More than 12 million people have added a wood burning stove or furnace to their home. The energy-efficient stoves are a popular way to add heat and ambiance to homes with inefficient heating systems or rooms with cold spots. They’re quickly rising in popularity, predominately due to their efficiency and the rising cost of other heat sources (like oil).
In fact, a wood burning appliance can save you money because of minimal maintenance costs and their use of natural heat. So what do you need to know before purchasing one? Let us point you in the right direction:
Wood Burning Stoves: Wood burning stoves are fueled by America’s oldest sustainable resource: Wood. This makes them extremely efficient and popular in cold areas of the country. Most wood burning stoves require manual ignition and need to be vented through a chimney. Wood burning stoves use blowers to distribute heat evenly, feature large glass windows for viewing, and offer easy-to-remove ash bins when it’s time to clean up.
Wood burning fireplace inserts fit in existing fireplaces but share many of the same convenience and safety features offered by a traditional, standalone wood burning stove. For example, the US Stove US2200i Medium Wood Insert uses a spring-loaded surround that snaps into place to fit your fireplace and can heat up to 1,800 square feet.
Wood Burning Furnaces: Popular in industrial or residential spaces, wood furnaces are known for their durability and ability
to warm large spaces. Most models burn wood or coal as fuel, and they offer manual or automatic ignition.
Wood burning furnaces can be used as a primary or add-on furnace, meaning they can function independently or be added to an existing furnace. When used as a secondary or add-on, which is the most common use, they aid an existing gas or electric furnace to help cut down operation time. Add-on wood burning furnaces use the ductwork of the existing furnace. When used as a primary furnace, you need to install a cold air return duct system—the return air will provide a better distribution of warm air throughout your home.
You won’t need ductwork if you use a furnace as a standalone heater, but all other configurations must supply return air to the appliance. An authorized technician is suggested for all installation types.
Pellet Stoves: Pellet stoves use compressed wood or biomass pellets as fuel to heat residential or industrial spaces.
Multi-fuel stoves can also burn corn, soy beans, cherry pits, and various other items. Models with manual and automatic ignition are available, but most offer automatic ignition—meaning it can be as easy as pushing a button.
A pellet stove feeds fuel from a hopper into a “burn-area” and typically uses a blower to distribute heat evenly. Like our other wood burning stoves, pellet stoves must be vented outdoors through a wall or chimney. We also offer inserts that fit in existing chimneys.
Size is the most important thing to consider when purchasing a wood burning appliance. Our wood burning stoves, furnaces, and pellet stoves vary in size, but they generally heat spaces from 1,000 square feet to 3,000 square feet. Furnaces that are ducted through an HVAC system can spread heat to larger spaces, so they’re popular for large residences or industrial spaces. Stoves with blowers are also better for larger spaces, since their power and blowers evenly move hot air. Environmental conditions may influence how much space these stoves can heat.
You also have to consider the unit’s size. They’re larger than most heaters and require a certain distance from walls and combustibles in the front, sides, and back. Although most distance requirements are less than a foot, make sure the unit will fit appropriately in your room before purchasing yours.
Some models also have ceiling height requirements and need floor protectors. Product manuals should provide all of this information, so check out the “Manufacturer Info” tab on our product pages before adding one to your home.
Cost and Maintenance Considerations
Initial costs for the large, durable heaters are generally between $1,000 and $3,000. After your initial purchase, you’ll also have to purchase installation materials and fuel. Besides these items, additional costs for the stoves are minimal since they create heat by naturally burning wood.
One ton of wood pellets typically costs around $150 but can cost up to $300 or more for high-quality grades. Other cost and maintenance considerations include:
Installation Materials: A large number of our stoves and furnaces don’t come with all the needed installation materials, but they can found at local hardware stores. Items like floor protectors, chimney connectors, flues, and heat shields probably need to be purchased separately.
Fuel: Make sure the fuel type is available in your area. This fuel is expensive to ship, but it’s possible to order online. Store fuel in a place where the wood stays as dry as possible.
Efficiency: All 3 stove types are energy-efficient, because they burn wood naturally to produce heat, so most models don’t require electricity to work. Pellet stoves tend to be more efficient because they have fewer particle emissions. Purchase an additional filter or fresh air kit to increase the efficiency of your stove or furnace.
Cleaning/Ash Removal: You’ll have to periodically check for creosote buildup and regularly empty the ash bin. Clean your chimney at least once a year if you’re using it for venting. Ash should be removed when 2-3 inches of ash accumulate. Wear gloves when removing the ash bin, and be aware that ashes can contain hot embers even after 2 days without operating the stove.
Be sure to check building, local, and state requirements before purchasing one of these products. Many of our wood burning stoves and furnaces are not approved in California or Washington. Others aren’t suitable for mobile home use, although most models are allowed with the purchase of a fresh air kit. In addition, many of our furnaces must be installed by an electrician (if ducting).
Contact local building or fire officials about permits, restrictions, and installation requirements in your area.
Features to Look For
As with all household appliances, there are convenience and safety features that you may want to look for when picking out a wood burning appliance. Here are a few to consider:
Digital Controls: If a wood burning appliance has automatic ignition, then it probably offers various other digital controls (such as multiple heat levels). Make sure to look for these controls that make operation much simpler.
Blower Settings: Many of our wood burning stoves have blowers to help disperse warm air throughout large spaces. Multiple blower settings and speeds are available in models like:
Removable Ash Bin: Most models include large, removable ash bins that open from the front of the unit. This makes clean up convenient and less messy.
EPA Certified: Having an EPA certification means they are cleaner options that use less wood, are more energy-efficient, produce less particle pollution, and generally save you money, fuel, time, and resources.
Firebrick Lined: These appliances get extremely hot, and firebrick lining helps protect the stove’s parts from this heat, increasing the life of your heater.
Firebox Size: The larger the firebox, the longer your fire will burn without any work on your part.
Fresh Air Kit: The US Stove Company offers a fresh air kit that’s compatible with most of their wood burning stoves. A fresh air kit provides maximum stove efficiency by reducing back draft and allowing fresh air to fuel the fire combustion. The kit is required to run units in mobile homes.
Accessories: Click the Accessories tab on our product overviews to see if optional accessories are available.
Still Have Questions?
For more information on specific wood burning stoves, pellet stoves, wood burning furnaces and other indoor air treatment solutions, review our extensive product listings and other Learning Center articles. Not sure what's best for you? We can take the guesswork out of decision-making. Contact our product experts toll free at 1-800-934-9194. We want to help you make your indoor environment healthy and comfortable.
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