Want the style and comfort of a wood burning stove, but don’t know which model to choose? Worry not, because the Tiny House Blog is here to help you select the right stove for you! Check out our list of the best wood stoves for tiny houses below.
(By the way, if you want to scope out a wide range of wood stoves firsthand, consider taking some time to visit Dancing Rabbit Eco-village. You’ll be able to see more than a dozen different configurations in one spot, including furnaces that power radiant subfloor heating, homemade rocket stoves made from recycled materials, and much more.)
Best Log-Burning Stoves:
The Sedore 3000 is known for its ability to burn different types of wood with ease, ranging from sawdust and wood chips to split lumber and pallet wood. (But don’t confuse this for a multi-fuel stove!) This stove is reliably built, and you can expect it to last for years to come, and the best part is, the model includes the capacity to accommodate water coils that can be used to heat your domestic water or routed through your floor for radiant heating.
– Capable of a wide range of BTU output (even up to 125,000… not that you’d ever need it in a tiny house)
– Reliable downdraft mechanism keeps coals smoldering for up to twelve hours
– No viewing window (unless you want to shell out another $1150)
– The design of the downdraft mechanism means that if you miscalculate your settings, you could end up with a house full of smoke
This stove’s claim to fame is winning the 2013 Wood Stove Decathlon. (Did you know there was an Olympics for wood stoves? Me either…) It’s ideal for particularly small spaces, with an output range of 13,000 to 60,000 BTUs. The Hybrid also has a wide range of customization options, like decorative side panels and a removable cooktop.
Price: $1923 – $2360
– Lots of customizable options including a portable cooktop, ceramic brick or soapstone inserts, decorative side panels and more
– Well-suited to teeny-weeny tiny houses
– Firebox has an east-west orientation
– Limited to 20” logs or so
Best Pellet-Burning Stoves:
The advantage of the Harman P68 is the ability to precisely control the temperature of your home, within 1 degree. How’s that for convenience? It can also hold enough fuel ready to burn for 20-30 hours without needing to be refilled. (I also like that P68 sounds like the name a droid from Star Wars would have…)
– Hopper can hold 76 pounds of fuel
– Large, mirrored glass viewing window
– Only burns wood pellets
The serenity is an excellent option for folks on a budget, while still offering many of the options that are often only available with a more expensive model.
– Known for being reliable and well-made
– Low-maintenance (by wood pellet stove standards)
– Hopper only holds 40 pounds of fuel
– The stove will turn off for 30-minutes any time electrical power is interrupted
Best Multi-Fuel Stoves:
The Mt. Vernon AE is one of the most consistently high-rated stoves available on the web today, known for efficient heat output and quiet operation.
– Hopper can hold 80 pounds of fuel
– 7-day programmable thermostat
– Operates at 41 decibels (that’s really quiet)
– Some users report issues with the reliability of the electric ignitor
– If you lower the stove’s set point too much, it might kick into an automatic clean cycle, which you will have to wait for it to complete before you can turn the stove back on
– Requires an electrical connection
The 50F will allow you to burn corn husks and other biomass fuels, as well as manufactured wood pellets. It comes with a blower installed, and the exhaust pipe is only three inches in diameter, which means you will have less cold air infiltration through your building’s envelope during the winter months. You’ll also get a 5-year warranty.
The best thing about this model is that you can load a hopper with pounds of material and leave it to operate on autopilot for as long as 60 hours!
Price: $4000, approximately
– Hopper can hold over 100 pounds of fuel
– Comes with an automatic electric fan already installed
– 3” exhaust pipe
– 5-year warranty
– Can’t burn traditional logs
– Small viewing window
For my money, I would definitely go with the Ideal Steel. Why? Its BTU range is perfectly suited for tiny homes, at anywhere between 13,000 and 60,000 units. It’s also designed to use standard split logs, the least expensive and most commonly available fuel source anywhere in the world. Despite its small size, it should be able to burn overnight without needing to be restocked. I love the large viewing window and the wide variety of customizable aesthetic options. (Come on, I want my tiny home to be beautiful.)
Being able to cook on the stove is a big bonus during the colder months, when hot tea and cocoa are always welcome. It has a nice big ash tray and best of all, it can be upgraded to include ceramic or soapstone inserts for a measly $90 – I haven’t seen a price that low anywhere else. My preference would be for a model that didn’t require occasional replacement of a catalytic manifold, but I could live with a little extra maintenance for so much up-side.
Still not sure which model is the best one for you? Here are some of the criteria you should keep in mind.
What type of fuel do you want to burn?
I’m sure you noticed that our list is divided based on the type of fuel you’re planning to burn. This is by far the most important consideration, because it impacts which resources you will be able to utilize.
Log-burning woodstoves are the most straight-forward. They’re easy to install, and if you want, you can burn wood logs that you prepare yourself. They work as advertised.
Pellet-Burning stoves are generally more efficient, and burn more cleanly, (which is something to consider if you have tight restrictions in your area when it comes to smoke emissions.) The downside is that pellets are a byproduct of the lumber industry, which means the price of fuel can be volatile.
Multi-fuel stoves offer you the most flexibility, because you can burn a wider range of fuels, which can include organic waste products like cherry pits, walnut shells and sunflower seed hulls. If you live in a region where agricultural byproducts of this kind are common, a multi-fuel stove could be the ideal choice for your tiny home. (But you definitely DON’T want to burn stuff like this if your stove isn’t specifically designed for it.)
An advantage that pellet-burning and multi-fuel stoves share is the ability to utilize a hopper. If you can spare the space in your tiny home, this functionality is well worth it in the amount of time you will save by not having to constantly reload your firebox, (not to mention that sweet, sweet uninterrupted sleep).
How should your stove’s firebox be oriented?
The next thing you’ll want to consider is the orientation of your stove’s firebox. If it’s wider than it is deep, you won’t be able to fill it with as much fuel, because logs could shift during the combustion process and wind up against the glass, which might cause it to break because of thermal stress.
A model that is deeper than it is wide can receive logs length-wise, which means they can’t roll and you’ll generally be able to accommodate more fuel per unit of interior firebox space. I recommend that you always go with a model that is deeper than it is wide, (often referred to as a north-south orientation,) if you can fit it into your tiny house design plan.
Catalytic vs. Non-catalytic?
Wood stove aficionados have been debating for decades over whether catalytic stoves are better than non-catalytic stoves – and no doubt the debate will continue for decades more to come. The difference is basically this: catalytic stoves vent exhaust fumes through a honeycomb of materials that chemically react with them, helping them to burn more completely. The catalysts must be replaced periodically, but you can expect a manifold to last as much as six years if well maintained. (If poorly maintained, you can trash your manifold in a couple seasons.)
A non-catalytic design relies on airflow to optimize burning conditions inside the firebox. If you ask me, a non-catalytic option is always preferable, because they require much less maintenance, and are less expensive to operate over time.
Cast-iron or welded steel?
There is essentially no functional difference between cast-iron and welded steel, in terms of performance. They also cost about the same, when comparing apples to apples. The key difference between them is that a cast iron stove will need to be taken apart and reassembled every few years to prevent air leakage that could disrupt the thermal properties of the firebox. Lovers of cast-iron usually cite the range of decorative options that are available, so if you have a particular aesthetic in mind, cast-iron could be ideal for you. Otherwise, my vote is for welded steel on the basis of easier ongoing maintenance.
How big of a stove do you need?
I know you hate when people answer their own question this way, but it’s true – the answer is… it depends. Generally speaking, a small stove will be more than adequate for a tiny house cabin any way you slice it. You can be certain simply by checking the manufacturer’s specifications; they should tell you how many square feet of space a given model can be relied upon to heat comfortably. You can also evaluate how many BTUs the stove is rated to produce. Most stoves are rated to produce between 25,000 and 85,000 BTUs of heat energy. Don’t assume that more is always better; choose the size of model that is right for your plans. You’ll also want to self-assess your willingness to restock a firebox in the middle of the night. A well-stocked medium-sized stove can probably make it through the night without needing to be fed, but a small model is going to want a snack during your REM cycle.
Should you buy a second-hand woodstove?
No. (Unless it’s fairly new.) The woodstoves our grandparents used are still around, but their modern descendants can often burn upwards of 30% more efficiently, which will save you money on fuel, keep you more comfortable throughout the harsh cold winter, and ensure that your home is compliant with contemporary emissions guidelines.
What bells and whistles do you need?
Wood stoves are highly customizable, and a few adjustments can radically improve the efficiency of your model, resulting in some serious cost savings down the line. First, I recommend getting a model with soap stone or ceramic inserts, if you can afford it. These inserts improve the thermal mass of your stove’s firebox, which means that it will hold onto heat and release it gradually into the room, empowering you to burn less frequently while sustaining a more consistent rate of heat output.
Second, you’ll definitely want to consider including a heat-grabber in your chimney – basically, it’s an apparatus that diverts exhaust fumes from your firebox in such a way that air can flow through it and reclaim much of that heat before those fumes are expelled outside. This modification can drastically reduce the amount of fuel that you’ll need to burn, but you need to make sure to stay on top of chimney maintenance, lest creosote buildup but you at risk of a chimney fire.
Speaking of creosote, the best way to prevent the accumulation of flammable deposits is to thoroughly insulate your chimney. Creosote forms on the inside of a stovepipe because of rapid heat loss – when those hot fumes come in close contact with cool metal, they condense on the metal and form a flammable coating. If they chimney is insulated, that temperature differential is reduced, and so creosote is less likely to form.
You’ll also want an automatic fan for your woodstove. A model with a digital temperature gauge will automatically turn on when the air around your stove has reached the optimal temperature and circulate warm air around your dwelling. This prevents the formation of hot and cold pockets in your house, and will help you avoid fluctuating radically between blazing hot and freezing cold each time you start a fire, or let a fire die down. Incidentally, you can also mitigate indoor temperature fluctuation with the help of intelligent passive solar design, among other advanced tiny house design strategies.
Finally, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to want a model of woodstove that facilitates easy cleanup, because there’s nothing more tedious than having to sweep out a firebox every time you want to add more fuel. Get a model that lets you pull a lever and dump ashes into a box, which you can simply pull out and sprinkle around your garden. (You can also spread them over ice in the depth of winter, making your paths safer to walk on.)
If you still have questions, or you’re just not sure which option is best for your situation, take some time decide if it might be worth your while to visit us at Dancing Rabbit Eco-village. We have dozens of woodstoves of varying sizes and configurations in use and available for you to check out in person. We’ll be able to share our personal experiences with you to help you make the right choice for your tiny house project.