Wood Burning Stove 101 - Your Questions Answered

A modern wood burning stove is a surprisingly reliable and effective tool to keep you warm all winter long. If you've always wanted to learn more about these rustic machines, then this Q&A is for you.

Why Bother with a Wood Burning Stove? 

Humans have been burning wood to cook food and to stay warm for far longer than we have had written history. Archaeological records indicate humans have been using wood fires for literally hundreds of thousands of years. Technology has come a long way since then, so you might think that our modern innovations would have rendered wood-burning fire irrelevant by now.

However, those same modern innovations allow wood to remain effective and affordable in delivering heat all winter long. A new wood burning stove equipped with a capable blower can compete with electric heat pumps, gas furnaces, and other high tech heating solutions. And for many homeowners the fuel source can be a lot cheaper. People who live in rural areas can harvest wood from their own properties or find it at very affordable prices in their local community.

Finally, a wood burning stove has a classic look and rugged charm you just won't get from a conventional furnace. There's something undefinable and desirable about relaxing in front of a crackling fire with loved ones.

Where Can You Install a Wood Burning Stove?

Unlike modern ventless gas logs, a wood burning stove requires ventilation. New stove designs and properly aged wood can greatly reduce smoke and ash waste, but they can never remove it entirely. Which means you will have to install a wood stove with access to the exterior via a stove pipe or by connecting to a chimney.

Also consider what you're going to do with the wood burning stove. There could be a significant difference in requirements for a wood stove intended purely for aesthetics and one that you want to use to heat your entire home.

Can You Keep a Wood Stove Burning All Night?

Of course, you can. And you'll want to, since waking up to a freezing house is something nobody likes to experience. But how do you keep a fire burning for a long time?

First, it is hard build a long-burning fire on a cold start. The best way to keep the heat going all night is to begin with a healthy coal bed. They might not look like much, but there is a lot of powerful heat in those coals. Rake them all towards the front of the stove.

Second, pack the the stove with large pieces of wood. This seems obvious, right? The more wood, the longer the burn. One key to understand though is to pack that wood as tightly as you can. You want the first layer of wood to insulate those in the back. The idea is that the fire will spread slowly, so you get a more even burn over a longer period of time.

Third, ideally use a seasoned hardwood for your fuel. But other than that there isn't much to do. Rake the coals, stack your logs, and you're ready to go. Plus, it is always a good idea to build your all-night fire just before you go to bed. That way you get maximum burn while you sleep.

Is it Possible to Heat Your Home with Only a Wood Burning Stove?

Yes, it is.

Now, there are some caveats to this. A lot of modern wood stoves are sold mainly for their aesthetic functionality. The heating is nice, but people just want them to look neat. As the centerpiece to a family room, a wood burning stove like that works great. Plus, you get some relatively cheap supplemental heat.

However, stoves intended mainly for their looks aren't designed to heat an entire modern home. A pot belly stove without a blower and no ability to connect to ductwork probably isn't going to heat your whole house. If that's what you're going for, make sure you invest in a wood burning stove designed for whole-house heating. Many of these machines come equipped with powerful blowers that can push luxurious, rustic heat to every corner of your home.

Do I Have to Do Anything Special to Maintain A Wood Burning Stove?

Yes, but only if you want the stove to last for decades. Folks who are fine with their new wood burning stove corroding in only a few short years can stop reading now.

First, the most important thing that you have to do for your wood burning stove is to clean the ash tray regularly. Ash build up can cause all sorts of problems. This is similar to cleaning the filter on your air conditioner in that you need to do it early and often.

Second, don't over-fire the stove. Over-firing occurs when the fire burns too hot. This can warp the metal of your wood burning stove which might make it unusable. So be careful when burning a big fire, and don't leave the door open when the stove is working.

Third, be selective about your fuel source. You want to burn seasoned hardwood. You don't want to burn trash, debris, or green wood. Trash can produce harmful fumes, and green wood will create a lot of smoke and creosote.

Fourth, read your owner's manual. Not every modern wood burning stove is exactly alike. Yours probably has some unique feature or characteristic that you need to know about. The owner's manual probably won't be that many pages, and it could save you a lot of time and trouble in the future.

Can I Buy a Wood Burning Stove Online?

Of course, you can! You can find a complete line of wood burning stoves here on IWAE. We offer financing, free shipping, and post-purchase technical support.

More You Want to Know?

Do you have other questions about a wood burning stove that we didn't answer? Let us know in the comments below.

0 comments (view/add)

* All fields required.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by our moderators. Comments may be edited for clarity.