Would You Have a Woodstove?

christopherhJune 26, 2007

I have a 1250 sq ft ranch in Vermont. I have an EPA approved woodstove for heat with oil for backup only. I heated my home for under $600 last year and the stove is wonderful during power failures. (I purchased the firewood as opposed to cutting my own.)

Wood stoves can be installed so they heat the whole house. Mine is the smallest stove the company makes so it doesn't take up the entire living room.

Would you consider a wood stove to save money?

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Hi we are planning to install a Masonary Wood Heater. Not well known in this country but are used in countries like Russia, Germany, Finland and other European countries
heres some info.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 8:36AM
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I've been doing some research on wood heating, since we are going to be building in the middle of 7 wooded acres. Just the trees that have to come down for the house should keep us in firewood for some time, esp. in the mild SC climate. We plan a very well insulated 1200 sq. ft. house, and may use a wood stove or wood furnace.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 5:40PM
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To save money? No. For enjoyment, style and atmosphere? Yes.

Most of our customers here in Upstate New York have oil fired hydronic systems that provide heat & hot water. Many have pellet stoves, wood stoves, coal stoves, gas stoves, fireplaces, inserts etc, but they're more for enjoyment, style, supplemental heat or backup heat than function. A properly sized boiler & indirect water heater in a smaller well insulated home doesn't burn much fuel oil, kerosene, propane or natural gas. The negative aspect of burning wood is the labor involved in handling it, cleaning up and tending to the fire. The lack of zoning is a negative as well, and you still have to have a way to provide domestic hot water. Wood, gas & coal stoves, fireplaces & inserts work better in a home with an open floor plan. so that you're not roasting in one room and freezing in another.

Wood prices went crazy for a while. Whenever there was a shortage of pellets, the wood sellers seemed too follow the inflationary curve. I own plenty of wooded land, but cutting, transporting and handling wood isn't worth the hassle.

When I build a new vacation home, I thought of building a masonary heater. I guess I'd have to study some designs, and talk with some people that have built them, or used them in the past.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 9:34AM
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Our objective is to keep the house from freezing when the power goes out. We lose power every winter sometimes for a few days. A Masonary wood stove will keep our infloor radiant & other plumbing as well as ourselves from freezing if its an extended period of time. The new/old technology in Masonary wood heaters is superior to wood stoves or fireplaces. You only feed them twice a day and they radiate heat for hours. They burn at an incredibly high temp. A Much higher then a wood stove or fireplace could possibly reach but release the heat much slower then a regular woodstove. You can burn sticks or logs.
We have 11 acres of woods. Fortunately I dont have to be concerned about wood prices.
Here s a link that shows the difference between a fireplace and a masonary heater.

Here is a link that might be useful: masonary stoves

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 11:17AM
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Our home is 4 years old and we would have used over 800 gallons of oil last winter at $2.65 per gallon. That's $2,120 just to heat the house. (My neighbor has a similar sized home without a stove and that's how much oil he used.) I ended up using 3 cords of wood at $165 per cord. I did use a little less than 1/3 of a tank of oil because I was away at trade shows a good portion of the time so the backup heat was going on to keep the house at 55 degrees while we were away.

"...The negative aspect of burning wood is the labor involved in handling it, cleaning up and tending to the fire. The lack of zoning is a negative as well, and you still have to have a way to provide domestic hot water. Wood, gas & coal stoves, fireplaces & inserts work better in a home with an open floor plan. so that you're not roasting in one room and freezing in another..."

Part of the joy of owning a stove is getting the wood in. It's exercise and you have a knowledge of keeping warm in a power failure which happens quite often during storms when trees fall on power lines. Clean up is easy too. 15 seconds with a small hand held broom and you're done. And yes, it's so difficult to get up off the couch every hour or so and throw another log into the stove. I never thought of that. But when I do, I count the dollars I'm not sending to Hugo Chavez.

Heating the house without zones is easy. First, you don't want your bedrooms to be 80 degrees. But the heat DOES get to the other parts of the house quite nicely. We purchased a $20 doorway fan that moves the air throughout the house. Problem solved. BTW, our expensive oil system has 3 zones which we don't use.

And I found that here in Vermont anyway, people tend to gather around the woodstove on a snowy December evening. I've never seen anybody gather around the oil furnace.

If you don't like stoves, that's fine. But in smaller omes they are a very good way to save money over oil, ($2.65/ gal) propane, ($2.99/gal) or kerosene. ($2.89/gal) And we won't even go into the price of electric heat!

And if you ever want to relax after a trying day, just watch the lazy flames in a woodstove. I't'll lower your blood pressure. And a furnace just can't do that. But when the oil delivery truck shows up your blood pressure can go back up.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 7:35AM
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"If you don't like stoves, that's fine. But in smaller omes they are a very good way to save money over oil, ($2.65/ gal) propane, ($2.99/gal) or kerosene. ($2.89/gal) And we won't even go into the price of electric heat!"

I do like wood stoves, pellet stoves, coal stoves, gas stoves & fireplaces. Many of my friends, family and customers at least have a fireplace or two. I wouldn't build a spec home without at least a couple fireplaces since they add much value. People probably wouldn't believe the amount of homes that have electric heat in my area.

My family has been in the heating fuels sales/service/installation business since they delivered coal and oil in pails. Coal stoves, stokers and pot burners used to be popular back in the day.

There's a big difference in propane, oil or kerosene consumption depending on the type of equipment, sizing, installation, piping, ducting, control strategies and burner setup of boilers, furnaces, hot water heaters. Big difference between an average scorched air system and a System 2000, or three pass oil fired boiler that's properly sized, zoned, piped and tuned with outdoor reset paired with an indirect water heater. Same applies to natural gas/propane fired scorched air units vs modulating condensing boilers. I have wall hung Buderus, or Viessmann mod/con boilers in most of my rental properties. The installer/system designer also makes the difference.

We have customers with small homes, few occupants and low domestic hot water demand that burn a lot of fuel, and customers with large homes, several occupants and higher domestic hot water demand that burn less fuel. All depends on the insulation, weatherization, windows, elimination of thermal shorts, type of system etc.

We also have many power outages per year. Many people in the area have generators to run well pumps, pressure tanks, refrigerators, freezers, furnaces, boilers or have inverters to run pellet stoves. We have many people from downstate New York, or out of state that buy vacation properties on the lakes here in the Adirondacks. One of the first things I tell them is that they need a back up generation system due to power outages. Many homeowners heat their vacation homes year round.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 9:42AM
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To be honest, only a fool would have a fireplace today. Talk aboout heat LOSERS!
Where in the Adirondacks are you? We're in western Vermont only about 15 minutes from the NY line. We got our stove from a great dealer in Argyle near Greenwich. And it already has paid for itself in oil savings.
Mark, don't get me wrong. I have a good HWBB system but I just dislike giving the money to Chavez, that's all.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 4:09PM
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christopherh - The fireplaces I'm talking about are mostly high efficiency gas units. Even the pellet and wood fireplaces & inserts aren't like the old inefficient designs of traditional chimneys. I see a lot of Envirofire and Quardrafire units in the area.

I'm in the Lake George area, and have a home on the Sacandaga to the west.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 6:25PM
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I am a professional crafter by trade and we did a show last weekend in the park in Lake George Village. Other than all the city people, it's was a very nice town.
I consider myself lucky to be in a business where you go to vacation areas and leave with more money than you came with!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2007 at 6:45AM
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We used to have a wood stove, but the mess was too much. Everything in the same room was always dirty from the inevitable escape of smoke you got at some point during the fire, there were always pieces of stuff off of the wood that you had to sweep up no matter how carefully you handled the wood, and there was the issue of storing wood in the house (I live in a climate where winters are too cold for it to be practical to go out and grab a few pieces of wood when you want a fire).

We now have a pellet stove and we can store a few bags of pellets at a time - much less storage space required and no mess. It's easy to light and it's quick so we don't have the problem of not having enough time in the morning to start a fire that's just going to go out before we get home from work. It takes minutes to light the pellet stove and it's still running when we get home. There's no smoke escape when opening the door to throw more wood in, so the room that houses the stove is cleaner.

The only drawback to the pellet stove is that when the power goes out, the stove stops working. We have electric baseboards, so for us power outages mean no heat. For this reason, I would like to have a gas insert in the fireplace that's on the main floor of our house. Right now we have insulation stuffed in the chimney, because the thing is nothing but a major source of heat loss. I would never again buy a house with a fireplace.

If we had a bigger house, and a big garage for storage, I would like to have a wood burning furnace. But as long as I am in a small house, no way will I ever have a wood stove again.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2007 at 5:58AM
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I'm having a hard time grasping why a fireplace is such an energy hog. In the 200 y/o house I grew up in, we had decorative covers for all 4 fireplaces when not in use. Although ours weren't insulated, a cover could easily incorporate foam for insulation. In the last house we had, the fireplace had a damper that could be closed off to prevent heat loss, although it wasn't as effective as a cover. I know a lot of heat goes up the chimney when a fireplace is in use, but it has to be less than the heat it puts into the room, or the early colonists would have frozen to death! Our next house will definitely have a fireplace, even if we also have a wood furnace or stove. Maybe I'll design one with a motorized automatic cover!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 7:42AM
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"I know a lot of heat goes up the chimney when a fireplace is in use, but it has to be less than the heat it puts into the room, or the early colonists would have frozen to death!"

True. Older fireplaces were very inefficient, but even if the fireplaces were only 10% efficient, you could still heat your home with them, it's just that the majority of the wood and heat were wasted. When people talk about fireplaces having negative efficiency ratings, or net losses it's because they effectively remove preheated air form the home created by the primary heating system.

With modern advanced combustion high efficiency fireplaces inserts and wood stoves this is no longer an issue.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 12:13PM
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We live in a house that was built in 1950. 20 years ago we took out the old furnace and put in a wood burning furnace. Didn't need any new duct work. It has a fan and is forced air. I love the warmth it provides.
Now we are going to build a new home and haven't yet decided what kind of furnace. I have a terrible fear that I will freeze with any heat other than wood. We have considered one of the outdoor wood burners. They operate like a boiler and actually heat with hot water. Some friends have one and they say they should have gotten it years ago.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 5:26PM
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check out the link I provided. Masonary heaters are more efficent then a wood burner or fireplace. You can burn anything in it. In europe they have been around for centuries and they burned twigs. Gets much hotter but releases slower. No elec needed.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 9:51PM
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We have eliminated several quite-nice houses because they only had wood heat and weren't cheap enough to buy and then spend several thousand dollars installing an oil furnace/boiler, not to mention not having the space to spend on the tank. I've heated with wood before and I swore I would never, ever do it again. The mess and space-hogging of storing wood in the house (like valzone it's too danged cold here to trot out to the woodpile every time you need a couple logs, you need an inside bin), the bugs and snakes and rodents in the woodpile, constantly lugging heavy wood, the futzing around with the fire, the soot/ash and smoke smell, returning to a freezing house after being gone for several hours and the fire's gone out, the space eaten up by the stove and the area around it where it's too hot to put anything, the sweltering in one room and shivering in another, the endless hours splitting and stacking (paying someone to do it for you would negate your savings) and cutting and hauling if you have your own woodlot... no way! I don't think it's a "joy" at all, I think it's a miserable PITA. One man's meat is another man's poison, as they say.

Where we are moving it's mostly oil heating due to lack of natural gas lines outside of the immediate downtown area, with some propane (crazy expensive in our area). We are giving extra weight to houses with so-called "scorched air" systems so that we can add AC, it's been getting viciously hot over here in NH at times and I get heatstroke easily; I'm tired of staying in the bedroom for days on end because that's where we can put a window AC. I like natural gas heating the best - I estimate we spent about $1600 to heat and provide hot water to our almost-2000-sf house last winter, and I'm counting October to April as winter! Because my achy bones don't like getting chilled we keep the heat up (around 70) and I use a LOT of hot water in the cold months. I won't even look at anything with all-electric heat.

I like fireplaces, but for ambiance and visual interest, not for heating. We use it about once a week in the fall/winter, for cuddling up in front of the fire and being all romantic-like, and DH gets to satify his primal manliness by fiddling around with a wood fire. ;-) (He is no more enthusiastic than I am about doing it much more often though!) We have never had any problems with our last few fireplaces sucking heat out, since they had well-sealing dampers and snugly closing doors. I don't much like the appearance of most inserts I've seen, the ones I do like are (predictably) wicked expensive. :-)

valzone, I know someone who heats with a pellet stove that has a kind of backup power rig attached to it, almost like a UPS for a computer; IIRC it's based on rechargeable batteries like you'd see on a golf cart or a boat. He had it on a timer thingy so the stove cycled on and off to keep the place to a minimum reasonable level of warmth even if the power was off for a couple of days.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2007 at 3:55PM
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I currently have gas heat - just two wall heaters, one on each floor. My previous house had a pellet stove, and our frequent power outages made it a real nuisance.

I would love to have a wood furnace, but we have no ductwork, so it would be an enormous job. The gas heaters are ugly and I am very sensitive to the fumes.

I would also love to have a fireplace, but would only use it occassionally - more as a source of beauty than of heat.

As I live in a warm climate where we rarely turn the heat on at all it doesn't make sense to invest in anything different than gas, so I'm just dreaming...

    Bookmark   July 3, 2007 at 3:56PM
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johnmari - your description of the trials and tribulations of burning wood had me nodding in agreement while smiling from ear to ear .... sure brought back memories!!! I'll have to tell DH about the backup power thingy. He'll be excited to know that there's some tool/gadget out there that he must have ;O)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2007 at 7:05PM
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In my new place I installed a soapstone stove. House is 2100 SF and heated that space nicely this past winter. I live in N Ga. so the winters ain't bad here. I have land with access to plenty of wood and am still young and blessed with good health now to process it. I did this so as to save money on propane. The house does have propane furnaces in it so if I cannot/don't want to fool with the wood on a full-time basis anymore I have the option not to. I really enjoyed it this first winter in the new place.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 11:55AM
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johnmari - I couldn't agree more. Did the wood stove thing in upstate NY during the 2nd energy crisis of the 70s. It is as you described. We are further upstate now than in the 70s. Have an oil fired furnace for baseboards and hot water. Have a propane fireplace which we use ONLY in case of power outage as the cost of propane is prohibitive. It has a pilot, so don't need electricity to start. Fortunately, we are on the grid of several large senior complexes and the hospital, so being without power usually doesn't last too long. Also have a gas stove that I can light with a match or flamelighter to cook, so we don't suffer too much. Oh, then there is the stream for flushing water!!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 6:20PM
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Val, just on a whim I Googled "pellet stove battery" and came up with bunches of results, including readymade setups and build-em-yourself ones. It looks like just about any stove shop that sells pellet stoves should have battery backup systems. Have you heard about the new grass-based pellets? I think that's a pretty spiffy notion.

wantoretire_did, we are also on the same grid as the hospital and the big industrial complex, so we too usually get our power back very quickly. I admit that that has me going "hmmmm" about one house we looked at today even though it needs a huge amount of cosmetic work (OMG is it horribly ugly inside!), that it's in an established neighborhood across the street from the hospital. :-) I am really going to miss my gas kitchen stove, almost none of the houses that we've looked at are on the gas lines and it can get quite pricey having an existing house retrofitted for propane, which is also wicked expensive up here.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 10:38PM
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johnmarie - As a point of reference, our last propane delivery, in May, was $3.6130 per gallon; but it lasts a long time for just cooking basically, and fuel oil delivered in April, for the special mix that won't freeze, was $3.329 per gallon. I don't know why they deliver the special mix in the spring, but they do. Our fuel oil budget is $122 a month, same as last year. Needless to say, we wear lots of layered clothes and heavy sox as we are in Zone 4, which can (and has) gone down to -20F!!

Friend from Orange County, NY said that last year, budgets there DOUBLED.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 7:26AM
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There is a fireplace forum I think where they discuss this. A lot of cities are banning wood fireplaces. The new super efficient burners have to work with the doors closed.
Wood heat - depends on how much cost it would be to add into the venting system etc. If its a fair amount I don't think I would want to do it. Take a long time to get your money back and I think the heat is very dry so you would have to humidify.
I like geothermal. Very expensive up front and the savings aren't huge but it heats and cools. Not good for the really cold and really hot areas though.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 4:15PM
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I haven't read through all the responses to this, but after installing the woodstove in this old, drafty 1927 Victorian house 9 years ago, I wouldn't live in a house that DIDN'T have a wood stove or pellet stove. If anything ever happens to DH, I will convert our woodstove over to a pellet stove as they are cleaner and I wouldn't have to stack and haul the wood for it. (Yes, I know the bags of pellets are heavy, too, but I can handle a heavy bag.)

Here is a picture of our stove. We had a contractor come in and put in the brick surround and raised hearth. We installed the stove ourselves using a triple-wall chimney on the outside. We had the contractor use "used brick" so that it fit in with the age of the house. People think it's original to the house!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 5:08PM
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After living in a house for about 11 years that had only wood heat (a Norwegian Jotul "box" stove), I'm very comfortable with a wood stove. In fact, we haven't had a house without one since.

Our current house has a Vermont Castings wood stove (Defiant?) that is very efficient, and has a window that stays clean for quite a while. We have a natural gas furnace that we use most of the time, but there's nothing like wood heat on a cold, rainy day, and having the efficiency in addition to being able to see the fire is great...The wood stove heats the whole house, since we have a ceiling fan in the room with the wood stove that pushes the warm air into other areas of the house as well. It will hold a fire all night.

Very nice.


    Bookmark   July 31, 2007 at 9:51PM
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I know the post is old, but thought I would contribute. Here is picture of wood stove in a home that is for sale, that we are going to look at tomorrow. Home is a post and beam home 2 story, 2 bedrooms up, 2 in basement. The wood stove is located other side of kitchen. The living room is on other side of stairway. All rooms are pretty open to each other, except for bathrooms. I believe it supposedly heats the whole home.

I would like to know if this really can heat the whole home? Not including basement, as it has its own radiant floor heat.

Here is a link that might be useful: wood stove

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 7:21PM
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We used to have a wood stove that looked a lot like that. We had about 600 sq feet downstairs and 500 upstairs. It kept that house very comfortable.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 9:29PM
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I would love to have a woodstove...and have the perfect place planned for it in the kitchen/keeping room, if I ever remodel the old farmhouse :)

Woodstoves, in our area, are great. When the power goes out, you can heat the house and cook on them. I've actually made apple pies on a woodstove...true story! LOL

I'd like to find a little cobalt blue stove, with the glass front. Very nice and perfect in a big kitchen.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 3:26PM
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If you know the BTUs of the stove, you can calculate how many square feet it will heat.

Our stove is 50,000 BTU and keeps our 1400 sf house more than toasty warm.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2010 at 7:20PM
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My mother gave her potbellied cast iron stove to my brother, who just removed it when he restored his house after Katrina. I am now thinking I might want to "borrow" it from him, for the incidental heating of the derelict garage....whenever we get around to doing it over.

Up north, my DH's cape has as backup heating two woodburning fireplaces, both of which recirculate with an electric fan. Seems like he called them "heatalator?" We do not use the fireplace in the living room now, but the back one sure is nice to look at on the cool days of late fall, and even when it gets colder. Mostly we just do the wood because it sounds nice to listen to the fire.

When I was a small child, both my grandmothers cooked on a wood stove. Lots of work, but they cooked awesome meals on their stoves. These days we are more conscious of environmental concerns, so there are more factors to consider when choosing a stove. Since we are in a city and not out in the mountains or unsettled wilderness areas, I am more intellectually interested in this discussion....not for personal use here.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2010 at 1:17PM
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NO We have had them for years and no more. I agree they are good for heating when electric goes out.We are going to get something for that just not sure what yet. I used to love to cook on mine too.

I am not going to deal with getting wood storing it hauling it into house clean up constantly and I am very sensitive to smoke. I do not really want a pellet stove either. Looking into ventless propane. We have had them before and I really liked them. They are not allowed in all states.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2010 at 5:15PM
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NO, NO, NO, never again. In the early 60s, heated farmhouse with coal, wood fireplace and then kerosene space heater. Lived in England on the economy for 2 years; heated hot water and kitchen with coal stove and above-mentioned kerosene space heater and coal fireplaces for the rest of the house. You don't want to know how cold it was during the worst winter in 200 years and no insulation, no storm windows, frozen pipes, need I go on? Fast forward to energy crisis in the 70s/80s and heated with a Vermont Castings wood stove for several years. Been there, done that and won't do it again.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2010 at 8:01PM
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I'm not sure, but I think Vermont Castings has gone out of business in the last year? I'll have to ask my DH. He was reading something about them which makes me think that has happened. So no more new VC stoves, just the old ones.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2010 at 9:42PM
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We have had a Vermont Castings stove too. I believe the last house we had a wood stove in was VC. I do not remember the model name. I know we also had an Orley and an Earth Stove and Blaze King inserts,two of them. WE have had wood stoves in 6 houses so it is not just a bad experience with one stove or another. They all heated well. I have just had my fill of wood stoves.

To heat a shop building would be great. We have the trash burner out in the shop. Still not hooked up. Someday. I will be fine with that. Easy to clean up on cement. Not so much on the carpet.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2010 at 9:46PM
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Woodstove on carpet? That would be a mess! I see why you don't want to do that again :)

We have a fireplace in the living room, but would like a woodstove in the kitchen. I don't think I'd want to heat the house all winter that way, but it should would be nice when the power goes off...especially when it's -27 F. outside....Brrrr!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2010 at 11:27AM
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We've used a Vermont Castings Encore for the last 15 years and wouldn't want to be without it. We absolutely love it!

If we ever move from here, we'll get another wood stove for sure. I love not paying for electricity or oil for heating, and the stove makes such a comforting crackling sound early in the morning and heats the house up quick like a bunny.

There is no mess. I fill up the wood basket outside on the deck and then bring it into the living room, so there is nothing to clean up. DH empties the ash tray and doesn't make a mess with it at all.

If I ever have to live with electric or oil heat again, instead of a wood stove, I'll be very disappointed.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2010 at 1:42PM
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Do the woodstoves heat the upper floor well? This wood stove is right near the stairs going up. They also have a propane direct vent furnace, since the wood stove isn't working properly. They say it heats the whole home.

I know in my inlaws home, they only have a wood stove in living room and it seems to only be warm in that area, the heat never gets to the bedrooms ??

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 12:52PM
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I heated a 2000+ square ft. house with a 36" box stove for years! It was great, warm and toasty and could cook a FINE pot of beans or stew!! Our small town was without electricity (for a week )in an ice storm...we had half the town bedded down. We all stayed warm and ate well!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 1:24PM
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Jaybird, that sounds so nice, having such a neighborly town to live in.

We have little need to spread the heat in our 2 bedroom house which has ceiling fans in every room now. Except the bath. I know the fans have the option to change directions between summer and winter use, never quite can figure out which is which. But if air circulation is what you need to distribute the warm air, then it is worth a try.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 3:00PM
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Heat rises, so the upstairs should be toasty warm. If not, it's probably not the right sized stove for the space. Having the stove by the stairs will definitely help :)

    Bookmark   October 21, 2010 at 3:03PM
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