Wood Stoves: Common Sense Selection Tips

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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Planning to buy a wood stove soon? There have been several very excellent blogs written on wood stoves but here is one that may help you find the right dealer and consequently the right stove. When it comes to specialty salesman I am probably just as vulnerable as the next person, maybe more so. I generally rely on the specialist to guide me in the right direction. After owning several wood stoves in my lifetime I finally became smarter. It took a while, but if you are patient enough all good things come to those who wait.

The first stove we purchased was when we lived in N. Florida. The salesman was outstanding and explained the stove and how to use and care for it in detail. He did the installation and everything was exactly as represented. That was where I really went wrong — I assumed all wood stove salesman were equal. I have since found that not always the case.

When we built our present home we decided to supply our heat with a wood stove since we had so much dead wood on our lot. We called and met a local wood stove dealer who was able to spew enough technical information that we wrongly assumed they knew what they were talking about. We were sold a high quality cast iron stove that was much larger than required. The stove was so large for our 840 s.f. house that we never could get it to heat properly and when we did get it as hot as the instructions specified we had to open our windows to equalize the intense heat.

Once we finally got it installed by the dealer we noticed that when it rained water would pool on top of our brand new stove and it was getting rusty and had never even had its first fire. The dealer refused to come back so we went through the factory and they hooked us up with another dealer. You know you have problems when the two service people arrive and one standing on the roof yells down to the other one, “Hey, you need to come up here and see this. You’re never going to believe it.” The problems were finally fixed at additional cost and for 15 years we heated our home with that oversized stove. It kept us warm but never was used to its best efficiency level.

Getting a stove too large for your home causes problems. One, if you burn it as hot as required for efficient heating it can drive you out of the house. Two, if you burn it lower than required it tends to burn uneven and will creosote your chimney faster than normal. Getting a stove too small for your house is equally bad.

This time when we bought a wood stove we researched the brand and model we hoped would be right for our home. I recommend that if you are in the market for a wood stove that you first research on line well in advance of when you are ready to buy. Even when we called the dealer whom the manufacturer suggested that dealer tried to sell us another stove that is made of steel instead of the one we wanted. Having never looked at our house he told us we would not be happy with the stove we had researched and tried to sell us a stove we clearly did not want because it was $300 cheaper.

We called another dealer who after getting basic facts told us the stove we selected would be ideal for our home. It has been in 24/7 use now for a couple months and has preformed beyond expectations. It is a perfect size to heat our home, burns efficiently, and is far less work than our previous stove. The dealer did their research too and concluded this stove would be just right for our home. So I would recommend to potential wood stove buyers that you research your product first then talk to a dealer and if something doesn’t sound right it probably isn’t and search for another dealer. If you want a cast iron stove for the radiant heat instead of a super hot steel stove don’t let them sell you something you don’t want.

Buying a wood stove is an expensive decision and if you end up with something you didn’t want in the first place, unless the dealer can give you a compelling reason why that stove is not right for you, then stick with your research or find a dealer you can work with. If you end up with something not suited for you it is unlikely you can return the product used so make your selection carefully. Doing your own research is vital to making a wise decision. When you finally get the stove installed be sure to follow the break in instructions carefully.

For more on our mountain living go to our personal blog site at www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com

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