As we have discussed in previous articles there are a lot of families turning to wood stoves for an economical way to heat there home. With this trend of the increasing use of wood stoves I thought it would be a good idea to list ten suggestions for how to have safe wood burning stoves in your home.
Safe Wood Burning Stoves, Top 10 Suggestions:
- Have your stove installed by a NFI (National Fireplace Institute) certified technician. These technicians have gone through quite a bit of training to get this title. They also have annual requirements to maintain it. This does not guarantee a perfect installation but it definitely is a step towards having safe wood burning stoves. You can click on the link above and type in your zip code to find someone in your area.
- Probably the least well known and the most important is to burn dry seasoned wood and burn a hot fire. If you burn wet wood the fire will not burn as cleanly. The stove and chimney will get dirty. That creosote buildup is what will eventually ignite and cause a chimney fire. Your door glass on the front of the stove is a great indicator of how dirty the chimney is getting. Dirty black glass = dirty black chimney, and vice-versa.
- Keep everything back away from the stove. (Stacks of wood, curtains, furniture, etc. etc.)
- Put a smoke detector in the room with the wood stove, and test regularly.
- When removing ashes, put into METAL container with a lid and put outside immediately. It is amazing how long that hot coals can hide snuggled all down into those ashes.
- Have the chimney cleaned/inspected by a qualified chimney sweep once per year. This is the best prevention step you can do because I good chimney sweep can see issues before they happen and help you correct them.
- Read your owners manual! Even if you are having a professional install your stove, you need to read your owners manual double check all clearances to combustibles and read the manufacturer’s recommendations for proper operations. Each stove is a little different and even if you have had safe wood burning stoves all of your life I still recommend reading the manual.
- Another huge point to having safe wood burning stoves is to GET THE RIGHT SIZE! Too many people out there are used to having a big firebox. Where I can “Stuff a 22 inch piece of wood into” These new efficient wood stoves are a lot more efficient and use a lot smaller piece of wood to heat the same or larger area. One of the most common problems I see is that people tend to want to size their new wood stove by the size of wood that it holds rather than the square footage of their house. This becomes a big problem and leads back into #2. Even if you have dry, seasoned wood and the stove you bought is way too big it will be very hard for you to burn the stove at the proper temperature and blow yourself out of a 90 degree house.
- Be very careful with children around wood stoves. You should train them when they are young that wood stoves are hot and hurt when you touch them. If you do not teach them how to be safe and respect a fire, then it will be inevitable there will be an accident. You can’t watch them 100% of the time so teach them well. That is the only way to own a safe wood burning stove if you have children.
- If you are installing yourself, do not “cut corners”. This is your families safety you are talking about, having safe wood burning stoves in your home is the only way to do it. Make sure the clearances in front of the door are correct, along with all the clearances to combustibles easily met. It is not worth the risk.
Well thank you for reading my Top 10 suggestions for SAFE WOOD BURNING STOVES! If I could add one more thing it would be to use common sense in all your wood burning. That may be the one thing we are missing most in our world today!
The Stove Guy
Vermont Castings is probably one of the best known names in the wood stove industry.They are still available and going strong today. They have been around for over 30 years. Vermont Castings has actually adapted to the new laws and regulations arguably better than any other manufacturer out there. A large majority of the wood stove manufacturers closed up shop when the EPA laws started going into effect in the late 1980’s. Vermont Castings was not one of them, they have continued to adapt, continuing to exceed the requirements put forth.
They have many models to choose from and many pros and cons to each. This article is meant to give you a general overview of pros/cons for the Vermont Castings in general and more specific models to come.
Vermont Castings Pros:
- Their wood stoves have a top loading feature, which for the most part works better than any other top loader in the industry.
- The new Encore / Defiant series is capable of burning either as catalytic or non-catalytic within the same unit (I am not seeing a huge benefit in this feature but very unique.)
- Beautiful cast iron designs, I think they are probably the only company that rivals Jotul for their design and detail.
Vermont Castings Cons:
- Their warranty is hard to get taken care of. VERY IMPORTANT that you deal with a very longstanding dealer with a good reputation so they can push issues through if you have any.
- The design of all their stoves has a lot of little parts and pieces. Just look at a door latch for example. As anyone who has owned one for any length of time can tell you it will have two nuts, three pins, and two washers. At times the parts have been hard to source and had really long waits.
- The catalytic models have the maintenance cost that I don’t really think is a great idea. Catalytic converters average $200 – $300 and typically need to be replaced every 2 – 3 years.
If I was buying a Vermont Castings Wood Stove I would stick with the non-catalytic models. Because of the top loading feature, the efficiency, and my wife thinks it’s pretty I would consider owning one of these in my home. The main thing I would say is to buy this from an experienced dealer with a great reputation so you can get the service from them because you most likely won’t get it from Vermont Castings.
Here are a few pictures of the most popular models.
Vermont Castings Defiant Wood Stove
Vermont Castings Encore 2040
Resolute Acclaim Wood Stove
The Stove Guy
Wood Stove Reviews – Check it out!
I will be offering impartial and unbiased wood stove reviews in this section. I do have my favorite models and styles but I will be doing my best to review these wood stoves from an impartial point of view.
I think that the most beneficial wood stove reviews are structured in a way that they give the reader a basic pro vs. con analysis of what people that are very knowledgeable find important. I am afraid that most reviews or comments posted on the internet in general are from people that have a stove that has either been installed incorrectly. Or possibly they are not burning dry wood or burning the stove properly and they do not have a good quality specialty retailer to walk them through the process of troubleshooting.
I don’t think that reviews like, “Stove smokes” or “Doesn’t draft” are helpful. Things like, “This unit only fits an 18″ piece of wood, vs. the industry average for this size firebox is 22”
There are thousands of stoves out there that could potentially be reviewed, I am going to take a look at some of the more popular first, but I would like to say that if you guys have any recommendations, please leave comments or email me and I will bump those ones to the top of the list.
If you have a particular unit in your house email me some pictures and your questions and I would love to be that resource, and possibly help others if they are having the same issues.
Here are some pictures of some of the first units that I am going to do wood stove reviews on:
- Lopi Answer Wood Stove Reviews
Regency F2400 Wood Stove Reviews
Please send me your thoughts on which units to do the first wood stove reviews on and I will post them soon.
The Stove Guy
Here is a walk through of a Non-catalytic wood stove. I took a picture of a cutaway display model stove so I can show you what the inside looks like.
We will follow the path that the air takes for combustion. First the air is drawn into the stove at the bottom. This is where the damper controls how much air is allowed to come into the stove.
Next the air travels up along the air chambers on both sides of the stove and gets preheated before it comes into the firebox.
Each manufacturer does this next part a little differently, with varying degrees of success. I would talk to an experienced salesperson or see the fire burning before you buy. This picture shows the “Air Wash” which is where the air comes into the firebox down past the glass. This keeps a “curtain” of air moving between the glass and the fire to keep the glass staying clean.
Next your main combustion happens which is burning up all but roughly 100 grams per hour of fuel.
That unburnt fuel hits these “Re-burn Tubes”. There is a little bit of secondary combustion are drawn in from another location outside the stove. When that fresh oxygen mixes with those unburnt particulates and the temperature is hot enough they will re-ignite. This secondary combustion is what makes the stove EPA certified and have an average of about 3 grams per hour of emissions.
Lastly the air flows forward in the stove then back past the top plate to pick up the absolute most heat it can before it exits up the chimney system.
This is how an EPA certified wood stove functions.
The cutaway that I walked you through here is a Country Stoves Striker 160, made by Lennox Hearth Products.
The Stove Guy
Wood stoves can come in all shapes and sizes, but when you break it down they are basically a metal box that you can build a fire in. This fire creates heat and the heat transfers through the metal to warm your house. The difference between and EPA certified stove and a non-certified stove is what we will discuss here.
The catch is that they have to be vented to the outside of the house for the smoke and exhaust to get out. And naturally a good portion of the heat and un-burnt smoke goes up the chimney. This can lead to both a lot more wood being burned than is necessary and unnecessary air pollution that is a big deal in different areas.
So about 22 years ago now the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) stepped in and started requiring manufacturers to pass specific testing and enforce EPA certified stoves to be the only ones that could be sold. An EPA certified stove is still the only type of wood stove that you can buy to heat your home in the US, Canada and many other countries.
The US just last year passed some laws that will not allow you to sell your home with an un-certified wood stove present. It must be removed and recycled before closing.
So what is the difference between an EPA certified stove and a un-certified wood stove you ask. Well as you might guess it is the emissions, which is what the EPA’s job is to regulate. Most older un-certified stoves emitted up to 100 gr/hr (Grams per hour), EPA certified stoves are required to be less than 7.5 for non-catalytic and 4.1 for catalytic currently, with laws coming in the near future threatening to tighten that up even farther.
The benefit to a consumer besides polluting less is actually getting a lot more heat into your home for every piece of wood that you burn. The difference between that 100 gr/hr and the average EPA certified stove of about 3.5 gr/hr is that you are burning every little bit of fuel up and thus using a lot less wood to get the same or more heat. Other benefits are less ash, cleaner glass door, and a cleaner chimney.
A cleaner chimney actually makes a wood stove safer because you have a lot less chance of chimney fires. That 100 gr/hr building up on the inside of the chimney the igniting at a later date is called a chimney fire and I think is one of the major causes of house fires with wood stoves. That risk is signifigantly reduced when you only have about 3.5 gr/hr of particulate going up the chimney.
Hopefully this has given you some good information about what an EPA certified stove is and why it is important. Anything sold since roughly 1990 will be EPA certified, there will be an article in the near future with how to tell if a stove is EPA certified or not. Stay Tuned!
The Stove Guy
A Guide To Wood Heating
This is a guide to wood heating was published by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, an agency of the Canadian federal government. From its first publication in 1993, this booklet has been very popular. Tons of copies of this book were ordered and distributed by insurance agents, fire departments and wood heating retail stores.
Although it was written for Canadian citizens, so the references to installation codes and laws may not be applicable outside of Canada, there is a lot of useful information in it’s 80 pages that can be applied anywhere.
Most of our articles will expand in more detail on some of the topics discussed in this book, but I thought it was a nice free resource to make available to anyone that was interested.
If you do take the time to read it please leave us some comments on sections you particularly liked or didn’t like..
The Stove Guy
A Guide to Wood Heat
Yes absolutely, people burn wood stoves as their primary heat source is on the rise in most parts of the country.
According to the US Census bureau in 2010 over six million homes in the United States burn wood as their primary heat source (only 2% of the population, but still that is a lot of people). This is even higher for those having a wood stove as a secondary heat source. It definitely depends on what part of the country you live in. Below is a map that USA today published in an article toward the end of last year.
Increase in wood stove users from 2000 to 2010
I personally think that although burning wood can be a lot of work, very messy, and not convenient all the time, it is one of the best ways to heat your home. It gives that wonderful, dry, penetrating warmth that I don’t think you can really get from any other type of heat.
Whether you live in the country and have access to your own wood or need to buy your wood, it can be one of the most economical ways to provide warmth for your family, which is one reason I think we are seeing the trend we are above. A lot of us are trying to save money any way that we can and heating our homes is a big bill every year.
One of the main reasons a lot of people ask if anyone still burn wood stoves is because of all of the laws, regulations, and media coverage on wood stove smoke and pollution; but I would say that there are countless government programs and rebates out their at the moment to promote people to either install a new “epa certified” wood stove or upgrade their existing 20+ year old uncertified stove to a certified one. So I don’t see wood stoves going away anytime soon, but I do see laws in the future banning the use of uncertified stoves and tightening up even farther on what constitutes an “epa certified” stove.
The current federal standards are that a non-catalytic wood stove has to be less than 7.5 grams per hour of emissions and a catalytic stove less than 4.1 grams per hour. Some states have even stricter requirements like Washington state says that non-catalytic wood stoves have to be less than 4.5 grams per hour. These numbers are down from around 60 grams per hour that your traditional “steel box” wood stoves would have been.
The Stove Guy!