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Best Wood Stove in 2020 – Buyer’s Guide and Reviews

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best wood stoves in 2020

Thanks to technological advances, modern wood-burning stoves are highly-efficient appliances that produce very little smoke and pollutants. They are a far cry from the previous generation of wood stoves that were not much more than metal boxes to hold a fire.

The efficiency has been improved so much that people who are switching from an old-style wood stove to a modern one can expect to save as much as 30% in fuel. That means one third less chopping, stacking, and storing of wood.

Because of these design improvements, we have a wider selection of stoves to choose from. Spend a few minutes with us and find out what to look for when picking the best wood stove for your home.

How a Wood Stove Works

How a Wood Stove Works

Conventional Wood Stove

A conventional wood stove is a heating appliance that uses wood as fuel. It generally consists of solid metal firebox made of steel or cast iron, and a front-opening door. Some models have side- or top-opening doors to allow for easy loading.

The firebox is connected to the outdoors via a chimney and a flue system. Air from the room enters the firebox through a special intake. By controlling the amount of intake air, the flame level can be adjusted. The draft in the chimney carries the combustion gases to the outside.

As you can see, this conventional design is basically a fireplace enclosed in a metal box. It is somewhat more efficient than a fireplace because it radiates more heat from its metal surfaces and slows down the burn rate by limiting the amount of available air.

However, this is still not close to being acceptably efficient. You can tell that a conventional wood stove is running by the smoke escaping from the chimney. The smoke is composed of creosote vapors and other particulates that can be eliminated and turned into useful heat if burned properly.

Modern Highly-Efficient Wood Stove

Two methods are available to burn off combustion gases—secondary combustion and catalytic combustion. Wood stoves that are built with one of these systems can cut emissions by more than 90% and burn over 30% less fuel.

Secondary Combustion

Burning wood emits unburned combustion gases when not enough oxygen is present, or when the temperature isn’t high enough due to high moisture content in the wood. A temperature upwards of 1,100 °F (600 °C) is needed to ignite the combustion gases.

A modern wood stove with a secondary combustion system is designed to allow these gases to burn before they have the chance to escape out the chimney.

Secondary Combustion
Burning wood flow

The firebox is commonly lined with refractory fire bricks to keep the core temperature high. A baffle is placed above the fire and serves two purposes. It reflects heat back to keep the fire hot, and it constrains combustion gases from going straight up to the chimney. A set of perforated tubes that supply air are also part of the baffle structure.

Draft in the firebox pulls cool air in from the room through an adjustable intake. The air gets heated as it traverses passages on the firebox’s interior walls. This super-heated air finally enters the firebox through the perforated tubes and ignites the combustion gases.

Because of this secondary combustion, the firebox burns at a considerably higher temperature than a catalytic wood stove.

Catalytic Combustion

A wood stove with catalytic combustion passes wood smoke through a catalyst-coated combustor where it burns cleanly. Much like the catalytic converter in the exhaust system of your car, the catalyst on the combustor reacts with chemicals in the wood smoke and causes them to combust.

The narrow passages in the honeycomb-like ceramic combustor are coated with palladium, or another noble metal. When the temperature of the combustor reaches around 500 °F (260 °C), the palladium becomes an active catalyst and causes passing combustion gases to burn. 

Catalytic wood stoves burn cleaner than their non-catalytic counterparts. And because the temperature in the firebox is lower, less fuel is consumed. As long as the temperature remains high enough to keep the catalyst active, the stove can achieve very long burn times with the same amount of wood, all without smoldering and creating creosote.

But this comes at a price. Catalytic wood stoves generally cost more than non-catalytic stoves. The combustor is also a consumable item. It generally needs replacing every few years. However, if you appreciate the science behind it and don’t mind splurging a bit, a catalytic wood stove would be a cool appliance to have.

Air Wash System

Air Wash System

Over time, combustion gases will leave film of soot deposits on the glass window. To combat this, modern wood stoves utilize an air wash system that directs an airstream from the top of the window downwards, much like a waterfall. This pushes superheated air against the glass to burn off the soot particles, keeping the glass clear.

Firebox Materials

Steel

Steel is the most common material used for making wood stoves. It is very responsive to heat and readily transfers it to your living space.

The firebox is fabricated with one steel panel bent to form three sides, and three more panels welded on to form the other three. An extra shell, or cowling, may be added to the sides to act as shielding so that the stove can be placed closer to the walls.

Because the steel is not a good insulator and loses heat quickly, manufacturers commonly use fire bricks to line the firebox in order to maintain a sufficiently high internal temperature.

Steel wood stoves are easier to manufacture so they generally cost less than cast iron stoves. In rare cases, they have been known to warp if the temperature got too high or if the unit was poorly made. But the quality of modern steel is much better than the past. If you choose a high-quality steel stove from a reputable company, there is no need to worry about warping.

Cast Iron

Compared to steel, cast iron is better at retaining heat. It takes longer for a cast iron stove to heat up, and also longer for it to dissipate it after the fire has died down. This leads to less dramatic temperature fluctuations in the house.

Cast iron panels are made from molten metal that is poured into molds. These panels are then bolted together to form the firebox. Fire cement is applied to seal any gaps between the panels. The fireboxes are usually lined with fire bricks to maintain temperature.

Periodic maintenance needs to be performed to ensure that the seals are tight. If infiltration of air is present, over-firing can occur.

The casting process of the iron panels leaves unique decorative patterns on the surface, making cast iron stoves more aesthetically pleasing than flat and bland steel stoves. Cast iron can be enameled so it offers a broader range of colors than steel stoves.

Poor-quality cast-iron stoves can sometimes crack at the top due to over-firing at the early stages. Fresh cast iron can be brittle and needs to be properly “cured”, or broken in, through gentle operation in the beginning. Make sure the temperature doesn’t rise too high by moderating the airflow.

Soapstone

Soapstone is a byproduct of thermal activities inside Earth’s crust. This is a stone born of fire. It can be in direct contact with fire and submerged in heat indefinitely. If anything, this is a stone that loves fire.

Ordinary wood stoves have a reputation for being either too hot or too cold. Soapstone can take care of that problem. A soapstone wood stove is not a very responsive appliance, it takes time to do its job.

Once the fire is lit, it takes quite a bit longer for it to rise to temperature than the other two materials. But once it gets cruising, it will keep on radiating heat long after steel or cast iron has cooled down.

Soapstone is also a very elegant material visually. A wood stove made of soapstone is an aesthetically pleasing appliance that enhances the decor of your room. Physically, the surface of soapstone feels like soap, hence the name. 

If money is no object, you can consider a soapstone wood stove with catalytic combustion.

Size

It is important to get a size of wood stove that is right for your home. If it’s too small, you will be forced to crank up the temperature. When allowed to overfire for prolonged periods of time, the high heat can potentially damage the internals of the stove.

If the stove is too big, you’ll be forced to keep the fire low so as not to overheat your home. This can cause the fire to smolder and the firebox temperature to drop. Under these conditions, the stove can no longer burn efficiently. Combustion gases will escape and creosote will start to accumulate in the chimney.

A small wood stove has a firebox of less than 2 c.f., a medium is between 2 and 3 c.f., and large is 3 c.f. or more.

Use the following pointers to decide what stove size fits your needs.

Small: For heating a seasonal cottage, cabin, or zone-heating a room.

Medium: Can heat a small home 1,000 to 1,200 s.f. in size.

Big: Appropriate for a larger, open-plan home, or a less insulated house.

Efficiency

Residential wood stoves require an EPA certification before they can be sold to the public, with a few minor exemptions. Currently, EPA standard allows the emission of smoke at no more than 4.5 grams per hour for an appliance burning cord wood.

Starting in May of 2020, the limit will be brought down to just 2.5 g/h.

Government Incentives

Governments at various levels have programs that encourage owners of older, less efficient wood stoves to switch to new, energy-efficient and cleaner-burning versions. Consult with your local energy department for details.

Reviews of the Wood Stoves To Buy In 2020

We’ve picked out 5 great wood stove models that offer a wide range of features from compact to full-size, for homes large and small, from cabins to cottages, and even teepees.

  1. Lopi Endeavor — Best Wood Burning Stove To Buy In 2020
  2. Cubic Cub Mini CB-1008 — Best Small Wood Stove 
  3. Winnerwell Fastfold Titanium Tent Stove — Best Wood Burning Camp Stove
  4. Englander 30-NC — Best Wood Burning Stove with Blower
  5. Pleasant Hearth WS-2720 — Best Wood Stove for the Money

Here are our picks for the Best Wood Stoves 2020:

1. Lopi Endeavor— Best Wood Burning Stove to Buy

Lopi Endeavor Best Wood Burning Stove to Buy review

Pros:

  • Thick steel plates
  • Solid hidden welds
  • Firebrick/steel baffle
  • Bypass damper
  • Easy to start or rekindle a fire

Cons:

  • Actual burn time may be less than advertised
  • Relatively small firebox
  • Heating Capacity: 67,090 BTU
  • Thermal Efficiency: 74.2%
  • Area Covered: 2,000 square feet
  • Secondary Combustion: Perforated vent tube
  • Certification: EPA
  • Burn time: 10 hours
  • Construction: Steel plates, cast-iron door
  • Emissions: 1.4 g/h
  • Bypass Damper: Yes
  • Maximum Log Size: 18”
  • Firebox Size: 2.5 cu. ft.
  • Weight: 448 pounds
  • Dimensions: 24W X 32H X 23.5D inches
  • Warranty: 2 Year

Lopi has been making wood stoves for over forty years and the Endeavor is their best-selling flagship. The Endeavor is an aesthetically pleasing appliance that doubles as an elegant piece of furniture. As a heater, it combines all the features that make a wood stove efficient and easy to maintain.

The firebox is constructed from steel plates of various thicknesses to provide maximum heat transfer. The sides and back have an extra sheet of steel to shield nearby objects from radiant heat. All the welding is done on the inside of the firebox to keep the exterior looking as clean as possible.

The front door is a good example of how over-engineered the whole appliance is. The hinges that connect the door to the firebox body are made of 5/8” bridge rivets. It is sturdy enough to support the weight of a grown man. For easy maintenance, the whole door assembly can be easily removed by simply lifting it up.

A large viewing window shows a complete display of the fire. The glass is made of neoceram, a material with a high resistance to thermal shock. Even when a flame is blazing on one side, the glass will not shatter if water is sprayed on the other side.

The air wash system of the Endeavor uses a perforated screen to diffuse super-heated air evenly along the glass. This helps to keep the window clean longer than other stoves that have an uneven airflow.

To help circulate surrounding air without the help of electrical power, air convection channels are built-in to draw cool indoor air from vents at the bottom. After traveling the length of the channels, hot air gets expelled from vents on the top.

Kiln-fired refractory fire bricks are used to line the firebox and the baffle. The same material is used in commercial boilers and furnaces; the bricks protect the steel while increasing the internal temperature of the firebox.

A built-in bypass damper allows you to direct airflow away from the baffle and straight up the flue. This is useful for preventing smoke from escaping when you open the front door, or when getting a fire started.

The top surface of the Endeavor also acts as a stovetop. The part just above the firebox can be used for cooking. And the part above the air vent can be used for warming food.

2. Cubic Cub Mini CB-1008 — Best Small Wood Stove

Cubic Cub Mini Best Small Wood Stove review

Pros:

  • Extremely compact and space-saving
  • Easy Installation
  • Efficient heating

Cons:

  • Requires frequent stoking
  • Takes only small wood pieces
  • Heating Capacity: 14,000 BTU
  • Fuel: Wood, charcoal, pressed fire logs
  • Area Covered: 200 square feet
  • Secondary Combustion: Perforated vent tube
  • Certification: None (for recreational use only)
  • Burn time: 3.5 hours
  • Construction: Laser-cut steel plates
  • Bypass Damper: No
  • Maximum Log Size: 5.75 inches
  • Weight: 27 pounds
  • Dimensions: 11W X 12H X 10.5D inches
  • Warranty: Upon request

Bearing the name Cub, this tiny Canadian import comes from a country where keeping warm is definitely a priority. This stove is designed for more temperate climates and to heat tiny spaces up to 200 sf. If your home is somewhat bigger, or the winter is harsh, there is a bigger version called Grizzly.

The Mini Cub firebox is constructed of steel plates and lined with vermiculite fire bricks. The viewing window is made of thermal shock-resistant ceramic glass. Every control lever has an elegant looking spring handle that is always safe to touch.

Because the Cub is marketed as a recreational appliance, it is not EPA-certified. Even so, thanks to the efficient secondary combustion, pollution emission is very minimal. Once the fire gets into full swing, no visible smoke comes out of the chimney.

A small wood stove naturally comes with a small firebox. Therefore, fire in a Cub requires more frequent stoking. During the day when the stove is run at full capacity, wood needs to be added every hour or so.

Air for the flame is pulled from within the room. It is recommended that you leave a window slightly open to let in fresh air. 

Wood pieces should ideally be at less than 5.75 inches long to allow for air circulation in the firebox. Other than regular wood, the Cub also burns charcoal and compressed fire logs.

The Mini Cub is designed to be mounted on a wall. But there is also a requirement of 20-inch clearance in every direction. To solve this problem, the manufacturer supplies an optional wall mount that can shield the wall from the heat.

To further maximize the stove’s usefulness, remove the rail on the top and you have yourself a little cooktop.

3. Winnerwell Fastfold Titanium Tent Stove—Best Wood Burning Camp Stove

Winnerwell Fastfold Titanium Wood Burning Camp Stove

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Portable
  • Easy to set up

Cons:

  • Firebox can be warped without the lid
  • Heating Capacity: N/A
  • Thermal Efficiency: N/A
  • Area Covered: N/A
  • Secondary Combustion: None
  • Certification: None (for recreational use only)
  • Burn time: N/A
  • Construction: Titanium
  • Emissions: N/A
  • Bypass Damper: Yes
  • Maximum Log Size: 14.5 inches
  • Firebox Size: 900 cubic inches
  • Weight: 4.5 pounds

Packed dimensions: 15D x 9W x 2H inches (stove body) 12D x 1W x 1H inches (rolled pipe)

Assembled dimensions: 15D x 9W x 7H inches (stove body)

Flue Dimensions: 3 inches diameter, 108 inches length

Warranty: Lifetime on defects

Here is a wood stove that will make your camping season last year-round. The Winnerwell Fastfold Titanium Tent Stove is lightweight, foldable and portable. It is made for the intrepid survivalists who venture deep into the wilderness.

When disassembled and folded up, the whole package, including stove and flue, weighs in at only 4.5 pounds.

The incredible thing about this gizmo is that it really works like the wood stove you have at home. The flue base has an integrated damper to control airflow. The front door has a slider to adjust the amount of intake air. But unlike a residential wood stove, there is no secondary combustion.

The 9-foot flue, made of a thin sheet of titanium, easily sticks out of the top a teepee or a tent. A spark arrestor is included for the flue. It has attachment points to connect to guy-lines for stability under windy conditions. When not in use, the titanium sheet can be rolled widthwise into a compact 15-inch tube.

The stove becomes a superlight firepan when the lid is removed. This is ideal for keeping warm during activities away from camp, or cooking with an open flame.

The manufacturer calls for using dry seasoned wood as fuel. But realistically, users of this stove are more likely to use whatever available wood they come across, namely downed or green wood. This shouldn’t be a problem because any creosote buildup can easily be cleaned away in such an open device.

Package includes 1 Fastfold Stove body, 1 rolled stove pipe, 1 tent protector sleeve, 1 spark arrestor, and 8 pipe rings, 1 carry bag.

4. Englander 30-NC— Best Wood Burning Stove with Blower

Englander Wood Burning Stove with Blower review

Pros:

  • Reasonably priced
  • Solid build
  • Full size heater
  • Includes blower

Cons:

  • Relatively short burn time
  • Heating Capacity: 75,500 BTU
  • Thermal Efficiency: 72%
  • Area Covered: 2,200 square feet
  • Secondary Combustion: Perforated vent tube
  • Certification: EPA
  • Burn time: 8 hours
  • Construction: Steel plates, cast-iron door
  • Emissions: 1.63 g/h
  • Bypass Damper: No
  • Maximum Log Size: 20”
  • Firebox Size: 3.5 cu. ft.
  • Weight: 425 pounds
  • Dimensions: 23.25W X 29.75H X 31D inches
  • Warranty: 2 Year

The Englander 30-NC wood stove is a no-nonsense heater that can effortlessly heat your medium-sized home. This rugged workhorse has a huge firebox that can accept logs up to 20” long. Fire bricks line the firebox and form the baffle for superior temperature retention.

Emitting only 1.63 grams of particulates per hour, this is one of the cleanest-burning wood stoves on the market. Through the large air-wash glass window, the secondary combustion at the top of the firebox can be the source of a mesmerizing fire show.

A single rod controls the total airflow to the firebox. There is no separate control for the secondary combustion air. The design of the stove rules out the use of a flue damper.

Heat-powered stove fans are cool gadgets but they aren’t the best when it comes to effectiveness. To maximize convective heat transfer, this model includes an electric blower with variable speeds mounted in the back of the appliance.

Installation is easy with a 6” top exhaust that will fit any existing standard-sized flue pipe you might have. An outside air kit can be easily installed that connects to the auxiliary air intake of the appliance.

A pedestal and cast legs are included so you have the options to rest the firebox on the floor or keep it elevated on the legs. A rear heat shield is built-in for decreased clearance to adjacent walls. Side heat shields are available as options.

5. Pleasant Hearth WS-2720 – Best Wood Stove for the Money

Pleasant Hearth WS-2720 Wood Stove for the Money review

Pros:

  • Cost effective
  • Easy installation

Cons:

  • Undersized ash pan
  • Heating Capacity: 65,000 BTU
  • Thermal Efficiency: 82%
  • Area Covered: 1,800 square feet
  • Secondary Combustion: Perforated vent tube
  • Certification: EPA
  • Burn time: 10 hours
  • Construction: Steel plates, cast-iron door
  • Emissions: 4.5 g/h
  • Bypass Damper: No
  • Maximum Log Size: 22 inches
  • Weight: 223 pounds
  • Dimensions: 27W X 30.75H X 23D inches
  • Warranty: 5 year (defects)

When it comes to getting more bang for your buck, the Pleasant Hearth WS-2720 is the wood stove to buy. This reasonably-priced heater doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that you probably don’t need.

What it does have are a large firebox to generate plenty of heat, and a wide ceramic glass window to display the fire. The fire brick lining in the firebox keeps the core temperature steady for an efficient secondary combustion.

Installation is simple with a firebox exhaust flue collar that will readily fit a 6-inch connector pipe.

Comparison Chart for The Best Wood Stoves in 2020

 Lopi EndeavorCubic Cub MiniWinnerwell TitaniumEnglander 30-NCPleasant Hearth WS-2720
Heating Capacity (BTU)67,09014,000n/a75,50065,000
Thermal Efficiency74.2%n/an/a72%82%
Area Covered (s.f.)2,000200n/a2,2001,800
Burn Time (hrs)103.5n/a810
Emissions (g/h)1.4n/an/a1.634.5
MaterialSteelSteelTitaniumSteelSteel

How to Install a Wood Burning Stove

Before installing a wood stove, make sure the location of the floor can support the weight of the stove for a long time. A spacious gathering place where occupants spend most of the time is ideal for placing the stove.

If the floor is made of a combustible material, a non-combustible floor protector must be installed for the stove to rest on. Check with the wood stove dealer if it can supply one.

Verify the clearance requirements between the walls and the appliance to make sure you have enough space. Additional shielding may sometimes be used to decrease the clearance.

A straight chimney is always better than one with an elbow. Any added turn slows down the draft and encourages creosote buildup.

Install the chimney inside if possible. A chimney that is exposed to the outside air loses much of its heat and is another cause of creosote buildup.

A single-wall flue transfers a lot of heat to the surrounding space, thus helping to improve efficiency. But the trade-off is that it lowers the chimney temperature and invites creosote buildup. A double-wall flue insulates itself better, keeping the exhaust passage hot and clear of creosote. So, the compromise is, either use a single-wall flue for better heating, or a double-wall flue for less frequent chimney cleanups.

How to Start a Fire in a Wood Stove

When starting a fire in a wood stove, we want to get the fire up and running as soon as possible. The goal is to heat up the stove and chimney fast, creating the conditions for a clean and efficient burn. Avoid having the fire or kindling collapse on itself which slows the fire down and creates lots of smoke.

Before starting a fire in a wood stove, remove excessive ash from the firebox.

Place two parallel logs north-south with some space between them. Put some crumpled newspaper in the middle and kindling on top. Light the newspaper and close the front door. Open the air intake fully and close the door. If there is a flue damper, open it fully. Once the fire gets going, add more logs as necessary.

Another method is by lighting the fire from the top. This is a one-step method that eliminates the need to add logs after fire is started.

Lay the logs east-west with larger ones on the bottom, followed by large kindling and then small kindling. Place crumpled newspaper sheets on the top. Light the newspaper and close the door. Make sure all air controls are fully open.

Since heat radiation travels in all directions, including down, the kindling below the newspaper should ignite easily. This way of starting a wood stove fire produces very little smoke.

When the fire is burning in full force, adjust the air controls to obtain an optimum flame.

After one load of wood has burned out, it’s time to reload your firebox. But before you do that, rake any simmering coals to the front of the firebox. This is because the air wash flowing down along the glass will heat up the coals and ignite any wood behind them.

Place the logs behind the coals north-south for a fast and hot burn, or east-west for a slow and lower-heat burn. Put a small piece on or near the coals to get the fire going.

A north-south load breaks down more quickly and creates a high heat output. It is suitable for colder weather. An east-west load breaks down more slowly because it’s harder for air to penetrate. It produces less output and is good for overnight fires.

How to Use a Wood Stove

The proper operation of a wood stove relies very much on a good airflow. Depending on the design of the stove you have, you may have controls for the primary air, the secondary burn air and the flue damper. There may also be a bypass switch to let air out the chimney without going past the baffle.

When trying to start a fire, all air controls and the bypass should be fully open. The goal is to get the fire going, and get the flue and firebox up to temperature. Only when these components are hot enough that wood smoke can burn cleanly without leaving creosote deposits. When done properly, there should be little or no smoke coming out of the chimney.

Once the fire is lit, adjust air intake controls for flame level according to your needs. If the fire is to last overnight, decrease the air supply sufficiently to slow down the combustion.

The ash in the firebox should be removed periodically, but not all of it. Leave an inch of ash for the next load to sit on. This helps with fire starting and heat retention.

Best Wood for Wood Stoves

All species of wood have similar BTU output per pound when completely dry. Therefore, a piece of hardwood will release more heat than a piece of softwood of the same volume.

Softwoods are a fast-growing type of wood. They burn fast, leave less ash, have a lower heat output and are good for heating in mild weather. Hardwoods have less resin, burn slow, form and maintain a coal bed well. Woods like oak, hickory or pine will burn overnight in cold weather.

The most important thing about firewood is it should have a water content of less than 20%. It should be well-seasoned—harvested in the spring and allowed to dry throughout the summer. The color should be even and without any green.

Store wood away from the house to prevent termites. Cover the top of the pile but leave the sides open. The pile should be kept off the ground with concrete blocks or other supports.

So, what is the best wood to use for your wood stove? To be precise, there is no “best wood” out there. But if we had to pick one, it would be dry and seasoned wood. It is that simple.

Conclusion

Modern wood stoves have come a long way over the decades. They are now more efficient than ever, yet still provide the same gentle ambience as before. Whether you live in a tiny cabin or a large bungalow, you’re bound to find the best wood stove that will fit your style and heating needs.

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