Last Updated: September 2017
Small 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 them in your wood burning appliance. 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 small log burners 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 log burner a no brainer. That said, let’s jump right into the heat of things (pun intended)….
TOP 8 BEST RATED WOOD BURNING STOVES
|Product Name||EPA Certification||Heat Radius||Our Rating||Price|
|Pleasant Hearth Wood Burning Stove||Yes, 85% Efficiency||1.2k - 2,200 Square ft.||$$|
|Vogelzang Tr001 Defender EPA||Yes, 75% Efficiency||1,200 Square ft.||$|
|WoodPro WS-TS-1500||Yes||1,000 Square ft.||$|
|Hi-Flame FF-905 Shetland||Yes||800 Square ft.||$$$|
|US Stove 2000 EPA Certified||Yes||2,000 Square ft.||$$|
|Bosca Limit 450 BCWL450||Yes||1,800 Square ft.||$$$|
|Vogelzang TR007 Ponderosa with Blower||Yes||3,200 Square ft.||$$|
|Vogelzang TR004 Colonial EPA||Yes||1,800 Square ft.||$$|
Wood Stove Reviews – Best Picks
Note: None of these except the TR004 Colonial are fireplace inserts
- Non Catalytic
- EPA Certified 85% efficiency
- Comes in 3 sizes (small, medium, large)
The Pleasant Hearth is a great all rounder, and is the perfect model for first time and experienced 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. The only downside is the heat production is more like 3-5 hours vs the 8-10 advertised. If you want a great wood burning stove that will keep you toasty warm then a Pleasant Hearth is the stove for you! Full Pleasant Hearth review.
- Large cast iron and ceramic glass door
- EPA Certified over 75% efficiency
- Adjustable Legs
- Heats up to 1,200 sq feet
This unit has a great reputation for warming up rooms well. It is airtight, which allows all the fuel 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 it isn’t very large, so It doesn’t have the most 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 FF-905
- Beautiful Design
- Cleanburn Pre Heated Tertiary Air (most efficient & healthiest for environment)
- Heats 800 ft
- Cast Iron
The Hi Flame is one of the most compact models we have covered; it may be compact, 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 minute in the extreme, but it might work well for a side room/shed. Anyhow, this is a solid machine with a killer design. Read our full Hi-Flame FF-905 Shetland Review
#4US Stove 2000
- 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 appliance. 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 not wide enough 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.
- 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 models 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 minor gripes. As you may have noticed, we love this unit and definitely think it deserves your “warmest” consideration. Read the full BOSCA Limit 450 Review!
- 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. Users 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. Full Vogelzang Ponderosa Review.
- 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. It is really not worth spending the time and energy to install this thing only to receive inadequate performance in return. Just cut the coffee habit for half a month, and you’ll have enough saved up for something higher quality. For now, this might as well be called the WoodNO
- Heats 1,800 feet
- Can burn up to 8 hours per fueling
- Large viewing window
This is one of the best fireplace insert that is commended for its high quality build and reliable performance. It is worth noting that an insert is slightly different than a conventional log burner. Inserts are meant to be placed in an existing fireplace-hence the name-while the others covered in this list have no such requirement. Users loved the long burn time and decent heating coverage, but were slightly disappointed with the amount of BTUS outputted. Only minor complaints though, from easy shipping to a pleasant, cozy effect this machine rocks.
Best Wood Stove Fans (Non Electric)
Heat circulation can be a challenge, so if you want the heat to cover the largest area possible then you need some fans. These heat powered fans distribute the heat produced from the unit throughout the entire house. Additionally, all fans are non electric, and they are powered by the stovetop heat, so no batteries are required! All you need to do is place the fan on the stovetop, and as it heats up the fan blades will begin to spin. It can take a few minutes for the fan to begin spinning, but once it gets going the flan blades will start whirring at a steady clip.
When buying a 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. If you have a bigger room/home then you will want to look at fans with higher CFM rates, and vice versa if you have a smaller sized room. The one thing to be careful about is that some retailers post false CFM ratings. There is no rating agency that monitors these claims well, so do your due diligence and read overviews and articles to ensure you are buying a reliable fan. For more info be sure to check out the article we wrote on the best wood stove fan. This article breaks down where to buy, how to use, and gives some fans that suit different needs from budget friendly to high powered.
How Small Wood Stoves Work
All of the above mentioned models 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 log heating products 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 model, they are built to lose air, the kindling burns up too fast, and too much smoke is released.
How They Heat Rooms/Cabins/Sheds/RVs/Trailers/Homes….and pretty much any space you can think of
- Old Way (Not EPA Certified): The logs are loaded into the firebox and lit; in the beginning, the temperature is relatively low and any gases (via smoke) released from the logs 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 other area stays at 540). Bottom Line: The combustor acts as a catalyst (speeds up the process) so you can use less firewood, 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 products 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 the atmosphere created, 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 go into more depth in our article covering the best infrared heater and the technology that powers these fascinating machines.
Things To Consider Before You Buy
There are many factors when it comes to buying a home heating product. Below we have listed some of the key factors you should look out for before making the final decision to purchase.
Cast Iron vs Steel: These are the two primarily materials used, and each have their own advantages. Cast iron products are generally more attractive, and feature extra design techniques such as enameling. Steel plated units 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)||Use In:|
|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 burner 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 fuel 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?
Installation Guide: How to Install a Wood Stove
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 it for a mobile home.
- Additionally, check to see if it has any “clearance” requirements. These requirements specify how far away the unit has to be from flammable materials. The requirements will differ depending on where it 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 better 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 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 wood burning stove installation cost guide.
Safety: Risks and Precautions
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 an 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 nearby (a meter away) , 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.
Here are a few items that might make your flame-tending lifestyle a little bit easier…
Fatwood: Fatwood is firewood that is harvested from the stump of a cut down tree. The fibers in the stump have a high amount of resins and other fatty substances that allow the product 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. LL Bean tries to sell some premium versions, but don’t fall for their marketing traps. We recommend buying in bulk for lower prices.
Axe: If you plan on chopping your own firewood, which many people do (especially if they’re buying cheap log burners for cabins) then you’ll need a good axe. An axe will last you for years to come, and also give you one of the greatest workouts of your life. There is a reason Floyd Mayweather does wood splitting before fights… The most popular chopping axe is the Fiskars X27 which also comes at an affordable price. Amazon ratings don’t mean everything, but this baby has 4.8/5 stars with 3,527 responses, so we are just going to go ahead and say it’s the greatest.
Axe Sharpener: This one is a no brainer. If you chop logs then the axe blade will eventually dull, and the axe will be too blunt to continue. You can quickly fix the problem with a convenient, handheld blade sharpener. Simply, swipe the blade through this little gadget and it’ll work good as new. The awesome part is that sharpeners are cheap. The hard part is that sharpening the blade is not necessarily an easy task-even if it is a simple motion. We would recommend learning from a pro, but if you fancy yourself smart/manly enough to do it on your own then check out the Lansky Dual Grit Sharpener.
Thermometer/Hygrometer: You should know the humidity of your home, so you can tell if the heat 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?
Firewood Log Carrier Tote Bag: You will inevitably need to carry logs from your woodpile to your house, so we recommend a carrying bag. This Grillinator bag is a heavy duty canvas bag with padded handles and strong stitching. This bag will allow you to carry all the fuel you need in one trip, and is constructed in a way that minimizes bark and dirt from spilling onto your floor. If you are going to make one accessory purchase aside from the run-of-the-mill stuff then we recommend this one. Logs can make a mess in your house if you don’t watch out, and take measures accordingly.
Small Tool Set: You will need a set of tongs, poker, brush, and dustpan tools, but in smaller sizes for use with . These are the standard tools that every homeowner with a fireplace will recognize. 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. Don’t skimp out on these. You will be tending the fire every time you use your heater, and it is a far better experience when using quality made tools. Plow and Hearth has a history of making fire tending tools, so we felt confident recommending them-also they have decent Amazon ratings.
Ash Bin: After each burn there will be a lot of ash left over. You need to keep an ash bin nearby for cleanup. It is never a good idea to leave ash to buildup inside the firebox, so always make sure to take care of it quickly. Having an ash bin also adds a rustic look to the setup, and can complement it nicely. We have our eye on Panacea bin, which holds about a month’s worth of ashes, and even comes with an included shovel that clips on the side. This is another no-brainer purchase that makes cleanup simple.
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 should last you a while. Some people like using reusable Zippos, but in our experience the fuel cost ends up being too high Lighters are very cheap, so no need to waste money and effort on a “quality” product. 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. This is why many people blow onto a fire to make it light faster. If you want to save yourself from passing out (not to mention speed up the time it takes to get your fire going) then we suggest investing in a set of bellows. 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 bellows 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 superior.
US Stove Company
USSC 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 user 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 fire heaters 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’s well known for its TR000 series, which are popular among consumers. These products consistently receive higher ratings 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 products for burning natural food. 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 ratings 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 ratings than those from competitor brands.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
Q: What size 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. Low on space? Check out our guide to tiny wood stoves.
Q: What’s the Difference Between a 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, while a pellet stove burns compressed wood “pellets.” Firewood is cheaper than pellets, and units that burn firewood generally look better, but in all other respect pellet burners are generally superior. Although, we have to say nothing rivals the appearance and flame pattern of the former. For more info on pellet stoves check out our guide to finding the best pellet stove!
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 unit 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 products 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 or keeping your house warm we suggest that you peruse some of the other articles. Happy fire tending!