Most wood stoves are either cast iron or sheet steel. Cast iron wood burning stoves are superior to those made of steel, but are also more expensive. Using a wood stove as a backup source of heat in your home can reduce your consumption of fossil fuels and electricity.
The weight and density of cast iron provides wood stoves that are made of this material with a large measure of thermal mass. This means that the stove takes longer to heat up than a stove made of thinner or lighter gauge metal, and it also takes longer to cool down once it is hot. This characteristic allows the stove to store a lot of heat in its parts, meaning that more heat radiates out into your living space and less heat goes up the chimney.
Breaking in a New Cast Iron Stove
A brand-new cast iron stove needs to be treated gently and broken in slowly to acclimate it to the intense heat of a wood fire without damaging any of its parts. Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully regarding the size and temperature of the first fires that you start in your new stove. If you begin immediately to use your new stove with an enormous, very hot fire, you run the risk of warping or even cracking some of the cast iron parts. Breaking in the stove slowly will keep it in good condition and prolong its life.
Anyone who has ever had to move a cast-iron wood stove will attest to the fact that they are very, very heavy. While this is an advantage once a stove is in place because of the thermal mass it affords, it can be a problem when you have to move the stove. Do not attempt to move a cast-iron wood stove on your own; you will risk the health of your back and could easily crush a finger or toe. Enlist the help of some friends and have proper slings, carts and rollers on hand when your stove needs moving.
Many newer cast iron stoves have catalytic converters. These are ceramic devices that fit into the mouth of the stove pipe and break up the smoke that is leaving the stove. This allows a large percentage of the gases in the smoke to be reignited, creating more heat for your home and decreasing the particulates and pollutants that leave your chimney. Catalytic converters are fragile devices and should be handled with care when removed from their seatings in the stove.
- Photo Credit wood burning stove image by Paula Gent from Fotolia.com
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