How to heat your home with a wood burning stove

July 29, 2015

A wood burning stove might be the right heating solution for your home. Here's everything you need to know about wood burning stoves, before you make a decision.

How to heat your home with a wood burning stove

The popularity of stoves

Stoves have been used to warm homes for many centuries but until the nineteenth century they took second place, in most countries, to fireplaces.

  • The development of techniques to produce inexpensive cast-iron plate helped iron stoves become popular home-heating devices, particularly in built-up urban regions.
  • Stoves were marketed in a great variety of shapes and sizes. Iron stoves boasted ashpits, special chambers for kettles and often lively decor.
  • A fully enclosed, airtight, slow-combustion stove offers some of the pleasures of an open fire and burns wood to provide heat with much greater efficiency.
  • Modern stoves squeeze as much heat as possible out of the wood being burned and can radiate up to 70 percent of it.

Marks of a good stove

  • A good stove should not draw any more air than is needed to burn the wood as well as the gases given off during combustion. Open fireplaces do not obey this rule, gulping large amounts of warm interior air and sending it up the chimney, while at the same time drawing cold outside air into the house.
  • To avoid this problem stoves are airtight; they should be so well sealed that the air flow can be adjusted to exactly the rate needed. It is even possible to starve the fire of air to the point where it goes out.
  • An incidental advantage of airtight stoves is that they can be left untended for many hours, even overnight, while continuing to give out heat at a fairly constant rate.
  • Another attribute of a good stove is that it transfers heat to the house rather than letting most of it go up the chimney.
  • To accomplish this, a system of chambers or baffles is built into the stove. The hot air, smoke and gases are channelled through the chambers or past the baffle walls. These, in turn, absorb the heat and radiate it into the room.
  • Some models have a fan-boosted rear outlet to distribute heat into living areas.

Temperature regulation

The most sophisticated stoves have a built-in thermostat which can be set for a particular temperature; the thermostat activates an adjustment of the air-supply regulators to control the rate at which the fire burns.

  • If you have to adjust airflow manually, with practice you will learn the correct settings.
  • Some stoves have a catalytic combustor or reactor (a platinum or palladium surface on a ceramic honeycomb base) to make secondary combustion occur at a lower temperature.
  • Secondary combustors can increase the efficiency of some stoves by up to ten percent while reducing soot build-up and air pollution. They need replacement after about three years, although some may last longer.

Proceed gradually if you have never tried heating your home with wood. Start with a stove installed to heat one room of the house, and leave the remaining space to be heated by conventional power; this way the joys and idiosyncrasies of wood burning can be experienced before making a decision on a greater commitment to this type of heating.

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