How to buy a wood stove.
I often get asked, “Where do I start?” There are so many styles, shapes, prices, models and options out there. It is easy to get overwhelmed. So I thought I would give you some basic principles on where to start. There are basically three general types of wood stoves on the market, Steel, Cast Iron and Soapstone. These are the general materials they are made of. Below is a brief summary of each type, pros and cons.
Steel Wood Stoves
Steel is very traditional, the least expensive and very efficient. If you get a good quality steel wood stove it can last a lifetime. They have a pretty basic design, squarish box on a square pedestal or cast iron legs. This type of stove is actually what I currently own in my home, because of the number one reason, the cost! The best brands in order would be Country Stoves (especially their new Grandview is amazing), Enviro, Kuma, Lopi, Quadra Fire, and Regency. If you are on a budget or just want a basic looking stove that will heat well and last a long time, invest in a good quality steel wood stove. Depending on the stove and options these units typically range from $1000 to $2500, anything less than $1000 is most likely not going to last you many years to come.
Cast Iron Wood Stoves
Cast Iron wood stove is somewhat synonymous with saying Vermont Castings wood stove. It is all they do, and what they have done for a long, long time. The benefits to cast iron are, you can have a lat more detail to the casting, rather then a stamped out or bent piece of steel they have forms that they cast them in and can get a lot of decoration. Because of the nature of cast iron they can also be dipped in a porcelain enamel coating and have some beautiful colors that steel is unable to have, like the Red Encore pictured above. Jotul is another very good brand although I do not believe they offer as many pretty colors as Vermont. So basically they are much prettier, just as efficient and should last you just as long as a good steel stove. You are mainly paying more for looks, which is not a bad thing when you consider in most parts of the country it will be sitting in your living room not burning more than it will be burning. Typically range in price from $1800 to $3500.
Soapstone Wood Stoves
Soapstone wood stoves have completely different properties of heating than cast or steel. These stoves are made with a naturally quarried product that is then built into a stove. The good ones have a cast iron frame that holds the soapstone pieces together. Typically the soapstone is about 1 1/4″ thick and the inside of the stove is the inside of the piece of stone and the outside is the outside. Steel and cast iron are both basically transparent to heat, they let the heat generated by the wood fire just flow out into the room. Where the soapstone will actually bank up the heat in the stone and let it out over a much longer period of time. This results in a much longer even heat, and prevents what most wood stove owner know as “sweats to shorts” to “sweats to shorts” with the big peaks and valley of the heat output when stoking the fire. I am kind of partial to these stoves if money were not an object but they are some of the most expensive wood stoves out there, ranging from $2000 to $5000. There are two suppliers in the US, Hearthstone (which I would prefer to steer you towards, because they should have a local dealer near you for the best service) and Woodstock (which are all mail order.)
So there you have my summary on the three main categories of wood stoves, if you have any experience or knowledge to share please leave it as a comment below for other readers to share.
The Stove Guy