We’ve been talking a lot about wood heat and associated appliances lately. We’ve covered pellet stoves and wood burning inserts, so now we will be concentrating on the best wood burning stoves.
There are many practical reasons why people choose to use wood burning stoves other methods of heating their home. Commonly, these include the wish to reduce energy bills, improve energy security, and the desire to become self-reliant. Equally many people love their aesthetic appeal.
Regardless of your motivations, it’s important to be aware of what to look for in the best wood burning stoves: energy-efficiency, heat output, burn time, reputation of the stove, and square footage of the space you plan to heat all need to be considered.
Therefore, in this article we have reviewed some of the most popular wood burning stoves and provided the essential information all would-be stove owners should know before making such a big decision.
Quick Picks: Best Wood Stoves Comparison
Top Picks: Best Wood Stoves Reviewed
The Pleasant Hearth brand of stoves is manufactured by the GHP Group, a market leader in North America with over 100 years of industry expertise in the fireplace and heating sector.
This particular stove by GHP has a brilliant reputation and currently has amazing reviews on a range of sites where it is sold in the US, including Amazon, Home Dept and Tractor Supply.
As a result, it is quite easy to say that this is thoroughly tested and used stove across the states, which naturally improves confidence in the brand and this model in particular.
Selection of Sizes:
The issue with a lot of stoves on the market is that they are only offered in a single size, which is quite limiting for people who live in small or large sized homes. This stove is a great stove for multiple reasons, but it’s also good to know it’s offered in sizes small, medium and large.
The price gradually increases and so does the heat output, with the smallest model heating up to 1,200 square feet and the largest model heating up to a 2,200 square feet, perfect for larger sized properties.
Bear in mind that it’s important to calculate the size stove you will require to adequately heat your home, if you choose an inappropriate sized stove it will result in your home becoming to hot, or even worse – too cold.
Made in the USA:
Another great plus about “Pleasant Hearth” brand of stoves is that they are made in the USA and include a 5-year warranty, offering you peace of mind and of course the added security of it being located in the USA. So, there’s no dealing with overseas companies or sellers, which can often lead to troublesome experiences with returns and shipping costs.
Trust us, the amount of emails we receive about dealing with overseas companies would put you off buying anything made overseas for life!
Heat Output & Efficiency:
The Ponderosa is the largest wood stove offered by Vogelzang and as a result it pumps out a huge amount of heat – up to 152,000 BTUs to be precise. This amount of heat can provide adequate heating for property spaces up to 3,200 square feet, which is perfect for heating large properties and multiple storeys.
Due to its size (38.5″ length (w/blower) x 24″ width x 33″ height) you need to have the right sized area to house the stove, along with your fireproof hearth and wall panels, so its worth bearing this in mind. It may be worth taking the tape measure out.
If you plan on heating a large property, you may want to consider a stove pipe going through your top floor, to help provide more radiated heating. If this sounds like something you want to do, then you need to think about space in your upper floor(s) as well.
A common complaint among stove users is buyers regret due to purchasing stoves with small fireboxes, which don’t take adequate amount of firewood loads and burn the wood too fast. This is usually due to poor design that results in poor combustion and tiny fireboxes.
Needing to load your stove constantly isn’t an issue with the Ponderosa as it can accept logs of up to logs up to 22″ in length and burns up to 14 hours on one fueling. This reduces the meed to keep refuelling your wood stove, which can become quite a chore, especially during winter.
Another common complaint in cheap and poor model stoves is the need for frequent cleaning, which is why it’s a good idea to opt for a stove with a large ash pan. That way, it can collect ash and stove waste for several weeks before needing to be emptied saving you time and energy.
Due to its structure and size, the Ponderosa has a hefty ash pan that will last many weeks before it needs emptying – a quick vacuum is the easiest way to achieve this.
Appearance & Design:
HiFlame is a well trusted manufacturer renowned for their classical cast iron wood stoves.
Although the stoves do take inspiration from antique models of a previous era, you should not underestimate them as they are EPA approved and feature some of the latest wood heat technology for maximum efficiency and heat output.
The Appaloosa stove features cast iron arched detailing and takes inspiration from traditional Nordic wood burning stoves. Most contemporary stoves are made with steel, but you can’t beat the styling options available with cast iron stoves.
Remember, there is zero performance differences between steel and iron, it’s purely an aesthetic preference.
Heat Output & Efficiency:
This robust stove is ideal for small living spaces such as for heating a single room, log cabin or even mobile homes. The heat output is rated at 63,000 BTU/H, which is a substantial amount for a stove of this stature.
Although it is an efficient stove for the price, remember that you can easily maximize the heat produced with the use of a wood stove fan. This will effectively circulate the hot air throughout your living room, instead of it rising and getting trapped in a pocket near the ceiling.
Trusted US Based Stove Company:
As you may have expected the US Stove Company 2000 is a wood stove manufactured by a North American company.
The US Stove Company was formed by the amalgamation of two companies – Wetter Manufacturing of Memphis, Tennessee (1864) and Perry Stove Works of Albany, New York (1869).
With over 140 years manufacturing stoves and thousands of loyal stove users, they are certainly a company you can trust.
Appearance & Design:
For the price point, this contemporary wood burning stove is offering value for money with it’s high quality construction. Made from steel the US stove Company offers the simplicity and crisp design expected from a stove in this price range.
However many people prefer steel and find that the common shapes and styling found with cast iron stoves is not to their tastes, or suited to interior of their home. It’s a personal choice.
The stove also features a beefy arched glass door with a built-in air wash feature, which helps to keep glass stain and ash free for longer between manual cleans.
Airwash is a design element that uses a specially positioned vent or vents to draw in air from the outside to wash over the inside of the glass. This helps to keep the glass clean, allowing you to get pleasure from the charm of your fire for longer.
The firebox is a good size and can fit 21 inch logs without any issues, allowing you to fill to maximum capacity helps by increasing burn time and decreasing time spent refuelling the stove.
You can probably expect a burn time of around 8 hours. The heat output of this stove is rated at up to 89,000 BTU’s and is adequate for heating up to 2,000 square foot, ideal for medium to large properties.
It is also EPA Certified, meaning it releases fewer emissions than other models, and so is able to be safely used in mobile homes as well. Finally, the US Stove Company 2000 comes equipped with a quiet, efficient 100-cubic-feet-per-minute blower, meaning the heat produced will be nicely distributed throughout your living space.
What Makes a Good Wood Burning Stove?
There’s no denying that a stove is a very clever piece of engineering and design, so if you don’t know what to look for when shopping for the best wood stove, that’s only natural.
As with everything, you will find very cheap stoves, as well as high-end stoves that can easily run into the thousands of dollars. And most expensive does not always guarantee the best performance from a wood burning stove.
The key is to choose a wood burning stove somewhere in the middle of the range. That way you know you aren’t sacrificing any important features found in the best wood burning stoves, and equally, you aren’t wasting money on stoves with lots of extra features you don’t really need.
Here are the most important factors you should assess when looking for the right wood stove:
1. Material of the Stove - Steel Stoves Vs Cast Iron
To begin, you want to think about the metal that your stove is made from; the two most commonly used metals are cast iron and welded steel.
There is zero performance difference between the two, so don’t believe anything that states one will enhance heating more than the other because it’s just not true! Ultimately, your final decision will come down to cost, performance and appearance.
Cast iron models tend to offer a curvier, more rustic style, that attracts many people to stoves in the first place, while stainless steel stoves are a simpler and less pricey alternative.
In terms of durability, cast stoves have had a reputation of being more resilient due to the ability of damaged parts to be replaced with ease. However, today the manufacturers of steel stoves have realized this and so have ensured that parts that are under intense heat stress are easily replaceable.
In addition, it’s a good idea to look at what material is lining the inside of the stove. This is important because the temperatures inside the stove can reach mind-blowing heights, so if you choose a cheaper material such as thin sheets of steel these have a tendency to quickly disintegrate leaving your stove exposed to heat damage and cracking.
The best option is to purchase a stove lined with replaceable firebricks, these are much more resistant to heat and can easily be replaced with little effort.
2. Combustion Technology
Another thing to consider is whether you opt catalytic or non-catalytic combustion. This debate has been going on for many years, both are useful, however, performance differences have been well established.
Catalytic combustion occurs when the exhaust fumes produced by the fire pass long a catalyst-coated ceramic honeycomb located within the fire, which create a constant and strong heat output.
This catalytic component degrades with time and needs to be replaced periodically, it can last more than 6 years, but with poor stove, maintenance can last as little as two years.
As you may have guessed, non-catalytic combustion dos not utilize a catalyst, but instead imparts an environment for combustion to occur within the firebox itself.
This environment is fostered by a combination of three things: firebox insulation, a baffle to divert gas flow and pre-heated combustion air let in through tiny holes in the upper part of the firebox.
Which is best catalytic or non-catalytic? It seems that many manufacturers are opting to create more non-catalytic models, however, there are still many catalytic stoves that remain popular.
Ultimately, the choice is yours to make as the argument for supreme is not clear cut and both remain much cleaner than older stoves.
3. Efficiency Rating
In the 1980’s the U.S EPA ensured that all catalytic wood stoves must adhere to an emission limit of 4.1 grams of smoke per hour and for non-cat stoves of 7.5 g/h.
The high-efficiency models definitely make a difference with everyday use. For example, newer models are typically one-third more efficient than the old stoves of previous decades. That means less money spent on firewood, cutting, preparing and even cleaning your stove. This means that the EPA rules have worked for both stove users and the environment, which is a great advantage.
EPA certified stoves are over 60 percent efficient and many can offer around 80 percent of the fuel’s potential heat to the property. This is much better than poor, un-certified models that are often in the 40% range and less.
High-efficiency wood burning stoves are not always a good thing either, for instance, those offering an 80% efficiency rating can lead to a low exhaust temperature causing a feeble draft and possibly even water damage in your chimney due to condensation.
For more information about the exact wood stove models that meet the EPA qualifications check out this guide.
4. Heating Capacity
Manufacturers tend to provide a number of square feet of space the unit will heat. You will find many that give a substantial scope such as 3,000 to 6,000 sq. ft.
These figures are unclear since, in reality, it would depend on which area of the U.S the stove would be used, for instance, the climate in middle America is much different than the west coast of the U.S. Additionally, new homes will be better insulated and so will retain heat much longer and more efficiently than an old built home.
In reality, taking into account all of these factors, stoves are available in small, medium and large. As a consequence, the size of the firebox can have a real impact on the amount of heat produced. So a suggestion may be as follows:
- Small stoves – small wood stoves typically have a firebox of around 2 cubic feet and are adequate for heating a large living space or cabin.
- Medium stoves – these typically have a firebox of around 2 and 3 cubic feet and are adequate for heating medium sized properties.
- Large stoves – these typically have a firebox of around 3 cubic feet and can be used to heat larger homes or open planned living areas.
5. Heat Output
The majority of stove manufacturers detail the peak heat output in British Thermal Units (BTU’s) and this commonly ranges from 20,000 to 90,000 BTU’s.
However, this is quite deceptive since using your stove at peak heat output i.e. your fire on high constantly can lead to major damage to your stove. In addition, the average sized property needs only around 5,000 to 20,000 BTUs per hour of continuous heating power to keep it adequately heated, even through the cold months.
Furthermore, these numbers can be quite deceptive as non-catalytic have a propensity to generate a higher rate of heat, but this does not mean it will be consistent over a 12-hour wood burning cycle. As a result, these figures can not be depended upon since there is no standard.
6. Other Factors to Consider
Stove Fans – Next, you want to look for a wood burner with a blower, this is an expense you don’t want to spare as if you purchase a stove without one the heat can be lost up the chimney.
Additionally, with a blower, you know that the heat produced is being nicely distributed throughout your living room, which is the goal of any fire source.
It’s common knowledge that one main output of a wood fire is smoke, and this smoke naturally needs to be ventilated outside and away from the living areas of the home. Even with a well fitted flu pipe some smoke may still escape into the living area.
Please be aware of this and ensure the room you are using the wood stove in is properly ventilated. Natural ventilation will occur for small amounts of smoke that escape into the room.
Furthermore, before considering the wood burning stove as your main method of heating your home, try considering your local humidity levels. Wood burning stoves tend to not be as efficient in humid climates as other forms of fuel such as natural gas.
It’s also worth noting that if you do have any other HVAC systems in your home, such as a central air conditioning system, it would be worth ensuring your wood stove installation is clear of any existing duct work or forced air systems.
Why Choose a Wood Burning Stove in the First Place?
Like the majority of people, you’re probably well aware of the ever-growing costs of energy; the truth is that heating your home using electrical or gas fireplaces and radiators are expensive, in fact, it’s the average working person’s biggest expenditure.
The problem is getting worse every year too and since many energy companies haven’t stopped hiking their prices up annually, there’s no reason to suggest that it’s going to stop or slow down anytime soon.
That’s where wood burners or log burners can provide you with a new and innovative solution to this common financial burden. Wood burners have become increasingly popular in recent years for many practical reasons.
Firstly, you no longer have to rely on gas and electrical suppliers and corporations running your life, as with a well-made and modern wood burner you are truly in control of your heating and therefore your energy bills.
Regardless of the many incentives for heating your home with wood heat, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding their use in recent years. Arguments have included concerns with air pollution and concerns about woodlands and forests coming under threat due to increased wood burning.
The truth is that substantial changes have been made in wood heat technology and stoves are much more efficient than in previous years.
For a more in-depth overview of the benefits and limitations of heating with wood check out our argument for advocating wood heating article. However, be warned, this is an extremely long and in-depth post.
Is Using a Stove Cheaper than Gas?
The short and simple answer to this question is typically yes. Using wood to heat your home is cheaper than gas and electric in many parts of the US, however, there’s another fundamental reason why a stove can work out being cheaper to run than a gas fireplace and that’s due to the way people tend to use wood burning stoves.
For example, if you own an electrical or gas fire on your property, then you are very likely to switch it on and not really consider the amount of gas or electricity you are using.
However, with a stove, you become more aware of the amount of energy you’re using as you can physically see the logs or wood pellets being consumed.
This simple visual awareness can make you become more mindful of your energy consumption and whether or not you are using too much, helping you to easily monitor your heating bill with constant care and attention.
Additionally, I think we can all agree that a wood burner in the lounge can look amazing on a cold winter’s night. You and your family sat around burning wood can be an enchanting experience in its own right. The look of burning wood also makes a stunning visual, and the crackling wood can be soothing too.
A final factor to consider is the design, there tends to be a common trend with the more money you spend the higher quality the design, with bay windows and wrought iron detailing being two factors that often bump up the price.
As you can see from the reviews, some designs can have a much larger capacity than others and it may be useful to have a set of fireplace tongs handy to feed the wood in more safely and easily.
Check out the following video which gives even more hints and tips when using a wood burning stove and give you some ideas on how to make the most out of yours:
Not only can wood burner designs be pleasing to the eye, but better-designed stoves, typically sold by the most respected brands tend to have better quality fittings and last much longer than their cheaper counterparts. This takes away the need for a stove fan to be purchased separate to the stove.
Ultimately, the choice is yours to make, but remember that heating your family is almost as important as eating, so I would always recommend spending a little bit more to secure a good quality stove and ensure a warmer home for years to come.
It’s important to note that although wood stoves can look beautiful and certainly keep your property well-heated, they are not as efficient, or as hassle-free as pellet stove heating. Therefore, if you want the style of a traditional wood burning stove, but don’t feel you have the time or patience to maintain one, then a pellet stove may be a better choice.factor
About the Author
Dave Miller is a HVAC technician with over 10 years in the industry. Dave created HeatTalk with the ambition for it to become a resource for individuals looking for answers, whether they be a layman, student or a professional.