Pro tips

Dossier: What is the best wood stove? – Part 2

By Martine Rolland

| November 3, 2021

You were impatiently waiting for it, here is the continuation of our file on the best wood stove. Are you already starting to feel more equipped to answer the famous question: “Which model best suits your heating needs? To follow up on our previous article on the design & aesthetics of appliances, this week, we are tackling performance and heating capacity.

PERFORMANCE & HEATING CAPACITY

Now that you’ve settled on the aesthetics and design of your dream wood stove, you should consider your performance needs and expectations. Do you have a very large home? Will the device be your main means of heating or is it more of a decorative addition? To help you on your way, we will define certain concepts related to the efficiency of heating systems.

WHAT ARE BTUs?

The acronym BTU refers to the English name “British Thermal Unit” which can be translated as “British thermal unit”.

DID YOU KNOW THAT…?

One BTU was basically the energy needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. However, as this equivalence may vary depending on atmospheric conditions, the energy is now calculated in joules (J). One BTU, according to new international standards, is therefore equivalent to 1055 joules.

This measurement is used all over the world to present the energy released in the field of heating and cooling. In our industry, it is used in particular to determine the power of barbecue burners, air conditioners and, in the case that interests us here, stoves and fireplaces.

Generally, the higher the BTU, the faster the unit performs and heats up. However, we should not rely solely on this indicator, because the quality of the product and the parts will also have an important role to play in the efficiency of the stove. Efficiency is an industry metric for both wood and gas appliances that calculates the ratio of energy that is kept in the room versus that vented directly up the chimney.

For example, a 25,000 BTU stove with 65% efficiency will retain 16,250 BTUs of heat inside, while an 18,000 BTU peak output stove with 85% efficiency will give you 15,300 BTUs of heat in the home. Although the former is more powerful than the latter, an almost equivalent amount of heating is achieved. The difference is that the second will consume much less fuel to get there.

One of the peculiarities of the wood stove is that the chimney is often exposed. Indeed, unlike fireplaces, the exhaust pipe does not pass between the partitions. This therefore allows a redistribution of radiant heat to the interior and thus reduces a certain amount of heat loss through the chimney.

AREA AND LOCATION

To guarantee the performance of your wood stove, you must consider the surface area of the room(s) to be heated. A device that is overpowered for your needs will tend to make the environment too hot or work less efficiently if it is always at a minimum. On the contrary, a device that is too small will offer disappointing heat and lead some users to overheat it. This would result in long-term damage to the stove.

To help you calculate the approximate number of BTUs you need, here’s a rule of thumb: Space in sq. ft. x 25 = BTUs needed. For example, an 800-square-foot room requires about 20,000 BTUs of heating to be comfortable. However, this calculation is indicative only. We encourage you to review the information on the products that interest you to get to the bottom of it.

It is also important to consider other factors when considering the power of the device.

  • Volume (cu ft): When talking about BTUs, we always mean square footage. Nevertheless, the height of the ceilings has a significant impact in the choice of a device. Since heat rises, the ambient temperature of the room will be affected by the volume of air that must be heated in total before it reaches the level of the living space. Higher ceilings than the standard 7 or 8 feet therefore require more power.
  • Insulation: It’s no secret. If your home is well insulated, it will retain its heat and require less heating. If you are in a less well-sealed dwelling, it would be better to have a more powerful device. Of course, better insulation will allow you to spend less fuel for an equivalent result.
  • The average outdoor temperature: As can be seen in picture 1, the average outdoor temperature is different depending on where you live. The closer you get to “Zone 1” the colder it gets on a regular basis. However, the lower the temperature outside, the harder your device has to work to obtain comfortable warmth. Since the maximum power of your stove is limited, it is therefore the heating area that decreases. It is therefore preferable to take a slight excess of power if you live in a region with a harsh climate, or reduce it if it is more temperate.

IMAGE 1: NORTH AMERICAN AREAS BY AVERAGE OUTDOOR TEMPERATURE

If you want to temper more than one room or even the whole house, an appliance installed in the basement, accompanied by a fan system, could be a good solution. Indeed, since the heat rises, the other floors will benefit from a certain level of heating more efficiently.

In fact, regarding the ideal location of your wood stove, it is its usefulness that will allow you to decide on the question. If you want to acquire a device for its decorative aspect, the place where you place it will have a lesser impact. It just has to match your decor. However, if your goal is to make it your main source of heating, choose a strategic location, preferably open air, where the heat can be redirected throughout the house. Avoid high-traffic areas, such as entrance doors, where drafts could interfere with stove efficiency. The best thing to do is take your plans to a specialty retailer. With the help of their team, you will be able to get advice on the best place to choose according to your needs.

CONSTRUCTION & DESIGN
Part 1
Technology & Environnement
Part 3

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