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What are the Different Types of Wood Stoves?

Wood stoves come in various styles, including traditional cast iron, sleek steel, soapstone for heat retention, and pellet stoves for efficiency. Each type offers unique benefits, from rustic charm to modern convenience. Considering a cozy upgrade to your home heating? Explore the nuances of each wood stove type to find your perfect match. Ready to discover the warmth that suits your lifestyle?
Brendan McGuigan
Brendan McGuigan

Wood stoves are used primarily for heating spaces, and sometimes for cooking food. They are so named because their source of fuel is wood or a wood derivative, in contrast to gas or electric stoves or radiators.

The first method of using wood to heat a space or provide heat for cooking was in fireplaces. Fireplaces are most often stone-worked insets into the wall of a house, with a base for a fire to be built upon. The front is open, although it may be guarded with a metal or glass screen, allowing heat to radiate out openly. Most fireplaces have some sort of vent opening to the outside to allow smoke to escape and to draw air through to keep the fire burning strongly. The space through which air may pass may be adjustable, allowing the strength of the fire to be moderated.

There are various types of wood stoves.
There are various types of wood stoves.

While stone and brick are traditionally the most popular construction materials for a fireplace, in recent years, prefabricated fireplaces have begun to catch on. These fireplaces usually consist of a metal box with an open front, often with a wooden facade to help it blend in with the rest of the house. Prefab fireplaces are much cheaper than stone or brick ones, though they offer less opportunity for customization and are overall less durable.

Wood stoves use cut fire wood as an energy source.
Wood stoves use cut fire wood as an energy source.

By the 18th century, a number of innovative alternatives for heating were developed. As wood stoves go, the fireplace is quite inefficient, and smoke is a regular problem. The new style contained the fire entirely within a metal box, allowing much more of the wood to be burned completely, reducing smoke dramatically, and improving heat efficiency by leaps and bounds.

Prefab fireplaces use gas burning logs instead of wooden logs.
Prefab fireplaces use gas burning logs instead of wooden logs.

The Franklin stove is probably the most famous example of early boxed wood stoves. This style used of metal piping to carry the smoke and hot air from the fire through the house before venting it to the outside, making use of its heat before dissipating it. By the 1840s, a number of improvements had been made on the basic design, providing greater heat efficiency and further reducing emissions. In the modern age, these stoves have become even more efficient, with high-end Jotul stoves using nearly 70% of the energy they burn — a drastic improvement over the 20-30% one can expect from traditional models.

Pellet stoves burn eco-friendly wood pellets.
Pellet stoves burn eco-friendly wood pellets.

There are three main types of modern wood stoves, discounting the fireplace design. Box stoves contain the fire within a metal box, but are not airtight as they have a relatively loose door design; most inexpensive stoves are of this design. Airtight stoves improve upon the box model with a completely sealed box and a door that shuts airtight. They offer either an automated or manual method to increase or decrease airflow to the stove to modulate the strength of the fire.

Pellet stoves make use of electronic regulators and an alternative type of wood fuel to operate. Their pellets are made from pulped and formed wood, often recycled from waste wood pulp, and burn at a regular temperature and speed. These stoves automatically dump more fuel in as needed, as determined by an electronic timer and sensor. They are increasing in popularity because their heat is nearly identical to that of traditional wood stoves, but they are very efficient and more ecologically friendly with their use of a waste product as a fuel source.

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Discussion Comments


@ GlassAxe- It is great that you want to buy a product that is more efficient and environmentally friendly, but you should be aware of a few important traits related to bio gas and pellet wood stoves. If you are making your own pellets, the ash content and moisture content will be somewhat inconsistent, so be sure to purchase a stove or furnace that can tolerate high ash. Many of the new stoves are being designed to tolerate all different levels of ash while still maintaining their efficiency. You should also try to get the cleanest materials possible to make into pellets. Dirt can cause clinker deposits to form in the vents. You will use much more pellets, and your venting will require cleaning more often if you use dirty or high ash content materials.


@ GlassAxe- There are plenty of places to find pellet mills. You can find both liquid fuel powered and electric mills for home use. I have seen a few electric models on the market that can produce up to 200 pounds of pellets per hour and can be fed biomass, bio waste, and soft woods. The units are completely self-contained, and include warranties on the motors. This would essentially give you a weeks’ worth of heat for every hour that you ran the machine. With the materials you would be using to make pellets, this would be ideal.

If you are getting the waste from the saw mill for free, a pellet mill would pay for itself in about three years if the price for a cord of seasoned wood is around $250 and you use about four cords a year. Wood pellet stoves are very efficient and they burn cleaner, saving the atmosphere from particulates. Using waste products for fuel is also environmentally friendly. If you went as far as mixing the ash in with your soil, you would be doing your part to mitigate soil erosion and sequester carbon at the same time.


Is there any way that I can make my own wood pellets for a wood pellet burning stove? I am looking to buy a new furnace and I am considering a pellet furnace. I live near a sawmill, and I could get endless sawdust and scraps, but I can't just burn them as is. I have found a few places to buy wood pellets and formed wood briquettes online, but they are more expensive than just buying seasoned wood by the cord.

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    • There are various types of wood stoves.
      By: Paul Maguire
      There are various types of wood stoves.
    • Wood stoves use cut fire wood as an energy source.
      By: erikazanier
      Wood stoves use cut fire wood as an energy source.
    • Prefab fireplaces use gas burning logs instead of wooden logs.
      By: markcarper
      Prefab fireplaces use gas burning logs instead of wooden logs.
    • Pellet stoves burn eco-friendly wood pellets.
      By: Coprid
      Pellet stoves burn eco-friendly wood pellets.