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What to Look For in a Wood Stove?  RSS feed

 
M Ploni
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Well, after studying them for the past five years, my wife says "Absolutely no!" to me building a rocket mass heater in our new Upstate New York house . . . so I need to quickly figure out what to look for in a conventional wood-burning stove.

Price is not so much an issue but the stove has to be efficient, clean-burning and appropriate to the decor of our country home.

Can anybody give me a heads-up about the best designs, manufacturers, and features?

Thanks much.
 
Kate Michaud
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Location: Ontario, Canada
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J.A. Roby Wood cook stoves = heat your home, cook your food, and heat your water. Google J. A. Roby

K
 
Mike Cantrell
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For what it's worth, I'm about to order a Woodstock Soapstone Ideal Steel.

It was the winner of the wood stove Design Challenge a couple years ago, and is very well received on the hearth.com forums.

It's on sale right now for about $2,200 with all the bells and whistles and including delivery. (Sale ends Apr 10.)

(I wanted to build a masonry stove inside, but my wife won too. I still get to build masonry stoves or rocket stoves in the garage and guesthouse, so I'm not too broken up over it.)



If money really is no object, I find Woodstock's Progress Hybrid to be significantly more beautiful. It's also on sale right now, and your "all-in" price is $3,320. That's just a little beyond my budget... but boy, is it pretty.



At a similar price point, I've heard great things about Blaze King's entire line, and specifically their Princess.

At a sub-$1000 price point, I've heard pretty good things about Englander's NC-30 and NC-13 models. Home Depot carries them, and they're made in USA too.


So that's brands.




Your crash-course in brand-new woodstoves goes something like this:

You definitely want either secondary burning, catalytic combustion, or both.

Secondary burning is where hot air is mixed into the smoke to burn it up. You get more fire out of the same wood. You have to be running the stove hot for the secondaries to work; can't choke the stove all the way down to simmer for 12 hours.

Catalytic combustion involves running the smoke over a catalyst to burn it up. You get more fire out of the same wood. This works even at smoldering temperatures, so you can load the stove up, and it can burn for a very, very long time. (The Progress Hybrid above claims 14 hours, and real users are confirming this.) The downside is, the catalysts are only good for a couple years before they require replacement, and they're about $150 a pop. So they add a small but real ongoing cost to the operation of your stove. Depending on your feelings about the collapse of modern civilization or bills, that might not sit well with you. For me, worth it.
 
Matt Walker
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Location: North Olympic Peninsula
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I will strongly second the Woodstock recommendation. Great people, great stoves. I would heat with one without reservation.
 
M Ploni
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Thank you, everyone, for your input.

But I have to say that I'm a bit surprised that the most recommended wood stoves utilize catalytic combustion (and replacing that technology is going to cost me $150 every two years or so while robbing me of my self-sufficiency).

Aren't we all supposed to be permies here?!

Therefore, can anyone recommend the most-efficient, NON-CATALYTIC COMBUSTION wood stoves on the market?

Thanks again.
 
Jessica Gorton
Posts: 274
Location: Central Maine - Zone 4b/5a
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Everybody has a different idea about the "best" woodstove out there - if you spend any time on woodstove forums, you'll a thousand opinions on a thousand stoves. That being said, after doing my research and reading a lot of reviews, I went with Pacific Energy's Alderlea stove, and so far I've been quite happy with it. It's not going to get you the efficiency of a rocket mass heater, but it kept our house plenty warm through a pretty cold Maine winter (though we do have an auxilliary stove in the kitchen - because of the layout, that room doesn't get the heat as directly).
 
M Ploni
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To be fair . . .

Penny at Woodstock Soapstone told me today that the company guarantees its original catalytic combustion units will last six years, while replacement units will last 4-7 years.
 
Mike Cantrell
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Mike Cantrell wrote:Depending on your feelings about the collapse of modern civilization or bills, that might not sit well with you. For me, worth it.

M Ploni wrote:I'm a bit surprised that the most recommended wood stoves utilize catalytic combustion
<...>
Aren't we all supposed to be permies here?!


Ok, sounds like the disclaimer was right on target!





To be honest, I started looking at non-cat stoves, but long burntime (which is to say, no longer needing to get up in the night) is the top of my priority list, so I changed course pretty quickly. My woodstove is my only heat, so it's got to be hot 24/7/150 or so.

That said, Blaze King does have two non-cat models.
Here's the larger of the two, the Briarwood.

Jotul makes some non-cat stoves.
They also have an article on it.

Here's the link to their most popular non-cat stove, the F-3-CB.

Actually, I'm clinking through to some of the models, and it looks like MOST of their offerings now are non-cat.

There's two options to look into, Blaze King and Jotul. Let us know what you decide!
 
Su Ba
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What I look for in a woodstove.....

....airtight. Thus a door gasket and air intake vents that can be completely closed. Some stoves now in order to pass the EPA tests have vents that don't completely close. Therefore I'd have to be able to access that vent and be able to modify it to shut completely. My reasoning? In the advent of a chimney fire or an overheating runaway fire, I'd want to be able to cut off the air supply.
.... 6" flue. Easier and cheaper to work with. Pretty common so I wouldn't have to hassle the chimney if I were to buy a replacement stove.
.... Heavy duty steel or good quality cast iron. Thin steel or cheap casting isn't worth it for me.
.... Flat top that could accommodate a pot or two or cooking.
.... No enamel. It chips too easy for me.
.... No soapstone. I want a stove that gives off heat faster than soapstone. This also applies to tile stoves.
.... Easy access ash pan. If it doesn't have an ash pan, then I'm not interested.
.... One rated for the amount of space I have to heat. With woodstoves, bigger isn't necessarily better. Too big and you'd be damping it down most the time, thus creating inefficient burns and creosote.
.... One that uses the fuel I have available.
.... One that doesn't require electricity to operate.
 
Zach Muller
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Su Ba wrote:What I look for in a woodstove.....

.


Sounds good su, what brand if any do you use personally?
 
Ann Torrence
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Bought a Pacific Energy equivalent to the T4 Alderlea (same fire box), would have gotten a T4 Alderlea instead for the cooktop had I been the sole decider (marital harmony). Have had it two winters. It is almost too much heat for our 1000 sq ft. I love being warm. Why be warm when you can be hot?

We buy firewood, so it needs to be a standard 16" firebox. It was a simple install, easy to learn to operate (we only had fireplaces before), so far easy to maintain. The stove seems like it will last forever. It does not have a catalytic converter. I was not sold on the technology for our application.

As newbie wood burners, we installed a flue thermometer and watch it near religiously to burn cleanly as much as possible. It was a moment of anxiety when we drilled through the expensive double walled pipe to install it, but I'm glad to have it.

The first question my insurance agent asked was "was it professionally installed?" I suspect we would have lost our coverage if it was a DIY job.
 
Su Ba
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Zachary, I presently have a Morso Squirrel. It's rated for 800 square feet. Due to the EPA, they had to spot weld the bottom air intake shut. But it was easy enough to dremel through the weld, thus making the bottom air intake functional again. This stove is easy to regulate, care for, and does a nice job for small spaces. I really like it. Morso makes larger stoves too, though I've never owned one.

Because we modified our house and increased the living area room space to 1200 square feet, we are presently considering moving the Morso into the bedroom/walk-in closet area. We had thought we would simply upgrade to the next size up Morso, but the shipping costs have skyrocketed since we bought the Squirrel. I really have a hard time accepting that they want as much to ship a small stove as it would cost me to ship an automobile! So we are now looking into a Jotul. I still need to make sure that I can completely cutoff the air intakes before I commit to buying one. But the stove seems to fit all my criteria.
 
Troy Rhodes
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Please note that catalytic combustor technology has improved significantly in the last 5-6 years (at least, the high quality stoves...)

My blaze king sirrocco catalytic converter comes with a TEN YEAR, NON-PRORATED warranty.

They are not the delicate disposable things they once were.

All fire burning appliances need maintenance over time. Mine works out to less than 20 bucks a year.

There are non-cat stoves that come pretty close to the efficiency of a Blaze King with a catalyst, but not too many, and no cheap ones I think...


Finest regards,

troy


 
Kevin Swanson
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I second the Woodstock Soapstone progress hybrid.

This is my first year heating with it, it does have a catalytic element which I wasn't super excited about, but the thing throws some serious heat and keeps a fire going for about 14 hours... granted the cooktoop is only 300 degrees for the last 1 hour. It keeps my 2000 sqft cape (built in 1992) very comfortable. We only had to use the oil heat to keep the forced hot water base board from freezing on the very corners of the house above the non heated garage.

This stoves a beast, and with the soapstone its a nice soft heat from the sides when compared to an all metal stove. Keep in mind this stove also has a secondary reburn, so one could theoretically run it without using the catalytic part of it.
 
Davis Tyler
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Location: Southern New Hampshire (Zone 5)
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I came across this old-ish thread and wanted to offer my experience, in case any other Permies are shopping for a wood-burning stove.

I purchased a Blaze King Princess insert and had it installed into my masonry fireplace.  I paid extra for an insulated stainless steel chimney liner and made sure they installed a blockoff plate and also insulated at the top of the chimney.  Total cost was $4200, which I expect to re-coup in 2-3 years as a replacement for propane heat.

So far I have lit the stove once, and had it burning 24/7 for a week straight.  At 7 AM, I rake the coals to the front of the firebox, load 5-6 splits of oak on the coals, shut the door and adjust the air based on the weather forecast for the day.  At 7 PM, I repeat the same process.  That's it.  The stove top temperature has maintained 400-450 degrees, and the main floor of my house has stayed between 68-72 degrees.  This has been the most user-friendly woodstove I have ever owned.  The bimetallic air damper automatically adjusts the airflow as the wood gas burns off and the load is charred down to coals.  The platinum catalyst glows orange as it consumes the energy in the wood gas, no matter how low it smolders.  I don't have a particulate meter, but there is only a thin wisp of white smoke coming out the chimney.  By the end of the 12-hour burn-cycle, there are only heat waves coming from the chimney, though the stovetop temperature is still holding at 400 F.

As others have noted, the catalyst comes with a 10-year warranty from the manufacturer, and costs about $150 to replace when necessary.  That's pretty low-maintenance in my book.

Let me know if you have any questions.


 
Brian James
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I was a Beta tester for the Woodstock Ideal Steel hybrid stove (both secondary air and catalytic combustor) several years ago, and was so impressed by it that I bought a production model the following year when they first became available.  (The graduations cut with a water jet cutter in the ash lip that tell you where your air level is set at was something Woodstock incorporated from feedback from Beta testers. I had drawn similar marks on the ash lip of my Beta stove and sent them a photo, and they incorporated this on their production model.)
 
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