Nothing adds warmth or a welcoming atmosphere to your home like a fireplace, but a cozy room on a cold winter’s day isn’t the only reason to consider heating with wood. With rising fuel costs and increasing environmental concerns, new wood stoves continue to stand out as a viable alternative or supplement to other forms of home heating. But before you run out and buy, here are some questions you should ask yourself, and the options that are available in today’s wood stoves.
EPA or Non-EPA? The first thing you should check before purchasing a wood stove is whether or not it is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Clean air laws are becoming increasingly popular throughout many parts of North America and there are a lot of places, such as Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland, where you can no longer purchase non-EPA wood stoves. If you don’t live in one of these areas, it may still be possible to purchase non-EPA wood stoves but there are a lot of good reasons to go with a more environmentally friendly model.
- They’re more efficient. EPA stoves use about 1/3 less fuel than their non-EPA equivalents. This makes them less expensive to run and also means that you have 1/3 less wood to chop, store and haul!
- They produce less smoke. EPA stoves only produce 2 to 7.5 grams of air-borne particles per hour versus the 40 to 85 grams produced by older wood stoves. That’s fewer harmful particles in the air and fewer harmful particles in your lungs.
- They produce less creosote. Creosote is a by-product of burning wood that can build up in your chimney and cause a fire. Since EPA stoves burn fuel more completely they produce less creosote and lower your risk of chimney fires.
Firewood or pellets? When considering wood as a heat source, most people only think about the firewood that you get from chopping down a tree. But what if you don’t have the space to keep all of that firewood piled, dry and out of the elements? If you’re planning to use your stove for a main or supplementary heat source, and you don’t have storage space for firewood, you may want to consider a pellet stove. These units use compressed wood pellets as a fuel source which come in manageable, easy-to-store bags. Because they are very clean burning, they don’t require a conventional chimney, which allows them to be installed in homes that may not be suitable for traditional wood stoves. On the other hand, pellet stoves do require more maintenance than conventional stoves and they also need electricity to operate which means they aren’t a good choice if you need something to provide backup heat during a power outage.
What are your heating requirements? When it comes to wood stoves, bigger is not necessarily better. Choosing an undersized stove means it can’t produce enough heat to properly warm your space, but an oversized stove can also create hassles or even hazards for your home. If your wood stove is too large, it will quickly overheat your living space which means you either have to continually open windows to moderate the temperature or you end up burning your fire more slowly to produce less heat. This is dangerous because slow-burning wood produces more creosote which can build up in your chimney and cause fires.
To calculate the total square footage that your stove needs to heat, take the square footage of the level that the stove is installed on and then add half the square footage of any levels above the stove. Any levels that are below the stove should not be counted.
So for example, if you have a 1,000 square foot, split entrance home and the stove is in the basement, you would calculate 1,000 for the level the stove is on, plus 500 for the second level. This would be for a total of 1,500 square feet. Since your stove will never be running at full blast, all the time, it’s a good idea to add 25% to the total for good measure. So for a 1000 square foot, split level home you would need a stove that could heat up to 1,875 square feet maximum.