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Matte black wood stove in a bright living room
Buying guide

How to Choose the Ideal Wood Stove for Your Home

A great choice as a standby heating system, wood stoves provide comfort and a cozy ambiance to any space. Find out what you need to know about choosing, installing, and maintaining a picture-perfect wood stove.

Make Your Home Extra Cozy this Winter

Many homeowners are discovering that wood stoves provide an aesthetically appealing and cost-effective complement to their heating system. Here’s a guide to finding a wood stove that will help keep your home comfortable over the winter.
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Wood Stove Categories

Wood stoves are divided into two main types depending on the kind of fuel they use: logs or pellets. Both log-burning and pellet-burning stoves are capable of providing supplementary heat in an energy-efficient manner, helping you save on the cost of home heating. However, they are usually intended for slightly different purposes.

  • Log-Burning Stoves: Producing heat by burning wooden logs, log-fed wood stoves are made to provide quicker heat on a more occasional basis.
  • Pellet-Burning Stoves: Producing heat by burning pellets commonly made of compressed sawdust, pellet stoves are intended to provide more consistent heat over a longer period. They also usually come with a hopper—a component which allows them to operate automatically.

Another difference is that pellet stoves can be vented either horizontally or vertically, while traditional wood stoves require vertical venting and an existing chimney or fireplace.

You can also get densified wood logs. They’re known for lasting longer and producing more heat than traditional logs, making them an eco-friendly choice. However, they cost more.

  • Natural logs, densified wood logs, and pellets
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Pro Tip

Some cities and municipalities have a ban on wood stoves, fireplaces, and other heating devices that use wood or pellets. Make sure you’re aware of the regulations in your area before installing or replacing your stove.

Wood Stoves and Pellet Stoves Compared

Is a wood or a pellet stove a better choice for your home? Here is a quick glance at both types.
Characteristics
Ease of installation
Efficiency
Green taxation
Costs
Installation conditions
Maintenance cost
Wood stove
High
Moderate
High
High
Moderate
High
Pellet stove
Moderate
High
Moderate
Moderate
Moderate
Low
Characteristics
Ease of installation
Efficiency
Green taxation
Costs
Installation conditions
Maintenance cost
Wood stove
High
Moderate
High
High
Moderate
High
Pellet stove
Moderate
High
Moderate
Moderate
Moderate
Low
Matte black wood stove

Wood Stove

Benefits

  • Easy way to create a cozy ambiance
  • Enjoyment of watching the flames
  • Enjoyment of the earthy wood scent
  • Quick supplementary heating
  • More efficient than fireplaces

Drawbacks

  • The need to obtain and stack wood logs
  • It can often be tricky to light a fire
  • Requires regular maintenance
  • May allow heat to escape when not in use
  • Only a few hours of supplementary heat in the case of a power outage

Safety considerations

  • May overheat from continuous use and poor upkeep
  • Creosote accumulation from damp logs can increase risk of chimney fires
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Matte black pellet stove in front of a brick wall

Pellet Stove

Benefits

  • Pellets are manufactured specifically for more efficient combustion
  • Automatic feeding can allow continuous use for up to 20 hours
  • Only a vent is required—no need for a traditional chimney
  • Pellets are more convenient to handle and store
  • Reduced humidity levels
  • Low emissions

Drawbacks

  • Cannot function with any fuel source besides pellets
  • Requires regular maintenance
  • Noisier operation than wood stoves with certain models
  • Flames may not look as natural as a log fire

Safety considerations

  • A risk of toxic fumes
  • It is highly recommended that you also install a carbon monoxide alarm
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Environmental Impact

As long as the fuel used in a wood stove is sustainably sourced, its operation will be essentially carbon neutral. This is because trees recycle CO2 as they grow, releasing oxygen and incorporating the carbon into their structure. When a tree is burned for fuel, the amount of CO2 that is released into the atmosphere is similar to how much would be released from the tree’s natural decomposition.

However, wood burning can have a negative impact on air quality if it creates a smouldering fire with blue-grey smoke. The best way to avoid this is to upgrade your wood stove to a new, cleaner-burning model that is EPA or CSA certified. Newer models can help cut emissions by as much as 90%. Using dry, clean logs and fuel and selecting a wood stove that is the right size for your home will help reduce emissions as well.

Useful Accessories

There are several accessories that can make it easier and more convenient to use and maintain your wood stove. You will see below some of the most popular and useful accessories that you’ll want to have on hand.
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Stove tools

Every wood stove should be accompanied by standard tools such as a poker, a rake, a shovel, and a brush. These tools will help you manage the fire and remove ash. They are often available in sets that are both functional and decorative.

Ash bucket

An ash bucket is essential for cleaning out ash after using your wood stove. Simply use an ash shovel to scoop it in and a brush to get it from out of all the stove’s nooks and crannies. An ash bucket can also be used to store kindling.

Ash vacuum

For quicker and easier cleanup, consider an ash vacuum. These specialized vacuums can remove ash from your wood stove at the click of a button, and advanced filtration ensures minimal dust.

Stove fan

Stove fans can improve the energy efficiency of your stove by helping the heat disperse much more quickly. They are particularly useful if you have an open floor plan.

Stove gloves

Stove gloves are made of heat-resistant material that will help keep your hands safe when opening the stove door or when reloading fuel.

Log holder

If you have a log-burning wood stove, then a log holder can help keep your logs neatly stored nearby. Some log holders are also portable and can make transporting wood easier.
  • Matte black log holder

Wood Stove Installation

Before you proceed with the installation of a wood stove, you should find out if you need a building permit and obtain one if necessary. It's also a good idea to inform your home insurance agent so that your policy can be properly updated.
Here is what you’ll need in order to install a wood stove in your home:

Where to install a wood stove

Selecting the location of your wood stove is one of the most important installation decisions. First and foremost, it should go in the location where the heat will be best utilized. This will generally be on the main floor, in the living room, or kitchen. A central location will also help to disperse the heat among the widest possible area.

A wood stove can be installed just about anywhere as long as there is adequate space for the stove itself and as long as the chimney can be correctly routed. The stove pipe should also have room to run straight up.

Selecting the right heat output

Wood stoves are available in a range of different heat outputs and sizes. A bigger stove with a larger output isn't always going to be a better one. If it is oversized for the space, then it can make the room uncomfortably warm. Likewise, a wood stove that is too small for the space may end up being overused. Small units are great for zone heating in a smaller area while large units are a better choice for an open floor plan that will allow the heat to circulate.

Ensuring safe installation and use

To guarantee that your wood stove is installed safely and correctly, you should trust the installation to trained professionals. It is not recommended that you connect a wood stove to an existing chimney and begin using it. A professional installation will assure you not only of your wood stove's safety but also of its performance.

Installing both a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector in or near the room where your wood stove is located is also highly recommended. If there is ever an issue with combustion, you want to be alerted to it right away.

Maintenance Tips

Proper maintenance is important for ensuring that wood stoves burn cleanly and efficiently. It helps decrease the risk of a fire and of dangerous emissions. Here are some tips for wood stove maintenance.
  • Scoop or vacuum the ash on a regular basis to prevent mess and increase the volume of fuel you can use.
  • Perform a thorough cleaning of your wood stove and its venting at least twice a year.
  • Check the flue pipes and chimney for any signs of deterioration, such as bulges, corrosion, and rust stains.
  • Clean the glass door with a damp cloth or specialized stove glass cleaner to remove any ash or stains.
  • Inspect the gaskets around the door and any other components and replace them when they begin to show signs of damage and wear.
  • Have your wood stove professionally serviced at least every two years to make sure it is operating correctly and to extend its lifespan.

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