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How Do Wood Stoves Work?

A collage of wood stoves.

There are few things as cozy as sitting in front of a wood stove with a blanket around your shoulders and a cup of hot chocolate in your hands. Wood stoves are really popular and it’s easy to see why—they’re attractive and bring a fantastic atmosphere into the home.

But just how do wood stoves work? That’s what this article aims to answer.

Let’s find out the secrets behind these amazing-smelling features that seem to elevate any space they’re in.

What are Wood Stoves Made of?

Wood stove with firewood on the side.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how wood stoves work, let’s take a quick look at what they’re made of.

Typically, wood stoves are made of one of three materials: steel, cast iron, or stone. They all have a stove, chimney, damper, and baffle that work together to burn wood and heat up the space around them while ensuring that the smoke is drawn out of the room.

The damper is what you use to control the stove’s airflow, which affects the size of the fire and how much heat the stove emits. As for the baffle (some bigger stoves have more than one), this part of the stove increases the fire gases’ combustion.

Types of Wood Stoves

Firewood and wood stove fixed against the brick wall.

You can choose one of two types of wood stoves, which are catalytic and non-catalytic and both are designed to meet EPA standards.

Here’s a quick look at the differences between these two types:

Catalytic Wood Stoves

These wood stoves have a honeycomb-shaped ceramic component (called the combustion piece) that burns the particles and gases from the wood. Fewer emissions and more heat are created when the pollutants from a fire are burned in this way.

Catalytic wood stoves are more efficient than non-catalytic types. However, they require a lot more maintenance. 

The increased efficiency is an attractive advantage of purchasing a catalytic stove. The combustion piece has to be inspected regularly and replaced periodically. The catalytic combustor plate also needs to be cleaned once a week during winter. 

When maintained properly, the combuster plate can last about six years without any problems.

Non-Catalytic Wood Stoves

These stoves are more affordable but less efficient than catalytic wood stoves. Also, they don’t need as much maintenance but still need to be taken care of properly. The internal parts will have to be replaced after a few seasons because the heat created in the stove can cause damage over time.

How Does a Wood-Burning Stove Heat a House?

Heated wood stove in the living room.

Okay, so how does a wood stove work? Let’s finally find out!

Basically, wood stoves work by offering a controlled space for you to burn wood safely and effectively so that the area around them is heated up. There are no electric or moving parts at all. All the work is done by the user who places wood inside the stove and adjusts the airflow.

Here’s a rundown of the process involved in heating up a room with a wood stove:

First, wood is placed inside the wood stove’s firebox. This firebox, which is surrounded by fireproof walls, encloses the wood and subsequently the fire.

Once the wood is set alight, air vents in the stove will control the airflow to the firebox. As a result, the wood can be burned slowly and more efficiently.

Because the fire is enclosed, the gas that is produced remains inside the stove for longer than it would have with an open fire. This means the fire can burn a lot hotter.

The stove’s body is designed to radiate heat into the surrounding area. This makes a wood stove a lot more effective and efficient than a standard fireplace because, with a fireplace, the heat escapes through its chimney.

How to Control a Wood-Burning Stove

A man putting fire wood on the stove.

Controlling the fire inside a wood stove is important to ensure you enjoy the maximum heat it can provide. Knowing how to control your wood stove is the key to making the most of it.

When you’ve got a nice fire going inside your wood stove, the fire will require air to continue burning since the door will be closed.  By opening the vents, the wood inside will burn faster thanks to the increase in airflow. As a result, more heat is produced. 

Closing the vents partially will decrease the oxygen and make the wood burn slower and at a lower temperature.

When you completely close the vent, the air is removed from the stove and the fire will die out.

Wood Stove Maintenance

A man cleaning the wood stove.

Regular maintenance of your wood stove is essential to help it last longer. Regular cleaning will also prevent a buildup of creosote. For best results, clean your stove twice a year, and take good care to clean it properly before you start to use it again during the colder months.

Although it’s a good idea to use a professional to keep your stove in good condition, you can take care of it yourself as well. You should regularly remove the ashes left over from burning wood and keep the stove clean in between uses.

You don’t have to clean the ash out after every use, a one-inch layer of ash can be good to help build a fire, but once the ash reaches a couple of inches, it should be removed.

Final Thoughts

Having a wood stove is great—you’ll stay warm and your home will have a cozy and homey feeling that will make anyone and everyone feel at home. Just make sure you know how to use it and maintain it properly.