Nothing beats a warm fire on a cold winter day, especially when you are burning firewood you cut, stacked and stoked yourself.
As homesteaders surpassing year five, we know a thing or two about heating with wood. Besides our indoor wood stove, we also have an outdoor wood furnace which heats our entire homestead plus our AirBnB rental, our workshop and all of our hot water. We’ve learned some valuable tips and tricks to help maximize the heat from a wood stove and ensure we are running at peak efficiency.
Maximize draft. Ensure your chimney is clean. This is important for safety and to help prevent chimney fires but it can also increase the efficiency of your wood stove. It’s all about good airflow. Think of your wood stove like an engine. If you neglect to maintain your engine and its running old, dirty oil and stale gas you won’t get peak performance or maximum horsepower. The same could be said for your chimney- a dirty chimney can lead to fires and poor airflow and overall poor performance.
We bought this drill attachment tool at our local home improvement store and it makes the job of cleaning the chimney easier. At the end of each burning season we clean both our indoor wood stove chimney and our Central Boiler (outdoor wood burner).
Burn seasoned firewood. I know, this is common sense, but it has to be said. Freshly cut or green wood burns inefficiently and produces large amounts of smoke. Seasoned wood has had an entire year, or season, to dry and burns hotter and more efficiently.
We like to keep a tall stack of wood near our woodstove to allow it to dry out even more just before burning.
Use fans. We use a heat powered ecofan on top of our wood stove. These are sold on Amazon. These neat little fans require no batteries or plug and they convert the heat from your wood stove into electricity to power the fan. We have three heating areas adjacent to our wood stove and we use our EcoFan to direct the hot air into those areas. Our wood stove is centered in our living room, but during the day, I work from my office and aim the fan towards my office door to direct heat into my office.
We also have high ceilings and we use our ceiling fan in reverse to help circulate the warm air near the top of the ceiling down to the floor. Some wood stoves have build in electric fans that will circulate more air around the fan or you can buy an optional one. We have one on our wood stove and it really does move a lot of air. Electric box fans (traditionally used to keep things cool in the summer time) also work well to circulate heat.
Tip: If you have a long hallway away from your wood stove, try place the fan at the end of the hallway aimed towards the wood stove. I know this sounds counter-intuitive but it works! Most people would think to put the fan near the stove to blow the air across and away from the stove but the opposite tends to work better. The fan at the end of the long hall aimed towards the woodstove will help push the lower cold air towards the stove and the hot air tends to loop back from the stove. If you had a thermal imaging camera I’d imagine you’d see a blue flow of air, near the ground, going from the fan towards the stove and just above that, in the opposite direction you’d see a red flow of hot air going back towards the fan and it is essentially a large loop.
Use fire bricks near your stove. We did this at our old house. We placed several bricks stacked on top of each other behind our wood stove. These would heat up all day and store heat very well. When the fire would go out at night, the bricks would retain the heat for much longer keeping things warm longer.
Keep it closed! In high school I was a cook at an Italian restaurant. One thing Chef Tony taught me was- “If you are a looking, you ain’t a cooking” Your stove not only heats you from the wood that is burning, you are also experiencing the warmth radiating from the metal wood stove, the glass and the firebricks inside. When you open the stove door to add more wood or to reposition wood you lose a ton of that built up heat! Of course you need to add wood and adjust things from time to time but people tend to over do it. If you open your stove just a few less times per day, your overall heat production will stretch much further.
Learn your stove or fireplace. Get a feel for your particular wood stove. Adjust the airflow and see how it behaves. This is our third wood stove and they each have had their own personalities. For this stove we could get it nice and hot and it tends to burn really hot but really fast. If we reduce the airflow sooner by pushing in the airflow knob, we can conserve that heat and make it last much longer. For some stoves you need max airflow for a longer time to get a good bed of coals burning, for other stoves it may be faster. Learn what works for your stove and adjust your airflow to maximize your heat and make it last as long as possible.
I hope these tips help and have a great wood burning season from my homestead to yours.
Kerry W. Mann, Jr. moved to a 20-acre homestead in 2015, where he and his family use modern technology, including YouTube and Instructables.com, to learn new skills and teach homestead projects. Connect with Kerry on his Homestead How YouTube page, Instructables, Pinterest, Facebook, and at My Evergreen Homestead. Read all of Kerry’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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