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The Beginner’s Guide to Wood-Burning Stoves

Wood-burning stoves can be used for so many tasks on the homestead. You can cook food, heat water, dry laundry, dehydrate food, gather ash and biochar, and of course—heat your home.

Overall, wood-burning stoves are a great investment, and depending on your climate, can save a TON on your electric bill. However, there are different types of stoves, and the efficiency, as well as the health risks, should be considered before purchase.

Types of Wood-Burning Stoves

When you’re looking for wood-burning stoves for your homestead, there are a few things to consider.

  • Is it a free-standing or fireplace insert stove?
  • Catalytic or non-catalytic?
  • Is it efficient?
  • Does it burn cleanly?

Newer stoves have become much more efficient and safer thanks to better standards and innovation. So if you opt for a newer one, you should be covered there.

But what happens if you want to save money and come across an old wood-burning stove?

Well, even though you can use an old wood stove, it’s not recommended. Not just for safety, but also for efficiency.

Older wood stoves burn wood inefficiently and must be fed fresh logs on a regular basis to keep a room warm. Additionally, older stoves generate much more air pollution — as much as 70 percent more — and are notorious for smoking up the inside of homes almost as much as the outside.

Live Science

While you might save money in the short-term, the long-term consequences of an older wood-burning stove simply aren’t justified. If you’re wanting to get a good type of stove, then catalytic might be the way to go.

Catalytic vs Non-Catalytic Stoves

Catalytic wood-burning stoves reduce exhaust by funneling the smoke through a ceramic honeycomb-shaped catalyst, like a catalytic converter on a car. This filter burns off gasses and particles which helps emit fewer pollutants.

catalytic converter diagram
Image credit: ResearchGate

Non-catalytic stoves don’t have this same filter, but still have a few emission-reducing features such as having a longer path for the exhaust to allow the gasses and particles to burn off.

Even though catalytic stoves can be more expensive than non-catalytic stoves, they are also generally more efficient and safer and can be a better investment in the long-run.

How Much Wood Do You Need?

In general, non-catalytic wood stoves use 1 cord every 1 to 2 months, while catalytic wood stoves use as little as 1 cord per season (depending on the model).

How Much Is a Cord of Wood?

a cord of wood

A cord of wood is a stack that is 4 feet high, 4 feet wide, and 8 feet long. While this may seem like a lot of wood, a good catalytic wood stove can make it last up to 3 months.

Getting Firewood

Depending on where you live, getting firewood can prove challenging. It’s likely going to take either a lot of time or money and sometimes both. But there are ways to get firewood for your wood stove, and many of them are free.

You can:

  • Gather it
  • Visit the sawmill
  • Use leftover pallets
  • Make friends with local tree trimmers
  • Buy it

Whichever method you choose, make sure to maintain good forest management practices.

Keep in mind that wood for your wood-burning stove should be properly “seasoned” or dried before you use it. This will help the fire burn cleanly with the minimum amount of creosote buildup.

What is Creosote?

Creosote is a natural byproduct of wood fires (among others). It’s a tar-like substance that can be harmful and should be minimized when burning wood. It’s also a leading cause of chimney fires.

The best way to reduce creosote is to properly season wood.

Seasoning or Drying Wood

wood piles stored under a shed

All wood types should be set to dry for at least one year before burning it. The best way to let harvested wood dry is to keep it in a shed or wood enclosure. Tarps aren’t a good idea as it can trap moisture and prevent airflow.

Safety Measures

If you have guests or little ones over, a good measure is to purchase a hearth gate to prevent burns. Many people are drawn to wood stoves and can easily forget that touching isn’t the same as touching the outside of their oven back at home.

Also, here’s a tip for best heat distribution: if you’re having trouble heating the homestead evenly, using a fan can help (ceiling fans work best).

No matter the type of wood-burning stove, make sure that it burns safely and you place it properly in your homestead. Hiring a technician to install it and having regular chimney sweeps and inspections (around once a year) are good measures to take.

5 Great Wood-Burning Stoves

If you’re in the market for a wood stove, here’s a list of popular stoves across the web.

BrandPriceCatalyticEfficiencyCooking Compatible
Guide Gear$No2/5Yes
Drolet Hunter$$No2/5Yes
Napoleon Small Timberwolf$$$No4/5Yes
Drolet HT3000$$$No4.5/5Yes
MF Fire Nova$$$$Yes5/5Yes

Related Questions:

Does a Wood-Burning Stove Heat Better Than a Fireplace?

The heat from a fireplace mostly escapes through the chimney, while a wood-burning stove can heat an entire living space. On average, wood-burning stoves can heat a space 3x more with 60% less firewood.

How Long Does It Take a Wood-Burning Stove to Heat a House?

On average, it takes around 45 minutes to 1 hour for a wood-burning stove to heat a house to above 70ºF. Of course, it depends on how cold it is and the amount of space needed to heat.