You’ve probably heard about the economic and environmental benefits of wood-burning stoves. But with the wide range of materials and manufacturers in the market today, you have to know where to start. Fortunately, after you answer some basic questions, picking a wood-burning stove becomes a question of style — not survival. Here are some steps to help you enjoy the buying experience.
¯Know why you want a wood stove. What main purpose will the stove serve? Heating, cooking, ambiance — or some combination? How much heat does the stove need to provide? Are you heating a single room, a whole floor, a good-sized house or a cottage? A final question is how often the stove will be used. If all you want is a homey blaze for romantic evenings, you certainly won’t to buy a large, high-powered stove. But if you intend to heat a substantial area, you will want to consider your stove’s ability more carefully.
¯Read the small print. When you look at models, find the stickers on the stoves that tell you they are certified by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This means they are environmentally friendly and burn efficiently. If you’re shopping for stoves online, this information will be readily available. The EPA approval is the important thing, and you won’t need to sweat it if you’re shopping at a reputable store, because all stoves made after the 1990s are certified by the EPA. You’ll find the BTu ratings and square footage heating estimates as well, but since they aren’t standardized, it’s a mistake to depend on them too much as you shop. Consider them rough estimates and focus instead on the size of the stoves you’re looking at.
¯Think twice about the biggest, shiniest stoves. Buying large stoves for small heating needs causes potential fire hazards and stuffy rooms. In addition, wood stoves that are too large cost you money. To control the heat, you’ll be forced to cut down the stove’s air supply, which will reduce efficiency and waste fuel. Practically, stoves come in only three sizes — small, medium and large.
Here’s a breakdown of how the sizes relate to your needs: Small stoves heat a small cabin or large room, medium stoves heat small or moderate-size houses, and large stoves heat large or drafty houses.