How to Choose a Wood Stove That Meets Your Needs

With more and more people beginning to seek out alternative energy sources, the demand for wood burning stoves is seeing a significant increase. That increase has highlighted the lack of high quality information about the various types of wood burning stoves available, as well as the lack of information on how to choose the right one.

This website is dedicated to educating consumers about a variety of popular options for using wood as an energy source for heating and cooking in and out of the home.

The Almighty Wood Stove Needs No Introduction

A wood burning cook stove is a traditional heating appliance which often requires no external electricity supply and which rather than using gas electricity or other fossil fuels can operate purely by burning natural wood. This wood for your wood burning cook stove can be bought from a supplier or even chopped yourself from your own timber supplies.

Often people buy a wood-burning cook stove to complete a traditional or historic kitchen or home and to create a certain look. However this is not always the case, the wood burning cook stove is a fantastic and practical unit in its own right, not to be used simply for historical accuracy but as the mainstay of a working home or a home located in a region which is remote or in which it is simply impractical to use other forms of fuel.

Most wood burning cook stove units will be constructed from cast iron or cast iron and steel, depending on the age, and provide stunning centerpieces for your home. These materials will last a lifetime, or longer, and will be one of the best investments you can make.

There are three basic needs that most wood burning stoves address. First is the need for a heating source for outdoor patios and backyards. Second is a need for a heating source for inside the home, and third is a need for an option that provides both a heating source and an energy source for cooking.

There are many different reasons a consumer might need an outdoor heating source. Some people need one in order to turn their backyards or patios into more living space, some people need one in order to continue hosting patio events into cooler months, and some may simply need one in order to be able to spend more time in the outdoors. Whatever the reason, patio fire pits and outdoor firepits are the typical answers to these types of needs.

A second common need that a wood burning stove would address is the need for a cost efficient heating source inside the home. There is a range of wood burning stoves to address this need, including Amish fireplaces, wood pellet stoves, wood burning fireplace inserts, gas fireplace inserts, soapstone wood stoves, and antique wood burning stoves. The right stove is going to depend on the consumer, and what his or her personal preferences are.

For some people, utilizing the cost efficiency of wood burning stoves involves a need for both cooking and heating solutions. Wood burning cook stoves, either antique or newly manufactured models, meet this need head-on.

No matter the need that a wood burning stove addresses, the key to choosing the right one is to consider what the main purpose of the wood burning stove will be, and then choosing one based on that purpose. A wood burning cook stove would certainly heat a home, but if the purpose is only to heat the home, then the cooking capacities are not necessary. In order to choose the right stove, a consumer will want to read the basic information on each type, which can be found right here on this website.

Soapstone Wood Stoves

A soapstone wood stove is a traditional cast iron stove insert surrounded by thick soapstone. The purpose of using soapstone is to utilize its natural properties of retaining and radiating heat for long periods of time, in order to maintain the heat created by burning wood.

The key to choosing soapstone wood stoves is to choose brands that place at least 60mm thick soapstone slabs around the insert. You’ll find that many soapstone wood stove products only use an average of 30mm thick slabs, which is not enough mass to maintain heat. The soapstone in these products is merely decorative, and not what you are looking for if cost-effective heat is your goal.

There are a number of high-quality brands that offer stoves made with enough soapstone to retain and radiate heat for two to three hours after the fire is put out.  You’ll want to check the specifications of any soapstone wood stoves you are considering, in order to make sure the soapstone will be functional, not just decorative.

After you have found some brands and styles that appeal to you, spend some time reading consumer ratings and customer reviews for each one. This is an excellent way to get honest information about each stove, rather than sales hype.

Notable Wood Stove Manufacturers

1. Vermont Casting

Vermont Castings are a leading US manufacturer of top quality fireplaces and accessories and provide a full wood stove range in addition to gas stoves and accessories.

Vermont casting wood stoves come in two ranges, catalytic wood stoves, and non-catalytic wood stoves. A non-catalytic stove is best suited to lower heating requirements, catalytic is designed to be run at a higher heat for longer.

A Vermont casting wood stove is the perfect solution to your space heating needs, although as with all wood stoves it requires careful positioning and the room must have flu outlets to a chimney.

Wood stoves generally can have one of two flu exits, whether on top or at the back, giving flexibility in integration with a room. Care must also be taken when positioning any Vermont Casting wood stove on the floor, a noncombustible surface must be used eg brick, stone. Wood cannot be used.

2. Jotul Wood Stoves

Jotul wood stoves (or Jøtul wood stoves) are high-quality stoves created by the Jotul company from Norway. Jotul manufactures wood stoves, wood inserts, gas fireplace inserts, gas fireplaces, and gas stoves. Jotul manufactures a full range of wood stoves.

These stoves, also called non-catalytic wood heaters, are really solid fuel room heaters and require careful positioning and flu outlets to a chimney within the room. The Jotul wood stove generally has two flu exits, one on top and one at the back, giving flexibility in integration with a room.

Care must also be taken when positioning the jotul wood stove on the floor, a noncombustible surface must be used eg brick, stone. Wood cannot be used. A jotul wood stove can be used to burn only natural wood, not coal, etc.

When the correct materials are used, and the Jotul wood stove is correctly positioned and operated it is a wonderfully safe and efficient heating solution. Jotul wood stoves can be either stand-alone or inserts (into fireplaces) and so can provide the flexibility to fit into many homes and buildings.

Wood Burning Stove Advantages and Disadvantages

While it may look antique, something you would have seen in your great grandma’s kitchen a hundred years ago, it is actually a piece of equipment that is on the forefront of energy and cost efficiency for the home. Don’t believe me? Stop and think about it for a minute. Wood burning cook stoves perform two main functions with one inexpensive energy source: home heating and cooking.

Cookstoves operate on wood, and if you can cut it yourself, the only real cost is for the wood cutting permits, which run about $10 a cord. Running wood burning cook stoves round the clock takes approximately five cords per month. If winter is five months long, then you would need 25 cords, which would cost you $250 in wood permits. Now compare that number to how much it costs to heat a small home during the winter months, added to how much it costs to operate a gas or electric stove. The amount of money that can be saved is substantial.

Now, consider what operating a cook stove does for the environment. Wood is a renewable resource, and when taken straight from the forest, has no negative environmental impacts. Burning wood doesn’t cause any type of pollution, and by taking wood straight from the forest, also doesn’t require massive amounts of byproducts to get it ready for use in the home. You can’t say both of these things about many other energy sources out there.

The benefits of these stoves are pretty straight-cut, which is proven by their continued production. Many companies still manufacture wood burning cook stoves, which are often replicas of antique models with modern conveniences added. Despite this, wood burning stoves take some getting used to, as the art of cooking with wood heat is lost to most of the current generation. Fortunately, there are many websites out there devoted to sharing knowledge about operating a wood burning stove.

The best knowledge is probably going to be the knowledge you get from your own experience. But don’t knock what others have to offer either. An example piece of advice from one website states that the old advice of burning dried potato peels to prevent creosote from building up in the chimneys of wood burning cook stoves is actually true.

At around $1,500 for a new or antique wood burning cook stove, your start-up costs for switching to this alternative source of energy is fairly small. Whether you decide to purchase a stove from a craigslist posting, or a brand new model from a European manufacturer, be sure to have it properly installed. From there, take the advice of others who are already taking advantage of this cost-effective energy source, and enjoy learning new skills and helping out the environment at the same time.

Jay Green
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