How to Choose the Right Woodstove

Follow this step-by-step advice to find the woodstove of your dreams.

| December 2011/January 2012


Why not heat with wood? It's a green heating option that also makes you more self-reliant.


Have you considered heating with wood? In many parts of North America, firewood is cheap and plentiful, so wood heat could potentially save you money. Not only does a woodstove give you a re­liable source of heat even when the power goes out, it’s also a green option, because wood is a renewable resource when har­vested sustainably.

Deciding which woodstove to buy can be tough, however, even if you’ve been heating with wood for years and are simply looking for a replacement stove. You’ll find a huge range of options in sizes, shapes, materials and technologies. Also, there are few recognized woodstove experts and no reliable ratings that use consistent criteria to fairly judge all the options. So how do you choose the best woodstove for you?

Woodstove Dealers and Brands

I recommend finding a good dealer first, then selecting from that store’s stock. Working for more than 30 years in the wood heating business has taught me that no one can tell you exactly what stove to buy, because all kinds of personal prefer­ences influence the final choice. However, a good dealer can be a great resource. Look for one who has been in the business for a number of years, heats his or her home with wood, and has burning models in the showroom. Keep in mind that only people who burn wood regularly can give you reli­able advice about woodstoves.

Next, pay attention to woodstove brands. In my opinion, the ideal stove is built by a company with at least 20 years’ experience in wood heating because it’s more likely to honor the warranty and continue to carry replacement parts.

For example, the stove in my house is a Super 27 built by Pacific Energy. The model has been on the market more than 20 years, and its combustion system has been revised at least twice during that pe­riod, mostly to make it more durable. I’ve rebuilt three older versions of the Super 27, one of my own and two for friends who own them. The current parts found in new stoves fit perfectly in older stoves that were originally sold with quite differ­ent internal parts. You can certainly find other stove manufacturers that follow the same thoughtful approach when they up­grade their products.

In fact, a sizable group of North American stove manufacturers has been around long enough to learn what makes people happy with their products. These are the makers of mid-priced steel stoves, a category that dominates the market. Over the years, I’ve watched these com­panies and been impressed with their corporate stability and product consis­tency. These brands include Quadrafire, Lopi and Avalon (both made by Travis Industries), Regency, Pacific Energy, and some regionally popular brands including Buck, Harman and Blaze King. In addi­tion to this group of mainly steel stove manufacturers, the Jøtul brand of cast-iron stoves merits a mention because this company’s products seem to consistently satisfy people’s needs.

5/5/2016 3:59:46 PM

Look at Jotul stoves. They come from Norway and have been making them for + years. I have 3, large to small and have been heating with wood for 40 + years. Best stove on market as far as I'm concerned. I have looked at them all.

11/25/2015 10:28:51 AM

I have three homes in distinctly different locals, and use wood for my primary source of heat in all three. I installed a Pacific Energy steel stove in an 800 sf cabin back in the 90s and it has gotten a lot of use-excellent product and on the lower end of the cost scale. The other houses have inserts in fireplaces. I have also installed higher end woodstoves in two other houses that I have owned over the past two decades. My suggestions would be: Buy a good quality stove-up front cost will have a payback over the years. The cheaper steel stoves heat up quicker but lose heat quicker when the fire burns out, than cast iron or soapstone clad stoves. The fireplace inserts were a GREAT improvement-if you have a fireplace, put an insert in it-you'll never (after you have paid it off:{))regret the purchase. I agree with the article; find a retailer and do appropriate research on line, but stick with the brands that have a good reputation. Wood stoves can be easily installed by someone with moderate skills (be sure to get a permit) but I would recommend that inserts be installed by professionals. Pellet stoves do not provide the ambiance of a wood fire, but are efficient and carrying in a bucket of pellets is easier than chopping wood. Oh, get a stove with the bigger glass door, you'll enjoy the fire more!

10/9/2013 2:23:29 PM

If I knew how to find a good dealer, I might not be reading this article.

10/9/2013 2:22:10 PM

If I knew how to find a good dealer, I might not be reading this article.

ryan carpenter
1/19/2012 7:43:00 PM

That is a Vermont Castings Encore with Side shelves

ryan carpenter
1/19/2012 7:41:42 PM

It is a Vermont Castings Encore

ryan carpenter
1/19/2012 7:40:56 PM

That is a Vermont Castings Encore with Side shelves

samantha jane dings
1/19/2012 1:32:52 AM

To those wondering what stove is in the picture on page one... it looks an awful lot like the one that is heating my family room right now, a Vermont Castings Intrepid II.

willnot answer
1/18/2012 8:32:23 PM

I shopped around and purchased a Lopi Endeavor with the glass front. It's a medium size stove with a cook top and it has a catalyst burn. I have used this stove for 10 years and it's one of the BEST purchases I have ever made. The glass front allows us to see the fire on those quiet evenings, and the blower pushes the heat through the entire house. It's a simple stove to use and has paid for itself twice over. So far I have not even had to replace the seal. The quality is top notch! One note of warning to folks who burn a lot of wood though....For 5 years I cleaned my pipes myself...I NEVER had a single issue Then we tried the "sticks" they sell that burn different colors and keep the flue clean. NEVER AGAIN!!! Since using it I can't keep the smaller particles it creates from clogging up the screen on my spark catcher. There is NOTHING worse than having to climb on the roof in freezing rain to clean that darned screen!! I will NEVER try to save THAT pain again! I am now HAPPY to climb up and clean my pipes!!

t jonez
12/12/2011 10:44:52 AM

I too like the stove on the fist page of this post and would love to know what kind it is. Please Mother Earth help by giving us that info. Thanks

maria zielinski
12/9/2011 7:55:53 PM

Would you please give some comparisons between wood, coal and pellet stoves? I am physically not able to handle the wood preparation any more, so the cost of wood heat goes up when you have split and stacked added to the purchase. I used to have a Harman dual furnace in which I burned wood and coal....loved the heat it produced. Am very interested in quality, price of operation and overall longevity.....

elizabeth pepper
12/9/2011 6:45:03 PM

Thanks Eric. It's about what I figured. We live in the Piedmont of NC and there are a lot of days in the winter when our heat doesn't even come on. Our home is a double wide and when the temp is above 50 and the sun is out our home stays warm. At night it usually drops down to near freezing and then the heat runs. Then of course there are days when it is cold enough to run the heat all day. All I can envision is a nightmare of deciding when to start the wood heat going and letting it burn down and then the worry of getting it started in time so we all aren't sitting around in our long-johns and coats waiting for it to get warm. LOL

eric moore
12/9/2011 6:15:51 PM

Elizabeth, you have to be care with efficiencies, the rated efficiency that many publish is the EPA's calculated efficiency and I'm not sure it is a real number. I think it may be a "category". Somebody more knowledgeable can correct me. I'll give my opinion - I have been used a Woodstock Soapstone stove for 5 years. I run it 24/7 from October - March. I load wood in this stove 3-4 times a day and the burn time is betrween 8-12 hours as they say it is. Their customer service is second to none. The stove puts off gentle heat and will not run you out of the room. The stoves are expensive, but it is also a lifetime type purchase as it is very well made.

elizabeth pepper
12/9/2011 5:27:57 PM

I don't see anything in the article about efficiency of different wood stoves? Or is that a fallacy that is in the advertising of the different manufacturers?

jennifer andersen
12/9/2011 5:05:32 PM

I like the wood stove shown on the first page of this article. Does anyone know the model and manufacturer?

brenda barton
12/9/2011 3:53:49 PM

We inherited a Pacific Energy Super Series 27 stove with our new house, and we really like it but it needs refurbishing. Does anyone have any recommendations for parts suppliers?

deeann downing
12/9/2011 2:59:11 PM

I can recommend what stove NOT to buy. RAIS stoves does not back up their products. Per the US distributor's recommendations, I have added $600 in modifications (pipe extension & fresh air draw) to make the stove burn properly. My old stove burned strong for years, but lacked the emissions standards claimed by Rais. Funny thing is that I often have black smoke coming out my chimney whether burning fir, pine or pinyon (yes dry). The manufacturer hasn't made right on their claims, guarantees, nor even offered to reimburse me for the $600 of "fixes" that didn't work. Funny thing is that I spent all this money to heat with wood responsibly when all I'm doing is polluting the air for the little heat I get.

tim sefton
11/17/2011 3:33:08 PM

We working on a project developing and building a low cost stirling engine for electrical generation that would work well with wood stoves - We are targeting a building cost of $110 for a 1KW output -

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