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Before You Before You Buy a Wood Heat Stove

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Regardless what your main source of heat is, a wood-burning heat stove can help to lower your energy costs. It can help to distribute heat to cooler areas of your home where your main heating source does not reach, while reducing your heating costs overall. How much you save in heating costs by burning wood, depends largely on the cost and availability of your wood supply. Adding a wood-burning heat stove can add a focal accent to your living room and create a warm and cozy atmosphere. If you are installing a furnace, consider a dual unit with wood-burning capability.

Code and Property Insurance Guidelines and Clearances

As with any type of wood-burning appliance, you should inquire from your city or county, as well as from the fire department for proper stove clearances and installation guidelines in order to meet regulations and local codes. For a safe installation, adhere strictly to all clearances. Consult with your property insurance broker for clearances (they may vary) and arrange for an inspection if required for installation approval. Keep in mind that insurance approval is usually easier if your stove was installed by a qualified technician. Ensure that the heat stove you choose is ULC certified and meets local codes.

Types of Wood-Burning Heat Stoves

Wood-burning heat stoves come in a variety of styles and shapes including fireplaces with or without doors, inserts for existing fireplaces, parlor stoves, box-type wood stoves, air-tight (with doors)heat stoves, and pellet stoves that burn wood or other type of fuel pellets. These buying tips would apply to most types of wood-burning appliances, but there is more to consider when it comes to pellet stoves and fireplaces. You may also want to consider a wood cookstove or heat stove that provides a cooking/warming surface in case of power outages.

Selecting a Wood Heat Stove

Once you've gathered all the necessary guidelines and clearances, start shopping for a heat stove. It should be brick-lined with heavy gauge construction to withstand high heat burning. Although an open wood stove can quickly heat a room and make it easy to add wood, an airtight closed stove is safer and will provide the best heat efficiency. Wood will burn longer in an airtight stove. When planning placement for the stove, consider chimney installation, room traffic flow and how heat will circulate through the home. Size of the firebox will dictate what size of wood you can use and how long the fire will burn.

Initial Cost Outlay

You can expect to pay anywhere from a $500 to $3000 for a wood heat stove depending on style and whether it is airtight or open. A wood-burning cookstove will cost more. In addition, an insulated chimney can cost around $1000 or more depending on the length of piping required to meet above-the-roof codes. Check codes for clearances and proper size of chimney pipe/flu. Your stove dealer can confirm requirements for your area. You'll also need a fire-resistant floor pad and stove cleaning accessories.

Operating Costs

Burning with wood is usually the most economical of any heating fuel. However, it depends largely on the availability and cost of your wood supply, and how much wood you'll need. Wood is usually sold in cords and you could need several cords. How much wood you burn depends on whether you are burning occasionally or 24 hrs/day, the burning efficiency of your heat stove and the type of wood you're burning. Maintenance costs are very low, but expect to have your chimney cleaned every year for about $100 or less, or undertake this task yourself with a $20 chimney brush.

Wood Supply & Storage

You can save some work buying wood that is already split, unless you intend on doing it yourself. You will need to chop kindling. Plan a spot outside to store your wood supply, where you can properly stack it for good air circulation and drying. Avoid storing much wood in the house. Even when it appears dry, it can retain some moisture which can cause mildew problems in your home. Bring in a small supply as required. A handmade wooden box on casters works well for the home supply as does a basket for kindling. You'll need a small supply of paper/cardboard to start your fire.

Performance & Burning Efficiency

The size of stove should be suitable for your home area and the higher the BTU's the better. An airtight stove will burn wood more efficiently than an open stove or fireplace, and it's also safer to use. The amount of heat depends on the type and size of wood and size of the firebox. Closing the stove damper partially will prolong the burn. Wood heat is very dry and comfortable. As with any fuel burning stove, you should have a carbon monoxide detector in the room. Wood stove cleaning is fairly simple - remove cold ash and soot.

Other Considerations

Check on the availability of a wood supply and whether you can arrange delivery to your home. Salvaged wood is a great cost saving, but some wood should not be used for heating fuel. A fireplace's efficiency can be improved with an insert or doors. Heat stoves with easy-to-access ash pans make clean-up easier. Stoves with glass doors create atmosphere. Clean glass doors with paper towel or specially formulated fireplace door cleaner. Air circulation can be improved with a heat-activated stove top fan, an electric fan strategically positioned or a ceiling fan on winter setting.

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