I have a friend who’s in the process of trying to buy a woodstove, and like many of us in this down economy, money’s an issue. The new stoves that sit gleaming on the showroom floors are beautiful. But three grand for a woodstove is out of the question.
She’s asked me for advice on what used stove to buy, and like most men, I have plenty of opinions to offer on the subject.
For instance, I think that it’s perfectly acceptable to buy an old, dependable, dirty stove (dirty meaning it was made before states began mandating that new woodstoves include emissions control) if money’s an issue. But as nice as some of them are, if you have any environmental conscience, such a stove should probably just get you through a winter or two and shouldn’t be a permanent solution to your home heating needs any more than a gas-guzzling 1973 Chevy Caprice station wagon should be the car you commute to work in every day.
Of all the old pre-EPA stoves I’ve known in my life, the Fisher that we have up in deer camp is by far my favorite. It takes enormous wood, which is really nice. And it has these great front dampers that just bombard the fire with oxygen. It goes from 0-60 in no time at all, which I guess makes it more of a Corvette than a Caprice. And once the fire’s where you need it, you can damp it down to nothing in no time – it’s like a thermostat. Man, I love that stove.
As far as the new EPA-approved stoves go, I don’t like the catalytic ones. (For those of you who don’t know, catalytic stoves were the first generation of clean-burning stoves to hit the market; they feature a catalytic converter that has to be engaged when the stove gets up to a certain temperature. The converters have to be replaced on a somewhat regular basis, which is an expensive hassle).
The catalytic stove I have in my life – a Vermont Castings Defiant that sits in the Northern Woodlands office – just doesn’t burn that well with the converter engaged. And I never know whether the converter should be bypassed at night when you damp the fire down and drop the stove temperature, which if you do, sort of defeats the point of having it, and if you don’t, means you’re running it too cool, a supposed no-no.
Far better, I think, to go with the more modern stoves that send the smoke along an internal hot corridor where any unburned components are ignited and consumed. The one I have in my home is a Vermont Castings Aspen, which is a fine stove except that it’s hard to get started and it’s too small. My house is only 600 square feet, so when it’s going it throws sufficient heat. It’s just that it’s a real pain to cut 12- and 14-inch wood, and to empty an ash pan every morning, and to have to play Tetris to fit your wood into the firebox, and to use a lot of kindling in the fall and spring because you don’t have a sufficient coal bed. I think that wood size is one of the key things new stove owners overlook, especially those who plan to cut their own wood. Go big. Your back will thank you.
But all of this is one man’s opinion. I’m positive that our readers have their own experiences and can improve the quality of information here. So what’s your take? What do you think of your stove? What are your thoughts on wood stoves in general? What advice can you give someone looking to buy a used woodstove?