How wood stoves distribute heat
Simply put, radiant heat is infra-red radiation, emitted by a hot surface that strikes objects in its path.
A radiant stove is a stove that distributes heat by emitting infra-red radiation. Fire heats the stove, and the stove emits infra-red radiation (which heats you.)
Simply put, circulating wood stoves distribute heat by heating the air. Heat is transferred to air moving across the hot surface. The air heats up, and rises. The rising air draws more air up after it, causing circulation of air.
A circulating stove uses panels spaced out from the firebox, allowing air to circulate between the firebox and the panels.
So, what’s the difference?
The fact is, all stoves produce both radiant and circulating effects. There are always air currents around any hot object. And hot objects always emit infra-red radiation.
The distinction is that a stove in the radiant category does not have panels designed to increase air circulation around the firebox, while a circulating stove does.
Which is better: Radiant or Circulating?
This depends on the installation. One advantage of circulating stoves is that the temperature of the outer panels is much lower than the surface temperature of a radiant stove. (Because, of course, air is circulating between the firebox and the jacket, drawing heat away.) And the amount of infra-red radiation emitted is lower, as well, since the outer jacket absorbs some of it. This allows for closer clearances to combustible materials in the home such as Sheetrock or wood walls.
On the other hand, many people prefer the look of more traditional, cast-iron stoves, which tend to be designed as radiant heaters.
Both types are effective heaters in the distribution of heat. In the final analysis, installation safety and personal style preferences are more important factors than radiant vs. circulating design.
~ Todd Woofenden
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