Category Archives: Wood Stoves

High’s Chimney has a bit of knowledge on the topic of wood stoves from years of wood stove sales and service in the DC area. In the articles below, we share some of our knowledge on woodstoves.

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The following library of information is broken up in a way that will educate you on your chimney so you know how your chimney should be properly cleaned, maintained, and/or repaired. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, leave us a note in the comments and we will try to find you an answer!

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Fireplace vs Stove: The Wood Burning Showdown

Wood is good!  But when it comes to deciding between different wood-burning solutions for heating your home, some comparison shopping is in order.  Today we’ll look at the features of wood fireplaces and stoves, and see how each “stacks up.”  Get it?  Wood…stacks up.  Anyway, let’s compare some of the key features to look out for when deciding between a whole hearth unit and a stove.

Purchase Price



The price tag.  It’s a necessary “evil,” if you will.  While the following additional factors may ultimately be more important to you in the long run, your wallet may dictate what you decide to buy now.  Home heating is a valuable commodity, and as such carries prices to match.  For heating on a budget, you might consider a wood-burning fireplace.  For a standard factory-built fireplace, look to spend an average of $3,000 – $5,000 in the DC area.  Note that replacing/updating an old unit costs less, as it involves only swapping the hardware, however fabricating a fireplace from scratch will involve heavy construction and weighing the costs of different materials (i.e. stone vs. brick).  Wood stoves, on the other hand, are pricier from the outset.  These run at an average of $2,500 – $4,000 PLUS the cost of installation and venting.  You’ll also have to think about whether or not a special ventilation system is necessary for your stove if the home doesn’t already have fireplace venting.  Stoves can either be vented through a wall or chimney and the method matters to your wallet!
Winner: Fireplace.


wood stove


Each unit uses wood as the fuel source, which is easy to come by and relatively inexpensive when bought, but there are major differences in the efficiency levels of fireplaces and stoves.  Wood fireplaces are best used to heat a single room because during combustion, a fireplace takes in air from inside your home and may bring it in from outside to send smoke and CO up the chimney.  This can bring a draft through the house, so you benefit from less of the fire’s heat.  A stove, on the other hand, is potentially 50% more energy efficient, according to the EPA, and uses 1/3 less wood for heat while providing more warmth than its fireplace counterpart.
Winner: Stove.


wood stove


We absolutely cannot forget about the environment when weighing our options between a fireplace and a stove.  A major player here is carbon monoxide, which is toxic when inhaled.  Burning wood is considered to be environmentally-safe and carbon-neutral, as emissions amount to only 0.00612 pounds of CO per hour, but should still be monitored.  Carbon monoxide emissions vary between the two types of units, with a lower risk of in-house pollution from a stove, as combustion gases flow straight up and out of a stovepipe instead of into your home.  A fireplace, however, might back draft some hazardous gases into your home, with the rest escaping through the chimney.  In either case, however, a certain degree of CO makes its way into the atmosphere, affecting the surrounding area.  It’s a tight race in this case, however when considering the larger environment and your own home, we have a clear winner.
Winner: Stove.




As one blogger we encountered put it, a wood stove in the corner of a room sometimes just looks “sad.”  Wood stoves are often big, freestanding metal units that simply look awkward when not in use and do little to add beauty to a room.  A nice compromise is to opt for a wood stove insert, which would occupy the fireplace area, but you might still want to have a standard wood fireplace for added beauty.  A wood fireplace is very much a centerpiece to the room it occupies.  Dressed with an elegant mantle, rustic bricks and/or gorgeous tiling, it brings joy to a room.  You can add to it seasonally, with decorative accents placed atop the mantle and much more.  And when that fire’s lit—boy you’ll be in for a treat!  Between the low crackling of wood and the glow of the flames, a fireplace brings the ambiance!
Winner: Fireplace.


Wood-burning comes with some hazards.  For instance, we know that both units rely on wood for fuel, which itself can carry mildew or pests.  We also know that burning wood can result in creosote buildup inside a chimney, a possible house fire risk.  With diligence, though, these problems can be managed.  Additionally, many times wood-burning fireplaces are open, sometimes with a mesh curtain for minimal protection.  This means that sparks can fly out, resulting in the potential for burns on your hands/arms or for your property to catch fire.  Along those same lines, wood-burning stoves are enclosed, usually by a glass door.  Without sacrificing heat, that closed door will usually keep you, your family and your property safe, with sparks only being problematic when tending to the fire.  It is important to realize, though, that although stove flames are sequestered behind closed doors, the unit itself will become quite hot and should not be touched to avoid further burn risks.  The safety levels of each type of unit are pretty equal when all is considered.
Winner: It’s a tie!

There are lots of things to think about when it comes to choosing how to heat your home.  Sticker price, efficiency, greenness and other factors are just the tip of the iceberg in choosing between a wood fireplace and stove.  The two compare quite closely, but the choice really depends on which features you value more.  No matter which one wins in your book, fireplace or stove, High’s Chimney has you covered!  Call us to discuss your needs today!

Wood Stoves vs Pellet Stoves

As fall approaches, we begin to say goodbye to scorching days and nights and prepare to say hello to the colder ones.  As that transition gets underway, we become more concerned with heating and begin to evaluate our options for the cool months ahead.  There’s always the option of more expensive home heating via gas, but what about a good old fire?  Any home can be equipped with a stove.  But which type should you choose?  Here the decision comes down to wood vs. pellet stoves, and each has its own ups and downs.  Let’s take a look.

Wood Stove Pellet Stove
Cost of Fuel

*Checkmark Indicates Advantage

Stove Pricing

Wood Stove

Wood Stove.

You want a new stove, so the first consideration will likely be price. There’s a lot to love about wood and pellet stoves, but the price tag will undoubtedly stand out.

Wood Stove Pricing
Price: $3,000 – $5,000, installation included

Wood stoves average around $3,000 – $4,200 when you factor in the cost of bringing in a pro installer.  For a premium model with all the bells and whistles, you may be looking at about $5,000.  If your home has a chimney and a preexisting fireplace unit, installation may be simplified and you may be able to save money and opt for a fireplace insert, which sits directly inside the fireplace’s firebox. If not, you’re looking at lofty fees to fashion a ventilation system.

Pellet Stove Pricing
Price: $3,500 to $4,000, installation included

On the other hand, pellet stoves come in anywhere from $1,700 – $3,000 prior to installation fees, and could total $3,500 – $4,000 when all is said and done.  That’s already lower than the higher price points of wood stoves, plus pellet stoves are able to be ventilated through a small hole in the wall, making them able to be installed anywhere in the room and saving on chimney costs.

Winner: With cost and installation flexibility, the better bet has to be a pellet stove.

Fuel Cost

wood pellets

Wood Pellets

The primary difference between pellet and wood stoves is their fuel source.

Wood Stove Opporating Cost
Fuel Source: Wood, ~6.5 tons per season
Cost: ~$190 per ton, ~$1,235 per season

Wood stoves operate much like fireplaces in that they burn logs.  This is generally convenient and cost-effective, as firewood can at times be harvested and seasoned on your own property (free wood!) or bought by the cord from stores for low sums.

Pellet Stove Operating Cost
Fuel Source: Pellets, ~7.5 tons per season
Cost: ~$190 per ton, ~$1,425 per season

Pellet stoves utilize wood pellets for fuel, composed of sawdust or small wood chips.  These chips are added to a reservoir to be burned.  Pellets are harder to come by as they are specially manufactured (not available in your own backyard) and not everyone sells them.  This fuel must be purchased from other areas in the US, making them somewhat less common, though plenty of regions carry them.  Using pellets means planning to buy and ship the item to use. Pellets are slightly higher in price per year, though they burn longer than wood.

In either case, according to the Department of Energy, you should expect to pay about $190 for a cord of wood or ton of pellets (at 6.5 cords or 7.5 tons of pellets per season, factoring in that a ton equals 1.5 cords).

Winner: Given both the abundance of and cost per season for natural wood, wood is a winner over pellets, as it’s both affordable and accessible.

Powering Your Stove

Pellet Stove Hopper

A motorized hopper on a pellet stove.

Another aspect that distinguishes wood and pellet stoves is power.

Wood Stove Power
Power Needed: None

Wood stoves work essentially like fireplaces—add wood, light it, stoke as needed, etc.  They operate completely free of power such as electricity, making them usable anytime as long as timber is available.

Pellet Stove Power
Power Needed: 100 kilowatt-hours per month, ~$9 per month

Pellet stoves rely on power no matter what.  Electricity is a cornerstone in their operation, so when the power goes out, so does your fire. The electricity powers a motorized hopper that feeds the pellets into the stove.  It is possible, however, to run your stove on a Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) backup battery or generator during power outages.

Winner: Wood. Got dry wood and a match?  You’ll have fire.  Pellet stoves require extra resources and expenses.  With the electricity used for such a unit, you may be left in the cold during a power outage, all the while paying for 100 kilowatt-hours each month (about $9).

Environmentally Friendly

Pellet and wood stoves vary in their degrees of “greenness.”

Wood Stove  Production
Smoke Production: 2 to 7.5 grams per hour
CO2 Production: 0.0612 pounds per kilowatt-hour

EPA-certified wood-burning stoves are tightly regulated, releasing between 2 – 7.5 grams of smoke into the air every hour— an improvement over those of the olden days that emitted 40+ grams. According to the Biomass Energy Centre in the UK, when burned, wood releases 0.00612 pounds per kilowatt-hour of CO2.

Pellet Stove Production
Smoke Production: <1 gram per hour
CO2 Production: 0.035 pounds per kilowatt-hour

Pellet stoves, however, emit almost no smoke—less than 1 gram per hour. With such a small footprint left behind, the EPA doesn’t monitor them. Additionally, as pellets are essentially wood waste, using them is a form of recycling, keeping wood particles out of landfills. According to the Biomass Energy Centre in the UK, when burned, pellets release 0.035 pounds of CO2 per kilowatt-hour.

Winner:  Pellets stoves. While both wood and pellet stoves have come a long way toward cleaner operation, pellet stoves have minimal smoke and CO2 impacts and also promote recycling. Both fuels are “carbon-neutral” and are not considerable hazards.

Stove Safety

wood stove fire

A fire burns hot in this wood stove.

“Playing with fire” is risky business all around and one must take necessary safety precautions when tending to a fire. Everything from using appropriate kindling to wearing gloves may be essential. Beyond this, however, are the safety factors of the stoves themselves.

Wood Stove Safety

Wood stoves give off flame sparks, which may lead to burns, and these units could accumulate creosote deposits resulting in dangerous house fires down the road. Additionally, firewood has the potential to bring mold or pests into the home from outside.

Pellet Stove Safety

Pellet stoves burn cleaner and safer, without the risk of harming you or your home. The contained flames keep your family safe from flying embers and sparks, however the pellet stove will become hot to the touch. All members of your household should be made aware that the stove will become very hot, and efforts should be made to keep pets away from the device.

Winner: Wood Stoves. In terms of immediate safety, wood stoves get a big thumbs-down here, leaving pellet stoves to take center stage. Sparks, creosote buildup and house fires from wood stoves are great risks associated with wood stoves. Pellet stoves contain flames and prevent users from getting unexpected burns from flying burning debris.

Maximum Performance


An efficient pellet stove.

Your stove is there to keep you warm, so which type does that better? This all depends on the units of heat measure, or BTUs and how effectively they’re used between the fuel sources and getting heat to your space. Each stove uses great amounts of BTUs to burn logs or pellets throughout the season. However, not all of this energy is converted into usable heat.

Wood Stove Production

Firewood is used by the cord (stacked wood equaling 4 feet high x 8 feet long x 4 feet deep). According to the Department of Agriculture, every cord utilizes 15.3 million BTUs. In heating your home, you benefit from 10.7 million BTUs out of that total, enjoying a stove efficiency level of 70%.

Pellet Stove Production

On the other hand, pellets come in 40-lb bags and the stoves have a BTU output of 13.6 million per ton of pellets. From this, you soak up 11.3 million BTUs of heat. The result is greatly improved efficiency over wood stoves, coming in at about 83%.

Winner: Pellet stoves.

Stove Maintenance

chimney sweep

A chimney sweep.

Some maintenance is required no matter what type of stove you opt for. Cleanings, component checks and more all must factor in.

Wood Stove Maintenance

Wood stoves are maintained like chimneys, requiring that a certified chimney sweep be brought in annually to do an inspection of the system, including the flue and other components, and need to have residue and soot cleaned out periodically. A major maintenance consideration for wood stoves is inspecting the catalytic combustor, and that must be done 3 times per season alone.

Pellet Stove Maintenance

Pellet stoves, however, are simple to maintain, so long as you follow manufacturer recommendations. It may be as simple as checking the working order of motors and fans or removing excess debris. Maintaining a pellet stove is a straightforward and potentially less-costly process. You can do much of the checks yourself by following guidelines and don’t need to pay for as many inspections. However, if your pellet stove needs serviced, finding repairmen with the necessary skills can be difficult and repairing one of the three motors or electronic circuit board can become costly.

Winner: Pellet stoves win here, too.


wood stove

A log burning in a wood stove.

Ok, admit it. After all of this talk about wood and pellet stoves, you’re wondering, which is prettier? Well, each option comes in a variety of shapes and models designed to fit well with your home décor, many fit into preexisting fireplaces and still others are freestanding models that may be moved if necessary. Both wood-burning and pellet stoves are made to be attractive whilst being functional. Therefore, the deciding factor here has to be the burn itself.

Wood Stove Aesthetics

When you look into a wood burning unit, you see orange flames licking at dried, aged logs. Still more, you take in the smoky aroma of the burning timber.

Pellet Stove Aesthetics

Pellet stoves have the same bright flames, however, that “wow” factor may be diminished for some, as the logs you’d expect to see are replaced by minuscule fragments.

Winner. Aesthetically-speaking, then, wood’s got it won. In the war of wood vs. pellet stoves, you may still wonder which stove is the better option.  Strictly speaking, pellet stoves may be a better investment due to such factors as maintenance, efficiency, safety and more.  But ultimately, the decision lies with you.  What things are most important?  If it’s the crackle of logs burning, wood may be good too!  YOU decide!

In the war of wood vs. pellet stoves, you may still wonder which stove is the better option.  Strictly speaking, pellet stoves may be a better investment due to such factors as maintenance, efficiency, safety and more. But ultimately, the decision lies with you.  What things are most important?  If it’s the crackle of logs burning, wood may be good too!  YOU decide!

The Benefits to Owning a Wood Stove


With the newly announced wood stove rebate pilot program set to debut in Maryland this upcoming heating season, many Maryland and D.C. area homeowners are finding out for the first time that they have the option of heating their home with a wood stove instead of more contemporary methods. The first question you might ask is ‘Why would I want to install and use a stove in the first place?’

There are plenty of benefits of using a wood stove for your residential heat. The most obvious is the cleanliness of burning wood, which gives off less particulate matter and is a renewable resource, unlike gas-powered alternatives. Another chief benefit is the cost efficiency – a 2009 Consumer Reports study found that cord wood was the cheapest way to generate 1,000,000 BTU’s of heat, priced at $9.09 per million BTU’s versus $12.61 and $18.53 for natural gas and oil, respectively. Of course, pricing will vary based on your geographic location, so make sure you do your due diligence if you’re only looking to save on heating costs.

There are some more peripheral benefits about heating your home with a wood-fueled stove, however. Because they only need wood to operate and don’t rely on electricity, they can provide a home with a heat source and cooking solution when bad weather takes down power lines. This is especially good to keep pipes heated and prevent burst waterlines during large ice storms. Additionally, wood burning stoves can be used as additional cooking surfaces in your home, perfect for warm cocoa on cold winter days. They also have the added bonus of saving you money on other utilities, like electricity.

There’s a certain appeal to a wood stove as well, a timeless charm that brings back special memories. Nothing is cozier than a hot stove after a day spent in the snow. The dry heat they produce is great for drying wet clothes, too.

Selecting a stove

If you’ve decided that a stove is something you want to explore, we’d like to put in a word of caution about selecting your stove. Many larger retailers can offer you stoves at prices that are out of reach for smaller retailers. Although we would prefer you come to High’s for your needs, we would rather you purchase your new stove from any small retailer rather than a large chain outfit. The reason for this is simple – you’ll receive a better product that comes attached with installation by craftsmen who have had long-term experience with their products.

Big box stores offer you lower cost products that are designed to achieve the best margins of profit. They meet standards, but are more likely to warp, have poor welding, and give off more particulate emissions, all problems that worsen over time because of low-quality design. Additionally, since their product rotates seasonally and on a per-cost basis, their installation teams are not as experienced with each particular product that the retailer has on offer.

A wood-fueled stove is an investment in your home and future. Although you might save some money with a big box unit up front, those savings will work out to less than pennies a day in difference from a high quality unit over time. We recommend finding stoves made of heavy steel or cast iron, a sign of good craftsmanship. Additionally, we recommend purchasing a unit from a retailer with a track record of quality installations (speaking of quality wood stove installers). And don’t forget the new rebate that you can put towards the initial cost of the stove!

Have you ever or been in a home using a wood-fueled stove for heat? Tell us your favorite memory in the comments.

Types of Chimneys, Vents and Connectors

Chimneys, Vents and Connectors: a Guide

On part two of our guide to chimneys, vents and connectors, we will be covering the specific types of chimneys, vents and connectors. Refer to our initial chimney terminology guide for more general information on chimneys, vents, connectors and flues.

Types of Chimneys

There are two major types of chimneys: masonry and factory made. Masonry chimneys are made of brick or block and require lining for proper safety. Stainless steel liners are preferred.

Factory-built chimneys are often referred to as “class A chimneys”. This terminology is not official, but chimney professionals use it and understand its meaning. Class A Chimneys always have a stainless steel interior and a galvanized or stainless steel exterior. If the class A chimney runs outside without a chase, stainless steel is always used.

Class A Chimney System PartsClass A chimneys are insulated to prevent the outside of the chimney from becoming excessively hot. There are two types of insulation used: packed pipes and air insulated pipes. Packed pipes have a double wall with insulation between the layers to help absorb the heat. Air insulated chimneys can have up to three or four walls without insulation between them. In these chimneys the air space is used to help absorb the heat. These may also be called “Air Insulated” chimneys.

It’s worth noting that Class A Chimneys must always be used as a whole unit. Mixing parts from different brands/makes is extremely dangerous and strictly prohibited.

Types of Vents

Vents are used for the venting of gas, oil and bio-mass appliances. They are never used as a chimney for a solid fuel such as wood. While using multiple brands isn’t optimal, adapters are sold to allow the use of pipes from multiple vent brands.

Type "B" Gas Vents/ConnectorsType B Vents are factory built double wall vent pipes that are only used to for venting gas. They are always made with a galvanized exterior and an aluminum interior. The air space between walls is fairly small. This vent can be used as a vent or connector, and is quite inexpensive.

Type L vents can be either a vent or a connector, and is made to vent oil. Class A chimneys are still preferred in the market over L vents, and as such L vents availability is limited. Sometimes it is listed for “bio-mass venting”, or venting the products of combusting Pellet Ventpellets, corn, cherry pits, etc.

Pellet vents are technically L vents as well. These vents must be installed through a house or be in a chase. While they have stainless steel interiors, their exterior may be black or galvanized steel.

Types of Connectors

Type C vents are used only as connectors. They are single walled galvanized pipes, and as such often called “galvanized pipes”. They are used only for venting gas or oil. Using a C vent with solid fuel appliances can cause extremely toxic fumes. This is the least expensive of the pipes. Inspectors mandate that when used, C-vent crimps must go away from the appliance towards the chimney or vent. This isn’t an official rule and there’s no specific reason for this to be necessary, but is simply a standard on installation. Inspectors will make you reinstall the vent with the crimps pointing the ‘correct’ way, so it’s best to just install them appropriately from the beginning.

Black Single Wall Stove PipeBlack single walled pipes are also only used as connectors. Sometimes they are referred to as “black galvanized pipe” even though it is not galvanized. While black single wall pipes can be used for solid, gas, or oil venting, it’s expensive and overkill for gas and oil. To prevent condensing creosote from leaking out of the pipes, crimps must point to the stove. This isn’t an official rule, but it is a best practice is you don’t appreciate the smell of creosote.

Double walled stovepipes are used for reduced clearance solid fuel, and used only as a connector. They’re more expensive than single walled stovepipes as they are made of double walled pipe with an air space insulator.

When making decisions about vents, connectors or chimneys, it’s always wise to work with an experienced chimney and vent specialist. They can help you navigate installation to ensure your work passes inspection, looks great, and works well for years to come.

Wood burning Inserts for your Fireplace

Woodstove Inserts for your Fireplace

woodburning insertFew things are as satisfying as cozying up to a fireplace on a cold day. Unfortunately, fireplaces aren’t meant to run unsupervised, and cannot effectively heat your entire house. Luckily, there are ways to turn your fireplace into super efficient heating: wood burning fireplace inserts. These inserts are designed to fit easily into your existing fireplace, allowing you all the coziness of a fireplace with the added function of a woodstove.

Wood burning inserts are superior to fireplaces for efficiency and safety. These closed inserts maintain air flow and heat to allow steady and efficient wood combustion. This means slower burning wood that doesn’t need as frequent tending. Woodstove inserts provide superior safety by sectioning off the woodstove from the rest of the room. This means that sparks and gusts of wind are controlled, allowing your fire to burn peacefully. Due to this, properly used woodstove inserts do not require supervision, allowing you to go about your life while your woodstove keeps your home comfortable.

While it might seem that there are few differences between a fireplace and a woodstove, their efficiency differs drastically. For example, modern woodstoves use special technology to ignite fuel-rich gases before they travel out of your chimney. This increases efficiency, and minimizes emissions. Many also allow for burn adjustment for easy temperature control. They also are built with heat dispersion in mind. Most modern wood burning inserts come equipped with a blower, which helps spread heat throughout your home without the need for an external fan. Some models can even be used in a forced air system to allow heating of adjacent rooms.

Woodstove Insert Design

Exceptional functionality comes with exceptional design. From large viewing windows to carefully crafted exteriors, these fireplace inserts are meant to be beautiful. Many styles, designs and finishes exist, allowing you to choose the perfect style that will beautifully heat your home.

Renovations can be expensive and tiring, but as long as you have a preexisting masonry or metal chimney, woodstove inserts require very little installation. Most installations take a day or less to complete, meaning you can quickly and easily have your fireplace insert heating your home.

Hampton HI200 Small Wood Insert

Hampton HI200 Small Wood Insert

There are plenty of additional benefits to owning a wood burning fireplace insert. Depending on the make and model you choose, one insert can heat up to 2,200 square feet of space. Additionally, replacing your fireplace with a woodstove insert saves precious floor space a traditional wood stove would require. The woodstove replacing your fireplace also helps prevent children and pets from burning themselves on an exposed woodstove.

Wood burning inserts are an easy and efficient way to make your fireplace more productive and safer. If you would like to hear more about how a wood burning insert would work for you, contact our design specialists who can discuss your situation and help you decide what would work best for you.

Wood Stove Heat Shields: An Overview


Do I Need A Heat Shield?


Wood stoves require heat shields both under and behind them to protect your home from heat damage. While many wood stoves include heat shields in their design, some do not. Refer to your wood stove to determine if external heat shields are necessary. Installing these heat shields as instructed is important for keeping your wood stove safe and efficient. Taking the time to understand the heat shield needs of your wood stove is important for your safety, and will give you ease of mind when you need to leave your house unattended.

Shields protect your home from heat damage and fire one of two ways. Understanding how they work is important to deciding which heat shield is right for you, and ensuring you install the shield correctly.

How Heat Shields Protect Your Home

Safety Spacing

One technique heat shields use to protect your wall is by allowing space between the shield and the wall. These shields are hung with an inch gap between the shield and the wall. This allows air circulation behind the shield, which helps relieve the heat radiating from the shield. With these types of shields, it is important that nothing blocks the air flow behind the shield, as this could be a fire hazard. This type of shield strategy is most commonly seen with metal shields, but the same method can be used with concrete sheets and other shields.


The second method heat shields use is insulation. These types of shield rest directly against the walls or floor, and have heavy insulation behind the fireproof exterior. Just placing fireproof materials, such as tile or concrete, against the wall or floor does not adequately protect your home from fire. These materials might absorb some of the heat, but much more of it will radiate into your wall. This clearly is a fire hazard. Behind the fireproof material, you may need several layers of heat shield insulation to ensure proper safety. The amount of insulation you need is highly dependant on the type of woodstove you have, how close it is set to the wall or floor, and the type of insulation purchased. Please refer to your wood stove manufacturer or wood stove specialist for more information.

Heat Shield Specifications & Considerations

Manufacturer Specs

Wood stoves come in a variety of styles and designs. For this reason, appropriate safety measures vary. It is important to read any literature that came with your wood stove and refer to any certification information listed on the stove. This information will cover the distance necessary between the wood stove and the wall, as well as the suggested width and height of the heat shield.

Insurance Standards

Many insurance companies have standards about how a wood stove heat shield needs to be installed. These might be beyond the standards set by the wood stove company. As such, it is important to discuss your wood stove with your insurance company before installing anything.

Interior Design

Just because the basis of these shields is boring doesn’t mean that heat shields must be an eyesore. There are many heat resistant decorations that can add life to a dull shield. Many people add decorative ceramic tiles or gathered stones to their shields to increase the beauty of the necessary piece. Just be sure that the products you use to affix the decorations are safe to use in instances of high heat.

Do you need a quality wood stove installed the Washington DC area?  High’s provides expert wood stove sales, service, and installation.

The Heat Efficiency of Wood Burning Stoves vs. Gas Stoves

Ever wonder about the overall efficiency of a wood burning stove as opposed to a gas stove? There are many differences between the two types of stoves but understanding the distinction in combustion and heating efficiency is the most helpful towards making a decision as to which stove is beneficial for you and your family’s needs.

Combustion vs. Heat Transfer Efficiency

wood burning stove

Combustion Efficiency vs. Heat Transfer Efficiency

First off, defining combustion efficiency and heating transfer efficiency is important to understand the rest of this discussion. Combustion efficiency is the percentage of fuel that is actually turned into heat instead of ash, vapor, steam, etc. This form of efficiency is a measure of the percentage of your fuel expenses it takes to create heat in your stove, while taking into account the amount of waste that is created from this fuel usage.

Heat transfer efficiency is how much of the heat generated actually radiates throughout the rooms in your home. This is essential to take note of because there’s a distinct difference between the fuel creating heat within your stove and that actual heat being expelled throughout your home from the stove. There’s normally a lot more heat created within the stove then is available to heat your home.

Wood Burning Stoves Heating Efficiency

The fuel that generates heat within a wood burning stove is obviously firewood. Wood burning stoves are often less efficient when it comes to an equal balance of fuel to heat release because the outside of these types of stoves don’t typically have an efficient heat exchanger. A heat exchanger is a piece of the equipment on the stove that helps transfer heat from the stove to the rest of the room. Heat exchangers on wood burning stoves don’t have the surface area for the proper extraction and distribution of heat relative to the amount of fuel used to generate the heat. Wood stoves are much more combustion efficient then they are heat transfer efficient.

However, wood stoves still remain efficient heating options because of the fact they are in the area of your home that you want heated. Unlike a wood stove insert or a fireplace, a wood burning stove is often near the center of the room and is exterior from a wall. Therefore, the stove generates heat closer to you and your family. Lastly, wood burning stoves are especially worth purchasing, despite their heat transfer inefficiencies, if you don’t have to pay for the wood to fuel them. If you have access to your own firewood, then the heat transfer inefficiencies aren’t costing you the same downsides as they would if you’re buying firewood.

Gas Stove Heat Efficiency

Gas stoves are powered by gas via the piping in your home, much like a conventional cooking oven. Gas utility services are often more of an expense than firewood to fuel a stove. Yet, the overall combustion and heat transfer efficiency of a gas stove is much higher than that of a wood stove. It all comes down to pricing.

Heat exchangers in gas stoves help prevent escaping heat from your stove and help better distribute it throughout your home. They are typically more viable within a gas stove then in a wood stove, therefore less heat escapes from the stove making a gas stove more efficient in both respects.

Many gas stoves have high levels of insulation and tight fitting door hinges that a wood stove does not. This severely increases the efficiency of a gas stove over a wood stove because they are able to retain higher levels of heat for longer periods of time.

In the end, both gas and wood stoves have high levels of heat and combustion efficiency. Gas stoves are typically more reliable in terms of efficiency then wood stoves, but often at a higher price.

What is a Freestanding Woodstove?

What is a Freestanding Woodstove?

A pretty basic definition of woodstoves is that they are metal boxes made in such a way that you can have a wood fire inside so that the metal gets hot and heats the room.

Freestanding Wood Stove

As basic as that definition is, there’s actually a great deal of engineering, new technology and testing involved in making today’s woodstoves. They are very efficient heaters (in the 90% efficiency range, like gas or oil furnaces.) Because they use renewable fuel (wood) which is found everywhere, this “old technology heater” is an excellent choice for home heating in the 21st Century.

A “free-standing” woodstove means that the stove is not installed into a fireplace. (That type of woodstove is called a fireplace insert. Some freestanding stoves are on legs, others on pedestals, but all sit at least a few inches above the floor.

Venting Free Standing Wood Stoves

The wood smoke either comes out of the top or rear of the stove and you use stovepipe to carry the smoke through the room from the stove to the chimney. If it comes out of the back there is often a tee section to get the smoke moving UP. For top-vented stoves the stovepipe goes right into the top of the stove.

Wood is usually loaded through the front door of the stove. The doors often have high-temperature glass so you can also look at the fire as it heats the room.

When installing a freestanding stove, you will generally have three ways to vent the smoke from the house:

  1. The first is “through the wall.” A through-the-wall installation is where you route the stovepipe coming from the stove to the wall, where there may be an existing chimney. Many houses have a masonry (brick or block) chimney in place that you can “tap into” to vent a woodstove. So said, all chimneys aren’t masonry, but many are factory-built sections. If you have no chimney in place, don’t worry about it – you just have a factory built chimney installed. The stovepipe joins the chimney at the wall.
  2. The second method is for when you have a chimney directly above the stove. This is not a naturally occurring event unless by huge coincidence. In most cases This method is for people who decide “I want the stove right here” and the stove probably (though not necessarily) is vented out of the top. In this case you have a factory built chimney installed directly over the stove. This is very common and a good way to do the job.
  3. The final method is what’s called a hearth stove installation. Recall that fireplace inserts are installed into fireplaces, not freestanding stoves. However, you can vent a freestanding stove through a fireplace. This usually means that a rear-vented stove sits in front of the fireplace (on the hearth.) The smoke pipe comes off the back of the stove and the turns up through the throat of the fireplace to vent the smoke through the fireplace chimney. This is a perfectly good way to install a stove. Take note, the hearth stove installation requires a properly sized liner to be put into the chimney. Fireplace chimneys will most assuredly be too large for a woodstove.

A note on properly sized chimney liners: In the 1970s many a woodstove was vented into a fireplace with a flue many times too big for the stove. The result was an extraordinary amount of creosote and tar build-up- of a type that chimney brushes can’t remove and many a house burned down in those days. A word to the wise: follow the rules.

What’s the best kind to buy?

There are good stoves and not as good stoves available to you. There is the low end stuff you can get at a great big mass merchandiser of course. These probably do meet minimum EPA standards, but those minimums are getting higher all the time…but they do work.

Cast Iron

Cast Iron Woodstove

Modern cast iron woodstoves can be very efficient and castings do look good, normally appealing to the eye. Cast iron has a reputation for radiating heat most evenly. So said, cast iron can be problematic in that large-surface castings sometime crack. They are also generally more expensive than the options.


Steel stoves are very efficient as well, and are generally the most economical option. Steel heats up and starts putting out heat the quickest. The styling on a steel stove nowadays can be very good, depending on the manufacturer’s designer. They may have brass doors for example, or other features to make them visually attractive. Steel has a good track record for longevity; you don’t hear of cracked steel panels very often.

Steel and Cast Iron

Another good option is the combination of steel and cast iron. This probably means that the stove is steel, but the door is cast iron (usually with glass.) It’s a very attractive appearance.

How Do You Know If You’ve Got A Good Wood Stove Installation?

Most people assume that if the heat is coming off of a wood stove and the smoke is going up the chimney, everything is fine. It may be, but very often it isn’t. There are two common problems, and a thousand little ones. Let’s only deal with the common problems. The biggest problem of them all is the clearances to combustibles. There are codes, standards and listings that specify how close a hot surface (either the stove or the pipe) can be to a combustible surface. And on top of the codes, standards and listings, there are the manufacturer’s instructions. Let me sort this out together.

Standards, Codes, Listings and Manufacturer’s Instructions

A standard is developed in a test lab. It’s not a rule in itself, but the standards do matter. When a chimney sweep quotes from NFPA211 (the standard covering this area) you should pay attention. But the standard itself is not law.

A code is law. And the codes are made from – you guessed it! – standards. The code doesn’t necessarily match exactly what’s in NFPA211 every time, but it’s highly likely to be very almost exactly the same. This is especially true today as most jurisdictions now use the International Residential Code, which standardized several different codes fairly recently (past few years.)

And then there’s the listing. At UL or a similar lab, they determine that Product XYZ performs in a way that keeps it in the safe guidelines of the standards. And manufacturer’s installation instructions are always included in their listings. So in the end you have to install a woodstove or stovepipe according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

So Get to the Point! (OK! OK!)

wood stove clearance diagram

Recommended minimal clearance for unlisted Wood Stove (single-wall pipe)

You must follow the manufacturer’s instructions of course, but there are generalities we can specify because we know how products have been listed. The graphic here tells you what clearances you need to maintain for an unlisted stove and for single wall stovepipe. There acceptable ways to reduce those clearances as well. I refer you to the NFPA 211 or invite you to call us here at High’s if you need specific information about this. There are products listed for closer clearances than these however. Double Wall Stovepipe is listed for a 6” clearance to combustibles for example. And see what the installation instructions on your stove say. Some stoves are listed for as close as 12” to the wall.

Most people don’t realize Double Wall Stovepipe is even an option. It’s also called DVL and improves the performance of any woodstove. It definitely costs more than ordinary black stovepipe, but it doesn’t break the bank either. DVL is a very nice product and most people would be happier having it if they only knew it was an option. So the way you know if your clearances are OK or not is to read the instructions and break out a measuring tape. It’s that easy.

Proper Sizing of Connectors

Surprisingly, you’ll see the wrong sized connector (stovepipe) on stoves, either too big or too small. The manufacturer’s instructions will always say to use the same size pipe as the stove collar (the flue gas outlet on the top or back of the stove- where the smoke comes out) so this is easy to figure out. If you increase to a larger pipe for some reason, you will give up stove performance, that is the stove won’t draft as well. If you decrease your stovepipe, for several reasons I won’t cover here, you are likely to have draft problems as well. In any event, the stove was engineered to have a certain connector size, and changing the connector size for some reason changes how the stove performs and can even make it unsafe when otherwise installed according to proper clearance! Don’t change the connector size!

Other Considerations

  • Single walled stovepipe should be secured by three screws at every joint. This is an easy one to check and easy to fix if it needs it.
  • Any woodstove, but especially (and absolutely!) fireplace insert woodstoves should have a properly sized stainless steel liner when installed in a masonry chimney. In fact, that’s in most manufacturers’ installation instructions these days, and the codes are increasingly calling for liners on older wood stoves as well. The way to find out if you have one (if you are unsure) is to look down the chimney. The liner should extend out of the top of the tile.
  • Read the instructions for information about the area in front of the stove. In general you want 16” of protection in front of the stove door, but again, you go by what the manufacturer says.