Of all the money we’ve spent on our barn conversion since we moved in 13 years ago, the wood-burner we installed in our living room trumps bathrooms, oak flooring and even a beautiful garden room extension as our best investment. At £2,000, the neat cast-iron stove was worth every penny – and never more so than now, when the temperature is plummeting and our smart meter informs us that we’re blowing a zillion pounds a day on gas and electricity despite being frugal with the heating and, well, everything else.
Log-burners weren’t such a common sight when we got ours in 2012, but since then they’ve grown in popularity among those wanting to add a flick of English country chic to their homes. And as our energy bills have soared, they’ve become even hotter property. Between April and June this year sales rose by 40 per cent to reach more than 35,000, compared with 25,000 for the same period last year. Some retailers have reported as much as a 165 per cent increase in demand this autumn alone. Small wonder given that figures from the Office for National Statistics showed electricity and gas prices rose by 54 per cent and 99 per cent respectively in the 12 months to September.
Whisper it, but I do feel a little smug that we have aren’t shivering our way up a lengthy waiting list to have one installed. Our original reason for buying a wood-burner was practical rather than aesthetic: during the first winter in our barn we’d discovered it was impossible to heat the living room, with its vaulted, double-height ceiling, thanks to a substandard heating system that lacked the pipe width and power to pump warmth to the double-bank radiators in there. I won’t bore you with the details, but it turned out cheaper and less messy to have a wood-burner than to tackle the pipework.