What Type of Stove or Fuel is Right For You?:

(Below are also a sections on "Which Fuel is Greenest" and "Wood Species Comparison Chart")

Types of stoves:

There are 2 different types of heat used in homes, radiant and convection. Understanding the differences can make your home more comfortable and easier to heat.

Radiant heat is infra-red energy similar to the type we get from the sun. It directly heats any solid objects in its line of site such as walls, floor, ceiling, furniture and people. Just like the sun if something is blocking the heat source then you do not get heat directly from the source. The objects heated by the radiant heat give off their heat to the air, which is convection heat.

Convection heat is the rising of hot air. Because radiant heat can not be moved out of the room the stove is in, you need hot air to circulate the heat throughout the rest of the house.

If you are heating a large open space then a radiant stove is the way to go, if you are trying to get the heat out of the room the stove is in and into other areas then you would be better off with a convection, or combination, stove. Installing a radiant stove in an unfinished basement is not recommended because the concrete walls and floor will absorb most of the heat.

Types of Fuel:

There are 4 basic fuels to consider in this area- wood, wood pellet, coal and gas. We have listed the pros and cons for each type below. Gas has been divided into 2 sections, vented and vent free. 

Coal

Pros

  • Radiant, convective or combination.

  • It is the least expensive fuel, approximately 1/3 the cost of oil or gas.

  • Once the fire is established it can burn 12-18 hours per load.

  • Will work without electricity.

Cons

  • Not readily available in this area.

  • It is a non-renewable fuel source.

  • Difficult to get started.

  • Very dirty to handle and store.

  • Very acidic exhaust which rapidly deteriorates the stove and chimney.

  • Requires its' own flue or chimney.

Wood

Pros

  • Radiant, convective or combination.

  • Low cost, approximately 1/2 the cost of oil or gas.

  • Renewable fuel source.

  • Readily available in this area.

  • Modern stoves burn cleaner and more efficiently than older models.

  • Will work without electricity.

Cons

  • Wood must be seasoned 1 1/2 years before use (cut and split, unsplit wood does not season). Most suppliers do not have stockpiled seasoned wood.

  • Very labor intensive. Wood should be purchased or cut & split the year before use. It must be stacked, hauled and loaded.

  • Some mess involved with storing and handling.

  • Requires its' own flue or chimney (even when installed into a fireplace opening). Even a "backup unit" can not share a flue with a furnace.

Wood Pellets

Pros

  • Convective or combination.

  • Low cost, approximately 1/2 the cost of oil or gas.

  • Environmentally friendly, recycles waste product as fuel.

  • Usually readily available and produced in America or Canada.

  • Very convenient to operate: automatic feed, adjustable heat output, can work on a thermostat.

  • Very long burn, 12-60 hours on one load.

  • Can be vented through the wall, even one without a chimney.

  • 40,000 BTU units are decorative and can heat a medium sized home. 70,000 BTU units are less decorative, but can heat a large home.

Cons

  • Uses a processed fuel, if the correct fuel is not available the stove can not be used.

  • Requires electricity to operate, battery backup systems are available for short term use.

  • High maintenance- requires weekly and monthly maintenance by the customer and professional servicing every 2-3 tons, or annually. If this maintenance is not performed the stove will fail. Professional cleaning required at the end of the burning season. Pellets left anywhere in the unit can absorb humidity during the summer, swell and damage the unit.

  • Short lifespan of the unit, 10 years average. Pellet stoves are very complex with many moving parts, motors and electronics and are not normally user repairable.

  • Noisy with 3 electric motors and pellets dropping into the burn pot.

Gas (Direct Vent or B-Vent)*

Pros

  • Radiant, convective or combination.

  • Most units work without electricity (all the units we sell do) and if the power goes out the thermostat will continue to work and maintain heat in your home even without anyone there.

  • Easy to operate and maintain. No homeowner service required, no mess. No flue cleanings needed under normal operating conditions (needs to be professionally serviced regularly, like your furnace).

  • Usually less restrictive to install - easier to vent, reduced or no floor protection requirements.

  • More realistic and consistent flame pattern than pellet. Much more realistic flames and ceramic logs/embers than the old units.

  • Wide variety of styles to chose from, including modern fireplaces that appear to be burning on smooth polished rocks or colored glass.

  • Natural gas is cheaper dollar per BTU than oil.

  • Available in up to 40,000 BTUs which is sufficient to heat a medium sized home.

Cons

  • Propane is usually more expensive dollar per BTU than oil.

  • Gas is a non renewable resource and much of the supply and price is controlled by the whims of OPEC.

  • Any gas appliance must be installed, maintained and serviced by a licensed NH Gas Fitter (Amelia's Law).

Gas (Vent Free)

Pros

  • Low cost installation.

  • Doesn't need any venting.

  • More efficient (no heat loss through the venting).

Cons

  • All of the ones listed in gas above plus.

  • Vent free units dump all combustion by products into the home, including carbon monoxide and large amounts of water vapor. The amount of carbon monoxide vented back into the home in a properly operating unit is considered to be a safe amount by the manufacturers.

  • The water vapor can encourage mold growth, damage wall paper etc.

  • Not legal in all states, not legal in all Counties in NH (check with local officials).

  • Burns all airborne chemicals and vapors and dumps the exhaust back into the home, resulting in complaints of strange or unpleasant odors. These vapors can include pet dander, dust, cooking fumes, fumes from paint, carpet or anything else in your home.

Which Fuel Is "Greenest"?

When discuss alternative energy sources much of the focus is on solar and wind power. However most homeowners can't afford this type of conversion. What is often overlooked are the renewable fuels: wood and pellets.

The Northeast United States uses most of the heating oil in this country. Although the Midwest and Northwest are also cold climates they use much more wood energy than we do.

carbon_cycle_graphicWood is a renewable resource with a neutral carbon footprint. Burning wood releases carbon dioxide, which is used by plant life as food. A modern high efficiency stove or insert captures much more of the heat for your home, is safe to use and doesn't release as many by products into the air. Oil products are non renewable and have a negative carbon footprint.

Wood pellets are made from the "leftovers" of wood processing. They use the parts of the trees that could not be made into lumber, and all the scraps and sawdust. Therefore they are taking all the waste of the industry and turning it into a positive energy source. In addition most of the wood pellets available to us are from the USA or Canada, not imported from overseas. Employing our workers and helping our economy.

What about deforestation and clear cutting? Actually most of the clear cutting done in this country is for building more buildings. Loggers rarely clear cut. And woodlands reseed themselves rapidly. The woods actually benefits from the taking of large trees, allowing smaller ones room to grow. And any of the harvesting of trees has less impact than environmental disasters, such as the Gulf Oil Spillage.

graphic provided by The Alliance For Green Heat, used with permission

Wood Species Comparison Chart:

Type of Wood Weight Per Cord, green Weight Per Cord, dry 20% Million BTU Per Cord BTUs Per Pound
White Oak 5573 4200 29.1 6928
Maple 4685 3680 25.5 6848
Ash 3952 3472 24.2 6970
Pine 3600 2336 16.2 6935
Spruce 2800 2240 15.5 6919
Willow 4320 2540 17.6 6929

  A simple moisture meter can measure how dry wood is.

*Mark Jones is licensed to install and service gas hearth appliances in both New Hampshire and Maine.These licenses are required by the states. We also have a Mechanical Business Entity License in NH, required for all businesses who work on gas appliances of any type and plumbers. Ours is for Heath Systems, # MBE1500864. In NH final hookup of gas or oil appliances must be completed by a professional with that specific license, usually from your gas provider or oil burner technician. Being "certified" is not the same as being licensed. Click for more information on Licenses, Certifications and Titles.



 
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(603) 755-4835 to schedule an appointment
Mark (for technical questions) chcs@metrocast.net
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Chestnut Hill Chimney & Hearth, Chimney Cleaning, Farmington, NH
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