Shopping for a wood stove requires that you differentiate thoughts and opinions from facts. As any scientist or mathematician will tell you, the more variables in any equation, the harder it is to draw accurate conclusions. This certainly holds true when it comes to wood heating stoves and fireplaces, where buying decisions are often made from anecdotal data provided by others, without considering all the facts behind the story. Here are a few true-life scenarios:
“Non-catalytic wood stoves are cheap.” Reasoning: “I recently replaced my non-catalytic certified approved wood stove with a catalytic model. Thanks to the catalytic converter, the new stove gives me more heat and longer burn times.”
Fact not mentioned: The new stove has a larger firebox than the old stove.
Informed Shopping Conclusion: Stoves with larger fireboxes can hold more fuel, so they can put out more heat for longer periods of time. The catalytic converter has nothing to do with it.
“Cast iron wood stoves are crap.”
Reasoning: “We finally burned out our Invicta Auris woodstove which was made of plate steel, and replaced it with a Dovre Vintag which is cast iron. Now, the living room is unbearably hot, and the rest of the house is cold!”
Facts not mentioned: 1) The Invicta was a convection heater, designed to heat and circulate air. 2) The Dovre Vintag is a radiant heater, designed to heat objects. 3) While heated air is relatively easy to move throughout the house, radiant energy is not.
Informed Shopping Conclusion: Choose the right type of stove to heat your house. Radiant heaters work best when they’re centrally located in a big, open spaces.
“Plate steel wood stoves are crap.”
Reasoning: “We loved our old cast iron Vermont Castings Resolute. It put out a nice, gentle heat and we could sit right next to it. The new Neo 2.5 plate steel stove blasts us right out of the room! Plate steel stoves are like blast furnaces.”
Facts not mentioned: 1) There is virtually no difference in the heat transfer efficiency of cast iron and plate steel. 2) The Vermont Castings Resolute was rated to heat 110mt2. The Neo 2.5 is rated to heat 215mt2.
Informed Shopping Conclusion: Choosing a stove that is too large can be just as uncomfortable as choosing one that’s too small.
“Soapstone wood stoves are useless.” Reasoning: “We bought a new Lotus soapstone wood stove to heat our mountain vacation cabin. Every time we go up there, we freeze our buns off for two or three hours trying to bring the cabin up to temperature. In the meantime, the dumb thing smokes us out of the place!”
Facts not mentioned: 1) It takes a little skill and patience to get a cold soapstone stove (and its chimney) up to operating temperature. 2) Raising the temperature of a cold mountain cabin up to a comfortable level quickly is not something a soapstone stove is designed to do.
Informed Shopping Conclusion: The happiest soapstone stove owners are folks who start a fire in the Fall and feed it until Spring, never letting the stones get cold. For a sporadically-visited cabin, soapstone should be the last choice.
“New wood stoves are crap.” Reasoning: “Last year, our neighbours gave us five tons of wood, which we figured would get us through this winter, so we took our fuel budget savings and used it to replace our 20-year-old woodstove with a brand new model. We’re only halfway through the burning season, and this monster has gobbled up almost all our wood already! We wish we had our old stove back.”
Facts not mentioned: 1) The 5 tons of wood the neighbours let go so graciously was soft wood. 2) 5 tons of soft wood has the fuel value of about 2-1/2 tons of Oak.
Informed Shopping Conclusion: The fuelwood, not the newer design, is the problem here.
“Certified approved wood stoves are crap.” Reasoning: “Our old stove had a HUGE firebox and a draft control we could shut all the way down to just a crack, so one load of wood lasted around 16 hours or so. We just got a new certified approved stove, and we can’t turn it down the way we’re used to! The fire keeps burning no matter what we do, and we have to reload every 8 hours! We wish we had our old stove back.”
Facts not mentioned: 1) The old smoulder pot blanketed the entire neighbourhood with thick black smoke all the time. 2) With the old stove, the chimney needed cleaning several times per season, and there were still several chimney fires. 3) Today’s approved stoves are designed to be smolder-proof (the fire still burns clean, even at the lowest draft setting).
Informed Shopping Conclusion: The neighbours are happier, and so will they be when they find out they’re burning about half the wood to heat the house and only need to clean the chimney about once per year while enjoying the flame through a clean glass.