Wood Stoves

Wood Stoves for Every Household

As you consider purchasing a wood stove, there are several key details to consider, including materials, maintenance, heating systems, use and standards. While this may be a diverse amount of information to grapple with, we at Wood Splitters Direct are here to help. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know to find the perfect addition to your home, and you can be assured that after your purchase you will have chosen a wood stove that is most beneficial both in appearance and performance for your lifestyle. Scroll down to find out more!

    Cast Iron vs. Welded Steel

    TR008gallery1-1-600x600There are two main materials that wood stoves are currently made from, including cast iron (often enamel coated) and welded steel. While both types of materials create a stove that acts as a focal element of any room, cast iron is typically more ornamental. As wood stoves do not sit into the wall, and there can be no mantelpiece, cast iron is forged in such a way that artistic relief patterns and curves can be integrated into the design. These details can, for many consumers, make up for the lost appearance of a formal fireplace with mantel. Cast iron stoves also have a range of forged appearances which will allow you to choose a style that best fits with your current furniture and interior style. Welded steel stoves are typically more basic in their design, and the edges are not curved. However, welded steel offers a minimalist design that uniquely appeals to both contemporary and traditional spaces.

    TR007gallery2-1-600x600When considering these two materials, obviously aesthetics will play an important role in your decision making process, but also know that there is no real difference in heating performance. However, there are discrepancies between costs. The cast iron stove panel joints will need to be resealed every few years. This is done to avoid air leakage and what could become an uncontrolled fire. So there are some associated ongoing costs with this type of material. Furthermore, the initial cost is typically higher than the welded steel stoves. Welded steel is of a plainer design, but will save you some money, and there are no regular maintenance needs of the material. Yet, even with some needed maintenance, know that cast iron is just as durable as welded steel.


    Maintenance

    Maintenance is an important consideration for any wood stove. You want to protect your monetary investment, as well as the safety of yourself and anyone else in your home or building. Without proper maintenance, failure rates of internal stove parts are much higher, and there is greater uncontrolled smoke and fire risk. Some important maintenance details will be specific to the stove model you purchase; so be sure to clarify that information with your seller. However, there are many universal standards that should be upheld for wood stove maintenance. It is recommended that you have your stove inspected, and chimney swept before each stove burning season. Also, throughout the season, sweeping out excess ash from the firebox and around intake air vents is important to produce cleaner air and reduce fire hazards. There are stack thermometers available, and using one on your stove can help determine how efficiently the stove is operating, and to aid in pollution control. Consider the type of wood you burn as well. Seasoned wood, meaning it has had time to dry out, is your best option. It will burn less smoky and produce a cleaner fire. Furthermore, treated woods, or artificial logs, as well as driftwood is definitely not recommended. And any other products that contain plastics, lead, sulfur or zinc, should not be burned. Your stove is to help you heat the house, and cannot double as a trash disposal system. The reason why only seasoned wood should be burned, is because anything else may do irreparable damage to the internal structures of the stove and release dangerous toxins into the air.

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    Catalytic vs. Non-catalytic

    Maintenance is often dependent on the way in which the stove maintains fire and produces heat. There are two types of combustion processes which can occur: non-catalytic versus catalytic. Depending on who you speak with, there will probably be a clear and distinct loyalty to one system over the other, but both have their merits. The non-catalytic combustion system creates an environment for combustion within the firebox itself, through firebox insulation, a baffle which directs gas flow, and pre-heated combustion ready air which has been introduced into the box through small holes around the uppermost part of the firebox. The results are sometimes less consistent heat output than you will find with catalytic combustion systems, but the quality of fire is extraordinary—the fire itself burns beautifully. Maintenance is affected by this system because the conditions for the best fire include very high temperatures, and so internal parts (including the baffle) need occasional replacement.

    fireplace-933565_960_720Catalytic combustion systems operate differently, in that smoky exhaust gases have to pass through a catalyst for heat production and output. Specifically, the catalyst is of a coated ceramic honeycomb design, located not in the firebox, but deeper in the stove. Gases move through the honeycomb where they are then ignited and burned, which produces a very steady and long lasting heat output. This process tends to be more complicated because there is also a lever-operated system involved. The lever-operated bypass damper has to be opened for both starting the fire, and loading it. Also, the catalyst is not engaged until there is excessive heat in the stove, and so it must be made to burn quite hot before true heat output can occur. You therefore have to be diligent in creation and continuation of the fire. The catalyst system is comprised of many parts which will eventually need to be replaced, but proper maintenance shows them lasting for some five or six seasons; while non-proper maintenance can cause failures in just one or two.

    Proper use of your stove can ensure that any routine maintenance or part replacements you will need to do, can occur less frequently. Again, as with maintenance, some details for use will be dependent on the model you buy, but as before, there are certain standards you can uphold for any stove. For instance, the stove’s full heat output should not be employed continuously because the high firing causes damage to internal parts. And as these are wood burning stoves, it is important to consider that element directly. Proper use of the stove includes knowing what wood should you burn. Preference is often dictated on source ability, smell, and burn rate. However, as you are browsing around, consider the types of wood you will be burning, that wood’s moisture content, the overall moisture in your geographic region (and affecting weather patterns). Furthermore, firebox orientation and volume all have effects on the use and overall burn time and heat output of your wood stove.


    Certifications

    Environmental_Protection_Agency_logoWhen shopping for wood stoves you should also consider their certifications. For instance, the United States EPA has a mandatory smoke emission limit for catalytic stoves. And as the catalytic elements degrade (as they will even with the best of care), the emissions produced can be much higher than the EPA mandates. This is another reason why replacing parts on the stove is important. Wood stoves have had a reputation for lack of fire control and outrageous emissions. While most of these issues are part of the past, due to implemented regulations, some manufacturers have avoided these safety standards. All stoves must be approved and certified before entering the buyer’s market. However, some very cheap wood stoves will not be EPA certified because there is a loophole in the rule for fireplaces, which essentially states that a leaky appliance, that can burn at least 11 pounds of wood per hour, with controlled airflow, turned down to minimum firing, does not need to be emissions tested. So some manufacturers will build stoves that are then non-airtight, and very leaky. But these stoves have terrible heating properties, burn excessive quantities of wood, and are dangerous because the fire is not controllable. A certified stove also means that your heat efficiency will be more reliable, which will help save you money on purchased firewood, or time and energy spent chopping and stacking wood. So certified stoves are good for the environment, your wallet, and your back.

    The EPA also states that a stove be over 60% efficient, but is recommended to not go above 80% efficiency, as this causes low exhaust temperature (due to high output temperature) which results in water vapor condensation and then chimney damage. One aspect of efficiency standards to note is that the means by which such efficiency figures are determined have no one testing source; and depending on the type of system, there may not be a difference in overall heat production, but variations to peak heat output. And so the heat output of stoves cannot be trusted. Rather, I’d consider the heating capacity of your stove (how many square feet will be heated). Heating capacity is based off of stove size, but can be affected by climate differences, the build of your home (envelope sealed design or not), layout of your home, and the kind of wood you burn (hardwood versus softwood). Therefore, capacity guidelines are a very rough estimate, and will have substantial ranges.


    TR007featured-1-600x600While there are many variables to purchasing a stove, if you first determine key details such as types of wood burned, your fuel choice, your home’s square footage and layout, as well as typical weather patterns, when you do decide to read wood stove reviews, or talk to an expert, you will be better prepared to sort through the presented information. So as you choose between catalyst or non-catalyst, welded steel or cast iron, and all your other choices, you will find a wood stove best for your and your home.

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