Little House Stove

by Kent Griswold on October 16th, 2009. 13 Comments
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Guest Post by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

The temperatures are dipping and the weather forecasters are predicting frosts – if you haven’t see them already – and it’s time to start cranking up the heat again.

For those of us who live in smaller sized homes and have access to wood to feed the wood burning stoves, though, it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief, as we won’t be paying the high electricity bills for the air conditioning of summer.

Little House Stove

When we built our Little House, we intended on using it primarily in the summer, so we didn’t go to the expense of installing a central air system, as we figured we could use a window air unit and a wood-burning stove in the winter – along with space heaters. I did want a beautiful rock fireplace, but given we ended up living in The Little House full time, I’m glad we went for efficiency, rather than beauty.

For four years of using The Little House as a weekend retreat and mainly over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, we never used the wood-burning stove. Even during the first year we lived here full time, we only used a space heater, as the place is so well insulated, it used relatively little energy. As well, having just moved and the transferring of jobs didn’t allow my husband the time to cut wood.

All of that changed last year during the terrible ice storm that struck Arkansas and cut its way south. We suddenly found ourselves without electricity for a full 8 days. We fired up the stove and used it for not only heat, but to cook on as well.

By this time – since my husband had been laid off from his new job after being there just a year – I was all about saving money and I was watching the electricity we used. I noticed when the electricity came back on, how fast that meter added up the units we were using when we had the electric space heater on. We decided then to use the wood-burning stove as our only source of heat.

It’s worked for us (with the exception of not yet figuring out how to regulate it so it doesn’t run us out sometimes).

Here’s some tips that have worked for us in converting from an electric space heater to the wood burning stove:

  • If you’re just installing a wood burner, make sure you choose a good, quality efficient unit. My husband complained at the time we built The Little House that we could have had a whole central heating/air unit installed for what we spent on the wood burning stove and the installation. He’s glad we did that now.
  • Make sure you check with codes in your area, or the manufacturer’s recommendation for installation space away from walls. We had to install so many feet of tile on the wall and floor around out unit.
  • Hire a certified installer. I’m not sure our construction manager did and last year we had to secure and level the stove before we could even use it as they also didn’t bolt it to the tile properly.
  • Take into consideration if you will really save money by using a wood-burning stove. I understand a cord of wood can run somewhere between $200-$300 now, depending on the area in which you live. We have access to all of the wood we need due to a few storms that have unfortunately, toppled some of our biggest trees. Our only cost comes in the form of chain saw blades and a lot of sweat.
  • Wood burns dirtier than fuel, so the consideration of the effect on the environment was a concern for me. However, given we are not off of the grid, and obtain our power from the electric company, which gets it from a nuclear plant hundreds of miles to the south, we figured using a wood burning stove couldn’t be worse.
  • Also take into consideration the time spent maintaining the stove. Of course, the ashes have to be taken out daily and the glass has to also be scraped and cleaned at least daily. Between working our jobs and other home projects, we have to make time to cut and split the wood and load, stoke and maintain the fire during the winter. This wasn’t a problem for us last winter when my husband was laid off, but now that I’m the one working from home, the responsibility falls on me and I’ll have to fit that into my daily routine. Also, if someone wasn’t home during the day, I doubt I would trust leaving a fire burning.
  • If you’re using an existing stove, I can’t stress enough the importance of having the stovepipe (or flue in the case of a fireplace) inspected and cleaned annually by a certified specialist. We didn’t do this in the bigger home we sold and when it was inspected before being sold we were told we had a flue fire and didn’t know it. We were lucky the whole house didn’t burn due to that damage.

I would be interested to read your stories about wood burners, or wood burners in comparison to pellet burning units.

13 Responses to “Little House Stove”

  1. Grant Wagner says:

    I thought I would comment here since it appears that the Campbells don’t allow comments from gmail addresses. This is ment directly to them.

    Wood stoves are great. As long as it’s clean and well maintained, there is nothing more “Carbon Neutral” than burning wood. I would suggest to look into cob to help make it more manageable. A single day of work with little more than a bale of staw and the soil from your back yard can give you a cob jacket for your wood stove, which will assorb the high temperatures during burns, and will stay warm long after you let the stove go out. You can cut your wood use by a lot too, making for a happy hubby.

  2. Kent Griswold says:

    That’s interesting about the gmail posting Grant. I just posted using a gmail address on Kerri’s blog and it appears to have worked. You might want to try again sometime…no problem you posting here however…Kent

  3. Mud says:

    I highly recommend looking into cob rocket fired stoves/benches etc. Safer, easier to cook on, easier to regulate, more complete burn, less wood used. They’re basically the poor man’s DIY version of a masonry heater, which are very popular in the northern Scandinavian countries.

    As for traditional stoves, you’ll pay extra for homeowner’s insurance no matter what you do right about a woodstove in your home. For estimating I grew up in a passive solar home in northern MN that used a cord of wood on a cold cold sunny winter. Warmer winters have more cloud cover and we’d use 1.5 cords those winters and upwards. Ironic but true.

  4. Brillo says:

    I’ve used a Halibut cook/heating stove (http://www.marinestove.com/halibutinfo.htm) for years in a small cabin. They’re small, built for use on boats/yachts, but I’d imagine they’re perfect for most any small house needing heating or cooking. Burns wood, has a small oven, and a cooktop. They also sell small alcohol burners for the cooktop so you can cook a bit in the summer without having to heat the place up too much.

    Totally recommend one for small house folks, especially if your place is off the grid or if you’re anywhere that firewood’s easy to come by.

    • Asillem4 says:

      I ended up here because I’m looking for a way to heat a 120 sq’ ‘home.’ Most of the stoves are too big but I remember my parents had a marine stove (Dad burned pieces of bark) on the boat they lived on for years.
      Do the Salamander marine stoves work well in a home? Boats are more drafty so no issues with getting enough air. I guess the secondary air input could solve any issues?

  5. Great suggestions, thanks for posting.
    I should have put in the dimensions for our wood stove and the make and model, but couldn’t find them. Ours is not a full sized stove and so the wood has to be cut even smaller to fit into the firebox.

  6. April says:

    We bought a wood cook stove off craigslist for about $200 (see here http://tinyurl.com/yjyw4rk)… it’s definitely not air tight, but we’re going for overall character. The firebox is small, but it burns hot and we have a lot of access to cheap/free wood, so that works for us. We haven’t tried cooking on/in it yet (it has an oven, too), though. My parents recently tried talking us into getting something more efficient, but we like the one we have.

  7. April says:

    grrr… bad link format in my above comment
    http://tinyurl.com/yjyw4rk

  8. Jill says:

    My Vogelzang wood stove rocks. We us it in 30 X 40 shed –excellent heat. Nice for cooktop & top & front entry for wood too. Provides plenty of heat with good control. We use in Kansas … plenty of cold winters.

  9. zurlo25 says:

    OCRB43W – Avanti Convection Oven with 2 Burner Cooktop – White.. you should check out this little oven/stovetop combo.. it is around $100 .. looked at all the coustomer reviews and they were all glowing..

  10. I agree with grant on the carbon neutral state of burning wood, we go through 4-5 cord a year here in the high country of colorado. We have an insert in the living room that has a blower, when we have power it can keep most of the house warm, it has a pretty big fire box and can take 6-8 good sized logs at a time. Maintenance is minimal during the winter we run it almost non stop. about once a week or so I clean out the ash, running hot fires now and then keep the creosote down.
    we also have a Hearthstone soap stone free standing stove in the bed room, we only use this one now and then, like tonight when it is near zero outside and the wind is blow at 20 mph+ we used to have power failure quite a bit and when we did the remodel this was the main reason for installing this one, now we can have a warm room in the house no matter what.

    We just installed a little scandia in our cabin and could not think of a better way to keep warm

  11. Mark Holmes says:

    We looked around at a lot of small stoves to heat our 33′ 5th wheel trailer here in the California mountains. From Jotul to Morso, Sardine and the Kimberly, all were either too big or too expensive ($3500 for a Kimberly!!). We ended up buying a Hobbit stove from Salamader Stoves in Devon, England. It was delivered to our door in 5 days for much cheaper than all of the above options, plus we got custom paint and a secondary air input installed so combustion oxygen is mostly drawn from outside the trailer. The stove is about 12″ x 12″ x 18″, with a 12″ clearance to combustibles. It’s also aesthetically quite beautiful, and has been keeping us warm and happy this winter.

    It took about 2 months to finally find this stove, and it’s been absolutely perfect for us. Give them a look; the website isn’t great, but fortunately the stove is. http://www.salamanderstoves.com

    Oh, they also sell a *smaller* stove called the Pipsqueak if you really need something tiny.

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