Shopping For a Woodstove: Features to Look For

If you're like millions, and are desperately searching for an alternative heating source to oil for this coming fall/winter, then you've probably considered investing in a wood stove. In my opinion, they're great! They're economical, energy-conscious, aesthetically charming, and most effective. But, if you are in the market for one for either, the first time or the first time in a long time; you'll need to know all the contemporary features that woodstoves now offer. Below, is a quick reference guide on the most important features to look for in a new wood burning stove for your home.

· Material

There are three basic materials that your new woodstove can be made from: welded steel, soapstone, and cast iron. Starting with the most basic, welded steel is the least aesthetic and consequently the cheapest of the three, so if you are looking for purely functional: this is your best bet. Cast iron is probably the most popular and prevalent among homeowners, because it is functional, beautiful, and moderately priced. Soapstone is what is regarded as the Cadillac model of woodstove. It has a very different, yet pleasing look to it; and offers the same top-notch efficiency and functionality as well.

· Catalytic or Non-Catalytic Combustion

Basically, catalytic combustion wood stoves use a technology where the exhaust gasses are developed through a filter of sorts, outside of the main firebox; to produce a long, steady heat output. Non-catalytic, on the other hand, produces its combustion or heat in the firebox and uses something called a baffle to divert gas; and pre-heated air to produce a more powerful, shorter-term (yet efficient) heat output. You'll find in shopping that the higher-end models typically use catalytic technology, but this is not necessarily the best choice; as manufacturers are swiftly switching to production of non-catalytic-most probably due to efficiency and emissions standards.

· Heat Output

If this is your first time shopping for woodstoves, you may have no idea what kind of heat power your house will need. Typically, an average-sized medium home needs 5,000-20,000 BTUs per hour to keep itself warm continuously; but of course this depends whether you have a catalytic or non-catalytic wood stove, and the more specific size of your home. It's always best to ask what the manufacturer or store recommends for your given square footage home.

· Heating Capacity

When it comes to how much home a given wood stove will heat, knowing your home's square footage can be helpful but should not be paramount when deciding what size woodstove you will buy. For example, perhaps you have a large home with a lot of square footage, but it's broken down into lots of small spaces. In this case, buying a large capacity woodstove will not necessarily serve you well. This being said, here is a general rule of thumb when it comes to choosing the size of your woodstove: small stoves will heat a large room or small house, medium wood stoves will heat a medium-sized home, and large woodstoves will best heat a larger home or one that isn't well insulated (an older home typically).


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