Wood stoves are a very reliable and cheap way to heat your home. Rather than pour money into propane, gas or electric, turn to wood to keep things cozy.
With the weather taking all sorts of wacky turns these last few years, more and more areas of the world are seeing extremes — and that includes extreme cold during the winter months. As a result, heating bills have skyrocketed, leaving many families searching for relief from the financial crunch. The answer? Go back to nature and burn wood with an old-fashioned wood stove.
Wood stoves have gotten a bad reputation over the years, mostly thanks to propaganda from heating companies that sell propane, gas and the like. How do you convince people to buy something that is much more costly than what they could be using? Misinformation is the key, and that’s why so many people now believe that wood stoves are death traps that will burn your house down the moment you turn your back. But nothing could be further from the truth!
Choosing the right wood-burning stove
Wood stoves can be used to heat anything from a small room to a large house. Wood stove take full advantage of their fuel and burn at high rates of efficiency, giving out enough heat that the biggest problem might be toning it down a bit.
There are three primary types of wood stoves. These include the traditional “pot belly” stove, also known as radiant heaters; the circulating stove; and the combustion stove, also known as the “Franklin stove.” Any of these stoves offer impressive efficiency, but the circulating stove is widely believed to be the best at heating any size area.
6 tips for buying wood stoves
No matter which type you choose, remember these tips:
- Cast iron is awesome. This is often the gold standard for wood-burning stoves, thanks to the ability to warm up slowly and retain heat for long periods of time. Handle the stove with care and cast iron will last a lifetime.
- The stove needs clearance. One of the few downsides to wood stoves is the need for a wide clearance around it. Depending upon the size of the stove, this might require several feet in every direction.
- Larger rooms need a centered stove. A small room can be heated by a stove placed anywhere in the space; larger rooms need a stove in the center to make the most of the radiant heat.
- Wood stoves can work with central heating. The heat from your stove can be routed through already-existing ductwork, and thus heat several rooms, and possibly even an entire house.
- You will need a lot of wood. A place to store all that wood might become a problem if outdoor space is at a premium. Consider how much you will need to burn throughout a long winter and plan an appropriate area to keep all that fuel.
- You will need professional installation. Wood stoves are very safe as long as they are installed by a professional, then inspected and cleaned at least once a year.
When shopping around for stoves, take the time to look at each one. Open the doors, look into the firebox, and pay attention to every small detail. The stove should be listed by Underwriters Laboratories; this helps ensure it is up to safety standards. Keep in mind that older stoves might not meet this requirement, so be wary of purchasing an old stove at an estate sale or through Craigslist!
Do a bit of homework before the big shopping day. Contact a chimney company to make sure that your existing chimney is appropriate for your new stove; if you don’t have a chimney, talk to them about how much it will cost to add one. Call a local building inspector to make sure that wood stoves are allowed in your home, and call your insurance company as well — some will jack up the premiums if you choose to heat with wood.
Using the right wood
Once you have the right stove, you will also need the right wood. You want to burn wood that will produce the least amount of creosote buildup; creosote is what causes fires. The most important point about the right wood is that it be thoroughly “seasoned.” This means that the wood has had plenty of time — usually at least one year — to dry out. Burning new wood will lead to smoldering and a low temperature fire, assuming you can get it lighted at all. Therefore, when using a wood stove, you will have to think about your fuel at least one year ahead of the season.
Which wood should you choose? Hardwoods are the best. They are denser and provide a much hotter, cleaner fire, which means more heat. They might also mean less creosote buildup. However, hardwoods can be difficult to light, which is why a big stack of kindling is a must.
Wood stoves do have up-front costs, but once they are installed, the heat is cheap — and if you live on a wooded lot, virtually free. The only other costs are for cleaning, which should be done every year by a professional, without fail.
What’s your take on wood stoves? Are you for or against, and why?
Let us know all about it in the comments section of this post!