Beginner Woodstove Suggestions

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Harpspiel

New Member
Aug 4, 2022
19
NM
Hi! First post, it'll be a long one.

My current plan: to buy a small, simple, cheap-ish woodstove that will fit on the existing 48" corner hearth pad in my new house, and use it for the next winter or two while we determine exactly how much heat we need. Possibly upgrade to a Woodstock Survival Hybrid or a Woodstock Absolute Steel and sell the original stove.

The long version: so I grew up with a Jotul, but I have never heated a house I owned with a woodstove. We just bought a more rural place where the options are to install a woodstove on an existing corner hearth pad, or use the old propane heater, and the cost of buying wood is at least 3x less than propane per BTU. There's also lots of dead wood on the property, most of it soft but at least some of it is Pinon. We have the tools and knowledge to chop our own wood but may be running a little late to season it properly this year.

The house was built in the 80s, '86 I think. The corner hearth pad that came with the house is in the living room, toward the north end of the house, 48" long sides, about 3" thick field stone on the walls and looks like slate for the pad. I have no reason to believe there's ventilation behind the stone and I'm not sure how I would find out, so I'm treating it like bare walls as far as clearances. There's a 6" (need to measure to confirm) chimney hole in the roof with a metal chimney rising through the roof. The house is 1400 sq ft, and I have realized that any stove rated to heat the full square footage is going to require a larger hearth pad. I will also be building a south-facing passive solar greenhouse with a ventilation system that should add heat to the south end of the house, and should be completed this winter. House is in heating zone 4. So my current plan is to buy a small stove, rated to around 30,000 BTUs, while we figure out exactly how much heat we need and before pouring money into modifying the pad and potentially modifying the stone wall covering (which would be aesthetically weird after we expand the pad). The rest of the heat will be provided by the greenhouse and, when necessary, the propane heater.

Ideally after heating for a winter with a simple stove, we'll have a better idea of what we want including soapstone, catalytic combustion, BTU output, etc. I'm also afraid that if I get a stove that's too big, I'll have to run it really hot to burn clean, and I'll end up with open windows in January.

There's an Atlanta Stoveworks Woodsman available locally for $400, and I found a pdf of the manual on here, but no BTU rating. Would that be a good option? I'm open to other suggestions as well.
 
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t0asty

New Member
Oct 12, 2021
64
NJ
I am not going to suggest a stove because there are others here that work in the industry that have more knowledge than myself. However, from an economical perspective, why not just get the one you want now? Or wait until you can instead of buying/installing one knowing your just going to do it again in a season or two. You can also accumulate and season wood through sweat equity at no additional cost as you prepare for next season. One thing you may or may not be aware of is if the stove meets criteria (most new stoves) there is currently a 26% federal credit through 2022 that covers installation costs too. I believe it decreases in 2023 and as of now nothing for 2024. Just food for thought.
Lastly, some stoves/suppliers it may take longer to get the stove from manufacturer, likely experiencing more delays the closer we get to the winter.
 

Harpspiel

New Member
Aug 4, 2022
19
NM
By my estimate I'll be spending at least an extra $300 in heating costs this winter, heating just with propane (more like $450 if we can process enough wood by winter that we don't have to buy it). But I was put off a bit by a local resident warning against heating with propane, saying she was filling her tank to the tune of $500 every other month during the winter months. We tend to keep a warm house, mid-70s, and my partner has fibromyalgia which is reactive to temperature, so saving money by lowering the temperature won't be an option.

On the other hand, I don't want to drop $2-4k on the fancy wood stove I've been eyeing, only to discover it's too small or too big and difficult to resell due to weight, complicated components like a catalytic combustor, etc. But if I can get a $400-500 used woodstove, save $300 this heating season and then resell it, while figuring out what features I find important in a woodstove, that seems like a good deal. The tax rebate only drops from 26% to 22% in 2023, so 2023 is still a good year to buy a new EPA-certified stove.

I could also wait and just buy a stove next year, when I have a better idea of how much energy we need. The difficulty of installing/uninstalling is a consideration, and we will be doing that ourselves (although the smaller stoves weighing in at 250 lbs seem a lot more doable than the Woodstock Absolute Steel at 500 lbs). We're already renovating the house and I'm confident we have the necessary skills to install the pipe and determine appropriate clearances.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,312
South Puget Sound, WA
Note that the tax credit is not on all EPA stoves, only those with an HHV ≥ 75%. There are some Drolets that qualify and are affordably under $2000. They would likely consume about 1/2 the wood that the old Atlanta would and they provide a nice fire view. Note that steel price and shipping inflation needs to be factored in. Many stoves went up 25% this year. If that happens again next year then waiting could get costly.

Is there a safe and proper 6" chimney system already in the house? If not, that cost needs to be factored in. Depending on the setup, this can cost as much or more than the stove.

What altitude is the house at and how tall will the chimney system be for this stove? That also will affect choice.
 
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Harpspiel

New Member
Aug 4, 2022
19
NM
House is at 6900' - I'm interested, how does elevation affect wood stoves? We're moving from 5300' so we're used to high elevation but I know my plant choices change approaching 7k. There is a box with a hole that's at least 6" (I'll measure today) and a chimney going through the metal roof, here are the pics I have but I can take closer pics if that would help. I'm not sure what you mean by "chimney system" but if you mean the pipe inside the house, the ceiling is a little over 8' (it's slanted, but the box inside the house should be about 8'). I have a local chimney company that said to send them pics and they can come out and inspect if necessary, so I'll know more about the condition soon.

296754862_447048853967616_4703491055930131736_n.jpg

296004340_716935562703187_366614561926811156_n.jpg

The mesh is just taped on, the vacant house had a serious rodent problem and I wanted to see if they were getting in through the roof. I know, a little ridiculous, but the rodents out here mean business. Good news - they're not!

Would the Drolet be resellable if I end up with my heart set on one of those beautiful Woodstock stoves? Maybe impossible to say, I know.
 

Harpspiel

New Member
Aug 4, 2022
19
NM
And a few of the existing hearth pad for good measure - tape on the floor indicates dimensions and clearances needed for the Woodstock Absolute Steel, that's when I started rethinking my original plan.
297474218_757386968806237_1415939834406972878_n.jpg

296598850_466883268615363_8039739207309071124_n.jpg
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,312
South Puget Sound, WA
The thinner air at higher altitudes affects draft. This means a taller chimney is needed for many EPA stoves to burn properly. But some like the Woodstock Fireview and Drolet stoves, will work with a shorter chimney system. This is an altitude compensation chart for a Regency stove. The Drolets have a similar range. The Woodstock Absolute Steel has a minimum height recommendation of 15' at sea level.

Altitude flue height Regency .png

Resale value is something that depends on the local market and condition of the stove.
 
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Harpspiel

New Member
Aug 4, 2022
19
NM
Thanks! Does the flue height include the pipe inside the house and the chimney rising above? If I get a small enough stove, I may not need any elbows, but I'll have to get on the roof to measure the chimney height above the roof.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,312
South Puget Sound, WA
You'll need to determine the inside diameter of the current chimney. If it is 6", then it will work for many stoves. If it is 8" that is an additional complication.

The minimum hearthpad dimension for the AS is 54"x54".
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,312
South Puget Sound, WA
Thanks! Does the flue height include the pipe inside the house and the chimney rising above? If I get a small enough stove, I may not need any elbows, but I'll have to get on the roof to measure the chimney height above the roof.
Yes, the connector pipe is included. Usually, it is measured from the stovetop to the top of the chimney pipe.
 
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stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
6,216
Long Island NY
Also note that there are quite a few folks buying a new (modern) stove that are then unhappy with how it operates. Later it is then determined that the wood moisture content is not sufficient - even if they bought "dry" wood.

While your climate may be way more amenable to quick seasoning of the wood, I think doing that in 3 months may be problematic.
Modern stoves need 25% or less to operate, but work best when the moisture content (on a freshly split surface, not on the outside of something that has been exposed for a while as it'll be already drier than the inside) is below 20%.
Dead standing wood may (depending on species and climate) be close, but it could very well be not.

This might be an argument for your plan of burning one winter with an older stove (and possibly crappier wood - again, I don't know your climate). I have to note though that this approach would be a poor choice when viewed from clean-environment perspectives. (And neighborly behavior, if relevant.)

Note also that you *may* be able to reduce clearances by adding a heat shield in front of the walls. I.e. a metal plate offset 1" from the walls, with a gap at the bottom (and top, if going all they way to the ceiling) for air to convect behind it. Please check in the manuals of the stoves you are considering.
 
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Harpspiel

New Member
Aug 4, 2022
19
NM
You'll need to determine the inside diameter of the current chimney. If it is 6", then it will work for many stoves. If it is 8" that is an additional complication.

The minimum hearthpad dimension for the AS is 54"x54".
Yeah the current hearthpad is 48", I started marking out the expansion we would need for the AS and without even knowing if we need that much heat, it seemed like the project was compounding unnecessarily. Looks like the Drolet Escape 1200 or Spark II should fit on the existing pad if I get a double wall pipe, and might be just what I'm looking for, but I suspect in a few years I'll get tired of the 5 hour burn time as opposed to the 10-12 hour burn time of the Woodstock stoves.
 

Harpspiel

New Member
Aug 4, 2022
19
NM
Also note that there are quite a few folks buying a new (modern) stove that are then unhappy with how it operates. Later it is then determined that the wood moisture content is not sufficient - even if they bought "dry" wood.

While your climate may be way more amenable to quick seasoning of the wood, I think doing that in 3 months may be problematic.
Modern stoves need 25% or less to operate, but work best when the moisture content (on a freshly split surface, not on the outside of something that has been exposed for a while as it'll be already drier than the inside) is below 20%.
Dead standing wood may (depending on species and climate) be close, but it could very well be not.

This might be an argument for your plan of burning one winter with an older stove (and possibly crappier wood - again, I don't know your climate). I have to note though that this approach would be a poor choice when viewed from clean-environment perspectives. (And neighborly behavior, if relevant.)

Note also that you *may* be able to reduce clearances by adding a heat shield in front of the walls. I.e. a metal plate offset 1" from the walls, with a gap at the bottom (and top, if going all they way to the ceiling) for air to convect behind it. Please check in the manuals of the stoves you are considering.
Climate is extremely dry - New Mexico. I read somewhere that dead standing wood around here may be dry enough in the top 2/3rds to burn straight away, but I bought a moisture meter and when we start cutting we'll test it. The main issue is that we're both working full time and renovating on weekends, so not a lot of time to chop wood this year. Next year will be less busy and we can start in spring, and I work a desk software job so the prospect of some necessary physical labor is pretty appealing. The property is 2 1/2 acres and there is a lot of dead wood - we're in the middle of a 20+ year drought - that is currently a fire hazard but might be good for heating. Apparently the neighbor's teenage son is enamored with being a lumberjack at the moment, and we may be able to get Pinon from them for a good price, but we'd have to test that for moisture content as well.

I looked into heat shields a little, but aesthetically (with this right in the living room) and maybe practically I'd want to first remove the stone from the walls, and again it's becoming a project. The current hearth pad and stone is pretty in a rustic way, so if I can keep it I'm happy to do so.
 
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Harpspiel

New Member
Aug 4, 2022
19
NM
Oh on the environmental/neighborly front, my neighbor mentioned that they don't burn wood because his wife has COPD and asthma, and I commented that I was looking into high efficiency stoves so it shouldn't bother them, but he said they've never been bothered by the smoke from previous residents in our house so not to worry about it. Houses are a few hundred feet apart and he's our only close neighbor. 🤷‍♀️
 
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Todd

Minister of Fire
Nov 19, 2005
9,791
NW Wisconsin
I believe the Woodstock stoves have a 6 month money back guarantee if your not satisfied but shipping it back could be a pain. Maybe give them a call and see what they recommend. They are some very kind helpful folks.
 
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Harpspiel

New Member
Aug 4, 2022
19
NM
I believe the Woodstock stoves have a 6 month money back guarantee if your not satisfied but shipping it back could be a pain. Maybe give them a call and see what they recommend. They are some very kind helpful folks.
The AS is $730 to ship to me, the Survival should be at least somewhat less, but I don't think shipping either back would be a good option.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,312
South Puget Sound, WA
Yeah the current hearthpad is 48", I started marking out the expansion we would need for the AS and without even knowing if we need that much heat, it seemed like the project was compounding unnecessarily. Looks like the Drolet Escape 1200 or Spark II should fit on the existing pad if I get a double wall pipe, and might be just what I'm looking for, but I suspect in a few years I'll get tired of the 5 hour burn time as opposed to the 10-12 hour burn time of the Woodstock stoves.
How large of an area will the stove be heating? Is this an open floorplan where the heat can easily convect around the space or one that is closed off by doors and hallways?
 

Harpspiel

New Member
Aug 4, 2022
19
NM
How large of an area will the stove be heating? Is this an open floorplan where the heat can easily convect around the space or one that is closed off by doors and hallways?
1400 sq ft, open living room, kitchen and dining with the master bedroom just off the living room next to the stove. The other end of the house has a hallway, 2nd bath and 2 more bedrooms, it will be harder to move the heat down there. That is the end we'll be building the south-facing solar greenhouse on, so I'm hoping that will provide significant heat to the 2 bedrooms, but I still need to do the solar gain calculations. The propane heater is hooked up to a vent system in the ceiling, so with proper fan placement we should be able to move some hot air around the house.
 

bikedennis

Member
Jun 21, 2021
121
Nor Cal
For me, the extended burn times alone with our BK has been a big relief. Especially with not having to reload during the night. Well worth the cost after one winter.
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
96,312
South Puget Sound, WA
I stopped reloading at night when the T6 replaced the F400, but that would be too much stove for this situation, especially if the open area that the stove will be heating is around 800 sq ft and there is significant daytime solar gain. The Woodstock Fireview has one of the lowest BTU outputs on low. That may be a good fit, but it is not cheap.

One downside of a long-burning stove is when the nighttime temps get cold, but the daytime temps get a lot higher. If the house has a lot of solar gain during the daytime that can mean opening up the windows to cool the place down when the stove is still putting out significant heat.
 
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Harpspiel

New Member
Aug 4, 2022
19
NM
I stopped reloading at night when the T6 replaced the F400, but that would be too much stove for this situation, especially if the open area that the stove will be heating is around 800 sq ft and there is significant daytime solar gain. The Woodstock Fireview has one of the lowest BTU outputs on low. That may be a good fit, but it is not cheap.

One downside of a long-burning stove is when the nighttime temps get cold, but the daytime temps get a lot higher. If the house has a lot of solar gain during the daytime that can mean opening up the windows to cool the place down when the stove is still putting out significant heat.
This is all great info, thanks everyone! My original price differential calculation for propane vs wood may have been way off, it's looking more like a $1k difference per heating season, so I will definitely be buying some sort of woodstove this year.

We do have a lot of solar gain during the day here even without the added benefit I'll be getting from the greenhouse. I was thinking that the catalytic combustion systems have to run quite hot so that could be an issue with the daytime solar gain, and that's also a good point about a long-burning stove. Average temps here in January are 40s during the day and 20s at night.
 
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rijim

Feeling the Heat
Jan 19, 2009
274
RI
I hate to say it, but maybe buy a heat pump first, get 3-4 cord of wood drying; next spring order a CAT stove like one of the Blaze King 20.2 (Ashford, Chinook or Sirocco) to get the long burn times on low fire and reasonable clearances. This gives you time to get the hearth and chimney ready.

 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
6,216
Long Island NY
It is precisely the other way around: tube stoves have to run hot to get secondary combustion. Catalytic stoves can smolder because the cat cleans up the air. In fact on the lowest setting of the Tstat, my BK makes most of its heat output in the cat and not the firebox, as far as I can feel.
 

Harpspiel

New Member
Aug 4, 2022
19
NM
It is precisely the other way around: tube stoves have to run hot to get secondary combustion. Catalytic stoves can smolder because the cat cleans up the air. In fact on the lowest setting of the Tstat, my BK makes most of its heat output in the cat and not the firebox, as far as I can feel.
That was not the info I was getting on the Woodstock stoves, but they don't seem to have the same range of BTU output as the BKs. So, if I got one of the smaller BKs, I gather I could run it at a low BTU output (about 12k for the Sirocco 30.2), but what determines the burn time then? How much wood I load in to get it started?

I'll have to do some calculations, but 12k might be a good heating amount for warm fall and spring days, and if I can keep it at a smolder like that for over 12 hours, that sounds ideal.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
6,216
Long Island NY
The chemistry is simply that secondary combustion needs about 1100 F to occur. So a tube stove needs.to have its gases at 1100 F.
In a cat, one needs about 500 F. That means that the firebox can be way cooler. The cat will still be hot, but that is a lot lower volume, and so the heat production is lower.

Anyway, the burn time is simply the number of BTUs you put in the stove divided by the burn rate in BTU per hour.

What that means is that you stuff the stove as full as you can (search for stove Tetris on this forum), and dial in the heat output you want. For the longest burn you dial it to its lowest setting.

Many three cu ft fireboxes can reach 12 hrs (cat or no cat). Because the amount of BTUs put in is the same, and the burn time is only limited by how low you can turn it down.

For my stove (30.2 model, skin = Chinook) my current record is about 36 hrs.

I have no knowledge of the Woodstock stoves, but if that is what they say, I quite strongly believe they are incorrect.
 
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