Woodstove for Off Grid - first timer

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OffGridGoals

New Member
Nov 26, 2021
4
Central NY
Hi all, I’m looking to get my first wood burning stove. I’m working toward self sufficiency so this isn’t a decision I’m taking lightly… I’ve spent some time lurking on the forum here and the more I read the more questions I seem to have. If any experienced operators want to chime in I’d be appreciative. I wish I had a friend or relative I could ask on these topics.

Also, so you may understand my perspective, self sufficiency is very important to me and the driving factor behind considerations I’m making. So durability/quality/long use without repair is top priority. Easy to operate and long burn times would be nice. For reference, the home is about 2000 sq ft and temps average in the 20’s-30’s for months, occasional dips +/- 0 degrees.

1. Cat vs non cat… from what I see the cat is to make big daddy gov happy, and can help with longer burn times. However having to replace cats is one more piece to maintain and continue purchasing. Being that I want to be off the grid, the idea that I need to continually buy replacement parts for my stove is a vulnerability, particularly with these “shortages” becoming a thing. I don’t want to be out of heat because I can’t get a cat. Any argument for or against cats is welcomed.

2. Steel vs cast iron vs soapstone… I like the idea of soapstone and cast iron but I can’t seem to find them without cats. My perception is that steel is the least desirable material, am I way off base? I based that on that it doesn’t retain heat, and that it can rust quickly.

Also, I like the idea of not having to use firebricks (one more thing to have to replace)… which correct me if I’m wrong, firebricks seem to be more common in steel stoves to help retain heat, whereas I seem to find more cast and soap stones without firebricks inside?

3. Brand. My local options are cast and soapstone Hearthstones (cats), Jotel (cats), and Enerzone Harmony 2.3 (non cat). I also have a Lopi dealer nearby, all with cats I believe. I was leaning toward Hearthstone but since they all have cats I’m hesitant. Would love input/personal experience with these brands.

I feel fortunate that a local dealer stocked up on stoves when they saw shortages coming, so I do have some options but I want to lock in soon. To be honest, I didn’t ask enough of these questions or look at the stoves in depth, despite a long drive to the store, because the sales guy wouldn’t stay on track and was staring into my eyes and getting weird and sensitive and asking personal questions. Totally unexpected but it threw me off to the point that I just left. I’m hoping that when I go back I have most of my questions answered so I can complete the transaction without too much of that.

Thanks all.
 

bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
27,041
central pa
Hi all, I’m looking to get my first wood burning stove. I’m working toward self sufficiency so this isn’t a decision I’m taking lightly… I’ve spent some time lurking on the forum here and the more I read the more questions I seem to have. If any experienced operators want to chime in I’d be appreciative. I wish I had a friend or relative I could ask on these topics.

Also, so you may understand my perspective, self sufficiency is very important to me and the driving factor behind considerations I’m making. So durability/quality/long use without repair is top priority. Easy to operate and long burn times would be nice. For reference, the home is about 2000 sq ft and temps average in the 20’s-30’s for months, occasional dips +/- 0 degrees.

1. Cat vs non cat… from what I see the cat is to make big daddy gov happy, and can help with longer burn times. However having to replace cats is one more piece to maintain and continue purchasing. Being that I want to be off the grid, the idea that I need to continually buy replacement parts for my stove is a vulnerability, particularly with these “shortages” becoming a thing. I don’t want to be out of heat because I can’t get a cat. Any argument for or against cats is welcomed.

2. Steel vs cast iron vs soapstone… I like the idea of soapstone and cast iron but I can’t seem to find them without cats. My perception is that steel is the least desirable material, am I way off base? I based that on that it doesn’t retain heat, and that it can rust quickly.

Also, I like the idea of not having to use firebricks (one more thing to have to replace)… which correct me if I’m wrong, firebricks seem to be more common in steel stoves to help retain heat, whereas I seem to find more cast and soap stones without firebricks inside?

3. Brand. My local options are cast and soapstone Hearthstones (cats), Jotel (cats), and Enerzone Harmony 2.3 (non cat). I also have a Lopi dealer nearby, all with cats I believe. I was leaning toward Hearthstone but since they all have cats I’m hesitant. Would love input/personal experience with these brands.

I feel fortunate that a local dealer stocked up on stoves when they saw shortages coming, so I do have some options but I want to lock in soon. To be honest, I didn’t ask enough of these questions or look at the stoves in depth, despite a long drive to the store, because the sales guy wouldn’t stay on track and was staring into my eyes and getting weird and sensitive and asking personal questions. Totally unexpected but it threw me off to the point that I just left. I’m hoping that when I go back I have most of my questions answered so I can complete the transaction without too much of that.

Thanks all.
If you want a simple reliable and durable stove go with a plate steel noncat stove. Cats will give you longer burn times for sure but they require replacement. Cast and soapstone don't really have any advantage other than aesthetics.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
91,415
South Puget Sound, WA
Sounds like a simple steel stove will suffice. The Enerzone 2.3 (or Drolet Escape1800 or Osburn 2000 - all the same stove with different trimmings). There are also cast iron jacketed steel stoves that provide a soapstone like heat, but without the maintenance or vulnerability. The Jotul F55 has this characteristic.
Some other factors that might be worth considering are baffle durability and a square firebox that will load 18" wood N/S.
 

marty319

Feeling the Heat
Nov 17, 2014
432
Belair mb
Those enerzone stoves are a real nice looking stove.my dealer sells them and I probably would have bought one but the door opens on the wrong side for me
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
91,415
South Puget Sound, WA
Tell us more about the home? Is it an open floorplan or are many rooms closed off or down a hallway? One story or two. If the home is 2 story, open 1st floor plan and there is a good ability for heat to convect naturally, then I'd be looking at ~3 cu ft stoves like the Enerzone 3.3 or the 3.5, especially if this is the sole source of heat. In that category, the new Lopi Liberty is also worth a look as well as the Jotul F55.

That said, there are good stoves that will cost less like the Drolet HT3000 (brother of the 3.5) and the Englander 32-NC. Is there a Pacific Energy or Regency dealer in the area? They also make good stoves in this size.
 
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Highbeam

Minister of Fire
Dec 28, 2006
19,538
Mt. Rainier Foothills, WA
If you want a simple reliable and durable stove go with a plate steel noncat stove. Cats will give you longer burn times for sure but they require replacement. Cast and soapstone don't really have any advantage other than aesthetics.
Agreed.

I think you need a much larger stove than you’re talking about. 2000 SF in 0 degrees puts you well into the 3 cf stove territory. You can always burn a large stove less hot. A bigger stove is just more versatile, you can load weird shaped wood, more cooking surface, longer burn times.

The cat isn’t just to make government happy. It allows high efficiency and very low burn rates while also emitting clean exhaust. You can get low emissions without one but you need to burn hotter which means shorter burn times. It is a weakness to have to replace the catalyst though.
 

ABMax24

Minister of Fire
Sep 18, 2019
1,327
Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
The SBI brands will fit the bill (drolet, osburn, enerzone). Firebrick won't be much of an issue, I'm on my 3rd season and my brick still looks new. The most commonly replaced parts will be the door gasket and baffle, maybe every 3 years for a door gasket and 5 for a baffle, of course this can vary greatly depending on how the stove is cared for.

As Begreen said I'd check to see if there is a Pacific Energy dealer near you, those stainless baffles are significantly more durable than the baffles on tube stoves. A Summit is probably the size you'd be looking at, although a Super might get the job done if your place is well insulated.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,823
Northern NH
You need to maintain a steel stove, it is not going to rust if you keep it out of the weather and avoid getting it wet. Maybe put some high temp stove paint on it to keep it good looking externally. Keep an eye on the fire bricks they eventually wear out. Its not that hard to replace them. Keep the temps within range, if you overfire it will "burn" the steel and eventually distort or crack.

There is no substitute for dry seasoned wood. If you want to play the self-sufficiency game, learn to do it right. That is wood cut and split and stored under cover for two years.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
1,740
SE North Carolina
Two thoughts. Off grid. I could make a strong argument for a Blaze king (they have catalytic converters) for the reason that during the fall and spring it is by far the best stove at low low heat output. Yea it has a cat. Buy an extra one and a gasket if you are worried about parts. But if you have solar with a mini split it would be a great way to heat during those months. I was running my heat pump today and thinking you know it would be great if I could get a 1 ton mini split that ran on solar when the sun was out and could set it to grid power for times when it wasn’t. A cat every 3-5 years would be worth a constant temp inside when the weather was just cool.

Firebrick is a consumable and would not influence my choices one bit.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
91,415
South Puget Sound, WA
FWIW, our stove's original firebrick is on year 12 of service. Treat it well and it will last. Avoid cramming it wood and slamming it against the brick and it will last a long time.
 

Bad LP

Minister of Fire
Nov 28, 2014
1,846
Northern Maine
FWIW, our stove's original firebrick is on year 12 of service. Treat it well and it will last. Avoid cramming it wood and slamming it against the brick and it will last a long time.
You can’t beat on anything and expect it to last. Brick wouldn’t scare me but agree on a non cat.
 
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Dave_in_ABQ

Member
Oct 27, 2021
81
New Mexico
I hear you on wanting the simplicity and reliability of a non-cat stove OffGridGoals. Most companies have put cats in their stoves to meet EPA requirements. Cleaner, more efficient stoves aren't a bad thing. Pacific Energy, Jotul, various SBI (Enerzone and its twins) and a couple others have non-cat models. Only soapstone stoves I've found and looked at are Woodstock and Hearthstone - both with cats. My read is that soapstone does buffer more heat, warming slowly and giving off the heat over a longer time. Soapstone does have 2x the heat capacity of steel. That said, soapstone is not the majority of the weight of the stove. Also, a heavy enough steel or cast iron stove will do a fine job of burning overnight and still be warm after coffee the next morning. Stove weight corresponds most strongly to heat holding capacity. Most of the reputation for steel being inferior and cooling down fast comes from cheap, thin, light steel stoves that some mfgs have put on the market. Steel is not inherently bad. Welded steel fireboxes are very durable. The cast iron jacketed, steel stoves others mentioned above are a great design. The air gaps induce natural convection and the rough cast iron radiates well. They also hold heat very well.

Firebricks are a plus. They insulate the firebox to keep the fire hot, they keep the fire from burning through the metal, and they're cheap to replace if they ever need it.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
3,003
Long Island NY
How often do the panels on cast iron stoves need to be resealed (gasket, cement)?
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
91,415
South Puget Sound, WA
How often do the panels on cast iron stoves need to be resealed (gasket, cement)?
On cast iron jacketed stoves, never. They float on standoffs away from the welded steel firebox.
 
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stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
3,003
Long Island NY
Jacketed: I know. I meant to ask about pure cast iron construction. Thanks both for clear answers.
 
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all night moe

Member
Nov 19, 2015
94
earth
https://glensfalls.craigslist.org/for/d/fort-ann-all-nighter-woodstove/7407790869.html

I can't say enough for this stove. A ''copy" of a Fisher, box type stove. My All Nighter is a Mid Moe.
24'' deep and 18x18'' in the front. I believe to be rated for 2800sq ft.
I'm in a large drafty house currently using this as soul source. Was in the high teens last night with wind chill.
She held her own heating a good portion of this 4500sqft using fans for circulation. I did stay up late, and fed it 3 splits on the hour building a big coal bed. Went to bed at 3, up at 6:30. Still 66-68*ish through the house.
Wood was oak, and locust for overnight. I'm burning smaller splits of the same now with bigger splits of hard maple. Some of my wood could use more seasoning, but it is dry. I also place stuff standing on ends aroud the stove for additional drying. That works well for preparing overnight splits of bigger size and better BTU output.

A bit of a ride for you but, for the price asked, it may be very well worth it.
 
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SteveKG

Minister of Fire
Jun 23, 2009
723
Colorado Rockies
Our off-grid home has three wood stoves: one is a Woodstock catalytic, one is a cast-iron Aga cookstove, one is an early-90s Rais Wittus plate steel, probably quarter-inch steel. Double-jacketed, which cuts clearance to combustibles way down. Firebricks in both the steel and cast-iron stoves.

Firebricks are, to me, a non-issue. I have had several crack, have had to replace none so far. The cat in the Woodstock needed replacement five years into it. It was maybe $130, something like that. Pretty much, at that price, a non-issue.

I have had [knock on wood] no repairs in the fifty years I've been using stoves. Pretty much a non-issue. I have adjusted a door once or twice, and I've replaced a few door gaskets over the years, but they are consumables.

The Rais Wittus plate steel stove heats up quickly, does a great job heating the area it is in. The stove cools down once the fire burns out, cools down faster than my other stoves. The cast-iron stove heats up more slowly but retains and gives off heat many hours after the fire is long gone. The cat stove also heats more slowly [soapstone] but also puts out heats a long time [not as long as the cast iron] and also uses half the wood each of the others uses. Great benefit when it comes time to head out with the saws to fell, section, haul home, split and stack the wood. It is our main heat stove, so our wood savings is quite substantial. That savings, to me, more than makes up for the replacement cost of the cat. Plus, the cat cuts way down on pollution.
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,823
Northern NH
IMO Unless folks are overfiring or burning trash, the most damage occurs to stoves when they are moved around or stored in a lousy location. I have seen a lot of stoves get ruined by just sitting in a damp garage. Once they start rusting they really get ugly quick. Firebricks can also crumble if its damp.
 

weatherguy

Minister of Fire
Feb 20, 2009
5,882
Central Mass
https://glensfalls.craigslist.org/for/d/fort-ann-all-nighter-woodstove/7407790869.html

I can't say enough for this stove. A ''copy" of a Fisher, box type stove. My All Nighter is a Mid Moe.
24'' deep and 18x18'' in the front. I believe to be rated for 2800sq ft.
I'm in a large drafty house currently using this as soul source. Was in the high teens last night with wind chill.
She held her own heating a good portion of this 4500sqft using fans for circulation. I did stay up late, and fed it 3 splits on the hour building a big coal bed. Went to bed at 3, up at 6:30. Still 66-68*ish through the house.
Wood was oak, and locust for overnight. I'm burning smaller splits of the same now with bigger splits of hard maple. Some of my wood could use more seasoning, but it is dry. I also place stuff standing on ends aroud the stove for additional drying. That works well for preparing overnight splits of bigger size and better BTU output.

A bit of a ride for you but, for the price asked, it may be very well worth it.
He can burn half the wood in a newer EPA stove with dry seasoned wood. My friend had that stove and served him well for many years but used to go through 6-7 cords a year. My house is bigger and only use 4 cords. A newer EPA stove is the way to go.
 

OffGridGoals

New Member
Nov 26, 2021
4
Central NY
Wow I’m blown away by how helpful everyone is. Based on what I’m learning through comments here and another trip to the dealer today, Here’s the latest…

Firebricks - I plan to treat them well so I’ll get some extra and consider them a non issue in decision making.

Cat - still heavily leaning toward non cat

Models (the exciting part, lol) - so… a couple of you mentioned PE, and I when spoke with the dealer last night he said he had a T6. Which led to me staying up all night reading about it on forums, deciding without a doubt that I was going in to purchase the T6 today. It’s gorgeous and functional, and the cooktop is an off grossers dream. But I couldn’t close the door. Seriously, every other stove door I have no issue with, but this one I could not push hard enough, even with full body weight into it. Disclaimer here is that I have injured hands, but again, I didn’t have this issue with other stoves. The dealer insisted there is no defect and that a non floor model would be the same. So my T6 dreams were dashed. Has anyone else experienced that? Although the salesman could do it, I could see he struggled too.

With T6 presumably out of the running </3, this leaves me with 3 options.

He has one Jotul F 55 V2, which he very kindly put on hold for me for 24 hours to research some more. I feel that this is next best to the T6, probably because of the cast jacket and that I’ve seen people speak so highly of Jotul and I keep seeing the F55 come up. Door opens fine for me, the stove is jacketed in cast which ups the aesthetics.
Questions, if anyone knows:
- how large of splits can go n/s? Is the firebox over 3.0?
- I saw on another thread someone was concerned about it being rear vent - is there a disadvantage to that? I believe they mentioned difficulty during chimney sweep.
- Any other pluses or minuses to this one? It seems like a safe bet.

He has the PE Summit.
Admittedly it was cold where this stove was so I regrettably didn’t stay long. I understand it has the same size firebox as the T6.

And finally, he has 2 enerzone 3.3’s.

I’m not opposed to the PE Summit or Enerzone, but from what I read I should expect a harsher heat from steel box, so in my mind I rank these below the Jotul F55. However I’m an extreme novice and am receptive to all points for or against

Another point of consideration that I’ve seen is steel thickness, which I’m having trouble finding clear info on. If one of the F55, Summit, or Enerzone had substantially stronger steel that could be a factor to consider.

Thanks all for the replies, I’m so appreciative to have a community to talk this out with :)
 

OffGridGoals

New Member
Nov 26, 2021
4
Central NY
Oh I should have added, from what I could tell all 3 models have the steel baffle board as opposed to tubes, and so far my interpretation is that the steel boards are more durable or superior to tubes? Are all steel baffles created equal?

I also forgot to answer what my house is like in my first reply! My situation is unique in that I don’t know that I’ll live here beyond this winter. No matter what, my plan is to take my stove with me. My mindset is I’d rather have slightly more stove than needed than not enough, because I don’t know where I’m moving.

However, the current setup is a little strange. Its a modular home with 2 additions, so it is L shaped and 2400 square foot. The stove will be in one of the additions, which used to be a pole barn. It is 24 x 30 with 11 foot cathedral ceilings. The downside is this is one one end of the L, meaning much of the house will be abandoned. Wherever I move to will be set up with this is the primary heat source. For this house, the stove will be supplemental, unless shtf before I can move :D
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
91,415
South Puget Sound, WA
The T6 is and great stove. It produces a very even heat and is super low maintenance. I've spent less than $50 in 12 yrs of service. The door latch is very simple. With a new gasket it will be firm, but that loosens after a couple weeks of use. You can make it less tight by opening up the V notch very slightly, but will need to remember snug it back up, slightly, in a month or two. When the latch is right it should not take more effort than swinging out one of the trivet tops. The store should make that adjustment for you.

Not to get personal, but is the hand problem temporary? I ask because a lot of wood heating involved hand work, from splitting wood, to stacking to stove stoking to stove flue cleaning.
 
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OffGridGoals

New Member
Nov 26, 2021
4
Central NY
The T6 is and great stove. It produces a very even heat and is super low maintenance. I've spent less than $50 in 12 yrs of service. The door latch is very simple. With a new gasket it will be firm, but that loosens after a couple weeks of use. You can make it less tight by opening up the V notch very slightly, but will need to remember snug it back up, slightly, in a month or two. When the latch is right it should not take more effort than swinging out one of the trivet tops.

Not to get personal, but is the hand problem temporary? I ask because a lot of wood heating involved hand work, from splitting wood, to stacking to stove stoking to stove flue cleaning.
That is reassuring to hear that the T6 door shouldn’t be a battle. I swung the trivet tops out with no issue, but the door I tried at least 20 times, giving it every ounce of strength in me. The salesman had white knuckles and his hand shook a little when he did it, but he said it’s fine and there is nothing to improve. I’m not sure what the v notch is? I wish there could have been more productive discussion today when I asked why it was so challenging, because if there was a way to make it work I’d get the T6.

I have torn ligaments in both hands, unfortunately no it isn’t temporary. I feel like this is strange to say out loud so please don’t judge me but I am a female, so my hope is that I find a likeminded partner who is already interested in this lifestyle and wouldn’t mind being the wood splitter :) Of course I wish my hands were more capable, it’s incredibly frustrating they can’t do more. For now I’ll be ordering cords of seasoned wood and only using the stove by myself on occasion or during power outages etc.