“Today you can choose from a new generation of wood-burning appliances that are cleaner burning, more efficient, and powerful enough to heat many average-sized, modern homes.” (DOE On Wood Stoves)
This is a direct quote about wood stoves by the US Department of Energy. It perfectly encapsulates why the currently best wood stoves are so popular.
In fact, according to Statista, 28% of hearth products sold in the US in 2017 were ‘Wood appliances’. Given the high popularity of wood-burning stoves, that number has likely surpassed 30% by 2021.
As DOE puts it, today’s wood stoves are quite incredible. These are not the old wood-burning stoves that burn a lot of wood and sent most of the energy (and pollution) up through the chimney.
According to the DOE, the 4 factors that make a wood stove an excellent choice are:
- “Cleaner burning”. Older woodstoves released up to 30 g of smoke per hour (30 g/h). Modern EPA-certified wood-burning stoves produce less than 4.5 g of smoke per hour. The best wood stove insert – Drolet Escape 1500-l – emission rate is only 1.26 g/h.
- “More efficient”. Older traditional fireplaces would draw in as much as 300 CFM and send it straight through the chimney. Today’s wood stoves can even surpass 70% efficiency. For example, the #1 best overall wood stove can achieve a maximum 77% efficiency rate.
- “Powerful enough”. The problem with older wood stoves was the below 50,000 BTU heat output. With higher efficiency and more advanced engineering that goes into wood stove design, today’s units can easily surpass 50,000 BTU output. For example, the big Ashley Hearth AW3200E-P can produce more than 150,000 BTU of heating output.
- “Heat many average-sized, modern homes”. Traditional fireplaces would heat up a room, or even a small cottage. Today, a family can use a wood stove to heat an entire home.
An added bonus is that modern wood burning stoves have an aesthetic appeal. They are as well engineered for efficiency as they are well designed as an interior design piece.
We will look at 4 wood stove models with the best specifications in 2021. You will find a comparison table of all top-rated wood stoves further on, followed by an individual review of each model.
First, however, let’s look at the key elements that you should be aware of when choosing the best wood stove for your home. Here’s how you should read the wood stove specification sheet:
4 Things To Look For When Buying A Wood Stove
When you check out wood stoves, the looks are important. The design and the price are usually the first things we notice. However, the important parts are on the specification sheet.
Heating output, efficiency rate, emission rates, and long burn time, as well as maximum length, are the main factors to consider.
Example: No one would really like to buy a low-performance wood stove with a 50% efficiency rate, with 3h max. long burn time and 10+ g/h smoke pollution.
Let’s first look at the wood stove performance specifications.
BTU Output (Choosing A Proper Wood Stove Size)
The first thing to check is the BTU/h output. This is simply a measure of how much heat can a given wood stove produce. The units used here are BTU (British Thermal Units) per hour.
Wood stove producers usually give you both the maximum BTU heating output as well as heating area.
Example: Drolet Blackcomb II has a 65,000 BTU/h heating output. The producer recommends that this stove should be used to heat up places from 600 to 1,800 sq ft.
BTU/h output is measured. The recommended heating area, on the other hand, can vary by producer. To properly calculate the size of wood stove you need, keep this rule-of-thumb in mind:
60,000 BTU = Up to 2,000 Sq Ft home
If you live in colder environments (not Texas, for example) you should use higher BTU performance for a 2,000 sq ft home (up to 100,000 BTU for example).
In general, you can use a rough size classification of small, mid-sized, and big wood stoves. Here’s the classification:
- Small wood stove for a small home: 30,000 BTU to 60,000 BTU.
- Mid-sized wood stove for average-sized home: 60,000 BTU to 120,000 BTU.
- Large wood stove for a large home: 120,000+ BTU.
For best performance, look for high-efficiency wood stoves:
Efficiency Of A Wood Stove (Look For 70%+ Efficiency)
The efficiency of a wood stove is a percentage of how much input energy (wood) a stove can turn into useful heating energy.
Example: 14.31 lbs of red oak contains 100,000 BTU of heating power. If you use a 50% efficient wood stove, you will get 50,000 BTU of heat from that. If you put that same wood into a 70% high-efficiency wood-burning stove, you will get 70,000 BTU.
Wood stoves have different efficiency. In the short-term, lower-efficiency wood stoves might seem like a cheaper choice. The unit price of a 50% efficiency stove can be $1,000 lower than the unit price of a 70% high-efficiency stove.
However, the high-efficiency wood stoves are the true cost saver. They might cost a lot when you buy them but they quickly cut that extra cost and produce additional savings on burning wood.
In short, always opt for a high-efficiency wood stove. It’s a much smarter investment than older non-high performance models.
Emission Rates (Look For 4.5 g/h Or Lower)
One of the effects of traditional open or semi-open fireplaces was the occurrence of a “black kitchen”. The black kitchen is a kitchen with blackened walls due to smoke. Smoke, coming from a fireplace of course.
A lot has been done to lower the emission rates of wood stoves. From “black kitchen” we come to the 15-30 gram per hour models.
The new EPA-certified models of wood stoves produce less than 4.5 g of smoke per hour. That’s a very low emission rate. The best-rated wood stoves – the ones produced by Drolet – are all EPA-certified.
What’s more, you’ll even find emission rates of wood stoves to be below 2.0 g/h.
It’s advisable to opt for a wood-burning stove that produces the EPA-certified level of smoke (4.5 g/h) or lower.
Burn Time (Shoot For 5+ Hours)
Wood stoves need wood to burn. As you well know, wood does burn at quite a rapid rate, and you’re expected to refill a wood stove quite often.
The whole point of looking for wood stoves with long burn time is to:
- Reduce how often you need to refill wood.
- Ability to leave a wood stove working overnight.
Wood stove engineers can do three things to prolong the wood burn time:
- Increase the amount of wood that the stove can be filled with.
- Increase wood-burning performance (high-performance wood stoves).
- Decrease the BTU/h output.
In accordance with how well the engineers did their job and the dimensions/performance of the wood stove, you can expect the maximum burn time to be anywhere between 2 and 10 hours.
For convenience, look for wood stoves with at least 5-hour maximum burn time.
Some secondary considerations when buying a wood stove includes the log length (15+ inch is optimum), weight (you have to install a wood stove), quality (higher weight is usually a sign of higher quality), and the design.
With all of this in mind, let’s look at the best wood stoves currently on the market:
Best Wood Stoves In 2021 (Comparison)
- Best High Efficient Wood Burning Stove: Drolet Blackcomb II
- Best Very Large Wood Stove: Ashley Hearth AW3200E-P
- Most Efficient Wood Stove Insert: Drolet Escape 1500-I
- Best Small Wood Burning Stove: US Stove US1269E
1. Drolet Blackcomb II Review (Best High Efficient Wood Burning Stove)
|Heat Output:||65,000 BTU/h|
|Heating Area:||Up to 1,800 sq ft|
|Burn Time:||Up to 6 hours|
|Emission Rate:||1.26 g/h|
|Log Length:||Up to 18 inches|
|Dimensions:||24.9 x 28.5 x 37 inches|
The best wood stove is simple the one that scores high on all the relevant specs. No other wood stove has down so so remarkably as the Blackcomb II. This is the new model by Drolet; Drolet is considered to the very best wood stove manufacturer in general.
The Blackcomb II is a popular pedestal high-efficiency wood stove. It has a heat output of 65,000 BTU/h, making it precisely big enough to accommodate most homes. The total heating area ranges from 600 to 1,800 sq ft.
What is even more impressive is that the Drolet Blackcomb II can achieve 60,000+ BTU/h at extremely high efficiency. More often than not, wood stoves can waste more than 40% of the heat coming from burning wood. +70% efficiency means that the Blackcomb II is one of the most efficient wood stoves.
There are two major bonuses of such high-efficiency:
- Extremely low smoke emission rate of 1.26 g/h (far surpassing EPA’s recommendation of below 4.5 g/h). Drolet Blackcomb II is a 2020 EPA certified wood stove.
- Very long maximum burn time of 6h (average for a wood stove burn time is about 4h).
The 6h burn time is quite praised. That means that you can load up the Blackcomb II at 12 PM, go to sleep, wake up at 6 AM, and still enjoy the heating from the wood stove.
You can burn logs up to 18-inch in length. The firebox volume is 3.5 cubic feet, with a 5/16” steel top insulated panel.
The only drawback of Drolet Blackcomb II is the limited capacity for very big 2,000+ sq ft homes.
All in all, Drolet Blackcomb II is the best wood stove, hitting all the right metrics. It’s a high-efficiency, low-emission, long-burn time 65,000 BTU/h wood stove for a very low price:
2. Ashley Hearth AW3200E-P Review (Best Very Large Wood Stove)
|Heat Output:||152,000 BTU/h|
|Heating Area:||Up to 3,200 sq ft|
|Log Length:||Up to 22 inches|
|Dimensions:||39 x 24 x 32.5 inches|
People with large homes usually think that’s impossible to use a wood stove for heating. In the past, that was true – no wood stove could produce more than 50,000 BTU/h of heating output. Today, we have Ashley Hearth AW3200E-P – the best large home wood stove – with can deliver a total of 152,000 BTU output.
That means that you can use it even if you have a 3,000+ sq ft home. The Ashley Hearth AW3200E-P is truly a powerhouse.
To power it, you can load up to 30 lbs of wood in the firebox. The Ashley Hearth AW3200E-P has a 3/16 inch reinforced plate steel gauge that prolongs its lifespan and increases burning efficiency. You can load longer logs, up to 22 inches in length.
On top of that, the big Ashley Hearth AW3200E-P has an adjustable speed blower. It can achieve high speeds up to 100 CFM. For such heat output, it’s essential to have a powerful blower in order to evenly distribute heat all over the home.
Despite it’s high BTU output, it has smaller dimensions than the Drolet Blackcomb II. It also weighs less; 400 lbs in total.
The true drawback is that we don’t have information about emission rates, burn time, or exact efficiency percentage. The fact that it generates so much heat but weighs only 400 lbs can be a sign of non-high-quality material use.
In short, Ashley Hearth AW3200E-P is the best wood stove solution for bigger homes.
3. Drolet Escape 1500-I Review (Most Efficient Wood Stove Insert)
|Heat Output:||65,000 BTU/h (78% Efficiency)|
|Heating Area:||Up to 1,800 sq ft|
|Burn Time:||Up to 6 hours|
|Emission Rate:||1.26 g/h|
|Log Length:||Up to 18 inches|
|Dimensions:||26.5 x 36.25 x 32.25 inches|
Drolet Escape 1500-I is the most eco-friendly and convenient wood stove. It’s the most efficient wood stove insert, appropriate to be used in average-sized homes.
More often than not, it’s much easier to install an insert than a pedestal wood stove. Drolet Escape 1500-I is the combination of everything you would like in an insert wood stove.
It has a 65,000 BTU/h heat output. This can heat home with up to 1,800 sq ft area but it’s recommended to be used in 500 sq ft to 1,200 sq ft area.
With 78% efficiency, it’s the most efficient wood stove. This translates into a whole lot of burning wood savings, but that’s just the start.
The major advantages high-efficiency wood stove insert has are low emission rates and longer burn time.
Drolet Escape 1500-I has a record-low 1.26 g/h smoke emission rates. That’s much lower than the EPA level for certification (4.5 g/h). The 6-hour burn time also gives you an option to leave it on overnight.
The 29″ x 44″ blackplate you need for installation is included in the package. You will also have the advantage of using a premium blower that makes sure the heat coming from the wood stove is homogeneously distributed.
All in all, if you’re looking for a wood-burning stove insert, the Drolet Escape 1500-I is quite unbeatable. It has record-low emission and 78% efficiency (eco-friendly). On top of that, it’s probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing wood stove.
4. US Stove US1269E Review (Best High Efficient Wood Burning Stove)
|Heat Output:||54,000 BTU/h|
|Heating Area:||Up to 900 sq ft|
|Log Length:||Up to 19 inches|
|Dimensions:||33 x 22.2 x 25.8 inches|
US Stove is one of the most well-recognized hearth product producers in the USA. As a part of their portfolio, they also produce the US Stove US1269E wood stove.
This is a smaller 130 lbs free-standing free stove. Despite that, it can deliver up to 54,000 BTU/h heating output. US Stove recommends their wood stove to be used in 900 sq ft areas.
That’s a stark difference from the similar BTU output Drolet Escape, however. Drolet Escape’s BTU output is a bit higher but it has a double recommended area use – 1,800 sq ft.
US Stove US1269E can be loaded with up to 19” logs. You can tell from the shape of the stove (long horizontal dimension) that it can take such long logs.
All in all, the US Stove US1269E can’t really compare with the best modern wood stoves. It’s small, doesn’t have the most artistic design, but it is very cheap. If you need a cheap and lower performing wood stove, US Stove US1269E is both.
Wood Stove FAQ
It’s only natural that there are some unanswered questions about wood-burning stoves. We do our best to answer the most common ones here:
What Is The Best Wood Stove On The Market?
As we have seen in the comparison of the best wood stove models, the Drolet Blackcomb II is clearly the best stove on the market.
If you look at the spec-by-spec analysis, the Drolet Blackcomb II outperforms all other top-rated wood stoves. It has a +70% efficiency, 6 hour burn time, and very low emission rates.
The only drawback is that it cannot be used to heat up big houses with 2000+ sq ft.
What Wood Stove Burns The Longest?
Wood stove’s maximum burn time can be anywhere between 2 and 6 hours. Drolet Blackcomb II, for example, has the highest 6-hour burn time.
Burn time depends on firebox size, efficiency levels, BTU output, and so on. The best-engineered wood stoves find the most well-balanced formula of these elements for the longest burn time.
Where Is The Best Place To Put A Wood Burning Stove?
Pedestal wood stoves should be put as close to the center of the area they are going to heat as possible. However, you also have to think about the practicality of this.
Energy-wise and distribution wise, being at the center of space makes the most sense. However, if that place is already taken, you can’t really put it there.
For insert wood stoves, choose a wall that has the easiest connection with the chimney. More often than not, with insert stoves, we look practically. Theoretically, the best place to put an insert wood burning stove would be in the center wall.
How Long Do Wood Stoves Last?
Wood burning stoves from 10 to 20 years. That’s quite a large range, let’s break it down into two categories:
- Cheaper wood stoves last about 10 years. They usually have a lower weight-to-BTU ratio.
- More expensive wood stoves last closer to 20 years (with proper maintenance even more).
Do remember when buying a 10-20 year wood stove that the primary cost is not the price of the units itself; it’s the wood.
Can A Wood Stove Heat An Entire House?
We’re used to thinking that fireplaces only heat a kitchen. That’s true, but the modern wood stoves are different. Most of them are, according to the EPA, capable of heating up an entire house.
Bigger wood-burning stoves can produce more than 100,000 BTU/h. That’s more than enough to heat up entire houses.
If you have any other questions, you can pose them in the comments below.