Stove Buying Guide
Which stove should I buy?
Squiers makes a significant effort to match your lifestyle to your stove. Unhappy customers suck the very life-blood from us and chew up resources best spent elsewhere. We prefer to deal with happy people and make every effort to ensure that. We would rather not sell a stove to anyone who has a significant chance of being unhappy with their purchase. To that end your choice of many available options for fuel is important and our assistance in helping you choose the proper fuel for you goes a long way towards making you happy with your stove purchase.
Wood Pellets - Positives: Environmentally friendly and carbon neutral-does not add to greenhouse gas emissions and utilizes a waste product which would only go into our landfills. Pellets are domestically produced, the profits from which remain in North America and do not finance anti-American activities. Pellet stoves can be placed almost anywhere to increase your comfort and efficiency. Wood pellets have a very low ash content (about .5% on average) which means that on most models the ash pan needs emptying once a month. Pellets reduce our dependence on foreign oil and most homeowners can easily store a full year's supply. Wood pellets are currently among, if not the, least expensive option in cost per Btu realized. You will save money.
Wood Pellets - Negatives: Requires more effort than some other options-you will tend your stove at least every few days. Pellet stoves tend to be expensive and complicated. If you wait too long into the season, the fuel can be difficult to obtain. Cord wood burning increases the likelihood of creosote accumulation and subsequent chimney fires.
Corn - Positives: Environmentally friendly, carbon neutral, domestically produced and inexpensive.
Corn - Negatives: Difficult to store-most readily available in bulk. Corn will mold and mildew if the moisture level is too high. Vermin and rodents are attracted to a food supply. Corn is more difficult to burn and consequently the stoves are even more complicated than pellet stoves. Seasonality of corn vastly affects its availability. Higher ash and clinker content means more tending.
Coal - Positives: Domestically produced-we have 400 years supply in this country alone. Hand fired coal stoves are much simpler in design. Coal provides a warm, even heat over a longer period as compared to cordwood. Coal provides a higher Btu per lb resulting in less cost per potential Btu as compared to pellets or gas.
Coal - Negatives: Stoker coal stoves approach the complication and cost of a pellet stove. Hand fired coal stoves require skill and attention to operate and in some cases just will not work in chimneys with little draft. In almost all cases, coal stoves should be vented into a masonry chimney which limits where the stoves can be placed. Coal stoves require more effort-you will tend your coal stove in most cases at least once per day. High ash content (8-11%) means dealing with the ash every day. Due to the relative inefficiency of coal stoves and the need to throw significant amounts of heat up the chimney for draft, the cost per realized Btu of coal tends to be relatively high.
Wood - Positives: Environmentally friendly, carbon neutral, domestically produced and inexpensive-almost cannot heat cheaper than with cordwood if you have your own woodlot and are willing to process trees into firewood.
Wood - Negatives: A lot of effort-splitting, stacking, hauling and frequent tending of the stove. You will tend the stove at least twice a day. Heat output is difficult to regulate. Cordwood heat tends to be messy and attract insects. Having to purchase your cordwood dramatically reduces cost efficiency.
Gas - Positives: Gas stoves are easy to use, have a simple design and are low maintenance.
Gas - Negatives: Very costly to operate, heat output tends to the low end.
To paint with a very broad brush - If you are young with more energy than money and your own woodlot it's hard to beat a cordwood stove. If you are old and tired with more money than energy, a gas stove is for you. If you are somewhere in between, consider a pellet stove or coal stove. In general, we prefer to see coal stoves and wood stoves in the basement because of the potential for mess and vented into a masonry chimney. Pellet or gas stoves could go in either the basement or living areas where they are the most efficient. At the risk of painting with an even broader brush-Gas stoves are white collar, pellet stoves are light blue collar, coal stoves are dark blue collar and wood stoves are no collar, with of course many exceptions to the above generalities. Choose the stove that is right for you and your circumstances. Squiers can help.