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To compute the maximum area each wood insert will heat, manufacturers use a model of a well insulated house with thermopane windows and a fairly open floor plan in a climate where Winter temperatures average around 40 degrees F. Any deviations from this model (ie: colder climate, poor insulation, big picture windows, high ceilings, etc.) must be taken into consideration when choosing your insert.
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2000 - 3000
1500 - 2300
1200 - 2000
1000 - 2000
1000 - 2000
1200 - 1800
700 - 1500
700 - 1500
600 - 1400
Note: Wood insert heating capacity ratings don't tell the whole story.
Wood insert manufacturers need to publish heating capacity numbers so potential buyers can compare their various models to each other and the competition. They know that their potential customers are going to want to heat their homes in the coldest weather, which in North America occurs in January. When they consult the National Average Weather Chart to see how cold that is, heres what they find out:
Obviously, their stove models arent going to heat the same size homes in both locations. So, how do manufacturers describe the heating capacity of their stoves to potential buyers?
Unless they want to publish a 50-page brochure, there's only one possible way. Reference the maximum size well-insulated, single-story house with 8-foot ceilings a given stove will heat in Seattle, and qualify that number with the phrase UP TO, trusting the shopper to interpret the adjustments necessary for their climate zone and for the particular house to be heated. This interpretation is vital when shopping for a stove.
Other factors that should be considered when choosing a wood stove:
Wood insert heat output can be controlled by regulating the air intake, but only within a limited range (that's why there's a minimum square footage limit as well as a maximum limit for each model in the Heating Capacity column above). Unless you have a wide-open floor plan, consider how uncomfortably hot it might be to share your 400 sq. ft. living room with a fireplace insert rated to heat the entire 3,000 sq. ft. house.
If you have a two-story house with a fireplace downstairs, consider locating the insert in the lower story, as the rising heated air will help heat the upper floor. If the insert is going upstairs, you can pretty much subtract the square footage of the downstairs from your heating area before choosing the size of your insert: it is awfully hard to direct the heat from a fireplace insert downward.
If your house is divided up into many small rooms separated by long hallways and you have a forced-air heating system, you might try running the furnace blower (with the furnace burners turned off) to help circulate the heat from your insert throughout the house. A ceiling fan in the room with the insert can also be extremely helpful. If you don't have a way to circulate the heat, consider choosing a model with a blower, or adding a blower if it's optional. Tip: insert blowers are also handy when you want to bring a cold house up to temperature in a hurry.
Wood fireplace insert performance will be affected by the species of wood that is burned. For purposes of this chart, we took an average of the top 28 species from our firewood comparison chart.