When I bought my house, one of the most important things I wanted was a woodstove. There is something comforting about the routine of starting a fire, the charm of a wood stove, and the warmth that it produces. My children appreciate this too and often ask me to ‘put the fire on.’
You can heat your home with a woodstove if the stove is large enough. Only burn seasoned hardwood in your stove, and be careful not to make your fire too large. Have your woodstove maintained by a professional at least once a year to keep it in safe working order, and always use carbon monoxide detectors.
In this article, we’ll talk about using a wood stove to heat your home. We’ll talk about what size woodstove you need, how much and what kind of firewood to use, how to get a fire started and keep it going all night, and give you some tips to make it more efficient. But, first, let’s talk about why you might want to heat your home with a woodstove.
Why Use a Woodstove to Heat Your Home
Of course, heating your home with a wood stove has a romantic, charming, and idealistic feel to it. But it is also very practical.
The Pros Of Heating Your Home with a Woodstove
In my case, I use my woodstove as supplemental heat and as an emergency backup. The woodstove I have isn’t large enough to heat the entire house. However, it is large enough to reduce my electric bill, keep us warm when the power goes out, keep the pipes from freezing, and give us a source of heat to cook on.
The Cons of Heating Your Home with a Woodstove
While a wood stove is more efficient than a standard fireplace, it is also a lot of work. You need a source for firewood, a place to store your firewood, and you need to be constantly tending your stove throughout the day and night. Firewood is also rather dirty and messy, so you’ll continuously be cleaning.
You’ll need to do regular maintenance on your wood stove and chimney to make sure it is safe. In addition, you’ll need carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in your home, and there is always the potential of unwanted pests hitching a ride into your house when you bring in your firewood. That being said, if the pros outweigh the cons of heating your home with a wood stove, then you should consider it.
You can heat your entire home entirely with your woodstove if you wish. However, you’ll need to consider a few things to get started.
What Size Woodstove Do You Need to Heat Your Home?
The size of your woodstove depends on the size of the area you want to heat. This could be a room or a couple of rooms or your entire home.
For example, if you heat a smaller area, you’ll only need a small woodstove. On the other hand, if you have a large home you want to heat, you might need an extra-large woodstove.
Other considerations are the number of windows you have, the height of the ceilings, and your home’s layout and construction. Again, a professional can help you determine what size and type of wood stove best suits your needs.
You’ll also want to consider what type of woodstove you want and if it is mostly for heating or a wood stove to cook on as well. My woodstove is a basic Ben Franklin, but you can get woodstoves with glass windows, electronic air controls, and those with built-in fans. But, again, you’ll need to speak with a professional if you need to have a wood stove installed.
If you already have a wood stove, you’ll want to have it serviced by a chimney sweep to make sure it is safe to use. Then, you can proceed.
How to Start a Fire in a Woodstove
When I start a fire in my woodstove, I like to leave a little bit of ashes in the bottom of the woodstove from the day before. This will help insulate the stove and prevent a heatbed for the fire.
If the ashes get too deep, you can scoop them into a cast-iron bucket (preferably with a lid). Be very careful when doing this because there might still be live embers mixed in with the ashes. These could burn you or even start a fire if you were to spill them
Use the Right Firewood
You might be harvesting your own firewood, or you may even purchase it and have it delivered to your home. Either way, you need to avoid using soft, sappy wood like pine, which can cause creosote to build up in your woodstove.
Always use hardwoods like oak, ash, cherry, and applewood. You also need to use seasoned firewood, which only has around 20% moisture content. Green wood, which has 50% moisture, will not burn well. You need at least six months to allow your firewood to season if you aren’t purchasing pre-seasoned wood.
How Much Firewood Do You Need to Heat Your Home?
How much wood you need will depend on how large your woodstove is, how long your woodburning season is, and how dry or seasoned the wood is. Many people who heat their home with a woodstove will use anywhere from 2 to 4 cords of wood.
A cord is roughly 128 cubic feet of wood. If you were to stack it, that would be a stack of wood that is 4 feet high, 8 feet long, and 4 feet deep. This should be around 700 pieces of wood, depending on how it is cut.
Stack Your Kindling in the Woodstove
Place your kindling in the bottom of the woodstove and stack it, so there is plenty of air around it. If you criss-cross your kindling, you can place a couple of pieces of firewood right on top as long as there is plenty of air around it.
For kindling, I like to use a couple of pieces of fat sticks, available at your local hardware or online. If you don’t have fat sticks, you can use twigs and bark. Avoid using lots of newsprint or cardboard because these can cause creosote to build up inside your chimney, which can block the chimney and even cause chimney fires.
Open your flu and then carefully light your kindling. Once the kindling lights, you can close the door most of the way. Never leave the fire unattended with the door open, though.
It may take half an hour to 45 minutes for the woodstove to go from completely cold to warmed up. Then, once the fire is going, you can add another log to your fire.
It’s much easier to get the fire going if there are still lots of embers in the bottom of the woodstove from the previous fire.
How to Keep Your Fire Going All Night
If you need to keep your fire going all night, rake all of the hot coals towards the front of the woodstove. Load your largest piece of wood toward the back of the woodstove, and then fill in smaller pieces between the coals and the large piece of wood.
Don’t overload the woodstove. A fire that is too large or too hot is dangerous. Instead, you want to encourage a slow burn to last through the night.
Close the air vents into the wood stove most of the way, but allow a little bit of air in so the fire doesn’t get smothered entirely.
How to Improve the Efficiency of Your Woodstove
Bring your wood indoors at least 24 hours ahead of time. This will help your wood dry out a little more and get up to room temperature. Wood that is too cold may have trouble lighting. If you can store more than a couple of days of wood indoors, do so.
Use a heat-powered fan. Heat-powered fans are small cast-iron fans that sit on top of your woodstove. The heat rising from the woodstove turns the fan blades, which then blows the hot air in the direction you want it to go. Keep in mind that this fan will be hot when the fire is going.
A wood stove can be an inviting and comforting means of heating your home and cooking. However, you always need to take precautions to keep yourself and your family safe. Keep your woodstove well-maintained and always follow safety protocols when using it.
What shouldn’t I burn in my woodstove?
There are some things you should never put in your woodstove. Particleboard, painted or treated wood, pallets, and sapwood should never be burned in a wood stove. Most paper products should not be used for kindling or burned in a woodstove either, as they can produce toxic fumes and create dangerous creosote buildup inside the chimney.
Can a fire be too big?
Yes. A fire in your wood stove that is too large can be dangerous. Always err on the side of making a smaller fire. Keep the fire smaller by burning less wood at a time.
What else do I need for my woodstove?
You need a good set of tools to maintain the fire in your woodstove. You’ll need a poker, rake, fireplace tongs, a metal bucket, and a metal shovel for scooping ashes and embers into the bucket. You should also consider investing in a hearthrug for safety, and of course, you’ll need smoked detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.