The Wood Stove Route to Home Improvement

If you’re interested in home improvement, alternative heating methods, or fuel efficiency, you’ve probably heard about the new performance standards and styles of modern wood stoves. Maybe you’ve started to take a look at the market. Or perhaps you already own a stove, and you’re eyeballing your current or future residence, wondering, “How can I make this place a better fit for a wood stove?”

The good news is that virtually all houses can become well-suited for stoves, because contemporary models come in a variety wide enough to fit a wide spectrum of livings spaces. (For the purposes of this article, I’m assuming that you’re not living in a cardboard box.) However, there are definitely some things you can do to make your home a better fit for a wood stove. Here are three basic tips.

First, optimize your home for use with a stove. If you own a stove or are looking to buy, fuel efficiency is probably part of your rationale. So it makes perfect sense to ensure that you get the most bang for your heating buck. Practically, this means tightening up any drafty or leaky parts of your house. Check to make sure your home’s insulation is holding up well and take a look at the seals on your storm windows–notorious culprits where heat loss is concerned.

You might have to get your hands dirty as you reseal old caulk lines and make sure that weather stripping is securely attached. But when your stove is blazing away, and not a single spark of heat is wasted, you’ll feel the glow of smart ownership. The tighter your house is, the better an investment your stove becomes.

Second, pick a stove that fits in your house. Contemporary wood stoves have a lot to offer where style is concerned, but honestly, comparing colors, lines, and textures is kind of the icing on the cake. Before you start enjoying that part of the process, you need to answer the biggest question where stove ownership is concerned: “What size is right for my home?”

When you go to MacDonald’s you can “Supersize it” without any dramatically awful effects. But buying an over-sized stove for your residence can cause some real issues. Keep in mind that modern stoves are very well designed, and you don’t necessarily need a huge stove to heat a large space.

If you buy too big, you’ll end up feeling scorched–and it’s more common to err on the side of “large” where stoves are concerned. But if you buy too small, you’ll be forced to huddle close to your stove to soak in the heat. The upshot of this: Right-sized stoves will heat your space well no matter the climate outside. So as you shop, take your home type and square footage into account. Then choose a large, medium, or small stove accordingly. The rest is gravy.

Third, let your stove handle your bank account. Obviously, I’m being slightly tongue in cheek here, but only slightly. As you get close to buying a wood stove, you need to be aware that stoves are an excellent investment. Typically, a stove will pay for itself within two seasons of use. After that, you’ll save money hand over fist. Knowing this, you may want to put out some extra cash up front to buy the most fuel-efficient model you can afford. That way, a few years later, you’ll have more than recouped your investment, and you’ll own a stove that will continue to perform well for decades to come.