Reliable and functional, but rare today
Oil stoves were once a common fixture in many North American homes, but are rarely available in showrooms today and most commonly found second-hand or as "antiques". Although they used to represent sophistication and high technology, oil-fired appliances have come to be viewed by many as a primitive and low-tech heating option when compared with natural gas or propane fireplaces.
Although oil furnaces are much more common, the oil stove has few of the benefits typically associated with other types of stoves or fireplaces. The biggest reason why it is used so infrequently today is due to the increases in the price of fuel oil in recent years. However, oil stoves traditionally do not yield the enjoyable viewing experience offered by other types of stoves and freestanding fireplaces – because of the high sulphur content of fuel oils and the incomplete combustion that was typically used, viewing glass would become frequently dirty, requiring regular cleaning. Additionally, liquid fuels are not injected in the same manner as natural gas or propane, so the flame looks "unrealistic" – not "fake", but unlike a traditional wood fire, emulation of which is usually the goal of any fireplace.
Oil stoves are relatively simple as home heating appliances go, making use of fairly basic engineering and heavy build materials, which makes them quite reliable. They do not make use of some of the precisely-engineered efficiency enhancements in natural gas heating units, such as dual primary and secondary heat exchangers or specialized ventilation systems. For this reason, there are many secondhand oil stoves available at used appliance shops, or even through antique shops for some of the oldest units – in much the same way that oil furnaces are still working at 30 and 40 years, oil stoves tend to age well.
Unlike wood burning stoves, oil stoves can be left unattended, used much like an oil furnace. But since there are no major manufacturers of oil stoves, you will be hard-pressed to find such a unit for a new installation. If home heating oil is your fuel of choice, an oil furnace will likely serve you better than an old-fashioned oil stove.