Wood heaters are the wood-stoves that most rural houses have. Wood heaters heat an area by radiant heat. Some have fans built in, that when plugged into an electrical source, will push warmed air from the stove around the room. A wood heater or wood-stove often has a flat surface above the firebox which can be used to heat a kettle, keep a pot of soup simmering, or heat a dutch oven load of biscuits in a power outage. Wood-stoves usually have a small foot print and so can be placed in a room without too much displacement of other elements in a room.
There are models designed to be placed in mobile homes, apartments and trailers. Called “close-clearance” stoves, they have an extra piece of sheet metal on the back with an air foil, to insulate the outside of the stove from heat. The ones with a flat stove surface are best if you plan to occasionally use it for cooking. We’ve used the Regency Close Clearance Stove for many years, upgrading to newer models as new efficiencies were developed.
Newer model wood stoves heat the wood gasses twice by forcing them back into the combustion chamber for a second burn, before releasing them up the chimney. Called catalytic heaters, they reduce the amount of particulate matter that is released into the atmosphere. Most municipalities that allow for wood heating, insist that all wood stove installations be of this type. This second burning also makes for a more efficient use of fuel — which is less work for you. So definitely keep this in mind if you are looking at used wood-stoves. Many older stoves lack this efficiency.
Modern wood-stove fire boxes are lined with replaceable fire brick, which extends the life of the stove. Expect your wood-stove to last 15 years of daily, seasonal use. Burn only seasoned wood and keep the fire brick in good repair and you can extend this by 5 years — but they are not a lifetime purchase.
When using a wood-stove, pushing the warm air from the stove surface into the room, keeps the room air circulating, and brings fresh oxygen to the stove to aid in efficient combustion. Fans with sterling engines — that operate on an electrical charge produced due to differences in temperature — are ecological and work when the power is out.
This one is on my shopping list for this Fall:
A wood cook-stove is another baby — that can double as a source of heat when the oven door is open. It serves the duel function of heating the home and cooking your family’s food. My neighbour in Mission, Mrs. Harms, was cooking on her wood cook-stove well into her 80s. For her, food didn’t taste the same when cooked by any other method.
A wood cook-stove has a fire box usually to the side of the oven. Combustion gases are circulated across the top and around the oven, to return to the fire box for a second combustion before being released up the chimney. Oven temperatures are dependent on the type of wood being burned and the dryness of the wood. Wood cook-stoves can be equipped with warming cabinets (great for setting yogourt, raising bread, or keeping pies warm), water jackets, with coils to preheat your water before it heads to your hot water tank, or a water reservoir to keep water at the right temperature for washing or making tea.
The wood cook-stove has a larger foot print. You will need a space away from a combustible wall and with enough space in front of the stove to meet safety clearances — 4 ft. in front of combustibles or 2 feet from protected walls in most cases. Homes with open plans in the kitchen, dining room, family room area are best suited to wood cook-stove operation. The larger open spaces heat more efficiently with a larger appliance.
The wood cook-stove gives you a large heating surface for stove top cooking. The area over the fire box is the hottest and areas over the oven are less hot. A pot can be kept at a simmer, when the stove is in operation, by placing it over the water reservoir.
Flat breads can be cooked directly on the surface of the wood stove, without burning. We bake chapatis on the surface of our cook-stove, by moving the baking chapatis around to take advantage of the varying degrees of heat, finalizing the bread with a puff directly over the firebox.
When choosing your wood cook-stove, make sure that the oven is large enough for your family’s needs. I have a Pioneer Maid Wood Cook-stove, built by Mennonites in Ontario, Canada. The oven will bake 8 loaves of bread at a time, to a crispy wood cooked brown. The oven is big enough to hold a pan with a 20 lb. turkey for Christmas Dinner, too. I can bake 2 large pizzas on the two oven racks, for crispy, light gourmet pizza.
The Pioneer Maid is utilitarian looking but meets the needs of our family and I’m very happy with it. Other stoves available are more fancy — many of them reproductions of bygone eras.
Wood cook-stoves are much heavier than wood heaters and you won’t want to move it outside to a summer kitchen. Cooking in July, in the house, with a wood cook stove can be uncomfortable. (although I’ve had mine working this July — brr, its cold outside). So consider where you live and how many months you are actually able to cook on it, as well as available wood supply, before you make your investment. Our normal temperatures will allow me to cook with the wood-stove for 10 months out of 12, here in the mountains of B.C. A well maintained wood burning cook-stove is a once in a lifetime investment.
Mealtime Stoves in Ontario, is where I purchased my cook-stove. No affiliation, just a happy customer.
In the US try Lehman’s. Again no affiliation. They have a larger selection than Mealtime in Canada and sell many of the same products.
Here’s a quick check list to help you decide if you need a wood-stove or a cook-stove:
You will chose a Wood-stove when you:
– need to heat a small space or a few rooms.
–live in an apartment, trailer, or smaller square foot house.
–live alone or are a very small family and don’t really need the full value of an oven that cooks 8 loaves of bread at a time.
–plan to build an outdoor wood oven for once a week bread baking or pizza making on your rural property or already have one in place.
–plan to use a conventional stove for cooking and only need a wood cooking fire occasionally — during a power outage or snowstorm.
–have a larger, old fashioned house, with several stories, smaller rooms and a small footprint. Wood heaters are ideal in these situations to heat the full house from a central room, since heat rises.
–don’t do much baking or roasting and hardly use an oven.
–have a place to store dried wood and a source for inexpensive fuel. Any seasoned wood will give you a fire to warm your house. Woods with higher BTUs, hardwoods or larch, will burn longer and more consistently, but even pine and cedar will warm your house, if the wood is dry.
–have checked the clearance requirements on the model you want to purchase, to ensure that you have room for it where you want to install it and there is chimney access available in the same spot.
You will chose a Wood Cook-stove when:
–you want to cook and heat predominantly with wood.
–you have a free source of hardwood, larch or other dry fuel to fire the stove with. While almost any dry wood will work to heat a home, longer burning woods with higher BTUs work better for the longer, steady burning required for cooking and baking.
–you have a larger family and use your oven daily now.
–you are running out of burners on your electric stove and need the full range offered by a wood cook-stove.
–your home has an open plan kitchen/dining room/family room where a wood cook-stove will heat and enhance the decor.
–you don’t mind learning new skills, if it will make you more self-sufficient. There is a learning curve when learning to cook with wood heat. It can be frustrating if you think your skills of cooking with electric heat will translate easily into wood stove cookery.
–you’ve checked the clearance requirements on the model you want to purchase, to ensure that you have room for it where you want to install it and there is chimney access available in the same spot.
In our log home we have both a Regency Close Clearance Wood Stove for heating and a Pioneer Maid Wood Cook-stove for cooking and heating. Our house is a two storey log house and the single wood heater wasn’t adequate to heat the whole house in a very cold winter. Since we’ve installed the Pioneer Maid Wood Cook-stove we only occasional need to light the Regency stove. The cook-stove keeps the living area of our home at just the right temperature and the wood heater downstairs is lit once a day, in cold months, just to take the chill off the downstairs of our home and keep the bedrooms more comfortable.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
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Here’s some other resources that you might find helpful:
This makes the best tasting kettle corn on a wood-stove or conventional stove:
This is the 2nd in a 6 part series on cooking with wood.
Part 1, “12 Practical Reasons Why Cooking with Wood Makes Sense”
Part 2 , “Wood Heaters vs. Wood Cook-Stoves: How to Choose”
Part 3, “Wanted: The perfect wood cook-stove”
Part 4, “Burning Desire: Wood fuels for cooking and heating”
Part 5, “Maintenance tips for your wood cook-stove”
Part 6, “Objection! Heating and Cooking with Wood is objectionable”