WOOD - SLOW COMBUSTION
What Size to Choose?
It is vitally important to choose the correct size slow combustion heater, one that gives you sufficient heat for your needs.
The size (or capacity) you choose depends on:
Remember that bigger is not necessarily better. Too large a stove will have to be turned down low. This causes creosote build-up and pollution. On the other hand, a stove that's too small will leave you disappointed and cold. The larger slow combustion heaters can provide up to 20 kilowatts of home heating (or 70 000 BTU/hr).
- Whether you want the unit to heat the whole house or just one or two
- How large this heated area is (high or raked ceilings increase the
- How well insulated your house is (remember to take into account heat
losses through ceilings, walls, windows, floors and doors).
- Whether you can close the heated area off from the area where
heating isn't needed.
- How cold the winters are.
- How warm you like your room to be (your personal thermal comfort
What Type to Choose?
Once you're ready to go shopping, there are several factors to consider.
- Cast iron or steel. High quality cast iron and high quality steel both make high-quality stoves. Cast iron is durable, but is slower to heat up (and easier to crack or warp) whilst steel has a quick heating ability but does not hold the heat quite as long. (The very thin steel stoves, lightweight and inexpensive, do have their uses, however, such as for a shack, garage or other occasional use. Such stoves are frequently mistakenly described as slow combustion heaters).
- Weight. In general, the heavier the better. With cast iron, check the number of kilograms; with steel, check the gauges (steel stoves will have different gauges of steel in different parts of the stove). You don't have to rely on the dealer's knowledge of specific gauges; the manufacturer's brochure will give you these specifications. Look and compare. The "mass" of the appliance is sometimes increased with the use of firebricks. Don't try to compare cast iron and steel specifications; they are entirely different from one another. Compare like with like. And, of course, compare stoves of the same or similar firebox size.
- Finish. Sharp or rough edges on doors, draught controls, or any protruding parts are a bad sign. At best they indicate lack of attention to fine detail. Don't buy any stove that the manufacturer hasn't cared enough about to finish off properly.
- Moving Parts. All moving parts should work smoothly. As a general rule, don't accept the excuse that it is 'stiff and will work in'. If it doesn't move smoothly now, it may never do so. A door should fit tightly but open easily, and draught controls should be easy to work. Sealing mechanisms should be replaceable.
- The Firebox. If it is small, you will have to use logs that are small - which means more work in preparing the wood or greater cost for having it cut small. You'll also have to feed it that much more often, and there may not be enough capacity for the stove to continue burning overnight.
- Parts Replacement. Nothing lasts forever. The moment of truth often comes when you have to replace a part. Discuss this with the dealers. If they see that you are aware of the eventual need for parts and they get the idea that you will hold them responsible if this turns out to be a problem, they may steer you away from stove manufacturers with a poor record in this area. This is particularly important with viewing glass for stoves. Neoceramic or pyroceramic glass can withstand harsher treatment than heat-toughened glass. It costs more, but is safer and has a longer life expectancy. Nevertheless, you need to know not only that the glass is
available, but how easy it is to replace. It's best if the unit is designed so that you can perform this task yourself.
- Country of Origin. Overseas and Australian stoves can be equally good - or equally bad. If, however, there is a dock strike or some internal problem in the country of origin, you may have trouble getting delivery of parts. Some overseas stoves are among the most expensive, but they usually come from manufacturers who have been making their stoves continuously for hundreds of years.
For example, European stove standards are high, and most of their exports are of excellent quality; some, however, are designed to burn coal or coke and have poor performance with wood. In general, select heaters from countries with a reputation for quality based on testing and regulation, and a large domestic market.
- Other Factors. Some stoves have features which perform both a decorative and useful function. (An example is an outer layer of tile: air is drawn between the side tiles and the firebox, circulating air into the room by convection). Other features such as firebricks lining the firebox, catalytic converters, secondary combustion chambers and automatic thermostats, (all explained in the glossary) are intended to improve the stove's durability and efficiency. They also add to the price.