How to Choose the Right Woodstove

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

| December 2011/January 2012

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.

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