Nowadays the homeowner wanting the warmth and cost savings of heating with wood has nearly endless options. There are fireplace inserts, wood furnaces, and wood stoves made of sheet steel, cast iron, glass or soapstone. You can get ventless, through-the-wall vented or more traditional flue vented units. Fuel can be seasoned hardwood you cut or buy, bags of processed hardwood pellets, or coal. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, as we’ll explore in the next few paragraphs.
Inexpensive Heat Stoves
Heat stoves range from a couple hundred dollars for a simple barrel kit or box wood-fired cast iron stove up to a few thousand dollars for a soapstone or exquisitely ornate cast centerpiece for any room. Lehman’s has them all, so to simplify the options we’ll discuss them in three categories.
For anyone looking to simply heat a space on a budget, whether it be a hunting or fishing cabin or a primary home, the basic choice is a barrel kit and a 55 gallon drum. For under $100, you can build a stove with a 7-cubic-foot firebox that accepts wood up to three feet long and 14 inches across. Buy the stove kit including a cast door, legs and pipe collar and find a clean barrel with two attached ends and in a couple hours you can be churning out the heat.
Spend a couple hundred dollars and you can have either a portable sheet steel camp stove or a cast iron box-style wood stove both which can do double duty as a cook stove as well. The camp stove is a foldable framework of steel panels that assemble with ease and create a 2-cubic-foot firebox that accepts up to 22-inch logs or coal. For all their simplicity in design and appearance, these stoves also feature a water reservoir with tap and sideboard to hold pots and pans away from the direct heat.
In the same price range, box-style wood stoves from manufacturers such as Vogelzang and others are a great way to heat a cabin, workshop or small home. These stoves are made solid and designed to be very functional. However, they can lack a little in being airtight, and may not always meet the criteria of homeowner insurance providers. That said, I’ve owned three of the little stoves over the years and used two of them to heat a garage at different times. They are downright cute, for anyone who enjoys looking at woodstoves like me, and have two removable burner plates. Nothing felt better than spending a relaxing winter day puttering in the warm garage while a pot of ham and beans simmered in a small Dutch oven atop the little box stove. I fed my garage stove with scraps from woodworking projects and firewood too small to bother with in our whole house wood furnace. It’s a good investment for outbuildings used frequently in cold weather.
Stepping up to a quality home wood stove, there are several models and sizes to choose from. On the low end, although in this case “low end” still means a quality stove suitable for any home, you’ll likely be looking at a freestanding cast or sheet iron unit. These stoves often have glass doors, many times with brass accents as an option, and usually start around $1,500 and go up. On the upper end you can find decorative enameled cast panels.Even the smallest of these stoves can heat 1,500 square feet or more. They are better built with quality materials and great fitment, resulting in noticeably more efficiency than cheaper stoves of the same size.
Another option in this price range is a free-standing coal burning stove. Hitzer is the Swiss word for heater, and Hitzer stoves, handbuilt by Amish craftsmen, are at the top of the modern-day coal heating trend. These stoves, which come in small and large sizes, can heat up to 50 hours on a 50 pound bag of coal. Whether wood or coal, the purchase of a stove in this range is a serious investment in the operation of your home for potentially decades to come. These are the workhorses of wood heating that makes heating this way efficient.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the barrel and camp stoves, consider heating in style with a soapstone or classic casting stove. Here you’ll start at $2,500 and go up for a stove which will be both efficient and stylish for generations to come. Companies like Hearthstone offer a variety of sizes and colors of soapstone stoves. Vermont Castings offers function and style in cast panel stoves which can often do more than just heat a room. Many of these stoves have a built in cooking griddle which can be used for cooking or simply heating foods.
As for the soapstone stoves, the natural material is ideal for absorbing and then radiating heat long after the fire begins to die down. If you’ve never considered a soapstone stove, do yourself a favor and look at a few before buying your next wood heater. The cast frames of the stoves are enameled or otherwise colored to compliment the natural hue of the stone inserts. Like the black cast and sheet iron stoves, many soapstone stoves come with large glass doors for better views of the fire inside
If you’re set on an all metal stove, consider stepping up to a classic design from Vermont Castings. You’ll find decorative glass doors and detailed cast flat panels and trim. Most all-cast stoves have an enameled finish adding another layer of style. At this level you can have a stove which heats a large space in style, has up to four large removable burner plates on top and an oven compartment on bottom to bake breads or cakes, or even a roast.
Whatever your style or budget, there’s a wood stove out there to keep you warm this winter. The best way to find one is to determine your heating needs (square footage of the space to be heated), decide what you need (heat, cooktop, accessory oven, appearance), decide your preferred fuel (pellets, split wood, or coal or multi-fuel), and know your budget. Now give the fine folks at Lehman’s a call at 1-888-438-5346, and get your perfect stove on a truck and headed your way before the first snowstorm blows in.