December 29, 2013

Another View: New-generation wood stove leaves its owners cold

Requiring factories to make cleaner-burning stoves will do the air no good if they don’t work as a heat source.

By Kurt Woltersdorf

Tux Turkel’s recent article about the new generation of more efficient wood stoves (“Tougher pollution limits for wood stoves might just backfire,” Dec. 15) and your follow-up editorial (“Our View: State’s goal: Cleaner air, low-cost heat source,” Dec. 26) couldn’t be more timely.

about the author

Kurt Woltersdorf is a resident of Sanford.

After heating exclusively with wood for 25 years with an old Vermont Castings wood stove, we decided to take the plunge this year, spend the big bucks and replace it with a new, more efficient, cleaner-burning stove.

Big mistake.

After just one month of heating with it, we had made the decision to have the old stove rebuilt, remove the new stove and reinstall the Vermont Castings stove. Among the myriad problems we encountered were difficulty in getting it lit, failure to burn through the night and a firebox so small that it defied loading more than a stick or two of conventional firewood at a time.

Apparently our dissatisfaction with the new generation of wood stoves is not unique, as we have heard of others who, for one reason or another, replaced a brand-new stove with an older model.

It is possible that there is a limit to just how efficient a wood stove can be while still being a practical heat source for the homeowner. Or maybe the manufacturers just have to do better. But based on our experience, I would caution anyone contemplating the replacement of an older stove that they are doing so at the risk of finding themselves the owner of a stove that may be nothing more than an expensive piece of hardware.

We should certainly make every effort to burn wood, or any other fuel, as responsibly as possible. And there may be places where conventional wood burning is undesirable, like in valleys and high-density developments. But let’s not forget – even the dirtiest, smokiest wood stove is still more environmentally benign than the burning of any fossil fuel.

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