Rising electricity, gas and other fuel prices are prompting many of us to investigate the most economical way of heating our homes.And one traditional source of fuel — wood — is very much in the equation.

Sales of wood-burning stoves are rising steadily with the Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme (HETAS) registering 50 suppliers in Oxfordshire and it has records of more than 4,000 installations in the county since January 2013, a figure which also includes some biomass boilers.

Spokesman Rachel MacSweeney said sales have risen ten per cent a year over the last five years.

Individual suppliers and installers report a similar increase in the level of sales over recent seasons.

At Bicester Tiles and Fireplaces, manager Mathew Orlando said 40 installations had been completed up to the end of last year, compared to 20 in 2012 with cold weather earlier in the year prompting more interest.

Paul Kruczko of Dorchester Fireplaces and Interiors also describes an upturn in sales while at the showrooms of Manor House Stoves in Garsington, there has been a massive increase in footfall, according to technical advisor Garth MacAnally.

He has been installing up to three stoves a day recently. As well as selling directly to householders, the company provides stoves for other suppliers and installers.

Mr MacAnally said: “Even during the summer months, demand has kept up.”

When looking at the cost of buying a wood-burner, buyers have to look at installation costs as well as the price of the unit itself and other considerations such as a flue lining which will vary according to the situation.

The five-kilowatt size is a popular choice with prices ranging from £800 to £3,000.

“The important thing is to buy with the correct advice," said Mr MacAnally.

The Charlbury-based Heat Store manufactures its own brand of wood-burner — the Eccostove.

Sales and account manager, Julian Lloyd, said sales of these models have increased over the past year from 200 to 300.

The company also sells its stoves both nationally and internationally, again with increasing interest.

At the other end of the county, the Natural Heat Centre has an Oxfordshire branch, in Henley.

Operations manager, Leigh Birchenough said: "We are looking to recruit more staff if we can find people who are qualified."

The growing market for wood-burning stoves has also sparked demand for their essential fuels.

Bare-wood, a supply company based near Didcot, has a database of more than 500 customers in and close to Oxfordshire.

“Our sales have definitely increased,” said director Cara Champeny.

“Last winter we had sales of about 600 cubic metres and I estimate that in 2013, up to the end of November, we had already sold 400 cubic metres.

"We have had a large increase in our numbers of customers since I started the business three years ago. Often they will be ringing up and saying they have just bought a wood-burning stove.”

She added: “We like as much as possible to source our wood locally, from within a 30 to 50-mile radius. We like to support the sustainability of wood as a fuel.”

Alex Blake, of A and P Blake Forestry Contractors, based at Bainton, near Bicester, also finds customers contacting him after purchasing a wood-burning stove.

He found that orders for supplies were starting much earlier last year, from August, instead of having the major demand beginning from November. He expects his annual sales of around 1,500 tonnes to increase by around by up to a further 400 tonnes.

This trend towards use of wood as a means of heating can be due to a number of factors, according to Ms MacSweeney of HETAS.

Firstly, there is the comparative cost against that for other fuels.

Then there is the idea of using a wood-burning stove as a means of providing warmth in just one room when it is needed, rather than switching on the central heating and also improvements in design which means wood-burners can be used in a smoke-free zone.

“These stoves used to be quite a traditional rural thing, but now people are installing them in urban areas as well,” she said.

“Things have changed in what we can do to provide suitable stoves for different locations.”