Pros and Cons of Wood Burning Stoves [For & Against in 2023]

Written by: Paul Cathro

Updated on: December 23, 2022

Wood stove with fire burning

Wood-burning stoves deliver warmth and comfort more efficiently and more safely than traditional open fireplaces.

The stovetop can even heat your favorite drink and the running costs are dirt cheap compared to gas and electric. 

With so many benefits, a wood-burning stove seems like a no-brainer, but there are several pros and cons to consider before buying. 

The most significant advantage of wood-burning stoves is efficiency, with 70-90% of combustion translating to radiant heat in your home. The main downside is the initial purchase price of the stove, which can run into the thousands. 

Is the cost worth it? In this guide, we explore the pros and cons of wood-burning stoves in detail to help you make the right decision. 

Advantages of Heating Your Home with a Wood Stove

In our opinion, these are the main advantages of wood burning stoves.

Advantage #1 – Low running costs 

There's no denying that log prices are increasing across the board alongside electricity, gas, oil, and fuel prices. However, the price for seasoned/kiln-dried logs is relatively low, considering how long they last. 

Additionally, you can produce seasoned wood if you live somewhere sustainable or collect timber from others that would otherwise go to scrap. 

A half crate of kiln-dried logs will set you back around $350, giving you around 1.28m3 (cubic meters) of firewood. You can expect this to last an entire season with evening usage or half a season with day and night use. 

Buying firewood in bulk always works out cheaper too – a full 2.5m3 crate of logs (enough for a full season of heavy use) comes in at around $450. 

If you get a half crate and use your log burner in the evenings during winter (six months, across two seasons), the running costs work out at around $58 per month.. 

Producing your own firewood is another option for super-low running costs. Check out Craig's List, Gumtree, Facebook Local, and other marketplaces to see if people are giving timber away for free – all you need is a van or truck to collect it. 

Advantage #2 – High efficiency 

Wood-burning stoves are one of the most efficient heating appliances on the market, with modern stoves being more than 80% efficient. 

What does efficiency mean in practice? It means that 80% of the heat produced heats the room, i.e., that there's only 20% heat waste (up the flue). 

If we compare that to the efficiency of open fireplaces, which are around 15% efficient, you can see just how much more efficient a wood stove is. 

The most efficient stoves have over 85% efficiency and usually have a catalytic combustor that re-burns the gasses and particulates released from the burning wood. 

This secondary combustion process produces additional heat, allowing the wood to burn at a lower temperature, which reduces fuel use, extends burn times, and reduces emissions, making the wood stove eco-friendlier.

You can increase efficiency by using seasoned hardwood for fuel, using the correct amount of fuel, and operating within an optimal temperature range.

The critical point is that stoves are more efficient than open fireplaces, so you can use less fuel and extend the burn time for a better heating experience.

Advantage #3 – Two types of usable heat 

The beauty of wood-burning stoves is you can harness the power of radiant heat (heat piping from the appliance into the air) and conductive heat (heat transferred from the appliance when you place something on it). 

Radiant heat heats the air in your space, making it warmer. This is the heat you feel when you sit near the stove.

Conductive heat transfers from the stove exterior (or, God forbid, your skin) when you touch it – perfect for warming up coffee and tea. 

Another benefit to conductive heat is you can stick an aftermarket device called a stove fan on your stove, which uses the stove's heat to generate electricity to power an electric motor that drives a fan. This then blows hot air into your space. 

Advantage #4 – Ultimate (and easy) control

Compared to open fireplaces, wood-burning stoves offer superior control over the fire intensity, letting you change the temperature. 

You control a wood burner in two ways:

  • Adding fuel (logs)
  • Adjusting vents (to introduce/restrict oxygen)

These stove controls work both ways; adding more fuel and adjusting the air vents increases the fire temperature and vice versa. 

Some stoves come with a temperature gauge, but if not, you can add a magnetic thermometer for less than $10. This lets you keep your fire at a steady temperature and provides insight into what actions produce more heat. 

Additionally, wood-burning stoves prevent heat from escaping the flue, while open fireplaces let most heat escape. This means you do not have to work as hard or use as much fuel to achieve a consistent, comfortable temperature. 

The bottom line – wood-burners offer more control than open fireplaces, making them the best choice for adjustable temperature control. 

Advantage #5 – Off-grid heating 

Off-grid heat is a priority for many homeowners due to rocketing energy prices, and there is no better appliance than wood-burning stoves. 

Wood-burning stoves require no gas, electricity, oil, or diesel/gas generator – just the logs and timber you throw on them to keep their fires burning. 

Suppose you live in an area prone to energy cuts and gas supply problems or somewhere remote where heating oil and diesel are hard to find. A log burner is a perfect solution because it will comfortably heat any space with the correct kW rating. 

As we discussed above, wood burners are also cheap to run if you buy your wood in bulk or collect and process your own logs for free. 

Wood burners also complement renewable energy systems. While solar panels and wind turbines generate off-grid electricity, wood burners deliver off-grid heat, letting you put the electricity you generate to better use around your property. 

Advantage #6 – Long lifespan 

You can expect a wood-burning stove to give you over fifteen years of service, with some models living past two decades with proper maintenance and use. 

The key to a long lifespan is to regulate the stove's temperature correctly so that the casing, flue, and other metal components are not subjected to extremely high temperatures (over 800°F) for extended periods. 

A temperature between 500°F and 800°F (260°C to 426°C) is optimal for longevity and comfort. Too high a temperature makes a stove unbearable to sit near and interact with, while too low a temperature creates a smoldering fire. 

Most reputable stove manufacturers provide a five to ten-year warranty, covering you for defects in materials and workmanship. Note that the flue is a separate device, but it should last just as long, if not longer, than the stove.

Maintenance is also critical to a long lifespan. Clean the firebox every week with a soft brush and a damp cloth to remove ash and matter. We also recommend greasing the hinges every few months with graphite or copper grease.  

Advantage #7 – Character and style 

If you don't have a fireplace right now, a wood-burning stove is way more interesting than central air and radiators. 

And while open fireplaces are impressive for their crackling sounds, stoves have a significant advantage when it comes to looks – they have character when not in use. 

Even when your wood-burning stove isn't lit, it still looks fantastic as a feature in your space, while open fireplaces are nothing but holes. 

The firebox of a wood-burning stove also reduces the light entering your room from the fire, helping create a relaxing ambiance. This is a massive benefit if you have a small space, so your room isn't too brightly lit. 

Best of all, you can get contemporary and traditional wood-burning stoves to suit any taste. Whether you like Victorian detailing, rustic simplicity, or modern tall stoves with panoramic glass, there's a stove for everyone. 

Advantage #8 – Home salability 

Wood-burning stoves are a desirable feature for prospective homebuyers, so if you plan to sell your home anytime in the future, they are a great selling point. 

You can expect a wood-burning stove to add its retail price to the purchase price of your property, or more if stove prices keep increasing. 

The popularity of wood burners is on the rise too, so you can pitch your stove as a value item that saves prospective buyers money from a new installation. 

People love wood-burning stoves because they make a space feel homely – what better way to welcome guests, and buyers, into your home?

Disadvantages of Heating Your Home with a Wood Stove

We've covered the good but it's important to provide a balanced argument so here's the bad!

Disadvantage #1 – Cost of purchase and installation

Wood-burning stoves have a luxury price tag running into the thousands. 

A simple wood-burning stove with no catalytic converter costs between $500 and $1,000, with an additional $1,000 for installation and flue lining. This will get you a 5kW stove with steel doors and a plain, black casing – built for functionality, not style. 

If you want a stove with a catalyst (highly recommended to improve efficiency), you can expect to pay $1,500 to $2,500 for a 5kW stove and $1,000 for installation. 

For what it's worth, 5kW is small for a wood-burning stove. If you have a medium-sized room, you need a 7-9kW stove, which costs between $2,500 and $4,000 on average. The costs soon add up for flue lining and accessories. 

Is the cost worth it? For many people, a stove's character, warmth, and status symbol are worth the price tag, and we are in that camp. 

Ensure you get at least three quotes for the installation and shop around for stove deals. Look at known brands and avoid costly maintenance plans. 

Disadvantage #2 – Ongoing maintenance 

Wood-burning stoves are simple appliances without any mechanical or electronic components, but they still need maintenance. 

Maintenance comes in two forms:

  • Cleaning – inside the firebox, firebox glass, inside the flue, chimney sweeping 
  • Lubrication – a spread of graphite lube or copper grease on hinges and handles 

The biggest tasks are flue cleaning and chimney sweeping, which should be performed twice per year, or following every sixty uses. 

It is crucial to keep on top of flue and chimney cleaning so that soot does not coat the lining and form creosote, a sticky tar-like substance that increases fire risk. 

The good news is that maintenance is more of an inconvenience than a money pit. Expect to pay a professional cleaner around $80 per trip.

Disadvantage #3 – Limited heating power per stove 

While wood-burning stoves produce immense heat and can comfortably warm a room or open-plan living space, that heat won't circulate your property like central heating or warm air heating. 

To heat many rooms and individual spaces, you need multiple stoves, which becomes impractical after a certain point. 

For example, a 40kW combi boiler will comfortably provide heat to fifteen radiators in a four-bedroom house. One stove won't heat to anywhere near the same degree because it is in one location, without heat circulation. 

Wood-burning stoves are not the most efficient or practical solution if you want to heat a whole floor with segmented rooms. Wood stoves are best in spaces that need character and warmth, such as living areas and open-plan spaces.  

Disadvantage #4 – Storage space needed for wood

Only some people are blessed with a store or cover for firewood. If you don’t have a dry space, your enjoyment of your stove might be soured by the need to constantly buy wood and the logs taking up usable living space.  

Having no store for firewood also means that buying firewood in bulk isn’t an option, so you will have to buy in lower amounts (at higher prices). 

Firewood can also attract rodents and pests like termites when stored outdoors. A firewood cover is the best way to stop this from happening.

Disadvantage #5 - Limited control

Heating in this manner isn't exactly accurate. Not when you compare it with the thermostatic control of an electric heater anyway. 

By using a stove thermometer you can quantify the heat that you produce with a stove, but you still lack the precise control of something like a thermostat which can be set manage the heat of a room.

With a wood stove, experience is your only guide when it comes to knowing how warm your room will be with a firebox full of burning wood.

Summing Up

The advantages of wood-burning stoves far outweigh the disadvantages. Here's a recap of all the pros and cons:

Wood-burning Stove Pros

  • Low running costs
  • Extremely efficient
  • Two types of heat (heat your room and things you put on the stove)
  • Easy temperature control 
  • Off-grid heating (no need for anything but logs and kindling)
  • Long lifespan (fifteen to twenty years)
  • Character and style
  • Home salability (wood burners make fantastic selling points)

Wood-burning Stove Cons

  • Expensive to buy and install – budget circa $2,000 to $6,000
  • Ongoing maintenance (cleaning)
  • Limited heating power per stove (you might need a few to heat a house)
  • Storage space needed for firewood

Is a wood-burning stove suitable for you? If you want a stylish, attractive focal point in your home, or you have an inefficient open fireplace, the answer is yes. We're big advocates and think every home is better with a stove. 

About the Author Paul Cathro

Paul is an ex-HVAC engineer with 5 years 'in the trade'.

He acquired in 2022 and aims to make it the internet's most comprehensive HVAC resource for small homes in the next few years.

You can learn more about Paul's story here.

Browse his published work on the website here.

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