By John Toole
---- — People say the smell of wood stoves on crisp winter mornings is one of “603 Reasons” New Hampshire is special.
It’s a smell folks are getting used to this frigid winter.
“That’s a very good smell,” said Rose Noetzel, who grew up in a home with a wood stove and has had one in her Derry house for 15 years.
John Morin is the manager at Hearthworks Fireplace Center in Kingston, which keeps the wood burning in some models for the benefit of shoppers.
“You step outside in the parking lot here and you can smell them burning,” he said. “It’s nice.”
Wood stoves are as much a part of New Hampshire as, well, trees in the woods. That’s why it’s among “603 Reasons” readers said the smell from them is special.
But it’s not just the smell that makes people devotees.
Independence, is what Morin thinks of when he thinks of wood stoves.
“You can get your own wood and you can chop your own wood,” Morin said. “I call it a labor of love.”
Al Guibord, owner of The Stove Shoppe in Windham, said that’s where the wood stove has other types of home heating sources beat.
“You can be self-sustainable,” Guibord said.
But a wood stove owner must work at it.
“You are more involved than going over and turning a thermostat,” Guibord said.
Those who get involved remark on the savings.
“I probably save $500 to $1,000 a year,” said Doug Cole of Kingston.
Noetzel couldn’t guess at her family’s savings, but knows they are ahead — especially with relatives providing them free, split wood.
Even if it puts a little more dust in the house, “it’s worth the tradeoff,” she said.
Wood stoves can range from a few hundred dollars to more than $2,000. A cord of wood can cost between $250 and $350, depending on whether it’s green or dry, according to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.
The heat just feels better, too, fans of the wood stove say.
“It’s a nice, dry heat,” Morin said.
“It’s much warmer and cozy,” Guibord said.
“It’s a very comfortable heat,” Cole said.
Noetzel said a wood stove throws the kind of heat that will have pets napping by the fire.
“It’s a different kind of heat, deep and penetrating,” she said. “It feels so good.”
More and more people are using them.
The most recent U.S. Census figures showed a 99 percent growth in the use of wood heat in New Hampshire.
“We’re selling a tremendous amount of wood stoves and pellet stoves this year,” Guibord said. “It’s been so cold. This polar vortex is killing people and the cost of oil and propane is so unattainable for most people.”
Guibord said stoves are much more attractive these days.
“They look so much better than 15 years ago,” he said. “They are like a nice piece of furniture.”
They are more efficient and take up less room, too, Guibord said.
There are challenges for sure.
Cole said there’s bound to be soot on the window sills. He also said he’s set up a system of 12-inch table fans to distribute the heat through his home.
“I can heat a very significant part of my house,” he said.
Noetzel stresses safety. She said wood stove owners can get help on that score from their local fire department, which will check a stove and give them tips.
If someone doesn’t mind the physical labor associated with a wood stove, they might be a good candidate for giving it a try, Cole said.
“It’s satisfying,” he said. “There is the positive effect of knowing you are accomplishing something.”