Wood Stoves Buyer's Guide

Oct 21st 2020

Wood Stoves Buyer's Guide

This Article has been approved by our on staff NFI Certified Specialists & Master Hearth Professionals

Before you begin browsing through hundreds of wood stoves on the internet, or making a mad dash to your local wood stove manufacturer; you will need to do a little research at home. Do your homework and consider the following factors before making your wood stove investment.

What is the primary purpose of the wood stove?

Consider what the primary purpose of the wood stove will be. Will you use your wood burning stove primarily for cooking, ambiance, heating, or a combination of all of the above?

How much heat do you need your wood stove to provide?

Consider how much heat you expect to be emitted from your wood burning stove. Will you be heating a single room, a whole floor, a good sized cottage or an entire home?

How often will the wood stove be used?

Consider how often you will be using your wood burning stove. Will you be operating it on a consistent basis, as a back up, to occasionally to take the chill out of the air in the mornings and evenings, or just when you want an ambient glow for romantic evenings?

Where will you be placing your wood stove?

Consider where you will be placing you wood burning stove in your home. Wood stoves should be placed in an area that will disperse the most heat and provide the most coverage.

Professional or do it yourself installation?

Consider if your wood burning stove installation is a task that you can complete by yourself or if you will need to contact a professional to install the wood stove for you.

Do you have the space and equipment needed to store and season firewood?

Consider whether or not you have the space and the proper equipment to split, store, and season firewood properly to burn in your wood stove.

Size is a very important factor to consider when looking for a new efficient wood stove and here's why; A wood stove that is too small simply will not heat the area adequately. A wood stove that is too large will cause potential fire hazards, stuffy rooms, and will ultimately prove to be a waste of money because you'll be forced to cut down the wood stove's air supply which will reduce efficiency and waste fuel.

Here are a few things that you should factor in to determine the correct size wood stove for your application:

Area to be heated

The first thing you need to do to figure out which size wood stove is right for you is figure out how much square feet you wish to heat with your wood burning stove. Take the length and the width of the rooms that you are going to place the wood stove in and multiply those two numbers and then add them all together. This will give you the area that you will be heating in square feet. Heating a one story smaller home is fairly easy to do with smaller wood stoves but you have a larger home, long hallways, lots of bedrooms, or multiple levels, these are all factors that will obstruct the air flow and keep the heat from getting to those room. A way to push heat into those areas around the corners, twist and turns, and upstairs is to install ceiling fans or place door fans in the entry ways to circulate the warm air generated from wood stoves throughout the house.

Typically wood stove's sizes are placed in three categories including small, medium, and large. A small sized wood stove will heat from 600 to 1000 square feet, a medium sized woodstove will heat from 800 to 2000 square feet, and a large sized wood burning stove will heat from 800 to 3000 square feet. But just square footage alone doesn't tell you which size wood stove you will need so don't rush to make your decision just yet.


Insulation will also play a big role in which size wood stove your application will require. If you don't know for sure how well your home in insulated, don't panic. An educated guess will do. Just make the decision if your home has good insulation, average insulation, or poor insulation. If your have a newer home with quality construction, chances are it has good insulation. Most manufactured homes will have poor insulation and anything in between would be considered to have average insulation.

Window Heat Loss

Another factor to base your decision of which size wood stove to purchase are how many windows you have in your home and the characteristics of the windows. For example if your home has very old windows, large windows, single-pane windows, or even just mass amounts of windows in it, chances are that is going to down grade the insulation of the home. Houses with more windows will require bigger, more powerful wood stoves.

Ceiling Height

Ceiling height plays a big role in determining the BTU rate that your application will require to adequately heat your home. While most BTU calculators assume that you are planning an application with an 8' ceiling, an increase to a 10' or 12' ceiling can make a substantial difference in the BTU range required to heat your application.

Geographic Location and Climate

Consider your geographic location and climate before you make your decision on which size wood burning stove is right for you. This is important for obvious reasons as a homeowner in Northern Michigan will need a more powerful stove with a higher BTU rate and more wood heat than a homeowner in Tennessee or other areas that don't get quite as cold and have harsh winter seasons.

Now that you've factored in all of the above information, you can use our BTU calculator to help you determine the BTU rating your application will require. Once the BTU rate is calculated, you will be able to determine whether you need a small, medium, or large efficient wood stove.

What are EPA Certified wood stoves and what does that mean for you?

You should always read the fine print and make sure that your wood stove label reads EPA Certified. The best wood stove will be EPA certified. In order for a wood burning stove to be EPA certified, it must comply with strict emissions and efficiency regulations designed to reduce pollution and control energy costs. The EPA certification on a wood burning stove is your guarantee that the stove you are buying will burn cleanly and efficiently, and reduce your heating costs while protecting the air we breathe.

EPA approved wood stoves-EPA Certified wood stoves burn more completely. -EPA Certified wood stoves offer greater heat output. -EPA Certified wood stoves produce less creosote build-up.

Now that you have all of the technicalities out of the way you can focus on the style, build, and type of wood stoves and which type you would like to buy. Efficient wood stoves are available in many different builds, colors, and styles to complement any home's interior.

Steel wood stoves - A steel wood burning stove will heat up very quickly and start giving off heat right away but it will not retain heat. As the fire dies down inside of the stove and the wood heat lessens, the steel will also cool down.

Cast iron wood stoves - A cast iron wood burning stove takes a little longer to heat up but retains heat very well. A cast iron wood stove will radiate heat back into the room even after the fire dies down so you not only get the wood heat from the wood burning fire but radiant heat from the stove.

Wood stoves with an Air Wash System

An air wash system on a wood burning stove in combination with high firebox temperatures will keep the large, ceramic glass window clean so you always get an unobstructed view of the fire when you heat with wood. An air wash system will also reduce cleaning maintenance on the wood stove.

Wood Stoves with a Blower

Adding a blower to a wood stove will drastically increase heat output during wood burning fires. The variable speeds on a wood stove blower help keep your home at just the right temperature, even on the coldest winter days.

Wood Stoves with a Refractory Lined Firebox

When you heat with wood, a refractory lined firebox on a wood stove plays an important role in the advanced burning process by holding the heat in and maintaining the interior temperature necessary for low emissions.

Wood Stoves with a Primary Bottom Air Feed

A primary bottom air feed on a wood burning stove assists in cold start ups and reviving a dying fire sets the foundation for the perfect wood burning environment while you heat with wood.

Zone heating is the act of using an alternate heating source along with your central heating furnace to heat the rooms in your home that you and your family use the most. Think of it this way, if you spend 90 percent of your time in the family room and dining room area, why would you need to keep the rest of your home at the same temperature when the rooms are rarely occupied? You're wasting precious fuel and money heating those rooms that no one uses.

Using a wood burning stove to zone heat the family room and dining room is a cost efficient way to keep the rooms that you use most in your home at a comfortable temperature. So how does zone heating with wood stoves save you money?

Creating heat when you need it and where you need it most with your wood burning stove will allow you to turn down your central heating furnace thermostat to keep the rest of your home at a cooler, yet still comfortable temperature which ultimately could save you up to a minimum of 30 percent on your annual home heating costs.

Zone heating is the obvious solution for homeowners concerned about rising fuel costs.