The wood stove, or simply the stove, offers an enticing alternative to space heaters and traditional fireplaces. Probably their greatest advantage is their versatility. Many “vent-free” stove models require no chimney or venting through a home’s exterior. Others burn a wider variety of fuels than traditional wood-burning fireplaces.
Wood stove models, despite their name, also operate using gas, electricity, coal, or special fuel “pellets” that work similarly to charcoal briquettes.
Homeowners should consider their home heating needs as well as how much they’re willing to spend before investing in a wood stove. Though they are not generally expensive, the right choice of stove depends largely on personal needs and expectations.
Stove Operation Is Surprisingly Modern, Accessible
Shoppers are often surprised by the electronic features that are common among different stove classes. Electric thermostats, push-button controls and easy-to-read displays are all basic standard features. As a rule, the level of sophistication varies according to manufacturer and model.
Seniors and those with limited mobility often find wood stoves to be a better alternative to fireplaces for just those reasons. Those same groups may prefer a stove because it is easier to access than a firebox or fireplace insert, which is typically embedded in a hearth or chimney.
Choosing the Right Stove Fuel for Your Needs
Gas stoves run on natural or propane gas, supplied through a line from the surrounding building or from an external tank. They are usually either direct-vent or vent-free, depending on their construction. (See section on venting options below.)
Electric stoves run on basic household current. They offer a greater range of placement options, but some models may not feature high energy efficiency. However, their relatively light weight and ease of installation make them an attractive choice for areas where venting is not practical.
Pellet stoves use a special wood-based pellet as a fuel source. They are energy efficient compared to wood-burning fireplaces and offer more convenience than gas models. The pellet stove has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, thanks to their fuel’s composition. Pellet fuel is often made from compacted sawdust or other waste products created from saw milling. Because the pellets are essentially recycled waste, they’ve become popular among shoppers who value environmental sustainability.
Finally, some stoves use common coal to effectively heat even larger-space rooms. They require very specific venting, and are not recommended for use inside mobile or modular homes.
Making the Right Venting Choice
A stove’s venting describes its method of funneling exhaust, or smoke, away from its surroundings. There are three basic types of venting.
Natural venting, or B-vents, uses air from inside the home or other surroundings. The hot air creates buoyancy that channels the exhaust through a venting system (for example, a stovepipe.) They are typically easier to install and cheaper than direct vents, but are not always as energy efficient.
Direct vents, also called pipe vents, use a specially constructed, double-walled pipe to channel exhaust outside. They don’t rely on a chimney or flue, and this allows them greater placement options in the home including bedrooms, sitting rooms, and converted garages and basements.
Vent-free stoves produce no exhaust and are self-contained and sealed. They make an ideal choice for limited or smaller spaces such as bedrooms, bathrooms, and basements. They are also more efficient than natural and direct vents because they retain all the heat they produce, rather than allowing some to escape through the chimney or stove pipe.
Space Heaters Also Represent A Valuable Choice
Space heaters are typically gas- or propane-fueled, and work best in areas where space is limited or a stove would prove impractical. Some are wall-mounted, while others are easily portable throughout the home or building. Like stoves, many space heaters feature modern electronic controls for easy operation.
Stove Accessories Offer Convenience, Performance
There are literally hundreds of stove accessories available for all models and fuel types. These include enhanced electronics, home cooking and brewing implements, maintenance and repair tools, remote and wall-mounted controls, and a full range of decorative elements. Before making a final decision, it’s helpful to browse what accessories are available for the stove you want to purchase. This will help you anticipate upgrade, cleaning, and repair resources for use at a later date.