Woodstove Radiant Heat Pro-Con

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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Deciding to heat with a wood stove is an important decision and there are pros and cons each way. I posted a cabin photo about people who heat with a wood stove on Colorado Community Mother Earth News Facebook page and several readers provided some insightful comments in response. I have incorporated their input into this blog; therefore it is a collaborative effort.

What Stove Is Right For Me

Wood stoves come in different sizes, compositions and styles. It is important to select the rightstove for individual heating needs. We chose a cast iron model (see photo) that radiates heat longer and more evenly than solid steel stoves. We actually have two stoves – one is a cast iron and the other a steel stove that we cook on outdoors. The cast iron stove releases heat gradually and uniformly and we have heated our cabin with cast iron for 21+ years. When the fire dies down on our steel stove it cools rapidly but our cast iron stove keeps coals for up to 6 hours. It is important to get a stove that fits your house/cabin because a stove too large will not burn as efficiently and could cause chimney problems. A stove too small may burn too hot,  need to be fed more frequently and may not consistently put out the heat you want with the smaller capacity. Therefore, research the square feet to be heated and buy a stove that will heat the appropriate area efficiently.

Wood Stove Tools

Regardless of the type of stove purchased you will need to purchase tools to use with the stove. A good poker to move the logs around in the fire box is very helpful. A bellows to re-start the stove when it burns down to a few coals is also good. A brush or broom to sweep out the firebox (not synthetic fiber) is a good option along with a small shovel made for wood stoves to clean out the firebox. An ash hod is needed to empty the ash into. We use anti-soot/creosote sticks to keep the chimney clear plus the chimney needs to be inspected regularly. We also use a steamer to keep humidity in the house as a wood stove radiates dry heat.

Having A Source Of Firewood Is Important

As long as you have a source of firewood to keep fueling the stove your only fuel cost is the gas in your chainsaw and your labor to cut up the firewood. Wood stoves are a cheap source of heat which was the consensus from readers. One contributor is now in Alaska  advised getting dry firewood there is sometimes a problem and curing time for green wood can be up to three years. In Colorado our wood dries more quickly thanks to our semi arid state but we also have plentiful dead standing which is ready to burn instantly. Another good comment by a reader was to have a backup source of heat as if you get sick having to get up several times a day to feed wood into the stove when you feel lousy isn’t much fun.

Safety Items

We have installed a metal fence around our wood stove as a safety feature  to protect our dogs from getting burned should one get bumped and come in contact with the hot stove. The same would apply to children or those prone to fall into a hot stove. Having a fire extinguisher on hand is a ‘must have’ safety device. We also have a closed foam kneeler to protect our knees when we have to kneel down to clean out the ash pan or fire box. Heavy gloves made for wood stoves will keep hands from getting burned when emptying a hot ash pan or loading wood.

Wood Stoves Are Messy And Dusty

When cleaning our stove some ash always seem to go airborne. One reader stated that wood stoves are messy, dusty and a great deal of work but the cheap radiant heat is more than worth it.

Love Radiant Heat

All comments on the Colorado Mother Earthy News Facebook page were from people that loved the radiant heat from their stove. The cheap cost of operation, efficiency, and  radiant heat over shadowed the messiness.

Wood Stoves Generate Good Exercise

Other comments pointed out that heating with a wood stove is also good exercise. You get exercise when you cut, haul, split and  stack firewood; also when you continuously haul the firewood inside and feed it into the stove several times a day. Then again when you carry the ashes outside to wherever they are stored; it is all good consistent exercise. Walking over to turn the thermostat up a couple degrees doesn’t burn many calories.

Building Up Heat Takes Time

If your stove burns down during an absence in order to get the heat back up does take longer. Our stove brings the heat back up at about 2-5 degrees an hour on average. Therefore if you are gone for awhile and return to a cold house/cabin it won’t be instant heat but will require a concerted effort to achieve a comfortable level again.  

We do not have any lengthy absences from our house in the winter. That could be a con if you are used to being gone for longer periods of time. Our current stove will hold hot coals for up to 6-7 hours. Coming home to a cold house where you have to start a fire from scratch takes a while to heat the house to a comfortable level again. Different stoves have different times they will  hold hot coals. That is a good thing to factor into any decision when buying a wood stove.

A big thank you to the readers who contributed comments on the Colorado Community Mother Earth News Facebook page. They were very beneficial in helping to write this blog with balance.  

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their lifestyle in the mountains of S. Colorado where they heat their cabin with a wood stove go to their personal blog site at: www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com 

Photo courtesy of Bruce McElmurray

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