Pick wood stove for the climate

If you decide to buy a wood-burning stove, the type and kind you select should depend upon the climate in which you live. Moderate climates, such as northern Florida or the Southwest, could use a small, inexpensive model for an occasional cold snap. Such stoves as the Ashley 23 or 25 and the Yankee are good choices.

A small stove could also supplement heating comfort in colder climates. The airtight, thermostatically controlled stoves, however, provide steady heat for 10 to 12 hours without reloading. Keep in mind that long, steady burning creates a dangerous accumulation of residue. The trick is to use less wood, more oxygen, and a shorter burning time to get efficient heating with little residue.

Installing more elaborate heating services would require larger stoves or a central furnace.

A central wood-burning furnace, coupled to your present heating system, can cost anywhere from $1,200 to $2,500 or more, installed. Furnaces now on the market include designs for mixed operation for burning wood, oil, or natural gas. Storing heat in a hot-water system calls for less refueling. In some areas wood-supply companies can keep you stocked in the same way as oil companies.

If the cost or the appearance of a stove is not your choice, or if you want to make your fireplace more heat-efficient, install a convection grate, glass doors combined with a convention grate, forced-air grate, or water heater.

Clearly, if you want to install a wood- burning system in your home, you want to deal with a reliable, experienced installation company. If you properly installed, tested, and tended, any wood-burning system -- Franklin stove, pot-bellied box, or large furnace -- can create a serious fire hazard.

You should also be sure to take some definite precautions:

* Always look for a nationally recognized label on a stove. The label should state the distance the stove should be from combustible walls and floors, plus the proper chimney size and type. Be sure to follow the directions to the letter.

You'll probably discover that your community has specific rules that must be followed. Check them out before you buy.

* Installation vents or other openings should never be covered. This also applies to recessed lighting fixtures or heat housing of any type.

* Never allow a stove to overheat, be unattended, or overfueled.

* Never burn coal or cannel coal in a stove or heater that is designed for wood alone.

* Finally, never burn manufactured logs anywhere but in an open fireplace, because the logs contain wax that burns dangerously hot.

With these precautions in mind, you can make your winter days safe, warm, and comfortable while you reduce your heating bills with a wood-burning unit of your choice.

To get more solid information on burning with wood, check the shelves of your local public library. a few books: "The Complete Book of Heating With Wood," by Larry Gay (Garden Way Publishing Company); "Modern and Classic Woodburning Stoves," by Bob and Carol Ross (Overbook Press); "Wood Heat," by John Vivian (Rodale Press); and "The Woodburners Encyclopedia," by Jay Shelton (Vermont Crossroads Press).

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