Nothing is more exciting and fulfilling than the warm glow of a wooden fireplace on a chilly night.
An electric-powered heating system may effectively warm your body, but a wooden fireplace warms your spirit!
Unlike conventional fireplaces that are not only resource-intensive, inefficient but messy as well. Wood-burning stoves boast numerous advantages that are all tailored toward allowing you to seamlessly experience the magic of a fire in your home.
If you are looking to install a wood-burning stove in your home and aren’t quite sure whether it is the right thing to venture into or not, you are in the right place.
So, what are the potential benefits of wood-burning stoves?
For wood heat, most benefits of wood-burning stoves are self-evident.
The romance and fun of stacking wood, the glow of the flame, and the coziness of the fire itself.
What’s more, if you have woods on your property, you already have free heat!
Today’s wood stoves are not only excellent heat sources, but are equally nice to look at.
Below are the proven benefits of wood-burning stoves.
Placement flexibility: You can install a wood-burning stove virtually anywhere in your home, provided there is a way to run a vent pipe outside of your home. And this simply implies that you can zone-heat any space in your home. A couple of strategically placed wood stoves can almost entirely replace a central heating unit!
Effective heat output: Arguably, the biggest benefit of wood stoves is the exceptional quality of heat they dissipate. Wood-burning stoves function on the principle of radiant heat, which heats a place relatively faster and more efficiently than warm air circulated through your home’s venting system. To be more precise, the powerful heat from wood stoves radiates from all sides of the system, dissipating warmth in all directions.
Better for the environment: Of course, you can’t bury your head in the sand and claim that wood-burning stoves are 100% eco-friendly. However, the technology as well as materials used to manufacture stoves have come a long way, and are nowhere near as polluting the environment as they once were. And modern wood-burning stoves featuring low emission technologies generate less smoke with somewhat fewer particle emissions. EPA-certified, wood-combusting stoves emit fewer fine particles than older wood-burning stoves as well as fireplaces, according to EPA. What’s more, wood is generally considered a green fuel because trees are a sustainable and renewable source.
Aesthetic appeal: Besides guaranteeing a wonderful source of warmth during the colder months, these fantastic devices also boast a stunning look that and will certainly boost your home’s curb appeal. Modern wood-burning stoves are available in a variety of sizes, styles, and finishes, and you can easily find one that is a perfect accent for your home’s style and décor.
Cost-effective heating: First and foremost, wood is a cost-friendly source of fuel. It costs less per BTU compared to electricity, gas, or oil. And by integrating wood-burning stoves into your home heating arsenal, you can significantly reduce your monthly energy bills.
Offers the much-needed convenience: If you reside in an area that experiences occasional power outages during the cold season, you know how valuable a reliable heat source can be. With a wood-burning stove at your disposal, you’ll inevitably stay warmer at all times, regardless of your home’s supply of electricity or gas.
Types of wood-burning stoves:
Most people usually think that wood stoves are only meant for homeowners with huge homes with lots of living space!
But this is far from the truth, as there is a wide range of wood stoves that are suitable for tiny homes as well as cabins.
However, it is worth noting that while these units can function and perform exceptionally well in tiny establishments, they must be installed carefully.
While there are potentially endless types of log-burning stoves out there on the market, when it comes to design and construction, wood stoves fall into two major categories, including catalytic and non-catalytic.
Difference between catalytic and non-catalytic wood stoves:
Non-catalytic woodstoves: Just as the name suggests, these types of log-burning stoves do not use a catalyst. However, they feature three essential internal properties that create the perfect environment for complete combustion, including fire insulation, a pre-heated combustion air introduced via small perforation above the fuel in the firebox, and a large baffle that produces a longer and hotter gas flow path. The baffle as well as other internal components will require replacement over time because they often degrade fairly faster thanks to the high heat of efficient combustion. In terms of application, non-catalytic wood stoves are ideal for those who need simple, conventional wood-burning stoves, don’t live in extremely cold climates, and are looking to use their wood stoves for supplemental heat.
Catalytic wood-burning stoves: Catalytic wood stoves typically use a catalytic combustor to re-combust the gasses as well as particulates released by the burning wood. These elements pass through the catalytic combustor, which functions at incredibly high temperatures, guaranteeing higher efficiency, fewer emissions as well as extended burn times. They can produce longer and fairly even heat output. Thanks to their incredibly higher efficiency and effectiveness, they are ideal for ardent wood burners who crave somewhat longer, overnight burns.
So, what is the cost of a log-burning stove?
Generally, the cost of log-burning stoves varies greatly based on numerous factors, including the size of the stove, installation requirements, and the type of fuel.
However, smaller and simple designs usually cost between $500 and $1,000.
The most affordable are small, non-catalytic stainless steel wood stoves designed to heat tiny spaces, whereas the most expensive ones are cast-iron catalytic log-burning stoves that efficiently heats large spaces.
Of course, some high-end models are fairly more expensive. Costs will get even higher for complex ceiling installations because more stovepipe is needed.
If you were not aware, a stovepipe refers to the internal ventilation pipe that attaches the stove to a nearby chimney.
So, what type of wood is suitable for my log-burning stove?
If you reside on a farm, or in a rural area, you’ll have access to lots of firewood year-round.
Whether you have fallen tree limbs from the last storm or thick hedgerows to harvest from, logs are generally freely available.
However, it is worth noting that when it comes to combustion, especially inside a stove, woods burn quite differently.
Wood stove fire basics:
Wood conditions: First and foremost, all types of wood, from cypress, oak to pine, should be allowed to dry and season for a whole year before being subjected to burning. When properly dried and seasoned, any wood will produce arguably the cleanest and hottest fire and with the slightest amount of creosote emission. Unseasoned or green wood features high moisture content, which makes them quite difficult to use. Greenwood will not only prove tough to light, but will also likely smolder and will not produce as much usable heat.
Fire Temperature: Low-temperature fires can result in the buildup of creosote in your chimney. It is imperative to note that creosote buildup can be hazardous and can trigger a chimney fire if left unattended. It is highly advisable to always schedule professional chimney inspections at least annually. If you burn a significant number of unseasoned wood, you will have to schedule even more regular chimney inspections.
Best Firewood: Hardwoods are generally better suited for burning in log-burning stoves compared to their softwood counterparts. Because hardwood logs are relatively heavier than the same-sized logs of softwood, they guarantee much more heat output. And this simply equates to having to refill your stove less often than you would with softwood logs.
So, how do you operate a log-burning stove?
All log stoves feature four major components:
- the stove itself
- and chimney
Wood stoves are made of:
- stainless steel
- cast iron
During the combustion process, the heat warms the stove as well as the air in your space.
Wood stove mechanisms
- The smoke from the fire is directed outdoors via the stove’s chimney.
- The damper gives you control over the amount of airflow to the stove, which directly impacts how big the fire develops and how much heat it dissipates.
- On the other hand, a baffle raises the gases’ time of combustion.
- It is an extremely important component health wise, bearing in mind that partially burnt gasses are dangerous pollutants.
Wood stove safety:
Read and understand your manufacturer’s instructions: Like any other device, wood stoves come with specific handling instructions from the manufacturer and you should go through them before you even start thinking about starting a fire in your wood stove. Even if you think you are an experienced log stove handler, it never hurts to read the manufacturer’s manual. And if you don’t have the manual, you can visit your manufacturer’s website for online instructions.
Open the valves: Oxygen is one of the major ingredients that a fire needs to burn efficiently, and nearly every log stove features at least one lever you can use to control the valves that allow air into the firebox. Some models may feature a secondary air vent at the top, which should equally be opened.
Prepare a fire bed: To get the fire going in your log stove, you should start with small pieces of logs that can potentially boost the temperature inside the firebox and have the flames burning. To create the kindling, scrunch up a few newspapers and put them in the center of the grate, and then lay up to ten pieces of kindling on top of the pieces of newspaper, making sure the wood pieces are fairly smaller and dry as well.
Get the fire burning: Use either a matchbox or lighter to ignite the crushed newspaper under your kindling. And to make sure the fire burns more evenly, you should light the paper in at the last three parts, starting at the back.
Gradually add your wood logs: Once the fire is established, you can thereafter add a few smaller pieces of wood on top of the fire, placing each one at a time to avoid suffocating or smothering the building flame. When adding the logs to the fire, it is highly advisable to stack the logs loosely to allow air to circulate through them as much as possible. After about ten minutes, you can shut the door and partially close the vents to minimize airflow. And unless you are adding more wood, your stove’s door should remain closed. You’ll realize you need to add extra logs when the burning wood is glowing red embers. As a safety measure, always keep both young children and pets away from your wood stove while it is in operation. What’s more, you should never leave any combustible materials in proximity to the burner!
Monitor the airflow: Today’s wood burners feature modern functionalities that allow you to almost effortlessly regulate the airflow. And once the fire is burning really perfectly, you can minimize the intensity of airflow to ensure the logs don’t burn too fast. If you did everything right up to this point, you can then relax and enjoy a cozy night in front of your wood-burning stove!
How to choose the best wood stove for a small house?
There are a plethora of wood-burning stoves out there on the market, and this simply implies that the prospect of finding the perfect product that suits your needs can prove to be a daunting task.
Below are some important factors you should consider when looking to purchase a log stove:
What type of fuel do you want to burn?
This is arguably the most essential factor to take into account because it determines the type of resources you’ll be able to use.
In the world of log-burning stoves, single-fuel and multi-fuel are two common terms that you’ll inevitably come across.
Best fuel for single fuel burner wood stove:
- hardwoods such as:
- hickory oak
Best Fuel for multi burner wood stove:
- organic waste products
- such as seed hulls
- walnut shells
- cherry pits
Another option to heat your home:
Pellet Stove: burn biomass or compressed wood pellets to create an efficient source of heat for residential use. By constantly feeding fuel from a hopper, or a storage container into a burn pot space, they give a steady flame that needs very little to no physical adjustments.
Pro Tip: Most will find single-fuel mini wood stoves just fine in small spaces like cabins and tiny homes. But if you want an increased amount of flexibility with your stove, or if you live in an area where wood won’t always be available, then either a pellet stove or multi-fuel stove should be a great option for you.
What size of wood stove are you looking for?
You don’t want a huge wood stove that will become an inconvenient device in your tiny space!
Generally, a small wood stove is more than enough for a tiny house cabin’s heating requirements.
Of course, your manufacturer should be able to tell you how many square feet of space a particular model can heat comfortably based on its BTU ratings.
Woodstove heat output is measured in BTUs per hour and is what determines how powerful a given device is, or the amount of heat it can pump up.
Simply put, the higher the BTUs, the more the heat the log stove can dissipate per hour.
A significant number of stoves generate between 25,000 and 85,000 BTUs of heat output.
However, it is important to note that bigger is always better; choose a size of model that suits your energy plans.
The total amount of heat energy you’ll need for your home depends on a number of factors, including the average climate of your location, your home’s insulation efficiency as well as the size of your home.
With a relatively larger stove at your disposal, you may not be able to burn a clean fire without overheating your tiny space. On the other hand, with a fairly smaller stove, you’ll constantly have to refill your stove.
It also won’t be able to meet your home’s heating needs. To be on the safest side, you want to hire a professional to help you approximate your home’s heating needs.
Certifications required for wood stoves:
If you are looking to insure your tiny home, or it’s subject to construction codes, you might require an EPA-certified wood-burning stove.
It would be a great idea to check with your local code enforcement as well as the insurance provider if you aren’t sure about anything.
Most of the smaller wood-burning stoves on the market are not certified for home use, implying that seeking certification will greatly minimize your options.
Wood-burning stove regulations:
There are a number of regulations that log-burning stoves should meet. Including how the flue fitted, the distance of the stove from potential combustibles, and the size of the hearth.
However, these regulations may vary. Each state may have its own rules that govern the use of wood-burning stoves.
It is also imperative to note that emissions can also be a major concern, with several states demanding that stoves be of EPA certification standards.
Your small log-burning stove must not emit more than 2.5 grams/hour of fine particles!
In general, EPA states that it is safe to have wood-burning stoves in your home, but they highly recommend taking precautionary measures to ensure safe operation!
If you are looking to purchase a new wood stove, you should go for one labeled EPA-certified. Simply put, this particular certification implies that a particular wood stove meets the EPA clean air standards, which include the ability to burn less log to create heat and release relatively less amount of smoke.
Do you need an air vent or a chimney for my woodstove?
Usually, a chimney is an essential component of a wood-burning stove system.
It serves two major purposes; channeling smoke out of your house and providing a draft to keep your fire burning.
If your chimney isn’t able to offer adequate ventilation for the latter function, you may have to install a dedicated air vent to ensure your wood stove performs at its peak.
Even if wood-burning stoves can somehow operate without a chimney, something must be done for this to occur. You will have to install a flue to deem your wood stove operational.
Flue systems are generally affordable and can be installed either on your home’s outdoor or via the roofing system, depending on certain factors.
This implies that it is not mandatory to have an air vent or chimney for your wood stove to operate.
How efficient are wood stoves at heating homes?
While an open hearth can potentially bring a bit of charm to your home, most standard fireplaces are only 10% efficient at their best!
Nearly 90% of the heat generated escapes through the air. On the contrary, modern-day wood-burning stoves are relatively more efficient and can potentially achieve efficient ratings of up to 80%!
When you integrate a thermal mass such as a stone hearth into your wood stove heating system, the heat produced will be absorbed by this mass and gradually released into your home for extended and sustainable heating.
Are wood stoves able to heat a whole house?
The answer to this particular question ultimately depends on the size of your home.
The quality of your insulation as well as the type of wood stove at your disposal all factor in.
Regardless, with a back boiler at your disposal, your wood burner should be able to efficiently heat your whole home.
In case you didn’t know, a back boiler is simply a modification whereby the heat produced by the fire is used to heat water which can thereafter be used in a central heating unit.
This can be achieved through many techniques, and a professional can help you determine how best to achieve it based on your home heating requirements.
Cast iron Vs steel wood stove: Which one is better?
If you are comparing a top-notch steel-bodied wood stove against a cast iron wood stove of the same quality, No device edges the other; provided they are used according to their respective manufacturers’ instructions.
Whereas lower quality steel bodied wood stoves are highly susceptible to warping, their cast iron counterparts have a reputation for cracking.
The major difference between these two materials is that steel stoves tend to heat fairly faster and deliver heat to a room much faster as well.
On the other hand, cast iron, which is the conventional material for wood burner building, takes relatively longer to heat up and circulate the heat to a space.
So, to put it simply, if you need instant heat, then a steel-bodied stove should be your ultimate choice. However, if you prefer longer-lasting heat, then you should go for cast iron.
Are wood-burning stoves safe for your health?
When they are used correctly according to manufacturers’ instructions, wood burners generally don’t pose any danger to your health.
Of course, wood fire releases smoke fumes that might trigger symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, and might also exacerbate conditions such as heart failure and emphysema.
However, when you use your wood burner with a well-serviced and maintained flue system or chimney, you’ll hardly experience any of the above problems.
Also, the latest wood burner models are safer to operate and more efficient compared to older ones.
Wood-burning stove safety tips:
If you are new to these alternative home heating units, then make sure you adhere to the following safety tips!
Make sure you know and adhere to the recommended clearance distances: Clearance distance is simply the minimum distance allowed from your wood burner to the adjacent surfaces, including the ceiling and walls. It usually varies depending on the model and how it is placed in a room. Is it placed parallel to a wall, or in a corner? It is imperative to note that placing protective materials on your wall can minimize the clearance distance.
Safe installation is essential: You shouldn’t place your wood burner on a combustible surface, such as wooden flooring! What’s more, don’t connect it to a chimney used by another device, be it a furnace, boiler, or another stove. Doing so might result in the emission of highly hazardous carbon monoxide fumes!
Install a fire or smoke alarm near your wood burner: With a wood-burning oven at your disposal, fire will always remain a notable hazard, so make an effort to have a fire or smoke alarm installed in every room and have them inspected routinely. What’s more, ensure there is a family escape route that every member knows.
Always keep your wood burner’s flue damper open during use: Every time you are using your stove, make sure its flue damper is open to ensure all the toxic fumes produced by the burning wood escape. It remains closed when your stove isn’t in operation to bar cold air from finding its way down the chimney. If you fail to open this device when lighting your wood burner, your room will quickly be filled with fumes.
Stash the ashes: Routinely remove the ashes from the wood burner and put them inside a metal container and allow them to cool for some days before you finally dump them into the trash. Also, put the ash stash at least two meters away from vehicles or structures.
Do’s and Don’ts:
- Have a class A fire extinguisher at your disposal, as it can prove handy in the event of a fire hazard.
- Don’t use a charcoal starter fluid, gasoline, or any other flammable liquid to either start your fire or enhance the intensity of the fire itself.
- If you purchase a new wood-burning stove, you should hire a qualified professional to install the stove, connectors, and chimney.
- If possible, you should only use hardwoods such as hickory, oak, beech, ash, or maple as a fuel source.
- Use moist wood in your wood stove
- Use finished or manufactured wood products, including MDF, plywood, and chipboard should all be avoided because of their potent varnish or adhesive content.
Tips for maintaining your wood burner:
There are several straightforward steps you can take to ensure your burner remains in tip-top condition and prolong its life as well. These maintenance tips include:
Have your chimney regularly cleaned by a professional: The chimney together with the chimney connector should be inspected and cleaned nearly every month. Burning wood leads to the build-up of creosote, which is a highly combustible fuel that burns violently! Creosote build-up should be removed immediately to reduce fire risk.
Call a professional to examine other important components such as stove door, baffle plate, door glass, and chimney outlet for damage at least twice a year.
Clean the dirty surfaces: The wood burner’s exterior can easily be cleaned by using a soft and dry cloth. Don’t use a damp cloth because it might trigger rust formation.
Routinely check all controls for smooth and optimal operation.
The Bottom Line:
Wood-burning stoves are an excellent heat source and bring with them numerous potential benefits.
And while they are generally safe, especially when used properly, your safety is paramount and this is why you should hire a professional to help install and maintain your wood burner.
Get the most out of your investment by scheduling routine inspections and maintenance for your burner to ensure it remains in peak condition at all times!