Small Wood Stove Buyer's Guide
Since the 16th century, people have been using wood burning stoves to warm their homes. They are classic appliances that last a long, long time. Today, as the population rises and space decreases, so have the size of wood stoves.
Small wood stoves are gaining popularity as people look for tiny homes or move to living life in an RV. Even if it's an apartment or a mobile home, there's a small wood burning stove to fit that lifestyle. In this article, we will go over the benefits of owning a tiny stove and some installation tips, and we'll even teach you terminology that helps when shopping for any heating appliance.
What is a Small Wood Stove?
A small wood stove is a heating appliance that uses wood, electricity, or gas to warm your home. Yes, we know it says "wood" in the name, but in the case of small stoves, "wood stove" denotes style. Most electric and gas small stoves are essentially considered a mini wood stove, a smaller version of the traditional wood stoves.
To create as little confusion as possible, let's call these heaters "small stoves". When it's time to get specific we will refer to the stove as either electric, wood, or gas.
Search for a small wood stove when a traditional heating appliance is too large for your space. Small wood burning stoves are excellent for mobile homes, apartments, or a single drafty room. They are efficient, easy to care for, and cost less to run than many other heaters. Small stoves are also excellent for "off-the-grid" heating for those who prefer to live in remote areas.
Why Should You Consider a Small Stove?
Here are some reasons to get a small stove.
- You have a small living space.
- You need cost-effective heating.
- You want a heater that's energy-efficient.
A tiny wood stove is great for small living spaces, especially for tiny homes. These units take up much less room than a large or medium-sized stove, even including the clearance space. And because a tiny house wood stove takes up less space, there is also less ash to clean. But, there's practically no mess at all with gas and electric stoves.
These stoves are cost-effective, too. Due to their size, small wood stoves use less power. As long as you're not using the stove to heat a large home, the cost of running one is quite affordable, no matter which fuel you use.
Wood is easy to come by, free in many places. Natural gas is one of the cheapest energy sources around, and propane doesn't lag that far behind. Similarly, running an electric stove will often only cost you pennies a day.
Small stoves are energy efficient. They use their fuel effectively, so you don't have to worry about wasted money, as electric and vent free gas stoves have nearly perfect efficiency (99 to 100 percent!).
And finally, this is probably the most important matter to consider when looking at a small stove. They're cute! They just are. There's no denying it. When you walk into a home with a little heater in the corner, you want to smile.
Types of Small Stoves
There are many small stoves to choose from out there. Before you pick one, you should know what type of stove you need. Each type of small stove has its advantages and disadvantages and comes with its own unique set of needs as it pertains to fuel, installation, and maintenance. It's up to you to determine if the benefits outweigh the drawbacks before making your choice.
Wood Burning Small Stoves
A small wood-burning stove gives you efficient heating in a classic style. Wood is plentiful and easy to find in most areas. Wood stoves also look great; they're never an eyesore. Like we mentioned before, wood stoves are great if you want your heating to stay off-the-grid, and there are tons of small wood burning stoves for sale.
There are no cables to plug in or gas lines to run. You do have to set up a venting solution, though. You'll also need to keep it clean and perform regular maintenance. Removing wood ash and preventing creosote buildup is essential for keeping your stove safe and working. And, if you're looking at a small wood stove because of limited space, you also need to think about where to keep the wood.
Gas Wood Stoves
If you live in an area where getting wood fuel isn't an option, look at a small gas stove. There's no chopping wood and waiting on it to season. You don't have to vent it, as most small gas stoves are vent-free. Many come with remotes that make using them even more accessible.
They can work with both natural gas and propane. Some gas stoves offer the same heat output as their wood-burning counterparts. If you have an existing gas line, have it evaluated to ensure it can service the stove you wish to install. Natural gas is lighter than air, but propane can form pools of gas, which can cause an explosion if ignited. If a gas line isn't in place, that's more time and money out of your pocket to have one set up.
Electric Wood Stoves
When looking for a more portable heating appliance, an electric stove is a great choice. They only need an outlet, and you can plug them in an electrical socket anywhere. There are some electric stoves that you can use in RVs. Like gas stoves, these also come with a remote. Electric stoves are the safest choice, too. No need to watch gas lines or maintain venting systems. They just work. However, the style of some electric stoves may not fit your home's aesthetic. Not to mention, the heat output is not as high as gas or wood stoves. Electric stoves provide supplemental heat. You want an electric stove to add to your heating system, not serve as your only heating system.
What Should I Know Before I Buy?
Before buying a brand new small stove outright, there are some terms you must learn. You need to know how efficient your stove is, what your small stove's coverage is, and what clearance restrictions you need to meet. You may not know what these terms mean now, but by the end of this section, you will.
How efficient is your small stove? Efficiency is how well your stove uses its fuel without creating waste. If your stove is 99 percent efficient, it uses 99 percent of all the fuel to heat the room.
Many gas stoves are 99 percent efficient. Electric stoves, however, are 100 percent efficient because they use every bit of power that goes in them. But, efficiency matters most with wood stoves. You'll see numbers like 82 percent or 77 percent efficient. The higher the efficiency, the better. You want a wood stove that puts out little waste into the atmosphere.
Coverage is how much space your appliance can heat. In general, small stoves can heat areas under 1,500 square feet. When looking up small stoves, you'll see a feature that looks like this: "23,000 BTU heats up to 1,100 sq. ft." That is your coverage. Be aware of how much space you have and how much you need to heat.
And remember, higher BTU doesn't always mean more coverage. For example, you may find a wood stove that offers 85,000 BTUs. That's a lot of heat, but it's a wood stove. That means it needs venting. Yes, you will be warm, but most of that heat is going up and out of the house.
In that case, you would need a blower. Blowers and fans extend the coverage of your stove by pushing the warm air throughout your space. Many electric and gas stoves already come with built-in blowers. With wood stoves, most of the time, blowers are sold as optional accessories.
This is the most important term when it comes to your safety. Clearances refer to how much space your stove needs between it and other parts of your home to operate safely. Your stove's manual will cover clearance requirements, and it's essential to follow those restrictions.
For example, say you buy a wood stove and set it on a combustible carpet. Your manual will tell you to lay down floor protection like a hearth pad. And, it will give you all the measurements for that hearth pad. The pad needs to be "x" inches thick and extends "x" inches on the sides, front, and back so as not to catch your floor on fire.
These measurements are the clearances. If you don't have room for the clearances, your manual will tell you what you can do to reduce the clearance space. Usually, it involves installing some heat shields like sheet metal or a masonry wall. You can check what the clearances are by looking at the manual for the appliance on its item page. For example; this is the manual for the small wood-burning Drolet Pyropak stove (Go to page 4).
Now you know these terms and will be ahead of the game when researching wood stoves or any heating appliance.
Who Makes the Best Small Stoves?
There isn't one small stove that sits as the best of the best. Many manufacturers make excellent small stoves. It's up to you to research and find which stove is perfect for your home. Here are a few places to start.
- Empire - With Empire you'll find a line of gas-fueled vent-free and direct vent small stoves. Empire makes these appliances in the traditional iron stove style. These are well-reviewed products that will keep your home warm season after season.
- Osburn - When you want a traditional wood-burning small stove Osburn is the company. Their wood-burning stoves meet the EPA emissions standards for fuel-efficiency. The look of a traditional stove is unsurpassed, and Osburn makes some eye-catching units.
- Dimplex - If you can't do wood and can't do gas, Dimplex has you covered. Their line of small electric stoves is affordable and comes in a variety of styles. You can go for a traditional iron stove look or something more modern. Dimplex has a "Mini Cube" model that's small enough to take in RVs. They even have a small stove that uses Dimplex's famous Opti-Myst system.
- Buck Stove - Buck Stove gives you options. They make both wood-burning and vent-free small stoves. A Buck Stove small wood-burning unit comes in that beautiful traditional style. Their vent-free stoves come in different colors and offer an optional remote control.
- Drolet - Highly reviewed and highly recommended. A Drolet small wood-burning stove is a great little appliance. These stoves meet EPA emissions standards, and Drolet even went as far as to make a portable wood stove for camping.
Where Should I Install My Stove?
Because of their size, small stoves open up the location possibilities. Potential options include alcoves inside a large fireplace opening, the kitchen, an unused corner, or even a small room.
If the space you've got your eye on is super tight, check the clearances. Remember, we mentioned you could find the manual of any stove on the item's webpage. Use the manual to check if you have enough room to heat the area safely.
There are significant differences in installation when it comes to small stoves. And, it all depends on the fuel.
Wood stove installation is the most complex. You have to buy a venting system to remove smoke out of the home. You also have to be wary of clearances and take steps to keep your flammable belongings out of harm's way. This includes a hearth pad or hearth rug if the floor is combustible.
If you want to reduce clearances, you'll need to fashion a heat shield. Creating a heat shield and installing a venting system is best left to an NFI or WETT certified professional.
Gas stoves are more simple to install. Hook your appliance to your gas line, and you're good to go. The headache comes if you need to install a gas line, which again, you should hire a professional to do. Many small gas stoves are vent-free, so they need no venting installation. Some do, and you'll want to follow the same clearance rules and hire a professional.
Electric stoves are easy to install. Plug it in and start heating your room.
Is My Wood Stove Safe?
In a word, yes. If you respect the heat and use your stove appropriately, you should be fine.
For any specific tips about your appliance, read your stove's manual. For general tips, let's go over some necessary do's and don'ts when it comes to staying safe around your small stove.
Each stove has parts of its body that heat up to high levels. Do not touch those parts of your stove when it's on.
When your stove is on and hot, it's best to keep children and pets away. For wood stoves and some gas stoves, don't touch the venting. The heat from your stove is rising out of the firebox through the pipe, making it hot.
Follow all clearance and elevation restrictions. If the manual says to keep "x" part of stove six inches away from combustibles, do as it says. Otherwise, it could start a fire. You may not have all the room in the world, but this is a genuine hazard. It's better to have a small home than a burnt home.
For an electric stove, always unplug it when you're not using it.
Set up some carbon monoxide detectors around your home. Gas and wood fireplaces let off carbon fumes that can be deadly if the house or stove is not vented correctly. CO alarms can save your life.
For safety tips about small wood burning stoves, we have a handy info-graphic.
How Do I Take Care of My Small Stove?
Wood burning stoves are famously long-lasting. Many wood stoves are going strong after 50-plus years. Gas stoves and electric stoves don't have the longevity of wood-burning stoves. Most appliances don't. Gas and electric models can still last a long time, though. They all require some proper care and maintenance.
With a wood stove, the best tips are the simple ones.
- Clean out the ash regularly.
- Don't burn trash.
- Don't overfire. In other words, do not stick too much wood in the firebox.
Gas-fueled stoves can last as long as 20 years; however, wear and tear start to appear after about five years. A knob or igniter may fail and need replacing. The number one reason for a nonfunctioning gas stove is inactivity. Leaving your gas stove sitting for long periods is the worst thing you can do to it. Be sure to fire it on a few times every season to burn off dust and cycle any moving parts.
Electric stoves need regular dusting and component checks. These stoves should last you about a decade. With heavy everyday use, that lifespan could be cut down. Much like gas stoves, you may see a component fail before the whole thing fails. If you have pets or mice in the house, be sure to keep an eye on the wires inside and out. A faulty cable can be a fire hazard.
EPA Information about Wood Burning Stoves
In the late '80s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created emissions guidelines to limit the pollution of wood stoves. The agency updated those guidelines in 2015, and in 2020, they will announce a new standard once more. These new rules reduce the allowed pollution output to 2 grams per hour (g/h).
Today, stove manufacturers are creating new models that have certified emissions of 1 to 4 g/hr. When searching for a small wood burning stove, keep these standards in mind. Find the white EPA label and check those emissions. The lower the g/hr rating, the more efficient the stove. Check and see if the wood stove you're looking at fits the new standard by clicking this link.
How Do Small Stoves Ship?
Stoves will ship through LTL freight. Wood burning stoves and some of the gas models are crated to prevent tipping and damage during transport. Electric stoves and some gas models are lighter, so they're boxed up and put on a pallet.
Shipping companies take precautions when shipping your merchandise, but accidents can happen. When your stove arrives, inspect it for damage. Report any unwanted damage to the manufacturer as soon as possible to comply with warranty deadlines.
By now, you should have an idea of what small stove you want. And, you should have a better understanding of the terminology it takes to shop for the right stove. This article is full of useful info, but maybe it's not enough. That's okay because eFireplaceStore.com has a ton of articles and information for you to explore below. We want to equip you with the know-how to make an informed purchase.
Remember, safety is key! If you'd like to talk to an NFI certified professional one-on-one, feel free to call us at 1-800-203-1642. Our knowledgeable techs will help you find the right solution to heat your home.
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October 8, 2021
Are camp stoves legal to use inside homes?
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Can any of your gas stoves be converted to propane?
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