Not everyone has their tiny house sitting on a Caribbean Island.
Most of us will need supplementary or seasonal heat. Heating a tiny home with a wood stove is a great way to keep warm and cozy on chilly evenings.
You will be amazed at how warm and cozy your tiny house feels with a small wood stove for heat. Micro and mini wood stoves have a minimal footprint and can easily heat up to four hundred square feet.
In this article, you will learn what a wood burning stove is, the pros and cons of having one, and things to consider when looking for a wood stove for your home.
What Are Mini, Micro and Small Wood Stoves?
Micro or mini wood stoves were developed for boats and RVs so they are perfect for tiny houses. They may be mounted on the wall or on a shelf. This makes them very practical for conserving space.
They are typically much smaller than traditional wood stoves and do not put out as much heat. They do need frequent tending and fuel when you are using them.
Micro wood stoves take smaller pieces of fuel and do not hold fire as long as a traditional wood stove. They are, however, very economical to purchase and run, and are adequate to heat a small space of less than 500 square feet.
Small wood stoves are freestanding and will heat up to 1200 square feet. They are a traditionally-shaped appliance, just smaller in size. Small wood stoves also work well in a tiny home.
Mini and small wood stoves may take cordwood (a giant bundle of wood), wood pellets, and in some cases, hardwood shavings for fuel. It is important you make sure you have an adequate fuel supply before purchasing your stove.
The Department of Energy has a wonderful guide on using wood heat.
Comparisons of heating prices.
Cordwood is by far the most economical way to heat. Electricity is the most expensive, although costs vary around the country.
Unlike wood stoves, both propane and electric heat take a monthly bill.
These costs can add up.
Although I absolutely love wood, it’s important to note the many benefits to propane and electric.
Propane or bottled gas is also great for persons off the grid and can be used on the road. Many people who travel in their tiny home have a propane tank attached to the home much like an RV.
The advantage is that you can carry your fuel with you.
Electric is practical if you live in a foundation tiny home. If you are traveling, you can hook up to electric outlets at parks and campgrounds.
Comparisons of heating prices
Primary or Secondary Heat Source
Wood heat is a good choice for your tiny home. It can be your primary heat source, which is especially good if you are off grid and lack electrical options.
Keep in mind that wood heat works best if you are able to tend to it throughout the day.
You can also use wood heat as your secondary heating source. This may be necessary if you work or are away from home for long periods of time. Many tiny homes have a propane backup system that is activated by a thermostat when the temperature drops.
Pros of Wood Heat
- Wood heat is a warm, dry heat that is very comfortable.
- Atmosphere – who doesn’t love sitting in front of a warm fire
- Off grid-friendly
- Wood is a renewable and a sustainable fuel source
- Wood is cheaper than propane or electric (not too mention free in many instances)
- If you’re like me, you love the work of chopping down a tree and using your own sweat and work to get the wood to heat your home.
Cons of Wood Heat
- Burning wood does omit the oxides – carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide
- You do need safety measurements, such as a fire extinguisher and a carbon monoxide detector
- They take a lot of fuel which needs storage space
- You may have to get up in the middle of the night to tend the fire or wake up to a cold room, and must get up and build a fire.
- All wood stoves take up some space and need clearance room from combustible things like walls
- There is an expression that wood heats you twice – once while chopping and once while burning. If you are a sedentary person, then wood heat may not appeal to you.
Environmentally Friendly Wood Heat for Your Tiny Home
I get a lot of push back on this when I am teaching green building classes. Many people see the smoke coming out of the chimney and think “wow, look at all that pollution.”
But let’s look at the big picture.
Wood is a renewable resource. We can plant trees to offset our usage. Extracting (or cutting down) the tree does not create pollution, it merely releases the stored energy.
Propane is a fossil fuel which is not a renewable resource. Both the extraction and the burning of propane creates pollution.
I know I burn about two cords of wood per winter. A good estimate is that I will need ten trees with a diameter of eight inches to equal two cords.
I can plant ten trees per year on my property or donate ten trees to a local arbor day or environmental group to be planted in my community. In this way, I am replenishing what I use.
Where To Get Wood For Your Micro Wood Stove
If your tiny house is located on a farm or out in the forest, then you have a free source of wood.
If you are located in town, you may not have easy access to wood.
Don’t let this stop you.
There are many ways to acquire free wood. Talk to the electric company or tree trimmers about picking up branches that they cut down. You can also let friends know that you will clean up fallen branches in their yard.
Another great source of firewood is pallets. They are often free from lumber stores or can be found thrown out for the trash.
In addition, you can purchase cord wood fairly inexpensively. The advantage is that it has been aged and cut so all you have to do is load the stove.
Managing Your Woodlot
If you decide to have a woodlot, managing it is important. With proper management, you can trim out waste wood and trees growing too close together.
I lost several ash trees to the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive insect species. I cut up those ash trees for firewood in hopes of controlling the insect. Another benefit was that I used the trees for firewood.
I do not need to cut down any large trees. If I am managing my woodlot, I can gather felled branches that have come down in storms, thin trees that may inhibit the growth of other trees and use waste wood from building projects (make sure it is untreated lumber).
What Is EPA Certified?
The Environmental Protection Agency certifies wood stoves that meet clean air regulations and burn efficiently.
Most stoves made today follow strict EPA guidelines to ensure clean burning. While you see smoke, wood is actually much cleaner than burning propane or heating oil.
In addition, I use the ashes from my wood stove on my garden to enrich the soil. Wood ashes are a great source of potassium and trace minerals. Caution, they will raise your gardens pH level.
A newer environmentally-friendly wood stove may contain a catalytic combustor, much like the one in your car. This takes the smoke and returns it, allowing the stove to burn at a lower temperature.
In doing so, the exhaust gas gets cleaned while generating more heat. This also helps the prevention of creosote build up in your chimney.
A stove with a catalytic combustor does need special care and management so make sure to read your owner’s manual thoroughly.
Sizing Your Tiny House Wood Stove System
It is important to size your system. You don’t want to be too cold or too hot in the winter time. A properly-sized system will run most efficiently.
It is also important that your stove runs hot. This prevents the buildup of creosote in your chimney. Creosote can cause you to experience a chimney fire.
The first step is to figure out how many BTU’s you need to adequately heat your space. You can use a BTU calculator like this one at Tiny Wood Stoves.
What Is A Cord?
A cord is a way we measure wood. A cord is a stack of wood that is 128 cubic feet. That is four feet wide, eight feet long and four feet high. Logs are typically 12 – 18 inches long for a standard stove.
A micro wood stove will need a log that is between six and twelve inches long. If you are purchasing cordwood, you will need to talk to your supplier about cutting logs to meet your size requirements.
While we always recommend having a heating professional install your wood stove, listed below are some tips for setting up your tiny wood stove.
There are many precautions when installing a wood stove. The first is the flue. The Flue provides adequate ventilation so that smoke does not enter into the building. It carries potential harmful gases up and out of the building.
The flue needs regular maintenance, such as cleaning and making sure it is properly aligned.
The location of your wood stove is very important. The manufacturer will provide information on how far your wood stove should be placed away from the wall or other things that could catch on fire.
This can be difficult since you do not have much floor space to begin with in your tiny house. Some mini wood stoves are made to sit on top of a surface which can save you floor space.
One of my favorite wood stoves, and one I currently use myself, the Dickinson Newport Wood Stove, was originally designed for boats. However, it has become very popular with tiny home owners. These tiny wood stoves are quite small and mount on the wall.
But don’t let their small size fool you.
The Dickinson Newport can heat a tiny house up to twenty-five feet long with 5000 BTU’s.
You can also reduce clearances by using a double-walled chimney. This helps keep the exterior side of the metal cooler so it does not warm up the walls of your home.
My wood stove sits on a brick pad with brick going three feet up the walls around it. If you are on a permanent foundation, then you can use brick around your woodstove. Brick protects your walls and floor of your home but also radiates heat back into the room.
Do you live in a THOW (Tiny House On Wheels)? Then you need to consider the weight of your wood stove. When pulling your tiny house on a trailer, the weight is very important. It will affect your transportation guidelines as well as your gas mileage and wear and tear on your towing vehicle.
When designing your tiny home it is very important to provide high-quality insulation. Insulation will help reduce your need for heating and cooling.
One of the places we forget to place insulation is under the floor, and specifically under the woodstove area. If your wood stove sits on the floor of your home, add an additional layer of insulation so you do not lose precious heat.
If your wood stove sits on a shelf, then you do not need extra insulation underneath. Heat escaping out the bottom will add to the warmth of your home.
Tiny house insurance can be difficult to get, especially for those living in a THOW. Insurance agents are unsure of what to do about unconventional homes.
Your tiny home may fall in a grey area, so it is important to communicate with your insurance agency to get the best coverage.
Insurance agents have specific safety concerns and one might be your small wood stove. As a result, they will want to know that it has been installed properly.
This is where it is an advantage to have had your tiny wood stove installed by a professional.
Wood stoves that are seen as environmentally compliant are also seen as safer. I found this out when my insurance agent told me that my Dickinson Newport Wood Stove met several safety regulations.
Wood is a fabulous heat source, but it does come with some caveats. Heating with wood takes personal time and energy. Wood heaters also need special design planning so that they are safe and produce enough heat for your tiny home.
Personally, I enjoy my wood heat and love having a wood stove.
And honestly, I think cutting and chopping wood is a fun activity. What better way to relieve stress then chopping a log apart!
Considering a wood stove for your home? Check out our review on the top 5 wood stoves we recommend in 2019.