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wood cook stoves

The Benefits of Wood Stoves: Cooking, Heating, and Hot Water

By Tobias Roberts Rise Writer
Jan 16, 2020

Hanging on my grandmother's living room wall is my great-grandmother's old, black, and white photograph. In the fuzzy picture, she is standing in front of a massive cast iron wood stove. It appears that she had quickly turned around for the photo, as there are several cast iron skillets on the stovetop where she was cooking a meal for the family. A small flue carries away the smoke from the wood fire roaring below in the top corner of the picture. The image is hand-dated as: "circa December 1920." Despite the infamously freezing Michigan winters, my great grandmother is cooking barefoot in a light dress while the outside temperature was undoubtedly well below freezing.

We tend to have misconstrued conceptions about the lives of our ancestors. The comforts and conveniences of today's world and modern home building indeed put us in a position of privilege. Anyone who lived before the day and age of central heating, high-performance insulation, and plush carpeting must have unquestioningly suffered from deficiency and scarceness, or so we believe. The world that our great-grandparents grew up in was undoubtedly different from ours. To name just one example, heating their homes in the wintertime required long hours of chopping wood instead of merely setting a smart thermostat through pushing a few buttons on your phone.

The agrarian skills and talents of our ancestors, their hard work ethic, and the durability of tools and devices that were practical and functional for their needs, perhaps, should beckon us to question our assumptions related to the difficulty and discomforts of their lives. During a cold December around 99 years ago, my great grandmother was cooking barefoot on an early morning. Their home probably had limited insulation, and no thermostat was on the wall.

The massive cast iron wood stove burned throughout the day and night. It filled the home with heat while also offering the family home-cooked meals and hot water for bathing. Not every modern-day household will invest in cast iron stoves for cooking, heating, and warm water. However, there's something to be said about this "ancient" technology that offers numerous benefits, which we will explore below.

What Is a Benefit of a Wood Stove?

In most modern-day houses, we have separate systems for heating our homes, cooking our food, and heating our water. These three different mechanical systems all require independent sources of energy. Even the most energy-efficient, all-electric homes will likely have separate connections for their water heater, heat pump, and induction range stovetop.

Today, leading building professionals have been experimenting with ways to integrate these systems better. Drain water heat recovery systems, for example, work to reutilize the energy from hot water that goes down our shower drain to either heat your home or re-heat your hot water tank. Many of the best heat pumps on the market offer hot water as a byproduct, as well.

These technologies certainly might seem to be "cutting edge," though the principle of integrating home technologies has been in place for hundreds of years. The triple benefit stove used by great grandmothers worldwide was one system that covered three of the most basic functions of the home. The high-BTU firewood locally harvested on the farms and forests where our ancestors lived was utilized for cooking, heating water, and heating the home. Far from being a "primitive" technology, these cast iron wood stoves integrated several durable parts, allowing one fire to serve three functions.

Every triple-benefit cast iron wood stove was different. However, they all likely included hot water tanks continuously heated by the steam and smoke moving through the flu. Older homes were notoriously under-insulated, though a practical knowledge of the best firewood burning practices allowed these houses to stay warm by a fire that burned throughout the day. Before microwaves and instant TV meals, people ate homemade food prepared from scratch. Besides being much healthier, this also required a constant reliance on a steady-burning fire.

Where Can You Buy Efficient Wood Stoves?

The wood stove that my great-grandma was cooking on was built well before the day and age of "planned obsolescence." Had that stove been passed down through the generations, it would most certainly be sitting in my home today. It would continue to offer warm meals, hot showers, and a cozy living room even on the coldest of nights. Many antique dealers continue to sell refurbished stoves online because of these stoves' durability and robust construction.

You can easily find dozens of antique wood stoves for sale on eBay. Other companies, such as Good Time Stove and Antique Stove, specialize in refurbishing and reselling these antique stoves. Obadiah's Stoves is perhaps the leading online resource that brings together an enormous collection of some of the best new, antique, and refurbished wood stoves.

For homeowners interested in purchasing more modern wood cookstoves that incorporate more advanced technologies, some of the following companies are worth researching:

wood cook stoves
Photo Credit: Hearthstone Wood Cook Stoves

Hearthstone Wood Cook Stoves

Hearthstone Wood Cook Stoves manufactures the Deva wood cookstove, which is meticulously designed to regulate the temperature of its spacious oven for baking bread, roasts, casseroles, and more. It also comes with a glass cooktop that is heated by the wood firebox below. A few necessary additions can also allow for hot water and home heating.

Waterford Stanley wood stove
Photo Credit: Waterford Stanley

Waterford Stanley Wood Cook Stoves

Waterford Stanley Wood Cook Stoves has been around for a long time, producing some of the most efficient and practical wood cookstoves on the market. One of their top wood cookstoves costs approximately $7,700, though it also acts as an efficient room heater and comes with an oven large enough to cook a 25-pound turkey.

Rizzoli wood stove
Photo Credit: Rizzoli

Rizzoli Wood Cook Stoves

Rizzoli Wood Cook Stoves is an Italian-based company that manufactures beautiful, high-performance wood cookstoves that can efficiently be designed to cook your food, heat your water, and heat your home. Their round arch wood cookstove looks like it belongs in an Italian villa and is just as functional as beautiful. It also comes with two dampers that control primary and secondary air to give you complete control over your burn temperatures when cooking.

Final Considerations When Choosing the Best Triple Benefit Wood Stove 

When chosen and installed correctly, Wood cookstoves can undoubtedly be utilized to cover 100 percent of your home heating, hot water, and cooking needs. However, it is worth mentioning that the average square footage of homes a century ago was significantly less than today's massive 2,500 square foot homes. A wood cookstove will most likely work best as an additional heat source in larger homes rather than as a primary heater. However, for smaller homes and tiny homes, a small wood cookstove might be all the home needs to stay comfortably warm throughout the winter, especially when high-performance insulation is combined with a focus on an extremely tight building envelope. For some homes, namely, homes built to the Passive House standard, any form of combustion is not a safe option, so a wood stove is out of the question.

The installation of a triple benefit wood cookstove is another expense that needs to be taken into account. An experienced installer should recommend installing extensive piping for hot water use to get the most benefit from your wood cookstove. To maximize the heating potential, the installer might recommend optimum placement of the stove and different flue fittings and directions.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-11-30T14:33:26+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.