10 Tips for Heating With Wood


Cat watching a wood stove

For the last five years, my husband and I have enjoyed the radiant heat from homegrown wood burned in our efficient wood stove. We've learned a lot in the process. Here are my top ten tips if you want to follow in our footsteps.

1. Choose a modern, right-sized stove. Whether you go for a catalytic or non-catalytic stove, you'll make more heat and less pollution if you choose a stove that fits your space. Many sources suggest planning on 50 to 55 BTU per square foot in the extreme north of the U.S., on 30 to 35 BTU per square foot in the deep south, and around 40 to 45 BTU per square foot in the middle states. Here in zone 6, we chose a 28,000 BTU Jotul F 602 to heat our 500-square-foot mobile home, and the stove has been perfect except during the few days when temperatures dip below 0 Fahrenheit.

Smoke from an efficient wood stove

2. Burn hot fires. If your stove is the right size, it's much easier to light fires that burn without being damped down at all during the daytime. This type of fire will produce the most heat and, if your stove includes baffles to increase efficiency, will produce next to no particulate pollution.

Coals in a fire

2/13/2016 12:32:09 AM

These are great tips. Two things I would add: 1. Make sure your wood is dry, and starts drying as soon as possible after you cut it. Getting bone-dry wood to light is so much easier than wood with even a little bit of moisture or wood that was stacked out in the elements for a season after being cut. 2. Learn how to make fire starters from paraffin wax or (preferably) beeswax (and/or slumgum). They light easily and burn clean for a surprisingly long time. With those two tips, I have been able to reliably start a fire with regular-sized (bone dry) oak logs, no kindling needed.

2/11/2016 6:21:23 PM

Thanks Anna and Mark! Those are great tips for conventional wood burning stoves! We heated exclusively with wood from 2004 until 2015, using a a masonry heater, and a conventional wood stove as a backup when the temperature dipped below -35C. I would recommend the masonry heater to anyone who is seriously thinking of heating exclusively with wood. We fired it once a day when it was cold, twice a day when the temperature dipped below -15C (we are in Canada, it gets COLD here), and three times a day when the temperature dipped below -25C for a few days to a week, which it did several times during the winters. It would take two hours for the firing, then we closed it up and it heated the house. When fully charged, it would continue to heat the house for several days, with the temperature falling slowly, the longer it went without a firing. Very efficient, in terms of burning fuel, and human effort to keep it going. It was never damped down, and after two hours there were no flames, so that it could be safely ignored. We never slept with live embers in the heater, nothing to catch fire while we slept. So, here is a tip I would like to share for those heating with wood. If you have a glass door, it is easily cleaned with a slightly dampened, crumpled piece of newspaper, dipped in the cold fine ashes from a dead fire. After removing the soot, it can then be easily finished with a clean paper towel. Works like a charm.

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