Wood Burning Stove Buyer's Guide
Even if you don't know what they are, you've probably seen a wood-burning stove or two in your life. They've been around since the 1500s and have been heating homes ever since. Made of metal or stone, these heating appliances burn wood to heat up your home. You may use them as a main or supporting heating source, but some people also use them for cooking!
In this article, you will learn about the different types of wood stoves, how they're made, some of their most popular designs, and how to take care of them. You'll even learn about the advantages and disadvantages of owning one.
Why You Should Consider Purchasing One
Wood stoves are great for many reasons, but who are they for exactly? If you're looking for an efficient but more affordable way to heat your home, a wood stove may be the solution. It's perfect for anyone who doesn't mind making the hearth a focal point of the house. Plus, they add warmth and charm to any home.
Calling back to a different era, the classic look of wood stoves makes them some of the most aesthetically pleasing appliances around. Their rustic appeal and updated designs go well with new, contemporary styles.
Think about their energy source - wood. Compared to other fuels out there, wood is an inexpensive alternative. You can find wood nearly anywhere: from downed trees in your neighborhood, an arborist, or in your backyard. And, you don't need electricity! This makes wood stoves great for use during a power outage.
While the stove does not require electricity, it's important to note that the blower does. In fact, any accessory fans attached to your stove will need access to a 120-Volt power source. You can find more information on wood stove blowers here.
Did you know that wood is more Eco-friendly for the environment? That's right. Wood is carbon neutral, which means burning it does not add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. So, there you have it. As a cheaper and greener way to warm your home, who wouldn't want one?
Like other hearth appliances, modern wood stoves have to pass an EPA emission test before companies can sell them to the public. If you see a stove with an EPA sticker on it, you can count on it not putting out a lot of harmful pollutants.
Things You Should Know Before You Buy a Wood Stove
If you've already begun searching for a wood stove, you've probably come across terms like "efficiency" and "coverage." But, what do those terms really mean? In the next section, we'll tell you.
The efficiency rating of a wood stove indicates how much fuel the stove uses versus how much it wastes. Many wood stoves have efficiency ratings between 70-80%. That means you can expect to lose 20-30% of the heat through the stovepipe during the burning process.
Some stoves will burn or stay warm longer than others. This really depends on the technology used within the stove and the material from which the stove is made.
For example, the Drolet HT2000 has an efficiency rating of 78%. This means 78% of the heat produced by this stove will heat your home. The other 22% will be lost up the pipe. This isn't too shabby when compared to the 15-30% average efficiency rating of wood-burning fireplaces.
Coverage is also important to understand since you'll need a wood stove big enough to warm the space within your home. Wood stoves come in three sizes: small, medium, and large. If you get a wood stove too small, your home will likely be cooler than desired. So, how do you figure out what size you need? It's actually pretty easy to determine.
First, measure the length and width of the area you want to heat. Now, multiply that length and width. If your space is under 1,500 square feet, a small wood stove will work for you. At 1,500 to 2,200 square feet, look at a medium wood stove. Anything above 2,200 square feet, you'll need a large one. Just remember, a blower accessory doesn't heat extra square footage. Instead, it helps the stove heat your space more quickly.
6 Top Brands and Manufacturers
Let's face it, there are many wood stove manufacturers out there. So, how do you know which ones are the best? We've made things a little easier for you. Not all brands have equal quality. But, in this section, you'll learn about some of the very best in the industry.
- Blaze King — With more than 40 years in the industry, Blaze King crafts some of the most efficient stoves ever made. Blaze King created catalytic technology that helps wood stoves achieve up to 40 hours of burn time. Yes, you read that correctly. And rest assured, their appliances comply with EPA standards. Their stoves also come in various styles to match any design aesthetic.
- Buck Stove — Started in 1971 in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, Buck Stove has a rich history. They are reputable for helping people get through a tough energy crisis for nearly a decade. Since then, the Buck Stove brand has been a staple of the hearth industry for nearly 50 years. Their durable, robust, yet simple designs make for some of the most well-constructed wood stoves available. Because of this, Buck Stoves often get passed down as family heirlooms.
- England's Stove Works — Unlike the name suggests, this isn't a British company. It's actually an American one. The company was started by father and son, Bob and Ron England, in their backyard in 1976. England's Stove Works is now a leader in the industry for efficiency and durability. Their wood stoves come at a price that's hard to beat without losing any appeal or value.
- Jotul — This Norwegian manufacturer has a history spanning more than 160 years. As you can imagine, their stoves are also known for being passed down from generation to generation. If that doesn't speak to their dependable construction, what will? Jotul offers a range of wood and gas stoves. Their Jotul F 602 model sold more than one million units, making it the best-selling wood stove ever made.
- MF Fire — MF Fire focuses on producing efficient and economical stoves. With MF Fire, you'll find catalytic wood stoves capable of extremely long burn times with low air pollution. MF Fire has also brought hearth appliances into the 21st century by making them compatible with smart devices!
- Osburn — In business since 1979, Osburn is an experienced wood stove company. They are part of the SBI family of brands with headquarters in Canada. Osburn prides itself in producing quality wood-burning and pellet-burning stoves. This Canadian company uses digital manufacturing to give their stoves a very high unit-to-unit consistency. With Osburn, you'll find both modern and traditional designs to fit any household decor.
Operating Wood-Burning Stoves
Wood stoves are pretty simple to operate after you get the hang of it. Most people think a wood stove works by putting the fuel in the firebox and lighting it up. And yes, that is how to get the appliance running, but there are a few more steps involved to maximize heat flow.
Each brand is different, so some are easier to use than others. It really depends on the technology and materials built into the unit.
These wood stoves use a catalytic combustor to help keep the wood fuel burning longer. Here is how it works. The catalyst sits near the top of the stove where the pipe connects. It looks much like a metal honeycomb. Some come in a circular shape while others are rectangular. The shape and size of the catalytic combustor are often dictated by the size and design of the stove.
The catalytic combustor serves two purposes. First, it functions as a filter that reduces the level of harmful by-products released up through the flue. Second, it constricts the ventilation space of the pipe to limit air flow. The reduced ventilation causes the fire to simmer for a longer period of time.
You'll find that most of these models also use an air recirculation system similar to non-catalytic stoves, although less complicated. So, what is an air recirculation system? Put plainly, an air recirculation system provides a constant supply of air to stoke the fire inside your wood stove. It keeps soot and ashes from building up on your glass panel and prevents unwanted particles from escaping your stove.
Catalytic stoves can take 10-15 minutes to heat up due to restricted ventilation. To speed up the heating process, some of them may have an air bypass chamber. This is a large open compartment within the stove that suctions air and redirects flue gases around the catalyst during startup. The bypass process breathes more oxygen on the fire, causing the stove to ignite faster and heat up quicker.
Once the catalyst and metal of the stove are hot enough, you can close the damper to the air bypass chamber using a lever. The unit will then begin to radiate heat from the unit or vent blower into your home.
Please note that while the catalytic stoves burn longer, they do so at a lower average temperature. Specifically, catalytic stoves operate correctly at 500 degrees. This is a much lower temperature compared to non-catalytic stoves, which require an operating temperature of around 1,100 degrees.
As the name suggests, non-catalytic wood stoves do not have a catalyst to prolong the life of the fire. Instead, these stoves have a combustion chamber that has a number of air injection tubes with a set of baffles or firebricks to keep particulate pollution from escaping. Inside, there is only a small area open to the venting collar.
The baffle, a type of barrier located on the ceiling of the stove, and firebricks cover the rest of the space. Also found at the top of the firebox are the air injection tubes. They hold the baffles in place while bathing the fire with air, pushing the particulates back into the fire to be burned again. This motion cuts down on pollution and makes the stove more efficient.
Beyond catalytic and non-catalytic wood stoves, there are also many design options to choose. Each design fits into one of three categories: traditional, modern, or portable. With so many options, you're sure to find a design to complement your needs and aesthetic.
3 Style Choices
Traditional wood stoves are usually self-standing units made out of sturdy materials like cast iron or steel. As you can imagine, they are also quite heavy. Older models usually don't have a spot for a blower. If you're thinking about purchasing one, you may want to consider getting a wood stove fan to prevent heat from rising up to your ceiling.
Stoves with modern designs are still heavy but crafted from lighter, durable materials. These wood stoves can be self-standing or installed as inserts that can fit into your fireplace. Most modern wood stoves have a spot dedicated for a blower attachment. The blower forces hot air through a vent in the front of the stove to heat the room.
Generally small and lightweight, portable wood stoves are designed with your ease of use in mind. They serve as great camping additions. You can easily disassemble and reassemble them, but there is one drawback. Portable stoves cannot be used indoors because they lack proper venting.
Using a portable wood stove inside would expose you to harmful pollutants. At the very least, you'll be dealing with that smoke alarm going off.
As far as design, most manufacturers design their portable wood stoves with a combination of traditional and modern elements. It's not hard to find a traditional wood stove with modern design aesthetics and vice versa.
While the appearance of a wood stove may spark your interest, it's the materials that really dictate quality. The durability and portability of these appliances make it difficult for other hearth appliances to compete. In this next section, we'll provide a brief overview of some of the most common materials used to build wood stoves.
The first material is plate steel. It's really a generic term to refer to any low to mid-grade carbon steel that has been rolled into flat plates. For wood stoves, plate steel is typically 1/4" to 3/16" low-carbon steel plates welded together.
Perhaps one of the most well-known materials, cast iron has been used to create some of the earliest wood stoves. Unlike the welding process used to make plate steel, cast iron is constructed from molten iron, which is poured into castings and then assembled using furnace cement.
Cast Iron will not warp or crack with normal use, but it can be damaged if you overfire the stove. While resilient, furnace cement does break down eventually. So, at some point, a cast iron stove will have to be disassembled, cleaned, and reassembled using new furnace cement.
The chassis or frame of a soapstone wood stove is manufactured from cast iron before being covered with soapstone to fill any gaps. In some models, you'll even find soapstone cuttings inside the stove instead of firebrick.
Soapstone is rich in magnesium. This means it can absorb heat and radiate it back into the home for hours and hours. Regarded as specialty stoves due to their appearance, soapstone stoves may not suit all decors. However, their beauty is undeniable.
When it comes to installing your wood stove, we recommend finding a certified specialist to take care of it. Proper installation is vital to the safety of your family as well as the function of the wood stove.
One group that takes the potential danger of your hearth appliance seriously is the National Fireplace Institute. A certified technician with NFI has the knowledge to install any hearth in any home safely. Find one of your local NFI installers here.
Another great organization with trained installation professionals is Wood Energy Technology Transfer, Inc. (WETT). As an added bonus, their technicians also offer inspections to keep your unit in tip-top shape. Search for WETT techs in your area by visiting their website.
Once installed, the installer should test your wood stove for potential draw and leakage. There are some things you can do as well. Start with a small fire using kindling. As the fire burns, check the accessible areas of the vent system. Look for smoke leakage and condensation drips. Leaks are easily fixed by repositioning the stovepipe or chimney pipe and adding any additional fasteners that might be needed.
If the stove does not draw as well as it should be, observe your pipe as it runs. There could be three possible issues: 1) you may have exceeded the maximum horizontal run of pipe; 2) the pipe may not meet the minimum height requirement, or 3) the pipe wasn't installed using the 10-3-2 spacing standards.
If it turns out that none of these issues are causing the problem, another possibility is that the chimney is too small or short. A small chimney can compete for the draft from your home. This is called the "house stack effect." You may need to add pipe sections to fix the issue.
Important EPA Information
The Environmental Protection Agency, in 1988, set out a list of emissions guidelines to limit how much pollution new stoves could produce. In 2015, there was an update that required wood stoves to meet a standard of no more than 4.5 grams of pollution per hour. On May 1, 2020, the EPA will announce a new standard, which will reduce the maximum pollution allowed to 2 grams per hour.
With these guidelines in mind, stove manufacturers have improved the combustion technology of their wood-burning stoves. Some newer models of wood stoves already have certified emissions in the 1 to 4 grams per hour range. Keep this in mind as you continue to search. Make sure to look for the white EPA label. The lower the g/h rating, the more efficient the stove will be. To see a list of EPA certified stoves, just click this link.
Wood stoves will always ship LTL freight. Usually, you'll find your wood stove fully or partially crated to prevent it from tipping during transport. Many times the manufacturer will bolt down the stove to the pallet and reinforce attachment points to keep it sturdy during shipping.
From there, the shipping company will enclose the crate with padded braces surrounding the stove. These braces are strong enough to take a hard hit without damaging your stove.
While shipping companies take many precautions to deliver your stove, accidents can happen. So, we recommend that you thoroughly inspect your stove for damages as soon as it arrives. If you do find something unwanted, report it to the manufacturer as soon as possible to comply with warranty limitations and deadlines.
Care and Maintenance
Wood-burning stoves have the longest lifespan of any hearth appliance. If you care and maintain your stove properly, you'll find it can last up to 50 years! However, if not properly cared for, your wood stove could fail prematurely within 4 or 5 years. In this section, you'll learn eight great tips to help extend the lifespan of your wood stove.
Tip 1: Do not overfire your stove. Overfiring happens when too much fuel is put inside the firebox or when leaving the door to the stove open. This overfiring will cause the stove to burn hotter than intended. If this happens, you'll see your stove turn red, and the metal will start to warp. Once warped, your stove's life is over as it could be unsafe to use.
Tip 2: Read the user's manual carefully. This is important because the user manual will likely address minor issues you may face when it comes to working your wood stove. It will also contain useful care and maintenance tips tailored to your specific stove.
Tip 3: Do not burn trash. Trash can produce harmful fumes, and the remnants can be hard to clean as well.
Tip 4: Burn seasoned wood. Seasoned wood burns more efficiently, meaning there will be less ash to sweep up.
Tip 5: Try to make your home more energy efficient, like installing windows to prevent heat loss. Doing so, will make your stove more efficient and improve its lifespan.
Tip 6: Once a year, have your stove inspected by a professional. This ensures you catch potential issues early to prevent further damage.
Tip 7: Clean the ash bucket or tray regularly.
Tip 8: Use a stove fan or blower. Stove fans and blowers will circulate the warm air throughout your home to prevent heat from rising to the ceiling. This circulation increases heating efficiency and keeps you warm from afar.
Wood stoves are a great addition to the right home. Their classic look will fit well with any decor, and they'll keep you and your family warm for decades to come. We covered a ton of information in this article, so we've provided you with a list of links to items and subjects mentioned above.
Articles You May Also Like...
Wood Burning Stoves Q&A with the NFI Certified Specialists* Please Note: All customer questions are answered by our NFI Certified Specialists free of charge!
from Juneau, AK asked:
July 13, 2017
What is the difference between an EPA stove and a non-EPA stove?
EPA stoves fall under a general category of appliances that use either a baffle to create a reburn effect of the combustion byproducts in the combustion chamber or a catalyst to help create a complete burn at a lower temperature, while filtering out harmful emissions. In order for the EPA stoves to work properly, they use smaller, well insulated combustion chambers. Where non-EPA models typically just consist of a generic combustion chamber, EPA models are engineered to work in conjunction with their air injection systems, creating a hot and clean burn, while allowing longer burn times. Almost all municipalities now require EPA appliances for new installations and non-EPA models that have not been grandfathered in can no longer be installed. However, EPA appliances are vastly superior to their predecessors and once their operation is mastered by a consumer, they are fantastic to use.
on July 13, 2017
from PA asked:
January 22, 2019
How many BTUs do you recommend for 850 sq ft open space?
With standard 8' ceiling height, 29,750 BTUs.
on January 23, 2019
from TN asked:
January 18, 2019
What are the efficiency ratings for the 3 US Stove Company wood stoves on the site?
The 2000 is 75%, The 2500 is 73%, and the 3000 77%.
on January 18, 2019
from Lempster, NH asked:
February 23, 2018
Do you have a wood stove with a grate in the bottom rather than the bricks?
The new EPA stoves they make now generally do not have grates. None of the stoves we have have grates all have firebrick.
on February 23, 2018
from GA asked:
January 4, 2018
Do Osburn stoves have rear flue option?
No, they don't.
on January 4, 2018
from Kingston, WA asked:
September 2, 2017
Can any stove with a 6 inch flue be connected to an 8 inch flue and operate properly?
No, not in all cases.
on September 5, 2017
from Allentown, PA asked:
April 25, 2017
Do you deliver and set up products?
As we are purely an online retailer, we use FedEx freight as a third party for most all of our freight shipments. Subsequently, we do not provide set up or installation.
on April 25, 2017
from Arizona asked:
January 2, 2017
Where are the Osburn stoves made?
Osburn stoves are manufactured in Canada.
on January 2, 2017
from Boulder, CO asked:
November 28, 2016
I have just purchased a mountain cabin that is off the grid. It is approximately 870 sq. feet, which includes a loft that is approx. 240 sq. feet.
The present wood stove needs to be replaced. I am looking at the Napoleon 1100C and the 1400C and wondered if the 1400C would be over-kill, since the stove will primarily/only be used in the summer months for chilly mornings and evenings.
While the square footage is only 870 square feet, which would require only 30,450 btus, this is assuming 8' ceiling height and would not account for your overall ceiling height including the loft. With that being said, this stove should operate perfectly fine with the square footage.
on November 29, 2016
Customer Images of Wood Burning Stoves