. Even if the vent were to be covered when not in use it would still represent a major cold spot for the house. When our reliance on stoves has diminished we are still having to allow for their use by making major structural changes (for the worse) to our homes. So is there a solution?

The basic answer is yes!

Many stoves are now available with a direct external air feed. This is effectively a dedicated air intake for the stove, so the air needed for combustion is brought into the stove direct from the outside. No reliance on internal air at all. They come in a couple of forms. Some bring air down the chimney and use the exhaust to pre-warm the intake air, others are pipes that bring air from a wall closeby to the intake. So if you are fitting a new stove we would recommend that you insist on a model that has this dedicated air intake. This then allows you to conform to the regulations and maintain a warm home, even if you are only using the stove occasionally.

The problem remains for those people (like me) who have an older stove. The present answer of smashing a hole in an external wall and putting a
plastic vent over the top just means cold air is brought across the room
in order to feed the fire – this really is madness. However the solution is still fairly simple, if more difficult to fit. Basically it still involves bringing fresh air into the house, but we would recommend bringing an air feed to as close to the fire as possible as this will reduce draughts throughout the house. An external vent (with filter to stop insects etc getting in) should be fitted to a point as close and convenient as possible to the fire. An insulated pipe / tube then needs laid to bring the air to the stove. The end of the tube then needs to be located as close as possible to the stove (side of the chimney breast for instance). A closeable metal vent then needs to be installed over the end of the pipe (a plastic one might melt if too close to a stove / fire) so that you can still close it off when the stove is not in use.

This type of solution will give you a much better solution that you can control, that complies with the regulations, doesn’t just create draughts and cold spots in your home and still allows you to draught proof the rest of your home to a level that will cut your fuel bills.

More phaff than just knocking a hole in your wall, but nevertheless a much better solution I think. Your thoughts welcome.