Choosing and Using a Wood Burning Stove

As this article is being written, much of our nation is in the grips of cold, icy winter weather. Oil prices are up, meaning those who depend on oil furnaces must pay even more money to stay warm this winter. In most areas natural gas and electric rates are up as well, meaning we must shell out more money to stay relatively comfortable through the winter, or turn down the thermostat and wear more sweaters. Many of us are lucky enough to have fireplaces in our homes, and burning wood in them can help keep the room where the fireplace is located a little warmer. If you have a fireplace, you also have an opportunity to add something to your home that will help keep your home warmer and save on electricity, natural gas, or heating oil. If you have been considering a wood burning stove, here's information to help you decide if this is right for you. If you've made the decision to get a wood burning stove, we also offer information on the best models, their features, prices, and how you can use them to have a warmer winter.

Wood Burning Stoves: Why Would I Want One?

If you stop and think about it, there are a number of reasons to have a wood burning stove in your home. One of the most compelling reasons to have one is for a well-heated home at a lower cost than the usual methods of heating. As long as you keep the fire going, wood heat is a continuous heat, doesn't go off when the thermostat does, and once you learn how to set the dampers, burns the wood efficiently. In most parts of the country, you can buy firewood at a fairly reasonable price, certainly cheaper than electricity or natural gas. With careful burning, a cord of wood can last you most of the winter. A small wood stove can easily heat a room, and a medium-sized one can heat the lower level of most homes. And if the power goes out, you can still be warm. There are a few downsides to a wood burning stove: If you have small children, they need to be watched carefully so they do not touch it and get burned. And you do need to buy or cut the wood needed to fuel your stove. But if you're still interested, the following paragraphs will give you information on the best models available, including their prices where we could find them, and where to buy one. Most stove manufacturers did not post prices for their stoves, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $3,000 for a new one, depending on size and features.

The Best Wood Stoves We Could Find

Wood stoves are made from porcelain, cast iron and soapstone, among other materials. Top wood stove manufacturers include Napoleon, Fishers, Jotul, Lopi, Soapstone, Hearthstone, Ashley, Regency, and Vermont Castings. We don't have room enough here to cover every woodstove on the market, so here are some their offerings.

  • Napoleon
    Napoleon woodburning stoves are constructed from steel (cast iron), and have offer several models including the 1400 Medium Pedestal Wood Stove and the 1400PL Medium Pedestal Wood Stove. The main differences between the two are that the Pededstal Leg model stands on legs, while the other one is on a pedestal; and a slight difference in price. Both burn 70,000BTU's, have a heating capacity of 2,000 square feet, with fireboxes which hold up to 18-inch pieces of wood. Both also feature an easy-empty ashpan and the top surface can be used for cooking. The pedestal leg model runs from $1,120 to $1,540 at WoodStovesDirect, while the standard pedestal model is slightly higher at $1,340 to $1,880. Another popular Napoleon wood stove is the 1900 Large Pedestal Wood Stove. Features 85,000 BTU and 3,500 sq. ft. heating capacity, steel construction, can hold up to 20-inch pieces of wood, and also has an easy-empty ashpan and a stovetop that doubles as a cooking surface.
  • Jotul
    This company's headquarters is in Norway, and they have been making woodburning stoves and fireplaces products since 1853. They are makers of the smallest cast iron woodburning stove on the market: the Jotul F 602 CB. This model's heat output is listed at 28,000 BTU/hour, and heats up to 800 sq. ft, making it perfect for heating one room or a very small home. For more heating capacity, try the F 3 CB, which heats up to 42,000 BTU/hour, and a capacity of of 1300 sq. ft. It's also made of cast iron. Their largest woodburning stove is the F 600 Firelight CB. Its maxiumum heat houtput is 81,000 BTU/hour, and heats up to 2,500 sq. ft. Can hold up to 24-inch logs. All Jotul woodburning stoves meet Federal EPA standards.

  • Lopi
    Lopi (pronounced "low-pie") has been making wood, gas and pellet stoves and fireplaces and fireplace inserts for more than 25 years. Many of their models include a cooktop surface, so you can enjoy warm food even if the power goes out. They offer two low-cost models, the Republic 1250 and 1750. Both are smaller, designed for one room or small home heating. The 1250 heats from 600-1,200 sq. ft at 66,800 BTU/hour; the 1750 heats at 72,000 BTU/hour and an area of from 1,200 to 2,000 sq. ft. The 1750 has a cooktop surface. The Answer is also rated for smaller spaces, heats 750 to 1,400 sq. ft. at a rate of 66,800 BTU/hour. The Liberty is the cleanest burning wood stove rated by the EPA ever, and features a cooktop surface, 74,300 BTU/hour output, and heats an area of 1,500 to 2,500 sq. ft., making it an ideal option if you want to heat more than just one room.
  • Hearthstone
    Hearthstone Woodstoves feature stoves made from soapstone, a type of stone formed millions of years ago under intense heat and pressure, and can withstand high heat and even direct flames. Soapstone stoves can store and radiate heat, even after the fire has died out. Be sure to check out their web site for more information on all their stoves. We only have room to feature a couple of them here. For example, for smaller heating purposes you may want to investigate the Homestead model. It can heat up to an 1,800 sq. ft. area on one load of wood a day. Its output is 50,000 BTU's. Available as a hearth mounted or free-standing stove. The Heritage is Hearthstone's most popular model, capable of heating up to 1,900 sq. ft. of living space at a rate of 55,000 BTU's. And the Tribute is a smaller model of the Heritage, heating up to 1,300 sq. ft at a rate of 36,000 BTU's. If you're looking for a large woodburning stove, the Equinox heats up to 3,500 sq. ft at a rate of 120,000 BTU's, and has an incredible burn time of up to 12 hours, with a heat life up to 16 hours. All Hearthstone soapstone stoves maintain a heat life of anywhere from 9 to 16 hours, depending on the stove. Soapstone stoves may cost a little more, but in the long run you may find the savings in fuel will offset the cost of the stove.

Some Extra Woodburning Stove Information

First, consider that the best time of year to purchase a woodburning stove is the end of the woodburning season. Dealers are anxious to sell off their left-over models before getting ready for next winter's new inventory. If you can hold off until then, it will be better for your pocketbook. Second, before buying your woodburning stove, be sure of your source of firewood. If you live near a wooded area, you'll find many people who cut and sell firewood. You'll want to buy seasoned wood, which was cut at least the year before and given time to dry out. Buying "green" wood is only recommended if you can get it at a great price and have room to store it till next year, as it will not burn until it's had time to cure. If you have the source and time time and inclination, you can even cut it yourself. Installation of your woodburning stove is another key factor to consider. If you are handy and have a fireplace you are using to vent the stove with, you can probably get away with installing it yourself, with the proper instructions. Proper instructions for installation should come with your stove. Most woodburning stove manufacturers will give you the clearance specs for your stove. In other words, a minimum amount of space is necessary between the stove and any other object. You'll also need some sort of heat-resistant backing and flooring, too. One other very important point to remember is maintenance of your stove and your pipes. Fire is a dangerous fuel, and if you haven't had at least yearly inspections of your chimney, stovepipes, and the stove itself, you could be courting disaster.

If you are still interested in a woodburning stove after reading all of this information, we recommend that you locate a dealer in your area. All of the above manufacturers should maintain a list of dealers in your area who stock their stoves. As mentioned before, we didn't have time to cover each stove in this article, but checking with your local woodstove dealer may open other avenues for you. And another alternative type of heating is the pellet stove, which we cover in a separate article.

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