Category Archives: Cookstove Basics

Learning cookstove basics will show you why this method of cooking and heating is unlike any other. Learn all about the benefits and hazards of cookstoves here.

Preparing For Woodstove Season: Three Important Tips

Preparing For Woodstove Season Banner - Cookstove Community

We all know the feeling: Summer is nearing its end, the air is getting crisp, the days are shorter, and you’re beginning to feel like the nights are just a bit too cold for your liking. It’s time to fire up the woodstove, right? Before you do, there are a few important steps you should take to prepare for woodstove season.

Clean your chimney. This is by far the most important task you have, and doing it once a year could save your life. Burning wood for months on end inevitably leads to the build-up of creosote, a tar-like substance consisting of unburned chemicals from firewood that coats the inside of a chimney. Creosote hardens after it cools, but if a fire burns hot enough it can re-ignite the creosote, drastically increase the temperature inside the chimney and result in a chimney fire- one of the most common causes of house fires in the winter.

A stiff brush head like this can be attached to a long handle for DIY chimney cleaning.

Hiring a chimney sweep once a year to professionally clean your chimney is usually the most thorough option (and often not a huge expense), but you can also do it yourself. Read more about creosote and the steps you can take to clean your chimney here, and check out Obadiah’s series of videos on chimney cleaning and installation below.

Clean your ash pan. You should always remove the ash from your firebox once summer hits and you find yourself not making fires for weeks at a time, as leaving ash in your stove for long periods can lead to rust. However, even the best of us forget to do this some seasons, so if you find yourself staring at a firebox full of old ash this fall, remove it and start your season with a clean slate. Remember, you don’t need more than an inch of ash in your firebox at any given time, so go ahead and clean all of it out- you’ll make that inch back in no time. Don’t forget: Wood ash has several other uses, so before you throw it out, see our article on what else you can do with it.

Properly seasoned firewood.

Make sure your wood is seasoned. When you prepare for woodstove season, if you find that your chimney is a bit of a mess with creosote then chances are your wood from last season contained too much moisture. In general, it’s good practice to let your firewood dry out for a year before burning it, but there are ways to minimize the moisture content of your wood if waiting that long is not an option. Above all else, make sure you store your wood somewhere dry, off the ground and covered. Split your rounds before storage to allow the wood to “breathe” more effectively. By taking the time to do just those two things, you can greatly reduce the moisture in your wood and the risk of excess creosote build-up.

A little preparation goes a long way when it comes to the woodstove season. By taking care of these few basic tasks, you can significantly increase the quality of your burns from the beginning and reduce the amount of frustration you face while trying to get back into the groove of making a fire every day. We all love the coziness of woodstove season, so lets start it the right way.

Gathering Firewood: Five Tips to Keep in Mind This Season

Gathering Firewood Banner - Cookstove Community

Living the self-sufficient lifestyle means, among other things, knowing how to store your wood and properly operate a woodstove or cookstove. But what about gathering firewood? It’s the crucial first step in the process of creating total independence for yourself when it comes to heating, but it’s also arguably the hardest part. For many, the solution is to find a reliable seller and simply purchase firewood, but that’s often expensive. Understanding how to properly scout and cut your own firewood could save you hundreds of dollars each year, and more importantly, bring you one step closer to total self-sufficiency.

Know where you will be gathering firewood. Assuming it’s not on private land, is it state or federal? Both state and federally managed forests offer woodcutting permits for relatively inexpensive fees; the U.S. Forest Service handles permits for all national forest lands, while the agency handling state forests varies from place to place. We know: It’s tempting to grab a saw, head off into the forest, and just start going at it. However, not only is it important to obtain a woodcutting permit simply to upload the standards of local timber management, but being caught without one often carries a hefty fine that you probably don’t want to deal with.

Chainsaw logging - Cookstove CommunityKnow your saw. To effectively fell trees, you will need a chainsaw. While it’s certainly possible to bring down large timber with a crosscut saw, using a chainsaw will save you valuable time and energy. Handling a saw is likely the most intimidating aspect of gathering your own firewood, but with a few precautions and proper care, it’s actually much easier and safer than you might expect. For some great tips on safety, we recommend you head over to Firewood For Life.

What you need in a chainsaw will vary based on where you live and the average diameter of trees you will be felling, and there are a variety of user preferences that we don’t have the space to cover here. In general though, you should try to find a balance between something light enough to lift with relative ease, yet has a bar length long that will extend further than the diameter of trees you hope to cut. In our experience, the gas-powered Stihl 362 or 042 have been more than adequate for all of our firewood needs as well as being exceptionally easy to use and reliable. We recommend talking to your local dealer for specific guidance on a purchase or, better yet, enlisting the help of a friend who already owns a saw to show you the ropes.

Know your timber. The tree species that burn best differs from region to region in the U.S., but there are a few rules of thumb to follow when selecting what trees to cut. Most importantly, you don’t want to simply cut down every good looking tree in your way. Leaving trees that look to be in perfect condition allows a healthier forest to grow, which ultimately benefits everyone.

Look for trees that are “on their way out”. Not totally healthy, but not completely dead. Consider the amount of green on it, and whether there are any obvious external defects like knots, dead branches, cracks in the wood, and so on. Issues like this might mean some of the wood on the tree is not viable for burning, but the vast majority probably is and therefore it’s worth cutting down. Fungal growth can also be a good indicator that a tree has a limited lifespan, as such growth often means a portion of the interior is rotten. However, be cautious when cutting these: While the tree may have a great deal of useable wood, the portion that you make your cut on may not be solid, making it dangerous to bring down. In this case, you can tap the trunk and listen to the sound it makes. If it’s a sharp, shallow knock, it’s good to go. If it’s an echo-y “thock,” be extremely cautious while cutting or move on to another tree.

Also, keep an eye out for animal habitation before cutting into a tree. Woodpecker holes, bird nests, and beehives are common in every forest and form a valuable part of the ecosystem.

Bark stain on a douglas fir. Be cautious when cutting into trees that shown signs of disease.

Mind your limbs and length. After you’ve taken a tree down, remove as much of its limbs as you can. Once your wood is limbed, you’ll need to decide how long to cut each round. 14 to 16 inches is a common length, but the size of your firebox is the main factor in determining the size of your rounds, so make sure you understand how much room you have before heading into the woods.

Firewood Storage - Cookstove Community

Simple solution for properly storing firewood.

Proper storage is key. Gathering firewood is the hard part, but it’s all for nothing if you don’t store your wood effectively. One common mistake people make is storing firewood as rounds (pre-split), which increases the amount of time it takes for wood to dry out. You should split your wood before stacking it in storage, since this allows moisture to easily exit the wood as air flows over and around the block.

Another common oversight in firewood storage is stacking wood on bare ground. This is problematic for a number of reasons, particularly because the moisture in the ground will eventually leach into the wood and cause rot. On top of that, it allows a much easier path for bugs to get into your stack and thrive- increasing the mess you will have once you bring your wood inside.

Split your wood, stack it on a solid covered platform such as a deck or inside a shed, and allow several months at minimum for it to become seasoned. Ideally, you should wait an entire year before burning what you’ve cut, but that’s often not feasible.

With each year that goes by, gathering firewood becomes easier. You will discover areas of forest that consistently produce good firewood trees, handling the chainsaw will become second nature, and you will come to enjoy the time you spend in the woods, making use of what it has to offer. The reward of spending a winter burning only the wood you cut yourself is great, but more than that, it’s one step closer to total self-sufficiency.

For more on firewood, check out our Six Tips For Better Burning and see what Woody from Obadiah’s has to say about storage in our video below.

Central Heating Wood Cookstoves – Stylish, Affordable, Functional, Efficient

Central Heating Wood Cookstoves - Cookstove Community

For years our customers have been asking for a wood burning cooking stove that can plumb into hydronic central heating, and Obadiah’s has finally found the perfect solution to your heating, cooking, and baking needs! We are now offering contemporary wood-fired baking ovens with boiler jackets, which are some of the only UL/ULC listed products available on the North American market. Introducing the ABC Concept 2 Max Hydro and Tim Sistem North Hydro Wood Cookstove with central heating capabilities.

These wood burning cook stoves with boilers are not required to meet EPA regulations. The North Hydro and Concept 2 Max Hydro both fit the EPA’s definition of a wood cookstove, which are currently exempt from EPA regulations, and these stoves meet Washington State wood cookstove standards.

The Concept 2 Max Hydro Wood Cooking Range and the Tim Sistem North Hydro Boiler Cookstove are designed with modern cooking and heating in mind. These wood boiler cookstoves come standard with glass doors on both the firebox and oven. The glass door on the firebox has a first class air-wash design for a clean efficient burn, resulting in a crystal clear view of the crackling flame. The sophisticated design of these wood cookstoves are aesthetically appealing to those wanting a contemporary efficient heating, baking, and cooking source.

These European-made central heating wood cooking ranges provide the ability to connect into hydronic radiant heating. Yes, you can now efficiently heat your home with hot water and while also having the ability to use the cooktop or wood-fired baking oven. The innovative design of the wood burning hydro cookstoves is sure to please anyone who is familiar with wood and coal heating. These wood cookstoves with boilers also have a complete, easy to use damper control dial on the front of the stove, ensuring your satisfaction. These stoves are available in a wide variety of colors to match all styles of decor: The North comes in stainless steel or black, while The Concept 2 Max Hydro is available in red, inox (stainless), gray, beige, and white.

ABC Concept 2 Max Hydro - Colors - Cookstove Community

Colors of the Concept 2 Max Hydro

These wood-burning central heating stoves are diverse in their heating capabilities. The Concept 2 Max Hydro also provides the option to burn coal- meaning it burns hotter, thus producing more BTUs. Personally, I love a wood cookstove that offers the ability to burn coal. I believe this is a great feature, as coal stoves pull in combustion air from underneath the firebox – this essentially works as a super charger when burning wood, allowing for easy ignition of the first fire. In addition, if the wood-burning cook stove can handle the high temperatures of coal, it is definitely built to last. However, please keep in mind that the North Hydro Wood Boiler Cook Range is rated to burn wood only.

You will be impressed with the ease and functionality of use of these wood fired cookstoves with boilers. That said, you must understand that it is critical that all boiler systems are set up properly and it is recommended that you consult a certified plumber when installing these systems. With a properly installed system, you will be pleased with the ease of the maintenance of the stove. The cooktop is removable, providing easy access for top and oven cleanout. Ash cleanout is located directly below the firebox, meaning all cleaning access is available from the front of the stove, perfect for tight clearance installations.

Heating with Hydronics

The Concept 2 Max Hydro & Tim Sistem North Hydro can be plumbed into a wide variety of central heating systems, including both open and closed loop systems. Wood Hydronic heating can be used for different applications, including residential or commercial heating, radiant floor heating, domestic hot water, heating spa or swimming pool, greenhouses, farming, and snow melting. Every space being heated is considered to be its own heating zone and should be installed with its own independent circuit controller, thermostat, and aquastat. Each heat zone will call for the correct water temperature depending on its heat distribution and room temperature required.

These wood cook stove with boiler water jackets will produce heat in two efficient distribution forms. First, the boiler will provide radiant convection heat within the room where the stove is located, heating an area of approximately 1,000 square feet. Second, you can plumb the boiler system which produces approximately 26,000 BTUs on the North Hydro or 75,000 BTUs on the Concept 2 Max Hydo. This allows you to use these appliances as hot water central heating with the added bonus of a wood-fired oven that can be used as your primary residential heat source*. The boiler will heat the water that the pump transfers through the pipes, providing hot water to the room-heating units that are using radiant heat and convection to heat the room air. These units are usually called baseboard heaters, panels, radiators or convectors.

*Note: Depending on size of home, insulation, and external temperatures.

You can now find these products via Obadiah’s! Check out the links below:

North Hydro Wood Cookstove with Boiler
Concept 2 Max Hydro Wood Boiler with Oven

The Creosote Problem: Chimney Fires & Chimney Cleaning

The Creosote Problem - Cookstove Community

by Thomas J. Karsky

The combustion process when wood is burned is never complete. The smoke from a wood fire usually contains a dark brown or black substance which has an unpleasant odor. This tar-like substance is called creosote and is found almost anywhere in a wood heating system, from the top of the chimney to the stove or fireplace itself.

At temperatures below 250ºF creosote will condense on the surfaces of stove pipes or chimney flues. When the temperature gets below 150ºF the creosote deposit will be thick, sticky and similar to tar. Creosote consists primarily of methanol (wood alcohol) and acetic acid. The acid tends to trap carbon from smoke which dries and bakes inside pipes and flues. The flaky substance is very flammable.

Creosote is more of a problem with wood stoves than fireplace since the exhaust gases from stoves are cooler than those from the fireplaces.

The amount of creosote condensing on the surfaces of the system varies according to the density of the smoke and vapor from the fire (less smoke means less creosote), the temperature of the surface on which it is condensing (higher temperatures reduce chance of creosote condensation), and the type and dryness of wood being burned (Figure 1). Creosote may build up to a considerable thickness on the interior surface of the chimney and the draft opening may subsequently be reduced.

A serious fire may be ignited if creosote is allowed to build up. Most problems with creosote are due to poor chimneys with a low draft and cold walls. The low rate of burning when little heat is needed in the fall and spring months is another contributor to creosote buildup.

You can reduce the creosote problem several ways. Smoke density can be lowered somewhat in an airtight stove by using small amounts of wood and stoking more often or by using larger pieces of wood. Creosote formation can be limited by leaving the air inlet or stove door slightly open after adding wood to promote more rapid burning until the wood is mostly reduced to charcoal. Then close the inlet as desired.

The Creosote Problem - Figure 1 - Cookstove CommunityAllowing this extra air causes more complete combustion, lowers the potential creosote-forming gases, and generates additional heat to the surrounding area. Vapor in the flue gases may be controlled by using the driest wood possible and using only small pieces of wood during mild weather when combustion is relatively slow. The stack temperature can be raised by insulating the stove pipe connection so that it cools as little as possible before reaching the chimney. Using an insulated pipe also aids in increasing the stack temperature.

Draft can be increased by having as few bends as possible between the appliance and the chimney, having the proper height and diameter, keeping the chimney in good repair, and by having a separate flue for each appliance. Also use proper sized stove pipe. In a large chimney, draft can be increased by decreasing the flue size. This can be done by installing a new smaller flue or a stainless steel stove pipe liner.

In many air-tight stoves, a sealed overnight fire will deposit creosote even with dry hardwood. To dry the creosote always open the draft caps and let the fire burn hot for at least 5 minutes every morning and again before bedtime.

Opening the direct draft damper 20 to 30 minutes to dry the creosote in chimneys is a questionable practice. This should only be done in a new or clean chimney and should be done daily or every time you use the wood stove. Allowing hot flame in the chimney at intermittent times can result in a small chimney fire. The heat generated from these hot flames also may cause deterioration of the metal or crack mortar in the chimneys.

Be Prepared for a Chimney Fire. No wood burning system is 100% safe and fireproof. A safe installation and extra care help prevent fire, but accept the idea that there could be a fire, and be prepared to handle it. Chimney fires are most likely to occur during a very hot fire, as when cardboard or Christmas tree branches are burned or even when a stove burns normal wood but at a higher than normal rate.

Make certain everyone in the house is familiar with the warning signs of a chimney fire – sucking sounds, a loud roar and shaking pipes. Instruct everyone on what to do in case of fire. Practice fire drills and instruct all adults on how and when to use a fire extinguisher. Put the fire department phone number in an obvious place near the phone.

If you have a chimney fire:

• Call the fire department immediately.
• If all the stove pipe joints are tight and no other appliance is connected to the same flue, close all openings and draft controls if you have an air-tight stove. Close the stove pipe damper in a non-airtight stove.
• You can attempt to cut off the air supply to a fireplace by using a wet blanket or sheet metal to seal off the fireplace opening. Be careful since a strong draft can make this difficult and dangerous. Use only noncombustible materials.
• If you have a leaky stove or fireplace you may have to wait for the fire to burn out. • Get everyone out of the house, and put them to work watching for sparks or signs of fire on the roof or nearby. One adult should stay in the house to check the attic and upper floors for signs of fire.
• Discharge a class ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher or throw baking soda into the stove or fireplace if the chimney is not sound or there is a danger of the house or surroundings catching on fire. The chemical travels up the chimney and often extinguishes the flame.
• Throwing water in a stove will cause the metal to warp, but if it’s a choice between the house or the stove, use water.
• Check the chimney after a fire. A chimney fire can range from 2000º to 3000ºF which is hot enough to cause deterioration of metal or cause masonry to weaken. Metal chimneys can deteriorate after 2 or 3 fires.
• If a chimney fire occurs once, chances are that it will occur again. Find the cause.

A problem with frequent chimney fires is the possibility of the framing catching on fire. The ignition temperature of new house framing is about 500ºF. over a period of years, as this wood is repeatedly heated by chimney fires, the wood will ignite at a much lower temperature.

The Creosote Problem - Figure 2 - Cookstove CommunityChimney Cleaning. Chimneys need to be cleaned to remove creosote and soot deposits. This will prevent chimney fires and improve the draft as well. How often the chimney is cleaned depends on how frequently the wood burning appliance is used, how it is operated and the type of installation. Some authorities recommend cleaning the chimney after every third cord of wood is burned and most recommend at least once a year. Any time you observe excessive soot and creosote, the chimney should be cleaned. After you once have cleaned the chimney, you may want to check it after 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months, etc., to determine how often your chimney needs to be cleaned.

You may have the chimney cleaned for you by professional chimney sweeps or you can clean if yourself. Costs for chimney sweeps vary with the job but usually amount to about $40. In addition to cleaning your chimney, a good chimney sweep can act as a safety inspector for your installation.

Chimneys are normally cleaned by mechanical means to scrape off any loose creosote build-up. Stiff wire chimney cleaning brushes are available at reasonable cost (Figure 2). They are constructed to match the size of the chimney flue and can be pushed through the chimney with extension rods or pipe or can be pulled with ropes on either end of the brush. You can attach a weight to the bottom of chimney so it can be pulled up with a rope. Other cleaning methods are to lower a burlap bag containing wire netting weighted with chains or rocks up and down the chimney or to use tire chains or wire netting without a bag (Figure 3). Don’t swing a length of heavy chain down the chimney. The impact can damage the flue lining.

Many people start chimney fires deliberately by building hot fires or by tossing in compounds designed to remove soot and creosote by controlled burns. Under some circumstances this practice maybe reasonable, but generally it is a risky way to keep a chimney clean. Any chimney fire could build into a house fire, but in addition a chimney fire causes wear on a chimney. The high temperatures increase corrosion rate of materials which can lead to cracks. Some of the compounds used in controlled burns have been known to explode in stoves.

Chemical chimney cleaners are commercially available. These are not intended for use in chimneys already containing heavy deposits of soot and creosote. Chemicals such as sodium chloride, or table salt, are sometimes used as a chimney cleaner. These chemicals combine with water released from a hot fire to form a weak acid that dissolves small amounts of creosote. Sodium chloride is corrosive to metal and is not recommended for metal chimneys. Cleaners that contain copper sulfate will coat any soot in the chimney and act as a catalyst to allow soot to burn away at lower than normal temperatures.

Chemical cleaners are intended to be used after chimneys are cleaned or when new. Use the chemicals as directed – approximately 1 ounce per week. If not used as directed, the chemicals can cause intense chimney fires that will result in rapid deterioration of the chimney. The only efficient and effective method of cleaning is to use a chimney brush, since the brush scrubs the entire surface uniformly

The Creosote Problem - Figure 3 - Cookstove CommunityCleaning the Chimney Yourself. If you plan to clean the chimney yourself, you will need to obtain some or all of the following tools and supplies:

• Drop cloth or other appropriate covering
• Trouble light or portable lantern
• Leather gloves
• Hand wire brush
• Hand scraper or stiff putty knife
• Hammer and screwdriver
• Heavy-duty vacuum cleaner
• Wisk broom and dustpan
• Metal bucket
• Small shovel
• Adjustable wrench
• Can of furnace cement
• Chimney brush
• Rope and a weight or extension rods.

Before starting to clean the chimney, be sure all doors and windows are shut to prevent any drafts. Remove the damper, if possible. Seal fireplace openings with a drop cloth and masking tape. You will need proper protective clothing, including a mask to cover your mouth and nose and glasses or goggles for your eyes. The material that collects in chimneys is of such a nature that you should avoid contact with it as much as possible. Wear good shoes with slip resistant soles and be careful when climbing on high, steep roofs to clean a chimney

When cleaning the chimney from the roof, the easiest method is to attach a line to the brush with a weight on the opposite end. This weight should be of such a size and shape that it cannot swing free into the tile liners and cause damage. The purpose of the weight is to pull the brush down into the chimney. A solid 15- to 20-pound weight is required to move the brush downward. This will depend on how tightly the brush fits and how dirty the chimney is.

Another method is to attach a rope at each end of the brush with a person at the top of the chimney and one at the bottom, taking turns pulling the rope. This method may be somewhat messy.

More effective is the use of rigid extensions such as a pipe or tubing with a flexible leader. This allows you to control and feel the scrubbing action of the brush in the chimney. This method is used by most professional chimney sweeps. Fiberglass rods are available for this purpose. If metal pipe is used, be careful of power lines above.

Lower the brush into the chimney being careful not to disturb any looses brick mortar or any device in the chimney. Cleaning can be accomplished by passing the brush through the chimney a number of times in the same direction or by raising and lowering the brush in short strokes in a scrubbing action. If your brush is too large, it will not reverse in the chimney and may even lock up.

Experience will tell you how many passes to make to get the chimney clean. Once this process is finished, remove the seal from the fireplace opening. Use a drop cloth in your working area. Slowly open the damper if you were unable to remove it, vacuum up debris from the bottom of the hearth, smoke shelf or catch pit. If you can’t open the damper you may have to drop a hose down the chimney to vacuum out the soot.

While cleaning masonry chimneys, check for cracks in the brick or masonry. Cracks allow cool air to come in, thus reducing the efficiency of the fireplace or wood stove and allowing creosote to form.

Stove pipes on the wood burner are critical to safety and require additional attention. When cleaning an inside flue, remove the connected sections. Be careful to protect the area from soot. Take sections outdoors and brush inside them with a hand wire brush or a flue or chimney brush that is the same diameter as the pipe. Remove all the soot and creosote build-up from the breech and the loose accumulation in the firebox. Stove pipes need to be cleaned regularly. Check pipes at least once every 2 or 3 months of stove operation.

After using your chimney brush, rinse it in a cleaning solution such as kerosene and store it away in a dry place. It is a valuable tool.


This information first appeared as CIS 480 and was part of the Wood as a Fuel Series.

About the Author: Thomas J. Karsky is an Extension Farm Safety Specialist and Professor at the University of Idaho.

The Pizza Oven Evolution

Pizza Oven Evolution - Cookstove Community

At Obadiah’s, wood cookstoves have been our bread and butter for many years. They’re a staple of life for those in the country and other remote locations, where electricity is sparse and hauling in bottles of LPG is both cumbersome and dangerous. Not only is a cookstove the best option for many folks, but having one offers them the potential for total self-sufficiency in both heating and cooking. There’s a great sense of freedom in knowing that you rely on no one but yourself for two of the most essential parts of daily life, and Obadiah’s is proud to have helped so many people realize their off-the-grid dreams.

But what about those in less rural locations, who don’t desire the lifestyle that often warrants a cookstove but are still interested in the unique qualities of cooking with a wood-fired oven? Is there a way to obtain the crisp, succulent quality of a meal cooked over the fire without a fireplace grill? As it turns out, yes!

Pizza ovens.

Today, many homes in North America have some kind of backyard entertainment area, be it a patio, a gazebo, a simple pergola-covered patch of stone or brickwork, or something similar. It’s a place for families and friends to converge, socialize, and often most importantly, share food. That’s where the pizza oven comes in, a massively popular centerpiece for any outdoor area that’s as easy to buy today as a new lawnmower.

Long before the words “pizza oven” became the common term for these cookers, they were usually referred to as a “masonry oven”, a cooking unit built with masonry bricks that became extremely common in Italy. While we might think of them as Italian-style today, the basic mechanics of the pizza oven have been employed throughout Europe for centuries, dating back to at least the Roman Republic. Here, the oven traps and radiates heat for an even cook, and with a front-loading design, that heat can be stored for lengthy periods of time without the need for an active fire. It’s one of the most tried and true methods of cooking, and there’s a reason so many restaurants and professional cooks still rely on it.

However, the pizza oven has evolved since the time of Caesar. In Italy, for example; although both regions of Italy use the basic tenets of the traditional oven design style (referred to as the “Pompeii”), there are a few differences in their execution. Northern Italian ovens from Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, etc., tend to have a taller dome than their Southern counterparts. This allows the oven to bake a more varied range of pizza styles, from New York-style to crisp, artisan-style, and hold temperatures that range from 500ºF to 1000ºF (the Pavesi wood and gas-fired pizza oven and the Pavesi rotating pizza oven are great examples of this). The Southern (Neapolitan) approach, by contrast, has an oven with a low dome and is built to work with very high heat, between 800ºF to 1000ºF. This heat creates a stronger top heat that bakes the Neapolitan-style pizza typical of Naples (the Acunto Neapolitan Pizza Oven, for example).

In the late 1940’s in the United States, many Americans sought to build their own brick ovens as they had seen them overseas, but found them commercially unavailable in their own country. Brick ovens require the expertise of a qualified mason to properly construct, however, as arches can be very tricky and domes even more so. That difficulty didn’t put a damper on the desire that many had for these ovens though, and as new masonry products and construction techniques grew in the 20th century, so did the ability for masonry ovens to be pre-cast and assembled on-site, or outright fully assembled and shipped to the customer.

Which brings us to today, a time when pizza ovens are widely available at remarkably cheap prices. Beware though: Those prices are not simply a sign of the times, but rather an indication of a saturated market which often means a general decrease in quality. Somewhere along the line we lost the essence of what made this oven special, with “pizza oven” morphing into a term that means “any outdoor oven that burns wood.” We even have electric pizza ovens that can sit on a kitchen counter, purportedly doing the same thing. The reality is that there are a lot of variables when you get up close and personal with many pizza ovens.

Fontana Pizza E Cucina Double Pizza Oven - Cookstove Community

Fontana Pizza E Cucina Double Pizza Oven

For example, check out the Fontana Pizza E Cucina Double. Ovens like this do not have much masonry in them, and therefore little thermo mass, which means they don’t bake the same way as other ovens. In fact, this is a hybrid wood fired pizza oven cookstove, but Obadiah’s classifies it as a wood-fired cook stove. Why? The dome is stainless steel and the bottom is masonry, much like many other pizza ovens today.

Other variations on the idea of a pizza oven have appeared too, like free standing wood-fired ovens that are outdoor rated, meaning they cannot be installed indoors save for a few exceptions (it must be connected to a Class A chimney to be safe and legal indoors, as shown below).

From these variations and others Obadiah’s has spent years whittling down the list of top-quality pizza oven providers to a select, reliable few. Manufacturers like Peter de Jong’s “Fired Up Kitchens” have installed more pizza ovens in more commercial locations than just about anyone, including the likes of top-rated restaurants and venues in downtown Chicago, Brooklyn, New Orleans, and even the Caribbean. That’s why we’ve been partners with Jong’s American arm, Forza Forni, for years, as well as designing and supplying chimney systems for them. They’re a quality line, and we’re proud to support them.

Most folks can’t just ship a pizza oven over from Italy, however, and that’s where importers like Grills’n Ovens come in. They have been helping us get the beautiful La Nordica line of cookstoves to our North American customers for years, but they primarily deal in ovens, such as the Portuguese Brick Pizza Oven. Check out the construction below!

This baking oven is made with actual brick, in Portugal, as part of a long local tradition. A typical Portuguese wood-fired pizza oven will experience discoloration on the front after awhile due to smoke, but this is actually seen as a point of pride as it indicates a frequently used stove. Obadiah’s is a huge fan of this model because at $1500 after shipping (to anywhere in North America!), this is the best buy for a real hand-made brick pizza oven.

Sopka Giove 8065 Wood Fired Cookstove - Cookstove Community

Sopka Giove 8065 Wood Fired Cookstove

The Italians don’t have a monopoly on pizza ovens, though. Founded in Lithuania and now based in Ohio, Sopka Inc. is well known for their outstanding cookstoves (which we’ve covered here), but that’s not all they can do. Sopka has been producing pizza ovens for the last several years, with great results. These ovens mix elegant exteriors with durable, highly functional interiors and come in a wide range of designs, from the highly versatile outdoor Cupola to the regal Giove with its massive oven. Sopka definitely brings the craftsmanship of their cookstoves to the world of pizza ovens, and Obadiah’s certainly recommends them.

If you’re looking for the best in wood cooking, Obadiah’s Woodstoves is the leader and has partnered with more top names than any other hearth heating company anywhere. Call us, and we will put you in touch with the proper experts, or recommend the best solutions and products for residential, or commercial installations. Obadiah’s is here to help you find the pizza oven you deserve, for the price you can afford.

Purchase Pizza Ovens:

Sopka Inc – Cupola Outdoor Oven
Sopka Inc – Cupolino 70 Modular Pizza Oven
Sopka Inc – Giove KTM 8065 Pizza Oven
Sopka Inc – Jolly KJE 6048 Outdoor Oven
Sopka Inc – Jolly KJE 8048 Outdoor Oven

Forno de Pizza FPS-30EI Di Napoli Oven
Forno de Pizza FPS-04EI Torino Oven
Forno de Pizza FPS-02EI Tuscan Oven

Outdoor Pizza Ovens by Grills’n Ovens

Imported Cookstoves: Why They Are Taking Over

Imported Cookstoves Taking Over - Cookstove Community

Cookstoves are part of a deeply rooted tradition in the United States, combining the peace of socializing around a flickering a fire and the partaking in delicious home cooking. It’s no wonder that we still have demand for these stoves here, a demand that has remained consistent for decades despite the growing popularity of electric and gas heating, and the ease of cooking with modern stoves. Cookstoves capture a basic desire in all of us for the simple life, and that’s why they are still with us.

Unfortunately, cookstove manufacturing in the U.S.A. has been on the decline, both in numbers and in quality, and while there are still several quality cookstove manufacturers in North America, they are mostly Anabaptist (Amish, Mennonite, Hutterites, etc) and live simple lives. These folks put a great deal of passion into their work, but they don’t have the most advanced manufacturing systems and as a result, their finished stoves are not always up to modern standards.

Other top-level U.S. stove manufacturers, like Hearthstone, realized years ago that looking to Europe for stoves to import may be a better option than starting from scratch. So Hearthstone decided to partner with Hergom, one of the largest Spanish stove manufacturers with a large presence in the European stove market as well. Today, not only does Hearthstone import cookstoves from Spain, but their European-style stoves also come from Spain, like the Bari, Tula, and Lima. These stoves are round, oval, and other eye-catching shapes that North American manufacturers seem to shy away from, given the boxy look of most stoves made in the U.S. and even Canada. This is why Obadiah’s has been in love with the styling of European stoves and has been providing them to our clients since 2001, when we introduced Astroflamm (later called “RIKA” in the North America market) with their great looking Esprit and Taurus cookstove models.

It’s also important to note the changing environment of the wood heating industry in the United States. In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implemented new emission standards to combat growing issues with pollution caused by wood smoke, particularly in areas with inversion layers or other inherent difficulties with air quality. The EPA labeled cookstoves as “exempt” from the new standards, but they also more closely defined what qualifies as a cookstove, leading to fears about the future of cookstove manufacturing in this country. However, despite those fears, the regulations were slowly implemented with many accommodations for manufacturers and retailers who were still selling stoves that did not meet the new standard. The regulations themselves have not led to a decrease in manufacturing, but their existence speaks to a larger issue: Americans today, by and large, want clean-burning stoves, and the cleanest burning stoves on the market are the result of the best engineering. While the U.S. may set the bar for craftsmanship in other areas of producing, when it comes to cookstoves, it looks like we have been surpassed by many European countries. Let’s look at a few examples.

The Esse Ironheart

Obadiah’s realized there was a desire for import stoves all the way back in 2000 and actually helped Esse introduce the Ironheart to the USA; in fact, we were supposed to be the U.S. importer but our schedule at the time forced us to pass (we were busy jump-starting Wildfire Fighters). That decision ultimately led to a learning experience in how importing cookstoves can go wrong, as the current importer of the Esse Ironheart uses business practices that we simply can’t agree with or endorse. Be that as it may, from a technological standpoint, the Esse Ironheart is still worth noting.

Esse Ironheart by Obadiah's - Cookstove Community

The Esse Ironheart Cookstove.

The Ironheart hails from England, part of a line of cookstoves that has been in production since 1854. Esse is well known in their home country for being a reliable manufacturer, not only because they have a long history, but because they have adapted to modern technology over the years. They are a company that is willing to change with the times, and they are better for it.

You can read more about the greater details of the Esse Ironheart here, but the one aspect that truly sets it apart from most cookstoves being produced in the U.S. is the use of CNC machining during the manufacturing process. Essentially, this means that the welds on the Ironheart were all done robotically, ensuring precise quality in every stove that rolls out of the factory. Don’t get us wrong, we do appreciate the hand-crafted nature of many cookstoves, but over the years we have certainly run into our fair share of poor welds and lazy craftsmanship- even from stove lines that we otherwise trust. The folks behind Esse no doubt had similar experiences, and made the leap to CNC as soon as they could instead of fearing a change from the “traditional” methods of stove crafting. Manufacturing a product made of cast-iron and steel is tough and people make mistakes, but if you’re after absolute efficiency and want to be as certain as possible that you’ll get it, stoves like the Esse Ironheart are your best bet.

La Nordica Cookstoves

La Nordica, as you might easily guess from the name, calls Italy home. There’s a certain allure to having cooking products from a country famous for its food exports, but La Nordica doesn’t bank on national reputation. Instead, they have taken decades of manufacturing experience and poured it into a line of versatile cookstoves that would look perfect in both a luxurious modern home or a log cabin. Check them out below:

As you can see, La Nordica wasn’t afraid to branch out from the classic look of most cookstoves and go for something bold. There’s an undeniable tendency for manufacturers and designers in the U.S. to approach stoves with nostalgia, trying to re-capture the feeling of “the olden days” when cookstoves were more common. There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, but when everyone is doing it, the market becomes a bit stale and by catering to an older audience they lose the younger one. La Nordica cookstoves look new, modern. They draw your eye in from across the room even if you don’t know anything about cookstoves.

Looks would be worthless without a solid stove underneath, and thankfully La Nordica delivers there too. The craftsmanship is top-notch, using only the highest quality castings and decking out most of their models with many clever bells and whistles, all the while putting the “cook” back into cookstove with some of the finest ovens we’ve ever worked with. Check out our featured page on La Nordica to learn more.

J.A. Roby Cuisiniere

J.A. Roby Cuisiniere - Cookstove CommunityObadiah’s introduced the J.A. Roby Cuisiniere to the U.S. market in 2012, and while the Cuisiniere comes from Quebec, the province’s close ties to France are written all over the stove. Painted and sporting a rustic look not unlike the Boru Ellis, the Cuisiniere emits less than 2 grams per hours of particulate, making it by far the cleanest burning cookstove available in North America at the moment. It’s a true powerhouse, offering up to 100,000 BTUs/hr compared to the average 20-40,000 from many European stoves.

Originally, the Cuisiniere’s oven was heated solely from the side of the firebox, meaning you would have to rotate your food for proper cooking. However, Woody from Obadiah’s was part of J.A. Roby’s feedback and refinement process for the stove, which allowed us to see first-hand just how it was manufactured and offer input based on our experience with advanced stoves. As a result of J.A. Roby giving folks like us a chance to help, the Cuisiniere now circulates smoke around the oven for even cooking, and even though it is not done in a way that meets the EPA exemption for cookstoves, the stove far surpasses the more-important EPA emission requirements. The Cuisiniere also holds UL, ULC and Canadian emissions certifications, and we’re expecting it to be EPA-certified in the future. In the meantime, it’s so clear how clean burning the Cuisiniere is that even strictly-regulated areas like Washington State should allow it for installation. With increasingly heavy air-quality restrictions in the U.S., stoves like J.A. Roby’s Cuisiniere are clearly the future.

De Manincor Cookstoves

De Manincor Domina Wood Cookstove - Cookstove CommunityAs another Italian manufacturer, De Manincor focuses on creating cookstoves that embrace clean-burning technology. The line has a mostly modern look and feel, not unlike the La Nordica, but there is a tinge of old-world style that makes them stand on their own. The Domina, for example, is free-standing like many classic stoves, but has a face sleek enough to fit naturally in a 21st century living room.

The real feature of De Manincor stoves, however, is their Ecoplus system. The internal design of these cookstoves takes outside air and routes it first underneath the firebox, pre-heating it, then over the flame, where any remaining gas is burned off during combustion. By pre-heating secondary airflow, carbon monoxide levels are reduced to a minimum and efficiency is increased to upwards of 75%. The result is far cleaner smoke and reduced wood consumption, advantages that are paramount in the U.S. market today. That’s why Obadiah’s has been partnered with Wittus, De Manincor’s importer and one of the top importers of all fine European cookstoves. Wittus has been a reliable judge of quality when it comes to cookstoves from across the Atlantic, and models like the De Manincor are exemplary of that.

The De Manincor also comes in a wide variety of bold colors, as seen below with the wonderful Domino 8 Maxi line:

And don’t miss the rest of their Domino lineup:
De Manincor Domino Cookstove Line Up - Cookstove Community

Sopka Cookstoves

A little known manufacturer from Eastern Europe, Sopka has been quietly making cookstoves for years, the first of which was imported to the U.S. in 1999 and was actually one of Obadiah’s first European stove lines. While not as popular as its European counterparts, Sopka’s cookstoves are made with many of the same advanced manufacturing techniques, including robotic welding, and boast impressive efficiency ratings. Most of their models rate above 73%, with the Concept 2 Air and Mini Air models reaching an astounding 85% efficiency. It’s amazing to see how far Sopka has come since we were introduced to them, and if you’re after a UL-listed stove with an original design, these offer a lot of bang for your buck.

The Sopka North is one of Woody’s favorites, with a stainless steel design that will look great for many, many years, as well as advanced refractory in the firebox that allows the stove to burn cleanly and efficiently. We are also particular fans of the Magnum model, which features an innovative optional soapstone exterior. We’ve used other, American-made stoves that incorporate soapstone, but the material is included as little more than a covering shell. Sopka, in contrast, manufactures the soapstone directly onto the sides and underbelly of the Magnum, allowing the stove to retain heat for an impressively extended period of time while making cooking and baking even smoother. It’s progressive design decisions like this that get our attention, and we’re excited for Sopka’s future in North America.

The Razen Cookstove

The Razen Cookstove - Cookstove Community

The Razen Cookstove.

With its sleek, staineless steel body, the Razen cookstove by Firebelly sports a modern aesthetic that would be right at home in any high-end household. Firebelly, an England-based manufacturer, has a unique combination of progressive stove-making skills and an eye for beautiful, symmetrical looks. More importantly though, the Razen has an efficiency rating above 75%, meaning that even with the most restrictive emission standards found in parts of the U.S., you’re not likely to run into any legal issues during installation. The Razen is not available for import yet but it’s already one of Woody’s favorite cookstoves, so Obadiah’s is looking into it and hoping to make some headway in bringing this beautiful unit to the North American market where it will undoubtedly flourish.

The Heckla Wood Cookstove

Heckla Wood Cookstove - Cookstove CommunityThe Heckla wood cookstove from the Czech Republic is one of the most unique stoves we have ever encountered. With a freestanding slender design, the stove is five and a half feet in height, giving it a look that is more “modern appliance” than “traditional cookstove.” But this is more than an aesthetic gimmick: The Heckla has a 78% efficiency rating, is EPA-certified, and is one of just four cookstove lines approved under Washington State’s strict emission standards. It’s also a chef’s delight, with an oven that houses a rack, tray, and baking stone, and is thoroughly customizable with over thirty color tile options. The Heckla proves that you can think well outside the box of traditional stove design and deliver a product that’s highly satisfactory for everyone.

None of this is to say that imported cookstoves are inherently better; you can absolutely find quality stoves made in the USA and Obadiah’s still has a handful that we stand behind 100%. We’re simply saying that over the years we’ve noticed a disappointing trend with domestic cookstoves not keeping up with market demands for clean burns and reliability, while imported stoves are arriving in greater numbers with more satisfied customers. Many European manufacturers have also taken note of the fact that wood cookstoves are not just for Grandma and those living a more rustic lifestyle, but can actually be very sophisticated and rather glamorous- something that most North American manufacturers have not yet realized. Just check out these units from Pertinger, an Italian company specializing in tailor-made cookstoves:

Obadiah’s may be from the mountains of Montana, but this is where we’re headed with the level of products we are offering to our clients.

Cookstoves are currently exempt from EPA regulations… For now. But if a push for better, more consistent quality is not made that could all change, and why wouldn’t it if imported cookstoves can regularly meet emission standards not just here, but in dozens of other countries as well? Our hope is that manufacturers in the U.S. will learn from the Europeans and incorporate some of the amazing techniques we see in their stoves so that, in the end, we all win.

In the meantime, Woody’s gears are turning again. He has partnered with Jason Stewart of New Zealand’s “Intensifire” to work on clean burning combustion processes, and is also networking with other folks around the world who have ideas for unique clean-burning stoves. If you’re interested in working with Obadiah’s to create clean and efficient cookstoves in North America, we are certainly interested in hearing from you.

– Obadiah’s Woodstoves.

Antique Cookstoves: What to Know

Quaker Antique Cookstoves - Cookstove Community

You remember it: Going up to Grandma’s, the quaint cozy household, the smell of homemade cooking, and most importantly, the cookstove. Not only did that stove make countless delicious meals, it also cooked up a lifetime of fond memories with the family. Can you ever hope to recapture that?

Many folks try to reclaim that time in their life by hunting down antique cookstoves because, after all, few things can replace an old fashioned cooker. Right?

Not necessarily. Before you dive into the antique cookstoves market, you need to be aware of some of the basics behind this small and expensive niche.

Old does not always equal great.

Kitchen Stove - Cookstove CommunityMany cookstove manufacturers came and went in the 19th and 20th century; for some it was hard economic times, for others it was simply their poor craftsmanship leading to poor sales. Know the difference. Glenwood, Northwestern Stove Works, Rock Island Stove Co., and Clarion are among the most common brands to stand the test of time, and the true quality stoves were made mostly from cast iron, a material that will hold up for hundreds of years with good design and some basic maintenance. Mind the material you’re looking at in the stove, and note the company.

A rare stove means rare parts.

One member of the Cookstove Community recently approached us trying to identify an antique cookstove they had recently come into possession of. After a little research the brand was identified, but the company went out of business nearly 70 years ago. The stove body was in fine shape with little to no rust, an impressive feet for a piece of equipment that could be over a century old, but it was missing a few things: The base, ash door, skirt, and more. These parts were essential to the stove’s operation, and while the body may have been pretty, it was little more than scrap in light of the missing pieces. Cast iron stove parts were formed with specific molds from each manufacturer, and if that manufacturer is gone, you can bet the molds are too (it’s also worth noting that the same parts tend to fail on every unit in a given line of stoves, so finding those parts on another antique is also difficult). If you find an old stove that’s missing parts, you must be sure that you can track down those parts before purchase.

Don’t expect to heat your home.

Thanks to advances in heating technology, today a single stove can do just about everything from cooking meals to providing domestic hot water and, of course, offering up all the warmth you could ever want. But things weren’t always this way, and while you might remember Grandma’s cookstove being plenty warm, the reality is that it was built during a time when most people had multiple stoves in their household. This meant that the most efficient heaters were dedicated wood stoves, while cookstoves were built with one thing in mind: Cooking. In fact, most antique cookstoves top out at about 50% efficiency, well below what you could expect to achieve with a modern stove. If you’re considering going the antique route, don’t expect what you get to rival today’s standards of flexibility and heating.

Have your antique stove restored by professionals.

So you’ve just found an ancient stove amongst the piles of a yard sale. It’s tempting to think you could simply take it home, give it a good polish and a new paint job and be on your way. The reality, however, is that properly restoring an old stove to a functional state requires a significant amount of time, dedication, and know-how. Special materials and tools are used to restore the finish, parts will need to be replaced or recast, new welding may need to be done, and so on. No matter how “together” a stove may look, if it’s a true antique that hasn’t been used in decades or more, you will need professional help to get it back to working condition without risk of permanent damage. There are many stove restoration companies across the United States, particularly in the Northeast, and a quick search of your area will likely yield some results.

Consider a modern stove with antique style.

You might think all cookstoves on the market today feature a modern look, but that’s not entirely true. Several manufacturers make cookstoves with a decorative, old-fashioned look that disguises their modern, efficient insides. Elmira Stove Works produces the Fireview, a traditional looking steel stove with multiple warming ovens and a gas side burner, and Heartland produces the Oval, which is also traditionally designed with an overhead warming oven and the ability to provide domestic hot water. Heartland AGA makes a similar line as well, with their Sweetheart units.

Our own recommendation for a quality, classic stove comes in the form of the Margin Gem, by Margin Stoves. The Gem offers a cast iron cooking surface and porcelain exterior finish for a look that says traditional, with an internal reburn system that offers modern technological efficiency. It’s the perfect combination of old and new, and you can learn more here. You can also see more modern, antique-style cookstoves on our videos page.

We absolutely understand the appeal of antique cookstoves: You’re not just buying a piece of history, but the aesthetics of stoves that were made a hundred or more years ago are very special. The modern stoves mentioned above were built on the shoulders of those ancient manufacturers, and there’s something to be said for that. However, antiques are expensive, and our hope is that all users of wood heat with an eye towards the classics know what to expect from such high dollar items. Keeping the memory of your heritage alive with an antique is a labor of love, and as long as you begin your search with that in mind, you will find satisfaction.

IntensiFire: Clean-Burning Technology to Improve Your Stove

The Intensifire - Clean Burning Technology to Improve Your Stove - Cookstove Community

Jason Stewart knows a thing or two about wood heat. Twenty years ago, the New Zealand native found himself in a rented home, trying to keep warm with an old wood stove that produced more smoke than heat. It’s a relatable situation for many in North America, where those who rely on wood heat live mostly in rural areas and often rent rather than own a home. Wood stoves are common in Canada and the northern areas of the U.S., but are often poorly maintained or simply old and outdated.

Jason Stewart with Intensifire - Cookstove Community

Jason Stewart with the IntensiFire.

Jason wasn’t about to let his landlord keep him cold, however. With a background in engineering, over the course of the next year and a half Jason set about building his own wood stove to replace the one in his house, and it was this path of self-reliance that led him to thinking about more practical solutions to fixing old, poorly maintained stoves. Five years ago he landed on the idea of creating a combustion system that would intensify the combustion process, which not only produced more heat from less wood, but could also burn wet wood with no smoke! Jason also lowered his carbon monoxide output to next to nothing, a welcome side effect of the increased heat.

Jason saw the potential of this device immediately, developed a business around it, and the IntensiFire was born. But what is it, and how does it work?

The IntensiFire basically acts as an internal flue extension, enabling stove users to burn their downdraft. This adds a feature not common in older stoves, secondary combustion, which brings in a significant amount of additional heat as the gases from burning wood are ignited before they leave the firebox. The benefits of this are two-fold: By adding secondary combustion to a stove that previously had none, the heat of the burn increases, and burning a stove hot is extremely important when it comes to wood fires. It prevents the accumulation of creosote in the chimney, a highly flammable substance left over when the heated by-products of wood smoke hit a cool chimney. When creosote combusts it causes chimney fires, which in turn can cause warping and other damage to areas around the fireplace. At worst, a chimney fire can escape the chimney and turn into a house fire.

IntensiFire with Green Wood - Cookstove Community

The IntensiFire burning green wood.

There’s also a significant financial benefit to secondary combustion, as a firebox that gets hotter faster will more effectively burn damp wood (the IntensiFire can handle wood with up to 60% moisture content, burning it clean with zero smoke), so any wood that’s been somewhat exposed to the elements isn’t wasted with this system installed. Igniting these gases in the firebox also means that they are not being expelled into the atmosphere, which is particularly important when it comes to carbon monoxide. Reducing your carbon footprint is something that everyone in your neighborhood will be happy about, particularly if your area is prone to temperature inversions.

It’s added benefits like this that are close to Jason’s heart. He has a long, active history in the environmental community: In 2010, he was piloting the Ady Gil during anti-whaling operations in the Southern Ocean when the Japanese whaling vessel Shōnan Maru 2 rammed the ship unprovoked, causing catastrophic damage and forcing the crew to abandon ship. The entire incident was captured for the Discovery series “Whale Wars”, and Jason remains friends with the the Gil’s captain and noted activist Pete Bethune. He was also an engineer on Earthrace, a bio-diesel boat that circumnavigated the globe, demonstrating the feasibility of the fuel and promote environmental awareness.

That awareness of the environment is exactly what makes Jason’s work in the heating community important. Does the IntensiFire actually make good on it’s claims, though? According to the press Jason has received over the last few years, it certainly seems to.

Wood Stove Decathlon 2013 - Cookstove Community

Testing tent at the Wood Stove Decathlon – 2013.

In November 2013, the Wood Stove Decathlon took place in Washington D.C, organized by the Alliance for Green Heat and sponsored by the United States Forest Service, Maryland Wood Energy Coalition, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, among many others. The purpose of the contest was to challenge teams of designers to create the next generation of wood stoves with a focus on affordability, efficiency, and low emissions. Among the fourteen finalists? Jason Stewart with the IntensiFire. Jason ultimately took home second place for affordability and third in innovation, attracting attention from major media outlets such as Popular Mechanics, National Geographic, and Examiner. Perhaps most importantly though, was a letter Jason later received from Brookhaven National Laboratory, one of the United States’ official research facilities operated by the Department of Energy.

“In our testing your system was found to have the lowest CO emissions I have seen from a wood stove, approaching zero at times during the burn cycle,” wrote Dr. Thomas Butcher, head of the Energy Conversion Group at Brookhaven. “I would like to encourage you to continue your work with this technology.”

Obadiah's Woody Chain - Cookstove Community

Obadiah’s Woody Chain.

Throughout the IntensiFire’s history, Jason has always gone above and beyond to help his customers. He truly believes in his work, and would not only personally walk every customer through their installation process, but also repair a stove before doing so. Unfortunately, continuing that service on a massive scale in North America has never been feasible in terms of logistics or liability. Nevertheless, his spirit and ingenuity attracted the attention of Woody Chain from Obadiah’s Woodstoves & Alternative Energy.

Modifying an appliance that was engineered to burn a certain temperature presents challenges when the combustion temperature are increased dramatically by a system like the IntensiFire, so in the fall of 2015, Jason and Woody spent several months hashing out ideas on how to bring Jason’s concept of clean combustion to more wood stove users. Together, they produced four test units based on existing wood heaters, selected for Obadiah’s long-term business relations with the manufacturers (spreading out development costs and eliminating UL listing concerns). The chosen units were a converted Woodmaster LT90 Outdoor Wood Boiler, a Kitchen Queen Cookstove, a BIS Panorama zero clearance fireplace and a builder box Heatilator style zero clearance fireplace. Below are some pictures of what Jason and Woody came up with for the LT90:

The results?

Outdoor wood boilers are currently in the crosshairs of the EPA given how dirty they burn, so what better place to start? Jason and Obadiah’s have more testing to do on the LT90 before development can begin, but initial results show that this could easily be the best way to clean up thousands of outdoor wood boilers currently in use.

Meanwhile, the Heatilator and Kitchen Queen produced results that forced Obadiah’s to reconsider the one-size-fits-all approach that Jason has used in the past. The Heatilator’s fireplace became so hot during usage that parts of it glowed cherry red, and eventually the doors blew up! On top of that, the Kitchen Queen cookstove’s oven became super-heated and impossible to control, even after dozens of design changes. For now, both stoves have been put on the backburner.

The Panorama fireplace, however, proved promising with an IntensiFire installation, and it will be refined further.

Ultimately, all of these results demonstrated to Woody that the best way to bring the IntensiFire to North America is to manufacture kits specifically designed for the stove it is going into. Selling one-size-fits-all kits for the DIY crowd isn’t something Obadiah’s will ever been able to do, but producing individual kits for different stoves is an idea that Jason and Woody agree is worth pursuing. The Panorama test unit, for example, will eventually be sold under Obadiah’s line of hearth products as a stand-alone unit that is UL-tested and EPA-certified.

Jason would still like to one day bring his retrofit device for stoves to the States, but for now, he and Woody will be working together with manufacturers to clean up the North American stove market. They have started by following the EPA’s lead, focusing on creating retrofits for the biggest polluters in the most need of clean-up: Outdoor wood boilers. The two are also working together on a line of stoves and boilers for Obadiah’s Woodstoves, which incorporates the IntensiFire into the actual design of the stove to maintain a functional amount of space in the firebox. All this will take time and money to develop, test, manufacture and bring to market, so please stay tuned to the Cookstove Community and Obadiah’s Woodstoves for news on developments as they occur.

Jason’s dedication to the environment and his ingenuity, combined with Obadiah’s understanding of the market and ability to tap into it, make for a team that is set to finally do what’s needed to clean up stoves in North America.

Making the Most of Wood Ash

Making the Most of Wood Ash - Cookstove Community

Wood heat is messy. Limbs from the tree leave piles of debris everywhere, small pieces of the rounds fall off during splitting, bark crumbles off and gets all over the house when you bring it inside, and last but not least: There’s a pile of ash left in your stove after every burn. Most of us learn to accept all these little side-effects of heating with wood, the trade-off being quality, inexpensive warmth for our house. But what if there were a way to turn some of that mess into something useful?

Well, there is. Let’s talk about wood ash.

Wood Ash - Cookstove CommunityWood ash is far more useful than you might realize and, despite the mess it can make, you shouldn’t remove it from your stove after every burn. Ash acts as an insulator, giving the bottom of your firebox an additional layer to absorb and retain heat while your fire is burning. In addition, ash will help reflect heat back into the fire in much the same way that your firebrick does. That firebrick, however, has to be completely heated before it begins to reflect any heat and that process doesn’t take nearly as long with ash. By allowing ash to remain in the firebox, you’re also allowing the small coals produced by your fire to retain heat longer, leading to a hotter fire.

This is not to say you should never remove ash from your firebox. An inch of ash is usually enough to reflect heat, you should avoid allowing more than that to stay in your firebox when using it regularly, and always remove ash at the end of a burn season. Ash does have the ability to draw moisture, and by leaving it in an untouched firebox for months on end, you can actually rust out your stove.

When you do decide to remove ash, use a pail made of sheet metal with a bottom that does not touch the floor and place it on non-combustible surfaces (stone, brick, concrete, etc.). Due to ash being such a great insulator, it can retain heat for a surprisingly long time and you should always treat it as such. Ash particles are hazardous to inhale too, so make sure you wear a mask. However, once you remove the ash from your stove, you may not want to toss it.

Wood itself contains a number of elements such as carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen, with many others in smaller quantities. When you burn wood, the nitrogen and sulfur turn to gas and leave up your chimney while calcium, potassium, magnesium, and other trace elements remain. These elements are the same used in liming, a process that neutralizes soils acidity.

What does that mean for your wood ash?

Ash in Garden - Cookstove CommunityHighly acidic soil makes it harder for plants to grow- everything from your garden to your yard will struggle if your area’s soil is too acidic. Adding a liming agent, such as wood ash, can help return your soil to a less-acidic state and facilitate stronger plants with better growth. Wood ash provides phosphorous, potassium, calcium, boron and other elements to the soil that growing plants crave. Hardwood ash in particular contains a higher percentage of nutrients than softwood ash (Doug Fir, Pine, etc.).

It’s important to note that not all soil needs this, and you should test yours before deciding to add ash. If your soil has a pH level greater than 7.0, you don’t need any ash. If you live in a dry area that sees relatively little rainfall, chances are your soil is alkaline and won’t benefit from a liming agent. But, if you live in an area of high rainfall, it’s very likely that applying some wood ash to your garden can be beneficial. Not only that, but sprinkling it across your lawn can also help facilitate that lush, green grass you’ve always wanted.

Wood ash also repels insects and pests like slugs and snails due to its ability to draw moisture (it essentially sucks the water out of their bodies), so even just sprinkling ash around the base of your plants can be beneficial. This should only be done occasionally, as overdoing it can actually harm your soil. Another use: The elements found in wood ash also help the microorganisms found in compost piles break down organic materials, so if you sprinkle ash onto a layer of compost, you’re helping it breakdown faster.

One of the reasons we love heating with wood is the way it allows us to connect with nature. It’s a rewarding connection, made all the more so when you realize that, right down to it’s very ashes, wood can improve our lives.

Domestic Hot Water and Wood Cookstoves: What To Know


Domestic Hot Water with Elmira Stove - Obadiah's Cookstove Community

A domestic hot water setup with an Elmira Cookstove.

Contents

Many folks who want to live the self-sufficient lifestyle know how to handle their food: Hunting, gardening, and building a fire. Mastering the methods behind each of those tasks means you’ll never have to worry about starving, no matter the situation. But what about water? Specifically, hot water?

We all know water is more important than food for survival, but we don’t often think of the huge role that hot water plays in our day-to-day life. We should, though, because heated water is essential to minimizing bacteria in cooking, cleaning, and bathing. Of course, anyone can throw a pot on top of a stove or over a fire, but if you’re living in an off-the-grid household, your hot water needs will be much greater than any stove-top pot can offer. So what’s the solution?

Domestic hot water via stove.

Many woodstoves and cookstoves offer an option (typically for an additional but reasonable cost) for domestic hot water installations. Here’s how it typically works:

Water Jacket to Storage Tank

Domestic Hot Water - passive - Obadiah's Cookstove Community

Domestic Hot Water – Passive System.

A water jacket (also known as a “water coil”) is a block of steel that attaches to the back or side of your stove, and contains an entry and exit connection for piping. When water enters the block, it hits a chamber inside and slows down, allowing the water to become heated. This heated water is then forced out to your water storage tank, which is sitting above your stove.

The water jacket is connected by piping to the water storage tank. As cold water flows from the bottom of the storage tank and into the jacket, it becomes heated. That heated water is then sent back out through a separate pipe to the top of the storage tank, thus creating a tank full of hot water that can then be connected to where ever you need. This method relies on simple physics: Hot water rises, and cold water falls. As a result, no pump is necessary. This creates a thermoloop and is known as “thermosiphoning”, a passive system. You do need a specific valve to make thermosiphoning work, so make sure you use a brass swing valve. Do not use a check valve, especially one that is spring loaded, as it will not create enough pressure for the system to function. See this forum post for more information.

Domestic Hot Water - Pioneer Maid System - Obadiah's Cookstove Community

A passive system installation using a Pioneer Maid Cookstove.

Domestic Hot Water Installation - Cookstove Community

A thermosiphon setup.

For an example of a thermosiphoning set up, we have this installation from our friend Tim. Here, the tank on the left can be shut out of the system with valves, which helps to create hot water faster. To slow the creation of hot water, that tank can be activatied to allow longer burns before both tanks become overwhelmed with water that is too hot.

Note: Since this photo was submitted, the top of the second tank has been connected with hot water, and a tempering valve has been installed. You can read more about Tim’s installation in our forum on this post.

Keep in mind that some cookstoves can be ordered with a water reservoir in the form of a tank that fits onto the back of the stove. If a reservoir is not pressurized it cannot be connected to a domestic hot water system. They are fill and drain systems only, which means you fill it with a bucket and drain it into a bucket. If you buy a wood cookstove with a water reservoir and it is connected to a water coil when there is a fire in the firebox, there must also be water in the water reservoir, or it will melt. If you are going to use a water reservoir on a cookstove, it is best to look for one that has a water reservoir that is passively heated and can sit there empty until needed without a problem. This will eliminate many of the problems associated with the use of a reservoir when you have the luxury of turning a tap for hot water, but also need a back up source in case the power goes out. Hauling water to your stove in buckets is not easy, and it will seldom be used when it is easier to turn a knob for hot water. Over time the water will become stagnate or it will begin to boil and create steam, which can create mold and mildew in your home.

Pump System

Domestic Hot Water - active - Obadiah's Cookstove Community

Domestic Hot Water – Active System.

A pump system, by contrast, is an active system. This method of generating domestic hot water relies on an electric pump to create the thermoloop and a heat activated sensor to activate the pump when the stove is hot.

An active system can potentially produce more hot water and, as long you have power, there is less chance of dangerous pressure levels from the water overheating (the result of an active system producing more water movemnt). However, an active system can become complicated quickly: In the event of a power failure, an active system’s electric pump will cease and potentially lead to dangerously high pressure in the water jacket and piping. With this danger in mind, you must also install a relief valve within two feet of the water jacket that is piped to a drain.

Obadiah’s firmly believes that a passive system is the best way to go in terms of simplicity, safety, and expense. There may be circumstances where a pump system is the best (or only) option, but the benefits of relying on simple physics instead of electronics when attempting to live the self-sufficient lifestyle cannot be overstated.

Domestic Hot Water - Gravity System - Obadiah's Cookstove Community

This diagram shows a typical passive installation (sometimes referred to as a “gravity” system) for domestic hot water.

Is Domestic Hot Water Right For You?

So now you know the basics. The real question is, should you use your stove for domestic hot water? Depending on your circumstance, heating this way can be hugely beneficial. With a passive system there is absolutely no reliance on electricity, which will ultimatley keep your heating costs down during the cold winter months.

Kitchen Queen Water Coils - Obadiah's Cookstove Community

Water coils for a Kitchen Queen cookstove.

The key to using this type system is understanding that you cannot install valves to turn off the flow of water, or you will have an explosion when the water boils. When there is fire in the firebox of your stove, some of the BTUs will be going into the hot water tank, so you must have two ways to read the temperatures in the tank. If you don’t have a way to read the water inside the tank, you will need to install a temperature gauge on the inlet side of the thermoloop and on the hot side of the domestic hot water outlet on the tank, which will give you an idea of the temperature of the water going in and coming out of the tank. For example, if the water going into the tank on the thermoloop side is running at 220 degrees and the hot water coming out is 190 degrees, it means you have 20 degrees to go before the pop off valve will release and all your hot water goes down the drain.

The real catch with using your stove for domestic hot water is that it is a constant monitoring process.

Domestic Hot Water - Basic System Design - Obadiah's Cookstove Community

Example of a hot water system layout using a Kitchen Queen.

You will want to make sure you don’t blow your valve and lose your hot water by bleeding off the BTUs inside the tank when you use hot water at the tap, laundry, or shower. If you have a family, you can rotate your turns at showers and do laundry and dishes throughout the day to periodically use accumulating hot water. Another trick to get the most out of this system is to also drain the hot water tank at night (take showers, etc.), so that it will refill by morning.

This system works if you’re on a ranch, homestead, or farm, and everyone is around during the day. If everyone is going different places all the time, it won’t work because no one can monitor the water temperature. If that’s the case, the system has to be automated with aquastats, pumps, and a diversion system to bleed off BTUs into the something like a hot tub. These systems can get complicated quickly and the price can get expensive, so make sure you can run it with a battery back-up in case of a power failure.

So, how does all of this look in real life? If you worry that a domestic hot water installation will be a mess, fret not! Below are a few photos of a properly installed system that’s been connected to radiant in-floor heating.

By using your stove to heat water for domestic use, you will be taking a huge step towards total self-sufficiency. For more information on domestic hot water via stove, please check out our videos on the subject. There are also several free resources available online to help you understand a bit more about this unique way to heat your water:

  • Kitchen Boiler Connections: A Selection of Practical Letters & Articles Relating to Water Backs & Range Boilers, Compiled from the Metal Worker
    • Hot Water Supply and Kitchen Boiler Connections – William Hutton
    •  
      Cookstove Community’s Woody Chain also offers a basic installation walkthrough on our forums, check it out here if you need some advice on what to do next!

      Obadiah’s Domestic Hot Water Kit

      Not sure what parts you need to begin the process of getting a domestic hot water setup? Fret not! Obadiah’s has put together a comprehensive kit with everything you need for your system. Here’s what’s included:

      First, select your boiler tank size:
      Part # Part Price
      GW 40 40 gallon Range Boiler Tank – Hot rock lined welded heavy gauge steel $475 (plus freight)
      GW 80 80 gallon Range Boiler Tank – Hot rock lined welded heavy gauge steel $745 (plus freight)
      Next, pick up Obadiah’s Domestic Hot Water Kit
      Part # Part Name Price
      36DT Dip Tube for hot Rock Range Boiler $35
      2K501 1.1 gallon Expansion Tank $59 (plus freight)
      34-BD 3/4″ NPT Boiler Drain $11
      T571 Stick Style Thermometer Gauge $33
      SV-150 150 PSI Safety Pressure Relief Valve 3/4″ NPT (2 units) $44
      H25-18 Gauge Style Pressure and Temp Gauge $30
      FV180/U 1/8″ NPT Auto Vent Valve $15
      AM101-1 3/4″ NPT Mixing Valve $103

      Total Price: $317.
       
      Need to add a pump? Just include these parts (either on-grid or off-grid, depending on your living situation):

      Domestic Hot Water Pump Parts (on-grid, 120 Volt AC System)
      Part # Part Price
       006B Taco DHW Circ Pump 120 Volt Sweat $323
       L6006A  Aquasat Controller well type with stem $168
      Domestic Hot Water Pump Parts (off-grid, 12 Volt DC System)*
      Part # Part Price
      C-12V Laing 12 Volt Circ Pump 3 gal per minute 1.9 amps 1/2″NPT $295
      12VRELAY 12 Volt Relay for Circ. Pump $23

      *Note: A 12 volt probe type thermostat is needed to activate the pump, installed to spec. based on system requirements.

      Please note that these are general prices and are subject to change; all prices are provided for estimate purposes only.

Cooking In Your Fireplace

Cooking with the Fireplace Conversion System - Cookstove Community

So you’ve been looking at cookstoves and are absolutely smitten with the idea of having one. How could you not be? The ability to cook your food in the same place that gives you heat without adding on any additional energy expenses is invaluable, especially in emergency situations. That, combined with the time-tested trustworthiness of many stove manufacturers, means you’ll be relying on it year-round for many years. Without question, a cookstove is a great investment. There’s just one problem:

You’ve got a fireplace, and nowhere to put a cookstove.

Some manufacturers offer zero-clearance stoves (and we even offer advice on how to do that yourself here), but that’s little consolation if you lack the space for even the basic dimensions of a cookstove. And there’s just no way for you to cook on your fireplace, which is built (albeit beautifully) into the wall of your home.

…Or is there?

Obadiah’s Woodstoves & Alternative Energy has been aware of the issues surrounding many fireplace installations for years, and we’ve come up with a solution: The Fireplace Conversion System. But before we get into the cooking features, there are a few other important issues this system resolves that you should know about.

An active fireplace can draw more heat than it gives off, leaving you with a room that is strangely colder than if you had never started a fire at all. This happens because a fire draws oxygen for combustion from the room, pulling it up and out the chimney. As this happens, the air that is drawn out of the room will be rapidly replaced by colder air, leaving you to huddle close to the fireplace just to get the little bit of radiant heat it puts out. A common answer to this problem is installing a glass barrier in front of the fireplace, which reduces the air being drawn in. However, no matter what you do, you can never completely stop air from being pulled out of the room without killing your fire.

Obadiah's Fireplace Conversion System - Cookstove Community

Obadiah’s fireplace conversion system pre-installation, with optional grate attachment.

This is where our Fireplace Conversion System comes in. Rather than installing a whole new surround and chimney, a process that would typically cost thousands of dollars, you just send Obadiah’s your fireplace’s measurements and we custom build a unit for you that will easily slide into your existing fireplace. The idea is to make the installation so painless that anyone can do it without having to hire a professional: All you need are a few tools, some patience, and a little bit of common sense. The unit works to improve your heating capabilities by absorbing most of the fire’s heat into the box, which it then redirects back out towards the room instead of allowing it to escape out the chimney. Maybe you appreciate your fireplace mostly for the ambience it offers, but with this system installed, you will actually be able to count on it for heat during an emergency. That, we feel, is something you can’t put a price on.

Obadiah's Fireplace Conversion System - Cookstove Community

The internal crane arm, left, holds a dutch oven.

The bonus to our Fireplace Conversion System, as we mentioned earlier, is the option to use it for cooking. The unit can be installed with a crane arm, allowing you to add a Dutch Oven and cook stews, roasts, casseroles, or anything else you can fit inside. The arm folds back into the firebox to stay out of your way when not in use, and when you need it, you simply rotate it out, hang your oven on it, and rotate it back in. Simple as that. In addition to the crane arm, you can also insert a height-adjustable grilling grate. This essentially turns your fireplace into a traditional grill on which you can cook steak, burgers, hot dogs, and all manner of meat. Check out the video below to see the cooking system in action:

Obadiah’s has been a dealer for fireplaces and wood heating systems for many, many years. In all that time doing business, we’ve always done our best to listen to what people need from their heating system and tried to help them achieve it. Our Fireplace Conversion System is really just the next step in that customer service: By allowing you to finally get real heat out of your fireplace while offering the ability to cook proper meals, this system turns your fireplace into an invaluable resource that you can rely on, no matter what.

– Obadiah’s Woodstoves & Alternative Energy.

Click here to see more about the Fireplace Conversion System with Obadiah’s Woody Chain

Firewood: Six Tips For Better Burning

Firewood Tips - Cookstove Community

If you’re new to wood heat, you might be tempted to just grab the nearest block of wood, throw it in the fire, and call it good for the day. But those of us who have lived season after season by the light of the fire know the most important aspect of wood heat: Firewood. Here are six tips to help you get the most out of your firewood and keep that fire burning bright and hot all winter long.

Use Dry Wood

Wood should be dry, plain and simple. Burning damp or green wood will result in lower fire temperatures, and if the temperature is below 250 degrees, gases released from the wood will liquefy on contact with the cooler sides of the chimney. The liquid will harden, and create creosote on the inside of your chimney. Creosote is your enemy: It’s foul, corrosive, and creates a serious fire hazard for home owners if left unchecked.

Green vs Seasoned Firewood - Cookstove Community

Green wood (left) and seasoned wood (right).

Properly seasoned firewood will go a long ways in reducing creosote. In general, 25% or less for moisture content is a good goal to aim for with your firewood. You can determine the dryness of your wood by checking the end grain for cracks, smacking the wood against another block of wood and listening for a “hollow” sound, or you can purchase a moisture meter. Many wood heat users find that allowing a year for firewood to become seasoned produces the best results, and while it requires patience and planning to gather firewood a year ahead of time, the result is often worth it.

You won’t be able to completely eliminate moisture from wood, but by reducing it, you’ll greatly improve your burn times and the health of your stove.

Store Your Firewood Properly

Firewood Shed - Cookstove CommunityThe best way to make sure your firewood becomes properly seasoned is to make sure it’s properly stored. After gathering the wood keep it stacked and sheltered, preferably outside, or in an area where air can move through it to aid in the drying process. You can throw a tarp over your stack to prevent snow from accumulating, but when there’s no precipitation it’s best to leave the stack uncovered.

Leaving your wood stacked in rounds will only add to the time it takes for moisture to leave the wood. This may not be an issue if you gather your wood an entire season before you intend to use it (allowing it ample time to dry out), but splitting your wood into blocks can greatly expedite the process. Also, try to elevate the bottom row of wood a few inches off the ground to prevent ground moisture from leaching into it.

Purchasing Firewood vs. Cutting Your Own

How you acquire firewood is an important decision. Do you buy it from a local dealer, or purchase a permit and gather it yourself? The obvious benefit of purchasing it is that it greatly simplifies the process- gathering firewood can be an intense, physical task requiring many tools and a bit of forestry knowledge . However, many people enjoy doing so for the feeling of self-sufficiency and quality control, and find the physical challenge of felling and bucking trees to be rewarding in itself. Plus, once you get the hang of it, gathering your own firewood can be significantly cheaper.

Firewood Cord - Cookstove CommunityIf you choose to purchase your firewood, you’ll find that it is typically sold in “cords”: A stack measuring four feet high by four feet wide by eight feet long (4’ x 4’ x 8’). You won’t find many dealers selling firewood in 4’ pieces as a typical piece of firewood for woodstoves will measure about 16 inches, but the cord is the general rule of thumb and any volume of firewood for sale should relate to it. Try to avoid purchasing any firewood sold in volumes other than a cord, as the amount in a truckload or trailer load can be deceptive. Most importantly, *always* inspect the wood before buying it to make sure it is seasoned properly. Features like length, split, and cleanliness all add labor costs, so the price of available cords will vary.

If you would rather gather your own firewood, there are a number of things to consider. First and foremost, you will need to know the basics of operating a chainsaw and felling trees. Neither task should be taken lightly; each year tens of thousands of people are injured by improperly using a chainsaw and failing to understand correct felling methods. These issues can be easily avoided with a little bit of training and proper safety gear, so please educate yourself before going into the woods.

Chainsaw Use - Cookstove CommunityWhen collecting firewood from public land, you may need to purchase a permit from your local public land management organization (Department of Forestry or Natural Resources for state land, Forest Service for federal land). Permits will have their own set of rules unique to the forest you’re on, so please read it over carefully. Avoid cutting live trees and look for “snags” (dead trees), as these will have low moisture content and season faster. Before cutting, check the tree for signs of tree rot or wildlife habitat (cutting trees that offer shelter for wildlife, i.e. birds and small mammals, is harmful to a forest’s ecosystem). If you’re lucky, you might be able to gather the majority of your firewood from trees that have already fallen, but chances are you’ll need to knock down some standing trees to get the best wood.

Know Your Trees

The kinds of firewood available to you will vary based on where you live, but some wood is more efficient than others. First and foremost, wood can be divided into two classifications: Hardwood and softwood. Hardwoods are typically characterized by their broad leaves, and softwoods by the presence of cones. These characteristics have more to do with the label of “hard” or “soft” than the actual hardness of the wood, which varies greatly in each category. Hardwoods tend to be more expensive if you’re purchasing your firewood, but they are dense, and quality hardwood will give you great burn times. However, because of their density, hardwoods also take much longer to dry out and ignite. Softwoods will burn hot and fast, but with less density, and produce shorter burn times.

Oak Vs Doug Fir - Cookstove Community

Oak Wood (left) and Douglas Fir (right).

Keep in mind that none of this necessarily indicates one class is superior to the other; your preference will depend on what type of fire you’re trying to keep, as well as how abundant certain types of wood are in your area. When it comes to using hardwoods for fuel, the most popular species are oak, hard maple, and birch. For softwood, many people choose to use lodgepole, doug fir, cedar, and larch.

Splitting Wood

Splitting Maul - Cookstove Community

A splitting maul.

Unless you purchase your firewood pre-split you’ll be doing it yourself, and using the proper physical technique will save you not only time, but a lot of back pain as well. Always place your round on top of a short chopping block- this will provide resistance, unlike the ground, which will absorb the force of your swing. Use a splitting maul, not an ax; a maul’s wedge shape is less prone to getting stuck in the wood than the thin head of an ax. Keep in mind that heavier is not necessarily better when it comes to the maul, too. Speed and sharpness are much more important for splitting a round than mass, so look for maul that’s around six pounds or so. Look for cracks in the round and aim for one to make the split easier, but also keep an eye out for large knots that could slow the velocity of your follow through.

There are several different methods for swinging a maul, from lifting it overhead to going more over the shoulder. Which one you should use depends mostly on your body type and strength, so experiment until you find a method that feels comfortable and powerful to you. When you set up your swing, do *not* aim for the center of the round. Instead, bring your maul down at an angle near the edge of the round, where it tends to be weaker. Focus on your follow through and don’t let up your speed upon connecting with the wood, otherwise you risk bouncing off the round and potentially damaging your maul.

Don’t Over Fill Your Firebox

Fire needs three things: Fuel, heat, and oxygen. If you pack your firebox as full as possible, you will deprive your fire of much needed oxygen and waste a lot of time just trying to maintain a flame. Stack your wood in layers to about two-thirds the height of the firebox, crisscrossed, with a few pieces of kindling at the bottom. Using newspaper to light the kindling is a common route, though using paraffin wax fire starters are a fast, clean alternative. For an example, here’s Obadiah’s Woody Chain loading the firebox of an Esse Ironheart.

Wood heat is not always as simple as it sounds, but if you keep in mind the above basics of firewood use, you can be sure that you’re on the right track to getting the most out of your stove.

Choosing Your Cookstove

Choosing Your Cookstove - Cookstove Community

When you picture a cookstove, what do you see? An old, dusty piece of equipment from a time gone by? An oddly shaped woodstove? Or maybe just an ordinary old stove? Whether you’re looking for a new cookstove or just curious about what’s out there, there’s a whole world of designs and features to investigate. The following is a short list of cookstoves that demonstrate the kind of variety in visual and mechanical quality offered today, all of which we recommend to anyone choosing the cookstove life.

Vermont Bun Baker

Vermont Bun Baker - Cookstove CommunityThe Vermont Bun Baker takes the classic aesthetic of a cookstove and gives it an elegant, polished update. The Bun Baker is technically the same stove as the Australian “Baker’s Oven,” but Obadiah’s worked with the original manufacturer to add a soapstone cover around the stove, giving it its unique look (check out the conversion process in our videos). Its stacked design has the stove sitting below the firebox, which will heat up to 900 square feet, and also has a cook top space sizable enough for most cooking needs. The Bun Baker is a fine example of how an old design can be re-worked into something more modern and efficient (the soapstone adds an estimated four to five hours of heat to any burn), while retaining all of the craftsmanship of the original standby design.

Videos of the Vermont Bun Baker | The Vermont Bun Baker at Obadiah’s

The Kitchen Queen

Kitchen Queen Stainless Steel Doors - Cookstove CommunityLeave it to the Amish to create a staple of modern cookstoves that has held up for many years. The Kitchen Queen is one of the most popular stoves amongst folks here in the Cookstove Community, and the reasons are pretty clear: To begin with, The Queen has a huge oven making it perfect for larger undertakings like turkeys, roasts, and other meals where you need as much space as you can get. Most important, however, is that the Kitchen Queen is just well-engineered. Heat and smoke from the firebox is routed naturally around the oven, working with convection instead of against it, allowing the oven to heat quicker and more efficiently in the process. This also keeps the stove operating cleaner for much longer, making the Queen a long-lasting stove that provides for all the cooking needs you could have.

Videos of the Kitchen Queen | The Kitchen Queen at Obadiah’s

Esse Ironheart

The Esse is a British design, but it looks right at home here in the states. Its understated design belies the carefully crafted inner-workings: The Esse Ironheart is constructed with the latest in technology, everything from lasers to robots are used to ensure it remains a reliable and robust stove providing you with heat and hot food for decades. Esse Ironheart Cookstove - Cookstove CommunityWith its large firebox you have the freedom to use much larger pieces of wood, meaning there’s less restoking, while the cook top features some bells and whistles not typically found in other cookstoves. Two steel-finished hotplate covers sit on top of a large hob area, which uses designated heat zones for precise cooking control. The stove works to keep things clean as well, with vented extraction from the oven taking cooking odors up the flue and out of your home, and a sliding lever allowing for total control of the air wash- keeping the stove’s glass clean. The Esse Ironheart is a true testament to the quality of modern stoves, and we’ve been nothing short of amazed while using it.

Videos of the Esse Ironheart | The Esse Ironheart at Obadiah’s

J.A. Roby Mystere

JA Roby Mystere - Cookstove CommunityThe Mystere’s bold looks are like nothing else on the market- classic, yet artistically crafted. The embellishments combine with the huge viewing window on the firebox to form a stove that’s not just a heating appliance, but a visual centerpiece of any living space. It’s an efficient stove to boot (with EPA-certification), perfect for anyone looking to bake some pies or bread loaves while enjoying the beautiful view it offers. The Mystere’s design also allows a low clearance to combustibles, meaning that even if your home is already a bit snug, it will still fit right in.
 

J.A. Roby Mystere Cookstove at Obadiah’s

La Nordica Rosa Maiolica

La Nordica is a well-known Italian manufacturer that has only recently ventured to the states, and after getting our hands on the Rosa Maiolica, it’s safe to say we had no idea what we were missing.La Nordica Rosa Maiolica - Cookstove Community Like most European stoves, the Rosa is designed with rigorous international standards in mind, so you can be sure that when it comes to emissions and efficiency, the Rosa is at the top of the game. The cooktop is large enough to satisfy any cooking needs, as is the oven, and the firebox offers up a whopping 6500 square feet of heat. The Rosa is also, obviously, just gorgeous to look at: The high quality hinges, latches, paint, and overall aesthetic take the Rosa a whole level above most cookstoves. If you’re after a high-class stove, look no further than the La Nordica Rosa Maiolica.

Videos of La Nordica Rosa Maiolica | La Nordica Rosa Maiolica at Obadiah’s

As you can see, cookstoves today have a wide range of design and aesthetic influences- from the robust standbys by the Amish, workhorses from Britain, extravagance from Italy, and everything in between. Choosing a stove that best suits your needs is anything but an easy process, but if you still have any questions, just head on over to our forums and ask our friendly community, we’re always happy to help. Cookstoves have come a long ways in recent years, and they’re only just getting started.

Cookstoves: How and Why

The sound of wood cracking against an ax, the hollow thuds of the blocks hitting the ground, the popping and hissing of evaporating moisture as the fire begins in the stove, and the unmistakable smell of burning wood as its warmth engulfs everything around it and ushers winter out the door, where it belongs.

Using a wood burning stove is a staple of country life that, for many people, goes back generations. For good reason, too: It’s hard to beat the ease of use and reliability of a woodstove. Cut the wood, put it in the firebox, start the fire, and before too long you’ve got flames licking the edges of the window and heating your home. It may take more effort to start a fire than to turn a knob and wait for the heat to come on, but the beauty of a stove is in the control it allows. You provide your own fuel, decide when and how to burn it, and in the end you get the satisfaction of self-sufficiency. The amount of money you save by using wood heat over gas or electric is nothing to scoff at either.

However, there’s another kind of stove you don’t hear much about: The cookstove.

Waterford Stanley Cookstoves by Obadiah's - Cookstove Community

The Waterford Stanley Cookstove.

A cookstove features a firebox not unlike a standard woodstove. Adjacent to that, however, is a full-fledged oven. The oven functions like a normal kitchen stove, with one key difference: All of its heat is drawn from the nearby firebox via simple systems within the design of the stove. By allowing the smoke and heat from the firebox to filter around the oven before exiting via the chimney, a cookstove can effectively cook whatever is in the oven. Chances are, if you can cook it on an electric or gas stove, you can cook it on a cookstove.

Kitchen Queen Cookstoves - Cookstove Community

The Kitchen Queen Cookstove.

For example, take the Kitchen Queen cookstove. As you can see in the diagram above, heat from the fire box is directed beneath the oven, up the opposite side, across the cook top, and finally out the chimney. In doing this, the stove works with convection; remember, cold air naturally sinks and hot air rises. By directing the heat from the fire in a natural direction around the stove, the stove is able to raise the temperature of the oven quickly and effectively. Not all cookstoves work in the same manner as the Kitchen Queen, but it’s a fine example of the ingenuity involved in modern designs.

Kitchen Queen food by Rod Maupin - Cookstove Community

Cooking in a cookstove.

Cookstoves might seem like antiquated technology, but they have come a long way in the last few decades- not just mechanically, but aesthetically.

La Nordica Rosa Maiolica - Cookstove Community

The La Nordica Rosa Maiolica.

Today you can find cookstoves that wouldn’t seem out of place inside a classy 21st century home, as well as ones that hearken back to the days-of-old in style yet retain a modern internal system. They’re produced by everyone from high-end Italian manufacturers to the American Amish community, with as much variety as one would expect from such a diverse cross-section of society.

In combining your heat source with your oven, you’re not just getting a fun new way to cook. You’re getting a cheaper, more reliable way to live simply. Cookstoves tend to be more expensive than regular stoves, sure, but what you save in the long run by not running separate sources of heat and cooking will more than make up for the difference, and their usefulness in an emergency is undeniable.

JA Roby Vulcain - Cookstove Community

JA Roby Vulcain Cookstove.

Think about it: If you’ve ever experienced a power outage for an extended period of time, chances are you were limited to whatever was in the pantry to hold you over while you waited for the power company to fix the problem. With a cookstove in your house, you wouldn’t have to worry about heat and you could continue cooking without a second thought.

Not only can you cook on a cookstove, but many stoves have an additional water-heating function. By installing steel coils in the firebox and connecting them to a water reservoir, a cookstove can heat hot water while in use. Using basic science (hot water rises), this water can be pumped into either the reservoir on the tank or a remote reservoir somewhere else in the house. No pumps or fancy gadgets, you just heat up the stove and the stove heats the water.

Heat your home, cook your food, and create hot water. The benefits of being a cookstove user seem endless, but when you get down to it the best thing about a cookstove is that, in taking one into your home, you’re taking on responsibility for yourself. And out here in the country, that’s the best way to live.

EPA Wood Stove Regulations: What You Need To Know

EPA wood stove regulations - Cookstove Community

This article about EPA wood stove regulations is intended as an overview of what rules the Environmental Protection Agency has applied to wood stoves and cookstoves, but it is by no means a full explanation of all regulations regarding wood heat. We encourage all readers to study the source material, particularly the New Source Performance Standards, to see the full specifics of how it applies to you and your heating appliance.

Contents

Do you own a woodstove or wood cookstove? If so, chances are you love it- there’s just something about the warmth and smell of burning wood as a heat source that makes many Americans choose it over other forms of heating. However, using wood heat is not without complications: Smoke, even from burning wood, is an emission regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the following article, we will explain what the EPA wood stove regulations mean to those of us who use or manufacture stoves.

To explain where we are today though, we first have to dig further back into history.

Industrial Revolution - Cookstove Community

Pollution in the late 19th century.

In the late 1800s, fossil fuels exploded in popularity and ignited the Industrial Revolution. Clouds of haze hung over cities that were particularly booming, with hardly anyone giving it a second thought. But as time went on the haze increased, and many cities experienced periods of extreme air pollution that were ultimately linked to spikes in hospitalizations and death. As a result, groups formed with the intent of measuring the correlation between “urban fog” and death rates, but efforts to actually regulate emissions were limited and mostly ineffective until the 1960s, when the United States began to take note of environmental issues at a national level. In response to that public awareness, the Environmental Protection Agency was created.

When establishing the EPA, Congress designated common air pollutants to be of special concern nation-wide. The EPA currently regulates six of those pollutants: Particulate matter (PM), ozone, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and lead. By the 1990s industrial emissions had improved significantly, but studies began to show that a specific class of small, inhalable particulate matter called “PM2.5” was a health concern at levels once thought to be safe. This led to the EPA establishing standards for allowable levels of PM2.5 in the environment.

What exactly is particulate matter, and why is it important?

“Particulate Matter” (PM) is a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air and can be composed of many types of materials and chemicals. PM can be found in natural processes like forest fires and wind erosion, or from human practices such as agriculture, industry, traffic, and wood stove use. In fact, according to the 2008 National Emissions Inventory, residential wood combustion is one of the five largest contributors to PM emissions.

Particulate Matter 2.5 - Cookstove Community

Particulate matter (PM) is a broad term that describes many dangerous materials, but the one of most concern to users of wood heat is PM2.5. PM2.5 is a form of fine particulate matter that is less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, found in haze or smoke like that produced by wood stoves (along with carbon monoxide, VOC, and other toxic air pollutants). PM2.5 particles are small enough to be inhaled, allowing them to get deep into the lung and can cause burning eyes, runny noses, and serious respiratory issues such as asthma attacks or heart attacks.

In a residential area with many wood heating appliances, the level of PM2.5 in the atmosphere can reach unhealthy levels, and each year smoke from wood heaters produces thousands of tons of fine particles throughout the country – mostly during the winter months. In 2008 alone, residential wood combustion was responsible for roughly 318,000 tons of pollutants in the form of PM2.5. For comparison, wildfires in the U.S. during 2008 consumed a combined total of 5.29 million acres and were responsible for roughly 998,000 tons of PM2.5, which means the amount of PM2.5 released by residential wood heaters in 2008 was roughly equal to that released by a single 1.6 million acre wildfire.

After researching the risks of particulate matter emissions the EPA, as part of the Clean Air Act, implemented the New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) for residential wood heaters. The purpose of the NSPS has been to set regulations for the manufacture and sale of wood stoves, as well as certain wood burning fireplace inserts. The NSPS was first established in 1988, but in 2009 the EPA began reviewing its regulations and found that many technological improvements had been made over the past 21 years, improvements that would allow for better control of emissions from wood heaters. The review concluded on February 3, 2015 when the EPA released the revised NSPS for residential wood heaters.

The New Source Performance Standard, Wood Heat, and You

New Source Performance Standard (NSPS) Report - Cookstove Community

Now, what does all this mean to you? If you’re using wood heat, it means you should be aware of the emissions your stove produces. The New Source Performance Standard affects all wood heaters, but for the sake of this article, we’ll just be focusing on wood stoves and wood cookstoves. If you’d like to learn more about how the NSPS affects other heaters such as boilers and fireplaces, check out the links at the bottom of this article or click here to view the NSPS in its entirety (also available as a .PDF, here).

First, it’s important to understand that while the NSPS is federal regulation, it does not in itself impose any requirements on state and local governments. However, the contents of the NSPS are part of the Clean Air Act, and that act requires each state to have a plan to maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). Because states are not allowed to have emission limits weaker than those set in the NAAQS, the limits found in your state’s laws will be at least equal to what the EPA wood stove regulations are. Some states such as Washington, Vermont, and New York, even have regulations that are stricter than those set by the EPA.

In discussing the Clean Air Act’s overall function, EPA spokesperson Lisa Conner states, “The emission guidelines found in the NSPS generally constitute the goal that states have to meet when developing standards for existing sources.” But while many states use the regulations in the NSPS as a guideline for determining air quality laws, you may find that the best stove for you has a legal, acceptable amount of PM emissions without being EPA-certified.

So before installing a wood heating system of any kind, you absolutely must check to see what local laws and regulations are applicable to you; following them is in the best interest of you and your community. You can get in touch with your local Department of Environmental Quality for more information, or visit the EPA’s Burnwise Program to learn how your state is dealing with wood smoke.

Owning a Woodstove or Wood Cookstove

Economizer 2100 - Cookstove Community

EPA-Certified Timberwolf Economizer woodstove.

When it comes to owning a wood stove, it’s pretty straightforward: Check what local laws and regulations apply to you, then start looking for the kind of stove that best suits your needs. The Hearth, Patio, & Barbeque Association is a great resource for finding hearth dealers near you, and if you’re specifically in search of an EPA-certified stove, you can find a list of all qualifying stoves (as of January 2015) via the EPA.

As far as owning a cookstove, you should still consult local laws & regulations first, but keep in mind that cookstoves are exempt from the emission limits set by the NSPS for wood heaters. The EPA views cookstoves as cooking devices, so if you’re looking at purchasing a stove that meets the EPA’s definition of a cookstove (more on that definition ahead) you are not subject to the emission limits for wood stoves.

Most importantly, be sure to consult your owner’s manual prior to burning whatever stove you choose. Burning improper fuel (unseasoned wood, garbage, lawn clippings, manure, etc) can void your warranty at the very least, and damage your stove, your home, or your health at worst.

Manufacturing Standards For Wood Stoves

In order to further decrease the emission of harmful particulate matter over time, the EPA has set new emission limits in the revised NSPS. The new limits are broken into two phases in order to ease the wood heating industry’s transition into them, and do not apply to existing woodstoves or other wood-burning heaters currently in use. The emission limits for wood stoves set in the 2015 revision of the NSPS are:

Phases/Steps PM Emissions
Step 1: Upon the effective date of final rule (5/15/15) 4.5g/hr
Step 2: 5 Years after the effective date of the final rule (5/15/2020) 2.0g/hr
Step 2: Cord wood alternative compliance option 2.5g/hr

On May 15, 2015, Step 1 of the NSPS will go into effect (and stay in effect until 2020). Any EPA-certified stove manufactured on or after that day is required to adhere to the 4.5g/hr emission limit. Retailers will be allowed to sell EPA-certified stoves that do not comply with the new Step 1 emissions until 12/31/2015.

Before this revision, the NSPS stated that in order for a stove to be EPA-certified, a catalytic stove must produce no more than 4.5 grams/hour of particulate matter, and a non-catalytic stove must produce no more than 7.5 grams/hour. The revised NSPS provides a single standard under Step 1 for catalytic, non-catalytic, and hybrid heater systems “so as not to restrict open market competition” (NSPS 26).

Step 2 certification is split into two options: The first, 2.0g/hr, is certification using crib wood. The second option, 2.5g/hr, is certification using cord wood. Note that while attempting to establish the testing methods for manufacturers to use with cord wood, the EPA (using the testing organization ASTM) was unable to complete research before the final publication of the NSPS. As a result, the NSPS states that:

“…We have determined that we do not have sufficient data at this time to support a regulatory requirement for cord wood testing (other than for forced-air furnaces), but rather will allow an alternative compliance option for cord wood testing. … We will consider alternative cord wood test method requests on a case-by-case basis until we are convinced that improved test methods have been sufficiently demonstrated that they can be relied upon for regulatory purposes. … We expect that within the next few years we will receive enough cord wood test data to establish revised certification requirements based on cord wood testing” (NSPS 55).

Why did the EPA choose these standards? In regards to Step 1, the NSPS says data from the HPBA indicated that as of 2010 “at least 90 percent (130 out of 145 catalytic, non-catalytic and pellet stoves combined) already meet the Step 1 PM emission limit” (NSPS 88). Basically, the EPA feels 4.5 g/hr is an easy goal to reach for the majority of stoves.

For Step 2’s emission limit, the NSPS highlights a few different reasons for the cord wood option: First, test data indicates a limit of at least 2.3g/hr is achievable by multiple stoves; second, Washington State has required catalytic stoves since 1995 to meet a limit of 2.5g/hr; and third, the emission level doesn’t take effect for another 5 years (NSPS 61). Also, according to the EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis using industry data, “The Step 2 limit is already met by the top performing catalytic, non-catalytic and pellet stove models.”

If a stove is EPA-certified with the 1988 NSPS emission limit, it is automatically certified until Step 2 takes effect in 2020, with no separate certification required. The EPA believes that “this automatic certification will avoid unnecessary economic impacts on those manufacturers (over 90 percent are small businesses) who can then focus their efforts on developing a full range of cleaner models that meet Step 2 emission levels. This measure should also help avoid potential delays at laboratories conducting certification testing for heaters newly subject to the NSPS” (NSPS 24).

As with the previous version of the NSPS, manufacturers applying for EPA-certification “are still required to have quality assurance programs to ensure that all heaters within a model line conform to the certified design and meet the applicable emission limits, and the EPA will continue to have the authority to conduct audits to ensure compliance” (NSPS 19).

Again, please note that it is legal to sell or own a stove that is not EPA-certified, and that it is only illegal to operate a stove that does not comply with state or city air quality laws.

What about Manufacturing Cookstoves?

Esse Ironheart Cookstove - Cookstove Community

The Esse Ironheart Wood Cookstove.

From the EPA’s New Source Performance Standard (NSPS), regarding wood cookstoves:

“Cook stove means a wood-fired appliance that is designed, marketed and warranted primarily for cooking food and that has the following characteristics:
(1) An oven, with volume of 0.028 cubic meters (1 cubic foot) or greater, and an
oven rack;
(2) A device for measuring oven temperatures;
(3) A flame path that is routed around the oven;
(4) An ash pan;
(5) An ash clean-out door below the oven;
(6) The absence of a fan or heat channels to dissipate heat from the appliance;
(7) A cooking surface with an area measured in square inches or square feet that is at least 1.5 times greater than the volume of firebox measured in cubic inches or cubic
feet. Example: A cook stove with a firebox of 2 cubic feet must have a cooking surface of at least 3 square feet;
(8) A portion of at least four sides of the oven (which may include the bottom
and/or top) is exposed to the flame path during the heating cycle of the oven. A flue gas bypass may exist for temperature control.”

If a cookstove meets the above definition, it is exempt from the emission limits of wood stoves, and does not require EPA notification or public notice of that exemption.

Wood-Fired Cookstoves in Washington State

While the EPA has ruled that cookstoves are exempt from emission regulations, any state can still define their own regulations, as long as those regulations are equal to or greater than the EPA’s wood stove regulations. The state of Washington is well-known for having much stricter regulations than most states and it can be confusing for residents trying to understand what types of stoves are allowed. If you’re a Washington state resident, please read this post explaining how Washington’s laws affect your choice of cookstove.

The following wood cookstoves provided by Obadiah’s are exempt from Washington’s emission regulations:

  • The Baker’s Oven
  • Vermont Bun Baker
  • deManincor cookstoves
  • Heckla cookstoves

Summary

The benefits of the New Source Performance Standard for wood heaters has been subject to debate since its inception in 1988, with the revised EPA wood stove regulations stirring things up once again. The EPA’s research shows that the health benefits associated withFireplace Burning - Cookstove Community these new regulations are substantially greater than the cost to manufacture cleaner, lower-emitting appliances: By setting emission standards for wood heaters to 2.0g/hr after 2020, PM2.5 emissions will be reduced by an estimated 10,000 tons a year and public air quality will greatly improve- a vital mission as energy demands in the United States grow with an increasing population. Since monitoring of PM emissions began in 2000, the EPA has seen an 11% decline in national levels of PM2.5, with a reduction of 1 million tons of PM2.5 in the last ten years alone. CO2 emissions and the other common pollutants that the EPA monitors have also all seen a steady decline in the last five years.

However, there is speculation that the new regulations could increase manufacturing costs, thereby driving up retail prices and forcing wood heat users (particularly in low-income areas) to continue using older, high-emission stoves. Many agree that current emissions from wood heat are a problem, with multiple states even filing a lawsuit against the EPA in 2013 for not updating standards on wood boilers (an issue the revised NSPS hopes to resolve), but feel the EPA’s regulations have considerable shortcomings. In a press release responding to the revised NSPS, HPBA President Jack Goldman was generally in favor of the revisions, but offered up some criticism:

“…Some of the future standards proposed for wood-burning appliances do not meet the government’s duty to set standards based on data that shows both a tangible benefit to consumers and cost-effectiveness. From what we have learned from EPA about the final rule, the new standards for cordwood performance are of particular concern, since the Agency appears to have acknowledged that there are no cordwood test methods yet for many appliance categories, much less data using such test methods. Both are needed to set standards – even optional standards…”

Whatever the case may be, whether you’re manufacturing stoves, selling them, or just enjoying the benefits of a warm fire, understanding the EPA’s wood stove regulations and how your state interprets them will go a long ways towards helping you get the most out of wood heat.

**Update (4/10/15)**
– This post has been updated to include the NSPS’s official publication date on 3/16/2015, which determines when emission limits go into effect.

Resources

The New Source Performance Standards for Residential Wood Heaters
EPA Air Research: Particulate Matter (PM)
Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) for Residential Wood Heaters NSPS Revision – Final Report [PDF]
Controlling Air Pollution from Residential Wood Heaters
Burnwise FAQ
EPA Programs and Requirements for Reducing Particle Pollution
Understanding The Clean Air Act
Background on Establishing New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) Under the Clean Air Act [PDF]
2008 National Emissions Inventory
U.S. Wildfire Statistics
New Source Performance Standards – 1996 Revision [PDF]
National Air Quality Trends

Cookstoves and the Prepared Lifestyle

Firewood Burning - Cookstove Community

Imagine this scenario: It’s the dead of winter. The ground is covered in snow, the temperature is below freezing during the daylight and worse after the sun goes down. Your power goes out. You’ve got water and a decent amount of food in storage, but your heat source went with the power and the temperature inside your dwelling is rapidly dropping. What can you do?

The best option, one that people have come back to time and again throughout history, is to fire up the stove. If you have a woodstove or wood cookstove, chances are you’ve never worried about this situation. If you lose power and have to rely on yourself for heat, all you need to do is grab a couple blocks of firewood, throw them in the stove, start a fire, and in no time at all your living space will be just as warm as with any other heat source. The difference, however, is that wood heat- from cutting the tree to splitting and loading the wood- is entirely your responsibility.

Holzhaufen Firewood Stack - Cookstove CommunityIf you’ve got the time and energy, cutting your own firewood for the winter is one of the most rewarding aspects of living in a cold climate, both mentally and economically. There’s something to be said for the satisfaction of surviving the winter on your own terms: Gas, propane, electric- they all require middle-men in some way or another. With wood heat, you have the option of gathering your own fuel and maintaining sole responsibility for how it’s burned and why, all at a cost that is far lower than that incurred by other heating methods.

But we’re not talking about just ordinary woodstoves, we’re talking about cookstoves. What’s the difference? Let’s go back to that scenario:

Your only source of heat is a stove, but what about preparing food? Sure, you can get by on the standards like canned goods, freeze-dried foods, MREs, etc. But when you’re looking at an extended period of time without access to proper power, you’ll want variety in order to avoid the very real issue of appetite fatigue. Survival isn’t just about getting the proper amount of nutrients into your body, it’s also about maintaining your sanity, and being able to cook food that actually tastes good will go a long way towards helping you hunker down for the long haul.

That’s where cookstoves come in.

Stainless Steel Glass Doors by Obadiah's - Cookstove Community

The Kitchen Queen 380 wood cookstove.

A cookstove has two main features: A firebox and an oven. The firebox works essentially like a standard woodstove and, depending on the stove, will heat just as effectively. However, that heat and the smoke from the fire is also routed through an adjacent oven (in ways that vary between stove manufacturers), allowing you to bring the oven to a temperature that will effectively cook anything you want.

Vermonth Bun Baker - Cookstove Community

Baking a pie with the Vermont Bun Baker.

Most cookstoves even offer independent controls for each side, as well as a universal damper system for total control over how much heat- if any- you wish to allow into the stove. If you can cook it on a normal household stove, you can cook it on a cookstove via wood heat.

The advantages of a cookstove aren’t limited to personal warmth and cooking, though: Many cookstoves also offer options for domestic hot water. With steel coils installed in the firebox and connected to a water reservoir located on the stove (or remote tank, in some cases), a cookstove will also create hot water when in use. This technology operates on the basic principle that hot water rises and cold water falls, using absolutely no additional electronics, pumps, or pressure tanks. You heat up the stove, the stove heats up the water. It’s that simple.

Cookstoves are not a new invention by any means, and chances are if you’ve heard of them or seen one before, it was collecting dust or in a state of disrepair in the household of a family member from a previous generation. Wood cookstoves have a long history in America, but fell by the wayside as social and economic forces led coal to replace wood as the main source of energy in the early 1900s. Wood still has its drawbacks as an energy source, particularly if you’re not living near a forest, but for many the benefits far outweigh any issues and always have.

Esse Ironheart Cookstove - Cookstove Community

The Esse Ironheart Cookstove.

Wood is reliable, and that reliability has kept cookstoves on the market and improving over the years. Today’s cookstoves aren’t your grandma’s cookstove left over from the Great Depression: They are simple but robust pieces of technology built on generations of experience, and with proper maintenance, will keep burning and cooking for decades.

That reliability and self-containment is invaluable to anyone living the prepared life. You can take all manner of precautions against society and what will happen when the grid goes down, but you can’t survive mother nature without a consistent source of heat and food. If you’re a prepper living in the north, or anywhere with temperatures that regularly dip below freezing in the winter months, you need to prepare not only for a large-scale disaster, but for a seasonal one as well. Every year winter storms regularly knock out power for tens of thousands of citizens across the country, often for weeks at a time. Being snowed in without power or a way to restock supplies is still a part of life for many Americans in the winter, and if you’re relying on a third-party to provide your heat in such a situation, you run the very real risk of freezing to death. Keeping a cookstove around will not only alleviate that risk, but allow you to do so relatively comfortably.

As mentioned earlier, a cookstove will open up a variety of options in the event of the grid going down, but that’s not limited to how you prepare your already stored food. And it’s just as well, because no matter how you ration it that food will eventually run out. If you’re to survive through self-reliance and meet all the dietary needs of the human body, you’ll need to raise or hunt your own meat, and that meat will need to be cooked. The benefit of a cookstove here is that you won’t be using multiple devices to accomplish this- your heat source will also provide you with an efficient way of preparing your meat.

A cookstove will go a long way in itself to sustain a person, but if you can also cut your own firewood and kill or grow your own food, a cookstove will provide almost everything else you need. Regardless of whether you’re a prepper or just interested in living a bit more self-sufficiently, a cookstove offers enrichment and security for your life. And on those long, cold winter days in the more out-of-the-way parts of the land, you can’t ask for more.

Ranges and Hoods

Range Hood - Cookstove Community

Abbaka custom designed this reproduction cylindrical hood from one piece of metal for Carolands, a 1915 Beaux-Arts mansion in California.

The golden age of wood- and coal-burning stoves gave rise to not only colorful expressions, but a novel feature that changed the way people cooked and kitchens looked. In the late 19th century, concern for better health led to research in domestic science, which in turn made sweeping improvements in America’s kitchens. Experts advised that a properly ventilated cook space was essential, and the range hood became an integral element of kitchen design.

Two of the earliest critics, Catherine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, had breakthrough ideas about keeping kitchen air fresh. In American Woman’s Home (1869) they recommended that kitchens be located on the first floor and include an area with a separate stove room. “Readers should install glazed sliding doors between the two rooms to allow for light as well as to serve to shut out heat and smells from the kitchen,” they advised. Doors and windows were fine, but by the turn of the 20th century, the real innovation in kitchen ventilation was the hood.

In 1901 Arts & Crafts guru Gustav Stickley wrote in his magazine The Craftsman that kitchens should be centers for hospitality and good cheer, and that the well-ventilated kitchen should be one large room. He suggested, “The hooded range should be devised that all odors of cooking be carried off and the arrangement and ventilation should be such that this is one of the best aired and sunniest of all rooms in the house.”

Before electric motors were widely available to power active systems, most ventilation systems were passive, and range hoods had to operate like chimneys and flues. Once cooking commenced, the cook opened a round metal door in the wall under the hood and latched it to one side so that convection would take the rising hot air through pipes and let it escape through the exterior wall.

These early hoods were often massive canopies made of thick plaster (over lath and 2 x 4s) or metal-usually cast iron or occasionally copper or brass. Because of their often dominating size, kitchen range hoods needed to be suspended by heavy chains mounted in ceiling beams. These early models came in a variety of shapes-barrel, cone, or pyramid-to catch and dispel hot air from the room. Cast-iron hoods would be painted to match the kitchen wall color or black to match the range. Occasionally the hood’s interior would be decorated with glazed white tiles.

With the introduction of gas stoves in the late 1890s, the problems of smoke and heat were reduced somewhat, but cooking odors were still an issue. When electricity became more common in the 1920s, passive hoods were gradually replaced by fan-assisted ventilation that could draw more smoke up and away from the kitchen quarters.

Today, there are a few companies that make hoods appropriate for period kitchens-and with modern technology they easily remove and filter out fumes. The type of hood you choose will depend on the age and style of your kitchen. If you are fortunate enough to come across an old kitchen with its original range hood intact, you can retrofit it with a fan. In fact, most building codes and manufacturers require proper kitchen ventilation. Your cooking equipment size and heat output dictates the requirements of your vent fan or blower. The Home Ventilating Institute recommends calculating the square footage of your kitchen space and multiplying this number by two. This math will give you the cubic feet per minute (CFM) that your fan or blower should draw. Commercial-grade ranges- popular for many of today’s kitchens, contemporary and period-inspired alike-require a higher CFM as well as a remote ventilator. Abbaka, a company that makes custom range hoods, recommends that the hood’s bottom opening should completely cover the cooking surface and overlap by 3½, adding 6½ to the length of your cook top.

By Nancy E. Berry

Courtesy of Old House Journal, 2001.

Obadiah’s offers custom made range hoods for cookstoves! With the help of a local fabricator, we’re proud to offer these beautiful additions to any home or kitchen area. Check out the gallery below to see the kind of work we can offer you:

Design Guide to Wood Cookstoves

Design Guide to Wood Conserving Cookstoves - Cookstove Community

Published in 1980 by the non-profit organization Volunteers in Technical Assistance, this lengthy guide “promotes stoves and cooking methods that are inexpensive, culturally acceptable, and environmentally sound.” If you’re just starting out in the cookstove world, this is the place to start: It has everything from the basics of how stoves work, how to run them efficiently, select your wood, and more.

Right click the PDF file below and select “Save As…” to download the guide.
Wood Conserving Cookstoves – A Design Guide

The Hidden Benefits and Hazards of Owning a Woodstove

firewood burning in woodstove

Everyone thinks of no electric bill when you heat with wood, but that is not the only benefit. People think of chimney or house fires when they think of woodstoves, but watch out there are other hazards. I am sure that most of you realize that there are some hidden benefits and hidden hazards to owning a woodstove. If not, I am here to tell you what some of those benefits or hazards might be. Two benefits come to mind quickly. Both are health related, but both also have hazards involved in them.

The first benefit is being more physically fit. There is a lot of physical activity that goes into owning a wood stove. First, you have to cut the trees or logs up with a chain saw. Then you have to split the logs, either mechanically or manually, but either way there is a lot of heavy lifting done here. If you have the ability to roll the logs up an incline to the splitter, it will save on some of the heavy lifting. Once the wood is cut and split, you need to stack it. Sometimes the wood is cut up close to where it will be stacked and other times it is not. If it is cut in close proximity to where it is stacked, then you may just be picking up the cut wood by hand and turning to stack it.firewood burning in woodstove 2 If you have to transport the wood to a location further off, you may have to load the wood into a wagon and tractor. Once again, this means more lifting and bending. Finally, the wood will need to be carried to the house as needed. With all this physical lifting and bending, there is a danger also. Someone can easily lift too much, lift incorrectly, or turn wrong pulling a muscle or hurting their back. Of course, you need make sure when doing the work necessary that you take the safety precautions needed while using a chain saw or other equipment.

The second thing I see as a hidden benefit is that many people who own a woodstove, usually do more cooking at home and cooking from scratch. Woodstove owners like to cook, not just open a pre-packaged item and pop it in the microwave. This means a better diet, consisting of home cooked food instead of going out for fast food. After a hard day’s work, there is something about a home cooked meal that hits the spot. Of course, there is a drawback here too. Since home cooked food tastes so good, it is easy to over eat.

With all the work that goes into owning a woodstove, I don’t know of anyone who said, “I want to get in better shape or improve my health, so I think I will buy a woodstove.” Most of us bought our woodstoves for another reason & never stopped to think that we may benefits from it in other ways.

– Wrangler Jane.

Is A Wood Stove Right For Me?

wood stove 1If you have been thinking about buying a woodstove and wondering, “Is a woodstove right for me?” or “Which stove should I get?” you have come to the right place. We will give you some things to think about before you make a purchase, and you should walk away with a list of questions to ask yourself. After answering these questions, it will be much easier to figure out if a wood stove is right for you and which stove will meet your needs.

There are many things to think about when looking to purchase a wood stove. We will start with the basics: What is your main reason for looking to purchase a woodstove? Are you looking to get off the grid? Do you want an alternative source of heat, something you can use daily for cooking and baking or something pretty to look at? Yes, there are many other reasons, but start by making a list of why YOU want a woodstove.

Then you need to think about “Where am I going to put the woodstove when I get it?” That wood stove 2will depend on why you are buying the woodstove. If it is for daily cooking, where in the kitchen is it going? Are you just building a house and can fit it in anywhere? Are you remodeling the kitchen? If you already have a home that you are not remodeling, what kind of space do you have? Is there enough clearance between the wall and the stove? Will the stove stick out too far from the wall and be in a walkway? Will it be easy to restock the stove when cooking, if needed? Where will the wood be stored in relation to the stove? For the cook in the house, will the kitchen pattern still flow with the location picked out for the stove? If there is no room in the kitchen, and you want to use it for cooking, how far away from the kitchen is it going to be?

wood stove 3If you are going to be using the woodstove for heating the house, is there a natural airflow pattern in the house that would help you in determining a good location for the woodstove? Do you have an open concept home? Will you be heating the whole house or just a room or two? Will the stove be centrally located? Will it be in the basement or on the main floor? What kind of clearance do you have in the area?

No matter where you decide to put the woodstove, you need to make sure you have ample space for the flue pipe to exit the house in that spot. Will it go through the wall or out through the roof? Check to see what size flue pipe is needed for the stove you are looking at. The chimney will need cleaning, so who is going to clean the chimney?

Now you know why you want a woodstove and where you are going to put it, so let’s look at some other things. A woodstove burns wood. How much wood I will need? For that answer, we need to, again, look at why you are buying the woodstove. The more you use the woodstove, the more wood you will burn. It takes more to cook, bake, and heat the house, than it does to just heat the house. The colder the climate outside, the longer the winter, the more wood you will need. The less insulated your house is the more wood you will burn. The larger the house, the more wood it might use.

wood stove 4Properly seasoned wood needs to sit for at least a year without getting wet. Where are you going to store the wood outside? Do you already have a place to store the wood or will you need to build a shed to put the wood in? How close is this structure or how close will it be to the house? Will it be easy to get to when the weather is bad (lots of snow and ice)? Who will be the one going out to get the wood? Who is going to split, chop, and stack the wood? Where are you going to get the wood? A sawmill? Your own lot? How much is the wood going to cost? Have you priced wood in your area?

When you bring the wood up to the house, where is it going? Do you have a spot inside next to or nearby the stove? wood stove 5Is it going to sit on the porch? Will you have to go outside every time you need wood or do you have a bucket or carrier to put the wood in that will come inside?

Do you have a dollar amount you were looking to stay under? Woodstoves can range in price from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Look at the spec sheet for each stove that tells you info like how large of an area it can heat, how much BTUs it puts out, the size of the unit, flue pipe size, clearance distance, estimated burn times, and other capabilities.

Cooking on or in a woodstove takes a little bit of learning, just as many things do. Would the cook in the house be able to adapt to an oven that does not have a constant temperature?

If you have kids in the house, have you thought about how to make sure they are safe from a hot stove, especially if you are using it 24/7 for heat. It will always be hot.

Is there a warranty that comes with the stove? Do they have a customer service number in case I have questions or issues with my stove?

Did you check with your insurance company to see how a woodstove will fit into the cost of your homeowners insurance? Some stoves may raise rates more than others.

Not all stoves are created equal. They all have different strengths (pros) & weaknesses (cons). You need to make a list and figure out why you want a wood stove, what qualities you want in a woodstove, what is your main purposed for buying one, and then find one that fits the reasons you have listed.

– Wrangler Jane.

Wood Cookstoves: The Alternate Source For Your Everyday Life

Wood heat: Is it really the best source, and why? This seems to be a popular question. I’m sure you have heard about the many benefits of an alternative energy source, but how much do you really know about wood heat? Maybe you remember that you grandmother used to cook on a wood cookstove back in the day, but you probably assume that wood cooking is old fashioned and outdated — think again! How much do you spend a year to heat your home? Not to mention the additional cost of cooking your food, and heating your water. We just filled up our propane tank the other day, and the cost was over $1,200! For that price, you can almost buy an alternative heat source, water source, and cooking source. If you’re interested in switching your home to a simpler, cheaper, more self-sufficient abode, you’ve come to the right place. In the following paragraphs I plan to answer common questions about heating with wood; I will share with you what I’ve learned about using wood heat, and how beneficial it has been for my family.

I have been living in Montana since age six. For many of my younger years, my parents chose to live a very simple lifestyle; one that happened to be off grid. Having lived off grid, I am now able to understand the benefits of solar energy and biofuel. My dad became interested in solar energy and pursued building a house completely disconnected from all electricity. We powered our home from sources such as the sun, wind, and wood. My family lived off the land. We had a wood cookstove called the “Kitchen Queen” to heat our home. Before moving to Montana, my parents started an e-commerce business called “Obadiah’s Woodstoves” which sells products used for a more self-sufficient lifestyle. We sell many different products such as wood furnaces, free standing stoves, fireplace inserts, zero clearances fireplaces and other fuel burning products such as gas and pellet burning appliances. After working the business for nearly 10 years, I have learned much about using alternate sources as a way of life.

For the first few years living in Montana, we didn’t have “instant” hot water. We had a ten gallon water tank that had a wood firebox underneath the tank to heat the water. Every time we wanted to take a shower, we had to go outside and chop kindling to build a fire for hot water. After a few years, this became a major hassle; it took nearly an hour to get a tank of hot water large enough for two very quick showers. My dad came to the realization we needed a more efficient source to heat our hot water. He began to research how we could possibly heat our water through our Kitchen Queen cookstove and found an invention called the “thermo-front” hot water heater. Not only did the Kitchen Queen heat our home, it was plumbed into our domestic hot water as well. The thermo-front is a steel box, lined with Teflon; this box fits inside your firebox on the right-hand side. You then plumb from the thermo-front directly into your domestic hot water system. You also have the option of plumbing this into radiant heating; which is another option to heat your home. The only thing better than hot water, is free hot water!

Domestic hot water is not the only water source the Kitchen Queen has to offer; it also has an optional stainless reservoir that sits on the rear of the stove. The reservoir can be plumbed through your firebox with a stainless water coil. However, it is not a pressurized system; since the tank is not pressurized, it cannot be plumbed through your domestic hot water. You have the option to install a water spigot on the side of the reservoir for easy access to the water, otherwise the water is accessed through the lids on the top of the reservoir. Many folks without access to electricity or plumbing such as the Amish, will use the water reservoir for their main hot water needs. You can use the water for bathing, doing dishes, cleaning up around the house, or taking care of children. When installing the water coil with the reservoir, you have to be sure not to let the water boil in the reservoir; if this happens, it can cause mold and mildew to grow in your home. However if the reservoir is used properly, it works great as a humidifier. Although the reservoir is made of stainless steel, the water is not safe to drink. Standing water in the tank creates a breeding ground for bacteria and other airborne contaminants.

A wood cookstove has many options and benefits to suffice your domestic needs. One of my favorite features of a wood cookstove is that it offers the luxury of a wood heat oven; it is much like one on an electric stove — minus the fixed temperature. This oven serves two purposes; it gives your home that cozy warm to the bone feeling and it also has potential to make the best apple pie you’ve ever tasted. Talk about killing two birds with one stone! Many cookstoves offer a large firebox, which is great for overnight burn times; no hassle, no worries. If you burn properly seasoned firewood, and have knowledge of how to pack a full firebox; you can sometimes get a 20 hour burn time!

Because I work in sales for alternative energy products, I come across many people who have no expertise in wood heat. Most people don’t realize how simple it is to use wood as your main energy source. Most wood cookstoves are non-catalytic, which implies they aren’t as efficient. Although cookstoves may not be as efficient as a catalytic wood stove; cookstoves are a care free stove; you can easily burn paper and bark in your firebox with no problems. Catalytic wood stoves have a type of a filter that re-burns the smoke, thereby reducing emissions and making the stove more efficient. With a catalytic converter, you cannot burn any green wood, wet wood, bark, paper, or any trash without clogging the catalyst. Currently, there is a national exemption by the E.P.A. for wood cookstoves. This means that a wood burning cook stove does not have to be E.P.A.-compliant for emissions. Emissions measures the amount of particulate that is being put into the air when the stove is burning. Studies indicate that more pollution is created in the environment from fallen dead trees that are left in the forest to rot. These trees out-gas more pollution than a wood stove! We can thank our environmentally friendly “green” organizations for closing the woods off to the public. The roads are literally gated to prevent the harvesting of firewood, hunting, or other recreational use of the vast National Forest lands here in Montana. Well, that is another subject for discussion at a later time.

The average household will use between 8-to-12 cords of wood a year [in northern climates]. According to the Consumer Energy Center: “The dimensions of a “standard cord” is a stack of wood piled 8 feet long, 4 feet wide and 4 feet high. You won’t get a full 128 cubic feet of firewood with a standard cord because of the airspace between the pieces of the wood; the amount of wood in such a stack will depend upon the size and straightness of the pieces, how they are split and how the wood is stacked. Because of this, the total cubic feet in a cord can vary from 70 to 90 or more cubic feet.” Depending on your location, a cord of wood cost around $100, or you always cut your own wood for free — it doesn’t get any better than free. Its comforting to know that no matter what happens with the economy, you can always chop down a tree to provide heat, water, and food for your family.

Not only was our heat and water sourced from alternative energy, we also had solar panels that produced on sunny days; if the sun wasn’t shining, we also had a back up generator that would keep our battery bank charged. It is reassuring to know that no matter what happens you can always be warm, cook your food, make hot water, and light your home! By using alternative energy sources you are able to do all things listed above. It’s amazing how simple, economical and self-sufficient a person can survive when having the correct tools.

– Sarah C.