Three Things to Consider When Choosing a Wood-Burning Stove for Your Home

Want to heat your house or cabin with wood? Make sure the stoves you're considering match the space you want to heat, then narrow your choices based on the styles you like.

Wood-burning stove in a home
There’s a reason why wood-burning stoves have been popular for hundreds of years.Kevin Butz/Unsplash

Beyond the sticker price for wood-burning stoves (which in comparison to standard fuel oil or gas furnaces is still quite reasonable) what other things should you think about when researching a stove to buy? Once you’ve looked at local wood availability, sharpened up your chainsaw and decided where you’re going to store your fuel (close to the stove if you can!), deciding on a stove model boils down to the size of the house the stove is expected to warm, the stove’s efficiency, and the style that appeals most to you.

1: Stove coverage

Smaller, portable stoves like these are perfect for big canvas tents (or yurts, if you're into those). Not so much for houses though.Amazon

Wood stoves are rated by the size (in square feet) of the space you want to heat. If you’re heating up to 1500 square ft, a smaller stove will do nicely. Medium-sized stoves are designed to cover between 1500 and 2200 square. feet, with spaces over 2200 square feet needing a large model. Other factors that influence the size of the stove you need include how this space is configured (number of floors, walls, corners) and how it might be ventilated.

2: Stove efficiency

Drolet High-Efficiency Wood Stove
This well reviewed XL model has a 78% efficiency rating and throws plenty of heat for larger spaces up to 2400 square feet.Drolet

Modern stoves from quality manufacturers will have efficiency ratings. Look for a stove in the 70- to 80-percent range, which measures the percentage of heat the stove radiates vs. releases through its chimney.

3: Style

Vogelzang TR004 Colonial EPA Wood Stove
This stove is designed to insert into an existing fireplace, has a 75% efficiency rating and covers 1800 square feet.Vogelzang

Some folks enjoy watching a fire burn, while others place their stoves where the sun never shines, caring less about how it looks. Stoves can be made out of cast iron, sheet metal or even soapstone. They can be stand-alone or inserted into existing fireplaces. They can be fashioned out of a re-purposed steel drum or be ornately appointed with polished brass fittings. Be sure when looking for style points you don’t overlook the size of the woodbox. Style won’t matter when your 10 cords of stacked 20-inch logs won’t fit into the 18 inch woodbox.