How to Select a Wood Stove

Nothing beats the soft glow of wood burning in the winter. The heat warms your body and soul. Metal wood-burning stoves were invented in the 16th century, and at one point, most homes in the United States had one inside them. They are more efficient than a traditional fireplace and could be used for cooking and heating.

However, as furnaces and other ways of heating a home became more popular in the early 20th century, the wood-burning stoves fell out of favor. In the 1970s, the wood-burning stoves saw a resurgence in popularity as people looked for alternative ways of heating a house. The federal government observed the increased usage of wood burning stoves and the Environmental Protection Agency set performance and emission standards in 1988. The agency now issues a list of certified stoves and is set to increase performance and emissions standards in 2020.

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What Is the Purpose of the Wood Stove?

When selecting a wood stove, you need to start by deciding the stove’s purpose. A lot of homeowners are only interested in the ambiance from a wood stove and what it adds to the home’s decor. Other homeowners want all or part of the home heated with the stove. The stove’s purpose will play an important role in the type of stove you select.

What Size Area Do You Want to Heat?

If you decide to heat your home with the stove, you will need to determine how much of the home you want to heat. Some homeowners only want to heat a main room or the bedroom with a stove while others opt to use the stove as the major heat source for the home in the winter. The size and type of stove will impact how much of the home can be heated with the stove.

Home Insurance Policy

A wood-burning stove can impact your homeowner’s insurance rates. Wood burning stoves and fireplaces account for 36% of all house fires, according to the US Fire Administration, and that is a major concern for insurance companies. The type of stove and the size of the stove can have an impact on your insurance rate. Older stoves, particularly antiques, may add beauty to the home but can be inefficient compared to modern models creating a greater risk of fire. You should speak with your insurance agent before purchasing a stove so you can get a better sense of how much a wood stove might impact your insurance rate.

How Much Do You Want to Spend?

Wood-burning stoves are available in a variety of sizes, shapes and styles. You have a plethora of options and price points when it comes to purchasing a wood-burning stove. You can get an entry-level model for under $1,000 but the majority of stoves cost between $2,000 and $3,500. You can purchase a higher-end stove for between $5,000 and $8,000. These are usually custom designed and are often manufactured in Europe.

Are Incentives Available?

It might be illegible for a tax credit or grant if you purchase a wood-burning stove, as some states and local communities offer financial incentives. For example, the Maryland Energy Administration provides grants for clean-burning wood and pellet stoves. The stove must be used to replace an older stove or displace an electric or non-natural gas fossil fuel heating systems. An incentive can make it more economical and feasible to install a stove in your home.

Does the House Have an Existing Fireplace?

When you add a wood-burning stove to your home, you need to have a chimney for the smoke. Many older homes already have an existing fireplace, and you can retrofit the chimney for the wood stove. For new construction, you will need to work with the homebuilder, and if no chimney exists, you will need to work with a contractor and install a chimney for the stove.

Cast Iron, Welded Steel or Soapstone

You generally have three options when buying a wood-burning stove — cast iron, welded steel or soapstone. Welded steel and cast iron are similar as far as efficiency, but welded steel wood stoves generally get warmer faster than cast iron stoves. Once cast iron stoves are warm, however, they radiate a lot more heat and will run for longer periods of time. Soapstone is a type of rock that absorbs heat and has been shown to dissipate heat in a steady fashion. They are less common than cast iron or welded steel stoves. Some manufacturers make stoves that are a mixture of two or three materials, trying to utilize the best qualities of each material.

Catalytic Versus Non-Catalytic Combustion

To meet the emission standards set by the EPA, stove manufacturers have turned to catalytic and non-catalytic combustion. While most stoves on the market are non-catalytic, some high-end stoves use catalytic combustion. Catalytic stoves contain a ceramic, honeycomb-like combustor that is plated with a metal such as platinum or palladium. The metals on the catalytic converter act as a catalyst to ignite these gases at lower temperatures. With the non-catalytic design, the stove uses firebox insulation and a baffle to produce a longer path for the smoke. Pre-heated combustion air is introduced to the stove through small holes above the fire.

Find a Reputable Dealer

While you can easily purchase an inexpensive used stove, it is better to meet with a reputable dealer and spend the extra money. New stoves are more efficient than older stoves, and a reputable dealer will point you in the direction of quality stove manufacturing companies. Some companies still sell non-certified stoves but you want to shy away from these units. It is better to spend the extra money and select a stove that is safe and will provide the type of environment you are seeking in a wood stove.

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