We use our wood stove from the end of September until sometime in June. It gets a lot of use and throughout the winter months it burns 24/7. Heating with a wood stove is not only practical (if you have a fuel source) but environmentally friendly. Any wood stove dealer can match you to a stove that will fit your needs and suit your home. A professional installer can make sure it is properly installed. My advice comes from being a user and from our long time experience.
Our stove is now 15 years old and gets plenty of use. We are going to replace it and the following are some of the characteristics we will look for. When you use it as much as we do there are factors that you don't consider when you purchase that can end up as a daily aggravation. Is the firebox easy to sweep out? If you have several areas to sweep around to get the ashes to the ash trey then you may be irritated daily. Is the ash tray big enough or when you pull it out to empty the ashes will they fall all over the hearth and have to be cleaned up? Do you have to empty it frequently? How do you load wood into the stove? Our stove has a front loading door but it is useless as there are two vertical posts to keep wood from falling against the window and you can't get wood around them easily. It also makes clean up from the front difficult. In fact our present stove has four different handles to contend with. Our next stove will have one.
Should you buy a steel stove or cast iron? We opted for cast iron due to the radiant heat. Also we do not want our dogs to bet burned if they brush up against it accidentally. It would be the same with children. It gets hot but will not instantly burn if accidentally touched. We have never been burned or had a dog burned in 14 years on our cast iron stove.
We had a friend who every time we visited him was sitting near his steel stove to keep warm. Ours radiates heat and our normal movement will circulate it through out the house. Steel stoves also get hot so if you have pets or children you will need to consider putting a barrier around a steel stove.
We empty our ashes once a day and it is not wise to leave them in the stove or container. Ashes make your house smell rather bad. Taking them out more than once a day can be a bother. We burn aspen for our source of wood. It is classified as a hard wood and we have plenty of it on our property. It also does not generate much ash.
Is the top suitable for a humidifier? This is a major consideration. Wood stoves tend to make your home more dry by removing the humidity. A good humidifier is essential. Our present stove top has a temperature gauge built in, and the humidifier covers half the gauge. Not a good thing when you need to know how hot your stove is burning.
These are just a few considerations we look for when replacing our stove. Hopefully they will be helpful considerations for others also.