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The 6 Very Best Wood-Burning Stoves For Off-Grid Heat

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The first wood stove ever to be introduced to the United States was created in 1642, although slightly ineffective and a source of constant headache for users. From there, Benjamin Franklin made improvements to the stove in 1744 and used cast iron to radiate heat in a more even manner.

“The Franklin Stove,” better known as the Pennsylvania Fireplace, was the first of its kind in America, introducing a ventilation mechanism for better circulation and addressing the common problem of smoke inhalation due to the absence of a flue.

Although the Franklin stove was a breakthrough for its time, the design was still an open cast iron box stove, similar to a fireplace, causing fires to burn out quickly due to drafts being pulled from all directions. The goal from this point was to take cooking away from the fireplace and to harness firepower in a box that could be easily manipulated. While fire and heat technology went through various changes over the years from six- to 10-plate stoves and the introduction of doors to the box stove, it wasn’t until around 1820 that the first step-top cook stove was invented, a design that is still common to this day.

When considering a wood stove, it is important to first decide what purpose you expect the stove to serve. Today, there are a variety of wood stoves, from traditional and multi-fuel stoves to boiler and inset stoves, those designed to fit into the space of an old fireplace. If you plan to cook on top of your wood stove in the winter, make sure that there is a step-top large enough to place pots and skillets. Also, if you are living a dry cabin lifestyle, you may want to make sure that the wood stove you purchase is large enough to hold a wash basin on top for heated water. The following are a few popular variations of the wood stove for you to consider before purchase:

1. Traditional Stove

The traditional wood stove comes in many shapes and sizes. The purpose of this stove is mainly to heat your home during the winter, although plate and step-top stoves would generally fall in this category as well. The most basic of these can actually be manufactured and designed right in the comfort of your own garage, known to most northern states as the barrel stove. Conversion pieces can be purchased relatively inexpensive, and flat tops can be welded on to create a cooking space. From here you can only go up to cast iron stoves ranging from small with no view of the fire to double door viewers that offer multiple air intake and flue options, while purposefully utilizing and burning off natural gases emitted from the logs.

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2. Multi-fuel Stove

As the name implies, multi-fuel stoves offer a wider range of burning options. They can be used for both cooking and heating, and can be purchased or converted into a boiler stove. These popular stoves can burn wood, coal, peat or wood pellets. Multi-fuel stoves differ from strictly wood stoves by utilizing a grate underneath to collect the used solid fuel. Although the design of multi-fuel stoves is arguably one of the best, wood is still one of the most environmentally sound fuel methods, so it is advised to never use coal, which can be toxic and extremely sooty, clogging the pipes.

3. Boiler Stove

If you live in a home with running water, boiler stoves are certainly the way to go. They reduce the electricity necessary to heat water for your family, cutting the cost of utilities in the winter, and can be fitted directly to existing plumbing. Not only is this an eco-friendly way to produce hot water, it is a beautiful means of heating your home. These stoves also range in size, meaning that you can fit a boiler stove into any home.

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4. Inset Stove

Inset stoves are designed solely to heat your home and nothing more. They are fashioned to slide directly into an existing fireplace or to be built into the wall. If space is an issue in your home, inset stoves are a perfect way to keep a room open and heated at the same time. Some people believe that an inset stove reduces the amount of heat output by being built into a confined space, but the kW output on these stoves can be as high or low as any other stove on the market, leaving the heat options in your hands.

5. Pellet Stove

Pellet stoves have been gaining popularity since they were first introduced in a miniaturized size in the 1980s. The stove burns mainly compressed wood pellets from sawdust and leftover wood scraps. They also can be fueled with mixtures of corn, wheat, sunflower seeds and cherry pits. The pellet stove self regulates with a thermostat, dumping pellets as is necessary through the control of a thermostat, bringing regular control and maintenance of the fire to a bare minimum.

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A uniquely designed forced exhaust pipe is required to keep exhaust gases from escaping into the home, but also means that the flue is no longer mandated to go straight up and out of the house. While the pellet stove is one of the most eco-friendly wood stoves available, they do require an electrical and water source to run. In most of the United States, pellet stoves, which can run as high as 90 percent efficiency, are eligible for a tax credit when running at only 75 percent.

6. Soapstone

Although one of the most expensive wood stoves on the market, soapstone stoves are certainly worth the price if you value your firewood stash and the ability of a stove to stay warm for long periods of time. Fashioned from metamorphic rock, the key features of the soapstone stove are the way in which they regulate temperature. If you have ever burned yourself on a cast iron stove you will appreciate the soapstone’s ability to stay cooler on the outside while simultaneously trapping and maintaining heat for nearly twice as long as traditional wood stoves. Not only are they more efficient, but they have attractive stone veins on the polished outer surface and are often hand-crafted, making them a great discussion piece as well.

Since heating needs and various factors make it difficult to name one specific type of wood stove as the best, it is up to the purchaser to decide what will work most efficiently for the price range, available space, and primary uses of the stove. As a guide, try to find a kilowatt calculator online to measure the size of your room or home compared to the BTU output of the stove so you know how large or small the stove should be. Before you purchase a stove, be sure to check that the features will serve your needs throughout the winter. Does it match up to EPA standards of pollutant emission and efficiency?  Will it burn safely and deeply enough overnight to keep the fire going for ease of use in the mornings? Are the door gaskets air tight with manually controlled air flow? All of these factors are up to you when purchasing your stove, so do your research.

Which is your favorite wood-burning stove? Share your tips in the section below:

Lkjadska wood stove, so make sure to do an appropriate amount of research before you buy.

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