Wood stoves go back to an era when America was a simpler place. You didn’t have to rely on a gas provider or pay extra fees to heat your home; you simply grabbed some logs from the woodpile out back and placed it in your wood burning stove. On the other hand, life wasn’t all glamorous back then; the first machines were leaky and left clouds of toxic black smoke everywhere, but we have come a long way. The tiny wood stoves of today offer increased efficiency, heat output, and safety compared to their predecessors. These improvements, combined with the savings and nostalgic appeal, make buying a small wood stove a no brainer. That said, let’s jump right into the heat of things (pun intended)….
TOP 7 COMPARISON TABLE
|Product Name||EPA Certification||Heat Radius||Our Rating||Price|
|Pleasant Hearth Wood Burning Stove||Yes, 85% Efficiency||2,200 Square ft.||$$$$|
|Vogelzang Tr001 Defender EPA Wood Stove||Yes, 75% Efficiency||1,200 Square ft.||$$$|
|Hi-Flame FF-905 Shetland Wood Stove||Yes||800 Square ft.||$$$$|
|US Stove 2000 EPA Certified Wood Stove||Yes||2,000 Square ft.||$$$$|
|Bosca Limit 450 Wood Stove BCWL450||Yes||1,800 Square ft.||$$$$$|
|Vogelzang TR007 Ponderosa with Blower||Yes||3,200 Square ft.||$$$$|
|WoodPro WS-TS-1500||Yes||1,000 Square ft.||$$|
How Small Wood Stove Works
All of these stoves produce heat by burning gases released from the logs. There are 3 main ways this result is achieved.
Note on EPA certification: The Environmental Protection Agency certifies stoves that are efficient, which means they make a lot of heat relative to the amount of pollution they create. Efficient models (at least 75% efficiency) are also eligible for a tax credit. NEVER buy a non EPA certified stove, they are built to lose air, the kindling burns up too fast, and too much smoke is released.
How They Heat Rooms/Cabins/Sheds/Trailers/Homes….and pretty much any space you can think of
- Old Way (Not EPA Certified): The logs are first placed in the small wood stove and lit; in the beginning, the temperature is relatively low and any gases (via smoke) released from the wood are expelled into the chimney. Once higher temperatures are reached (~600 degrees Farenheit) the gases begin to burn and release heat. It takes much higher temperatures (~950 to ~1200 degrees Farenheit) to produce enough heat to satisfy the needs of the room.
- Catalytic (EPA Certified): They force the smoke through a piece of porous ceramic known as the combustor. The combustor heats up more quickly than the air in the fireplace, and the end result is that the gases can be burned at a lower temperature (the combustor will heat up to around 1400 degrees while stove stays at 540). Bottom Line: The combustor acts as a catalyst (speeds up the process) so you can use less logs, make it last longer, and have less gunk build up in your chimney.
- Non Catalytic (EPA Certified): They have air jets near the vent where the smoke escapes. The air causes the smoke to combust, and allows more smoke to be converted into usable heat. Additionally, the air jets produce a beautiful flame pattern. On the downside, the increased air flow (from the air jets) causes the logs to burn up faster. Bottom Line: Your fire will look better, but in most cases won’t last as long.
Catalytic vs Non Catalytic: In the end the choice is based on what you desire more. In general (there are always stove that are exceptions), catalytic (or “cat”) models will provide a much longer burn time so you’ll get the most out of your kindling. On the other hand, some people really prize stoves that burn wood for the atmosphere they create, and they can’t live without the attractive flame patterns of non catalytics (“non-cats”). So if you care about maximizing burn times, catalytic is generally better; but if you care about aesthetics, non catalytic is the way to go. For more information (if you really want it) check out this article by Popular Mechanics magazine.
What about Infrared Heaters: These work by emitting a certain invisible wavelength of light that is felt by your body as warmth. Infrared heaters warm objects, but not the surrounding air. It is like what happens when you are warmed by the sun, while someone in the shade does not feel the same effect. We include more information about infrared heaters, and their technology that can be found by following the navigation tab labeled “Infrared” at the top of this page.
Things To Consider Before You Buy a Small Wood Burning Stove
There are many factors when it comes to buying a wood burning stove. Below we have listed some of the key factors you should look out for before making the final decision to purchase a best wood stove.
Cast Iron vs Steel: These are the two primarily materials used, and each have their own advantages. Cast iron stoves are generally more attractive, and feature extra design techniques such as enameling. Steel plate stoves are generally plain, but more affordable. Both are of equal durability, and require maintenance every few years. That is why it is important to make sure you know which parts on the inside are replaceable.
|Sizes||volume (cu feet)||Best For|
|Small||<2||Large room or small hut/cabin|
|Medium||2-3||Small to average house|
|Large||<3||Hard to heat houses (see FAQ)|
The above acronym stands for British Thermal Units, and is a measurement of how much heat can be produced. People get obsessed with getting models with the highest BTUs, but this is a bad idea for a few reasons. First, you aren’t going to be running your tiny wood stove or wood furnace at maximum heat all the time, because that would increase the rate of breakdown (likewise, you don’t drive at 100mph all the time). Second, an average home requires 4,500-21,000 BTU, so you really don’t need anything higher. Third, BTU numbers can be gamed by the manufacturers by using different types of wood with higher burn temperatures. That being said, It is more important to consider is consistency of heat output. Will you get a steady flow of heat for 10 hours, or will the fire get really hot for one hour and then not produce as much heat?
Most popular brands will briefly cover installation in their instruction manuals, but there are a few pointers to keep in mind.
- To begin with, make sure that the hearth (area directly under and around the unit) is made of a material that will not catch fire. Also, make sure the entire assembly is bolted to the ground, especially if you are using a small wood stove for a mobile home.
- Additionally, check to see if it has any “clearance” requirements. These requirements specify how far away the stove has to be from flammable materials. The requirements will differ depending on where the stove is positioned (corner vs. in the open).
- Heat shields should be placed below and behind the unit in order to protect the walls and the floor from the heat. It is best if they are built into the wall and floor themselves, and made on an insulating material such as tile. The issue with freestanding heat shields (not attached to wall) is that the only cooling method is air. If something is in the way of the airflow then the metal will heat up to dangerous levels.
- Cover the outside air intake with a grate, so small animals or bugs cannot enter.
- Only use flue pipe made out of black stove pipe or 26 gauge 304 stainless steel. Never use galvanized steel, because the chemicals used in the galvanization process produce toxic fumes. The two best brands for stove are Selkirk and Duravent. These stovepipes are sold on Amazon, and a top choice for many consumers. It should be noted that these pipes are often used for pellet burning devices. We recommend further researching them if you intend to use them with log fuel.
- Ensure the pipe that releases the smoke outside is insulated, and waterproofed. If is a good idea to purchase a flue gasket.
This is obviously just a brief primer on the subject. For more information on installation we recommend you check out our article wood burning stove installation cost.
Many safety hazards can be avoided through following proper installation procedure as outlined above. Here are a few more tips to help keep you and your family safe.
Regularly getting inspections by a professional is incredibly important. Most chimney sweep companies will be able to provide a stove inspection service. Gunk like creosote is likely to build up where the connecting pieces are (e.g. flue to burn box) so cleaning is vital.
We advise using outside air to provide the required oxygen for combustion. If you use air from the inside of your house/mobile home/cabin etc. a large amount of the air you breathed can be used up and dry up the room. Obviously, these problems are lessened if the room is well ventilated (windows open) but why take the risk? Install an outside direct air pipe.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be installed near (a meter away) the stove, and properly maintained. You should test them weekly, and make sure the batteries are working. If you have had enough with the endless chirping and false alarms of current detectors, we recommend the Nest Protect Smoke+Carbon Monoxide Detector. It can be controlled by your phone (no more getting up on a later to silence alarms)
and is reliable and easy to set up.
Small Wood Stove Reviews – Best Picks
Note: None of these are a small wood stove insert or small wood burning fireplaces; they all stand on feet, and are not meant to be placed in a fireplace.
#1Pleasant Hearth Wood Burning Stove 2,200 feet
- Non Catalytic
- EPA Certified 85% efficiency
- Comes in 3 sizes (small, medium, large)
The Pleasant Hearth is a great all arounder, and is the perfect model for first time buyers. It radiates heat to its advertised areas effectively (2,200 feet at the greatest). It is sturdily constructed, and lined with brick along the inside. There is a built in ash drawer for easier cleanup. The ceramic window in the door allows for easy fire viewing. If you want a small wood burning stove for under $500 there aren’t many options, for $150 more the Pleasant Hearth does a great job. The only downside is the heat production is more like 3-5 hours vs the 8-10 advertised.
#2Vogelzang TR001 Defender Wood Stove
- Large cast iron and ceramic glass door
- EPA Certified over 75% efficiency
- Adjustable Legs
- Heats up to 1,200 sq feet
This small wood stove has a great reputation for warming up rooms well. It is airtight, which allows all the wood to be consumed, so you get maximum heat from minimum wood. The unit has a double wall construction, so the outside will not get as hot as most other models. The downside is that this is a small stove, so It doesn’t have the largest capacity for logs (1.285 cu feet), and can only accommodate up to 16” or 17” logs. For more information check out the full length Vogelzang review we wrote.
#3Hi Flame Shetland Wood Stove FF905
- Beautiful Design
- Cleanburn Pre Heated Tertiary Air (most efficient & best for environment)
- Heats 800 ft
- Cast Iron
The Hi Flame is one of the smallest stoves we have reviewed; it may be a mini wood burning stove, but it packs a big punch. It has a gorgeous European design made entirely of the ever attractive and durable cast iron. Additionally, its clean burning system is second to none; it uses additional heated air jets to burn every last bit of fuel. This means less emissions, and greater heat output per log. Our one complaint with this unit is that it is a tiny wood stove in the extreme, but it might be a decent small wood stove for a shed. Anyhow, this is a solid machine with a killer design.
#4US Stove 2000 EPA Certified Wood Stove
- Large Capacity
- Heats up to 2,000 feet
- EPA certified
- Ashpan built in
- Affordable for the size
The “US” is a lot for the money. It’s large firebox fits 21” logs, so you don’t have to refuel as often. There are some other useful features; most notably, the glass door is able to clean itself. There is also a fan in the back to help push the air. It’s design is nothing fancy, but it still has the classic nostalgic appeal of an antique wood burning stove. Some complaints users have had is that the front door is too small, and makes loading larger logs awkward. Similarly, others have reported that the ash pan is too small and the wood burning can be a little uneven. Finally, there have also been complaints about poor build quality or assembly. These problems are concerning, and dissuade us from purchasing an otherwise solid option.
#5Bosca Limit 450 Wood Stove BCWL450
- Heats up to 1,800 feet
- Attractive Design
- EPA certified
- Built in log/kindling Storage
- Easy Lighting
- Imported from Chile
This is one of our favorites ; it looks great, heats a decent amount of space, and has great features. One of these is the “Easy Lighting Tech” which is just a fancy way of saying adjustable airflow. This allows you to maximize the amount of air going into the burn box while you are trying to build the fire, and then decrease once the logs are lit. Speaking of air, all BOSCA wood burning stoves burn their own smoke, and produce very low emissions. This model is also approved for mobile homes, and uses the United States Company (see brand guide below for more info) for customer support (it’s not easy to troubleshoot when the technician is in Chile). This model fits 16.5” logs, and has a higher vertical capacity than horizontal. We would have preferred a slightly higher capacity and output, but these are small gripes. As you may have noticed, we love this unit and definitely think it deserves your “warmest” consideration.
#6Vogelzang TR007 Ponderosa with Blower
- Heats 3,200 feet!
- High Capacity Firebox
- Big Ceramic Window
This is a beast of a heater. It can hold up to 30 pounds of wood, and has the highest heating distance out of those covered on this site. These features make it easy to load, and useful for large areas. The issue comes with the suspiciously high 14 hour burn time. Reviewers have reported that the actual heat producing time is only around 4-5 hours, and the remainder of the time the coals are merely smoldering and heat output dips dramatically. Some have also reported the unit to be a little leaky. Overall, this model is not reliable enough to receive our top recommendation.
- Heats 1,000 feet
- EPA certified
The WoodPro is a decidedly poor choice, but we decided to cover it to dissuade buyers from purchasing it. The fact is that there are better options at this price point. The WoodPro has a mediocre reputation, and with this specific model the ash pan is small and the burn time is less than advertised. If affordability is your main concern then you are better off spending $50 more and getting the Pleasant Hearth.
Best Wood Stove Fans (Non Electric)
Stoves don’t always circulate heat properly, so if you want the heat to cover the largest area possible then you need some wood burning stove fans. These heat fans distribute the heat throughout the house. Additionally, all fans are what some people like to call “non-electric” they are powered by the heat of the stove, so no batteries are required! All you need to do is place the fan on top of the stove, and as the stovetop heats up the fan blades will begin to spin. It looks like magic! On a serious note, when buying a stove fan it is important to make sure that the retailer has posted the CFM (cubic fee per minute) rate. This is essentially how fast the fan can move air around your room. Bottom line is to get a higher CFM rate for bigger rooms. For more info check out the article we wrote on the best wood stove fan. Some people just want the best pick, so if you are interested in purchasing our favorite fan, check out the Caframo 812AMXBX Limited AirMax Ecofan!
Once you have your stove there are a few items that might make your flame-tending lifestyle a little bit easier.
The best Axe: If you plan on chopping your own firewood, which many people do (especially if they’re buying cheap wood stoves for cabins) then you’ll need a good axe. The most popular one is the Fiskars X27 which also comes at an affordable price. Amazon reviews don’t mean everything, but this baby has 4.8/5 stars with 3,527 reviews.
The best axe sharpener: This one is a no brainer. If you cut wood then the axe blade will eventually dull, and the axe will be too blunt to chop the wood. Simply, swipe the blade through this little gadget and it’ll work good as new. The best part is that sharpeners are cheap. Check out the Lansky Dual Grit Sharpener.
Thermometer/Hygrometer: You should know the humidity of your home, so you can tell if the stove is making the air too dry. Dry air can cause a variety of respiratory and skin problems. If that is the case then you should either install a direct air pipe (uses outside air as fuel) or buy a humidifier. We recommend the former, and discuss this concern in our installation guide.
As for the Hygrometer, we recommend the AcuRite 00613. It is easy to read and reliable. How much more do you need from a measuring device?
Log Carrier: You will need to carry logs from your woodpile to your house, so we recommend a carrying bag. The Grillinator is a heavy duty canvas bag with padded handles and strong stitching. This bag will allow you to carry all the wood you need in one trip, and is constructed in a way that minimizes bark and dirt from spilling onto your floor.
Small Tool Set: You will need a set of tongs, poker, brush, and dustpan tools, but in smaller sizes for use with these tiny stoves. Since the ones that are sold for fireplaces are too long, we recommend this compact set of tools from Plow and Hearth. They are hand forged, well made, and are the perfect size for flame tending and cleanup.
Ash Bin: After each burn there will be a lot of ash left over in the stove. You need to keep an ash bin nearby for cleanup. The Panacea bin holds about a month’s worth of ashes, and even comes with an included shovel that attaches to the side.
Fatwood: Fatwood is wood that is harvested from the stump of a cut down tree. The wood in the stump has a high amount of resins and other fatty substances that allow it to catch fire quickly. We recommend buying a box of fatwood, and using it as kindling. It will be more efficient than using ridiculous amounts of newspaper, and you only need about two pieces per fire. Since all fatwood is the same thing, it doesn’t matter which brand you buy. We recommend buying in bulk for lower prices.
Lighters: You should buy some lighters to have on hand for starting each fire. You could use matches of course, but lighters allow you to focus the flame on specific ignition points, and give you greater control. Bic is the standard when it comes to lighters, and this pack of four even includes a flexible lighter. Needless to say, they should last you a while. We highly recommend this lighter as it has one of the highest ratings.
Bellows: When you are trying to get the fire going a steady stream of air provides more oxygen for the embers to feed on. You don’t need anything fancy, just a reliable bellows that does its job well. We recommend the Panacea bellows, and apparently other people like them as well, because they are the #1 seller on Amazon.
Best Wood Stove Brands
**Data from Amazon**
Here is a brief overview of the brands we cover on our site. Within each brand, specific models perform better than others, so it is difficult to declare one brand as the best stove brand.
US Stove Company
United States Stove Company has been around for 140 years, and continues to manufacture their namesake as well as heaters, furnaces, and accessories. They are privately owned, and have multiple manufacturing centers in the US. One reviewer claimed the products were made in China, but we were unable to confirm that fact.
This brand is part of the GHP group, which is a large corporate manufacturing company that specializes in fireplaces, stoves, and barbecue equipment. They don’t have the storied history of some brands, but they produce some great models that are popular on Amazon.
This is an international brand with a wide reach in the industry. It is best known for its TR000 series (fueled by wood), which are popular among consumers. These stoves consistently receive higher reviews on online retailers such as amazon.
This company’s name stands for Burns Own Smoke Clean Air, because they do just that-burn smoke to produce few emissions. These are beautiful modern stoves for burning wood. They are well crafted, and imported from Santiago Chile.
England’s Stove Works
First founded in 1976 by a father and son team in their backyard, and now it is a publicly traded….Nope, in reality nothing has changed. The company is still family owned and operated in Monroe Virginia. They have recently started to expand their operations (Englander, Summer’s Heat, and Timberidge brands), while still keeping true to their original vision. One notable fact is that they offer in house technical support for their customers. The reviews for these are varied.
A subsidiary of the French SBI corporation Drolet turns out some great models each year. They are also sold in some big box retailers such as Walmart and Costco, and have a consistent build quality.
WoodPro is part of the HearthnHome group located in Minnesota, but their quality can be shaky. Their offerings are lower priced, but seem to get less positive reviews than those from competitor brands.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: What size wood stove should I get for my house?
A: It depends on the age of your house, climate, and how your rooms are connected. For colder climates, older houses (poorly insulated), and a closed floorplan (less air flow) a larger model will probably be required. For more information on sizes, see our size chart under “Sizes and Materials” Heading.
Q: What’s the Difference Between a wood stove/wood burner and a wood furnace?
A: The first radiates heat outwards from wherever it is located. A wood furnace is connected to your air ducts, so the hot air automatically circulates throughout the house.
Q: Wood Stove vs. Pellet Stove?
A: The first burns stick/logs of wood, while a pellet stove burns compressed wood “pellets.” Firewood is cheaper than pellets, and stoves that burn firewood generally look better, but in all other respect pellet stoves are generally superior. Although, we have to say nothing rivals the appearance and flame pattern of a wood burning stove. For more information on pellet stoves see our article.
Q: My stove is giving off a weird smell the first few times I’ve used it.
A: That is because the paint used to coat the steel/iron needs to “cure.” Simply, open your windows and run the stove at progressively higher temperatures (first time 400 degrees, second 600 etc). After about 4 fires, the fumes will stop. If you haven’t already installed the stove in your house, we recommend doing the first fire outside to decrease exposure to toxic chemicals.
Q: Are any of these a good wood stove for tent?
A: No, these stoves are mainly for home usage (heating), but something like this TMS portable military camping stove might be what you are looking for.
We hope you enjoyed this article, and found something useful. If you are interested in learning more about stoves or keeping your house warm we suggest the following articles. Why settle for less when you can start with the best?