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Once a stove is up to temperature and the bodywork is hot then there are two ways the stove's heat can be used to warm the room and there are therefore two types of stoves – radiant stoves and convection stoves, both of which have their own particular set of advantages and applications.
In the UK and Ireland radiant stoves tend to be the traditional stove configuration. The radiated heat is intense at the front of the stove and less intense the further you move away from the stove. This can make using a large stove, which in theory will heat a large room, difficult to live with. OK, it will heat the large space but it's simply just too hot to comfortably sit in front of. Radiant stoves are therefore fine where the stove output required is relatively small (say less than 8kW) with the equivalent room size to match. The most popular 5kW output radiant stove therefore is perfectly matched for typical UK and Irish living room sizes and generally doesn't present a problem for traditional living styles.
However, new contemporary living spaces tend to be open plan and therefore much larger. New dwellings and extensions also tend to be exceptionally well insulated with a little heat going a long way consequently cutting the stove's output requirements by half compared to the equivalent only reasonably well insulated room. In these types of spaces a convection stove can truly come into its own.
Convection stoves feature vertical channels placed between the exceptionally hot bodywork and the stove's, usually decorative, outer casing. As hot air produced by heat from the stove's bodywork expands it becomes lighter than the air outside the stove and rises up inside these channels eventually exiting the top. This is replaced by cooler heavier air drawn in at the bottom of the channel which is in turn heated. The warmer lighter air will fill the room with the colder heavier air being drawn in at the bottom of the stove to create a continuous heat cycle which gently moves air around the living space. Since the stove's side panels are not in direct contact with the bodywork they tend not to get much hotter than a typical central heating radiator making the stove easier to live with. It's the movement of warm air that does all the work on a convection stove and not the mass of metal in the bodywork, as it would be on a radiant stove.
The relatively cooler bodywork of a convection stove also helps to considerably reduce the minimum distances to combustible materials compared to a traditional radiant stove, again making it easier to live around and to be used in a free-standing situation. The greater minimum distances to combustible materials for radiant stoves means that, in order to be safe, radiant stoves ideally should be fitted inside a chimney breast or fireplace and not free-standing. For example it is not unusual to have recommended clearances of 800mm from each side of a radiant stove which doesn't leave a lot of safe room on either side of a free-standing stove for furniture.
Generally, convection stoves tend to be of Scandinavian or Danish origin and are usually taller with a contemporary look than their radiant counterparts which are more traditional in shape. There are, of course, exceptions to this and there are also some hybrid stoves which are part convecting and part radiant.