You ever notice that if you lite a candle in a cold room that candle isn’t enough to heat up the entire room? I know that sounds kinda obvious, but it is something to remember when buying a wood stove. A single small wood stove with only a 40,000 BTU EPA rating is not going to be enough to heat your entire house in Whitehorse, Yukon. However, it might be enough to heat up your bedroom. (*BTU = British Thermal Units, EPA = Environmental Protection Agency)

If the cost of an outdoor based wood furnace is higher then two wood stoves inside the house that can produce the same amount of heat, and the energy required to fuel it is also less, then your better off getting two wood stoves then some fancy new outdoor wood pellet thing advertised in the back a magazine. By the same token, if the figures are reversed, it might be worth while to look into it more.

The question is how can you tell what you should do?

Believe it or not, this gets really complex when you take into account what you are really dealing with. There are different types of wood stoves, fire places, and wood fired furnaces out there. In addition, they are made with different materials which effect not only their efficiency, but how they are used as well. For example, having a fireplace in a home located in the desert is a good idea. Not only does it provide heat during the cold nights, but can actually help reduce the temperature of the house during the day depending on the type of fire place that is installed.

A antique wood stove which has little in the way of fire brick included in it’s make up, but is made of cast iron instead of steal, has a thermal conductivity rate of approximately 28 Btu/hr^{sq/ft/F/ft} (28 BTU per hour per square foot of Fahrenheit for each foot of distance). Now for an example of this wood stove, let’s load this wood stove with Sugar Maple heartwood (heartwood means the denser inner core of the trunk), which has a moisture content of about 65%, has a MMBtu of about 29.7 per cord. That’s a stack of wood, four feet high, four feet wide and eight feet long. Now you’d have to figure out the fire box size, the physical area you are heating, and perhaps the air flow around the thing in the first place. Fortunately someone has already done all the math for us, maybe you’d also like to make your own.

Even if you manage to figure out the perfect wood stove for your home there are thing you should be aware of before you start. Sometimes there are differences between what the local by-laws/regulations/clearances are and what your insurance requires for your home. Even the manufactures might be short on the size and types of vents that are recommended for regular use, so be sure to contact not only your local authorities and ire departments, but also your insurance broker.

Generally speaking the larger the fire box, the longer the fire itself will last, and there will be more types of wood to burn. Air tights are more efficient, and safer. Installation can be done by you if your handy, but has to be inspected and approved. You will need a ‘slab’ to put it on since heat will be generated even on it bottom. As with any fuel burning stove, you should have a carbon monoxide detector in the room.

Most Preppers have a list of lists, thing they feel they need to gather for just encase SHTF scenarios, if you have a wood stove or fire place, you should add a chimney cleaning kit to this list. You will need to know the diameter of the flu in order to purchase the correct sized wire brush, a flexible handle should also be included in the kit. A flashlight, bed sheets, and duct-tape should also be available if you can to greatly help reduce the clean-up after the clean-up… (Think Mary Poppins folks). A basic screw driver with matching heads for removing any inside pipes so that they can be cleaned outside would also be a plus. One side note… sometimes fire department will offer inspections for free, take advantage of this service.

In between major cleaning you might want to reduce the creosote in the flu, you can toss in a few tablespoons of ‘rock salt’ on to a hot fire. It is the same stuff used in those fire logs to remove the creosote.

Always use dry wood, and never light a fire with flammable liquids. Never burn plastics in your wood stove, first off it’s just dangerous, second it’s illegal. Colored paper, treated wood, painted wood, and even Oleander tree wood or any other poisonous plants. Old industrial palettes are also a bad idea, since they can be a lot older then you think, and been used by any number of chemical companies.

Finally hard woods are the best to burn, they last longer and are cleaner burning with larger BTU ratios.

– Wolfe