A wood stove in suburbia

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This topic contains 25 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  74 2 months, 2 weeks ago.

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    Osito Arelano

    Since our house is fairly modern, all of our heat is from a central furnace. No power means no  heat. With the recent cold snap, the reality of what no furnace meant in temps below zero was, umm, enlightening….

    So, I have been evaluating wood stoves.

    Here’s the train of thought…if it’s a short term problem, I have a propane heater. If It’s a long term problem, I have a problem. Hence looking at wood stoves.

    The dilemma is, how much retrofitting can I afford to do. Not much.

    I found that there are several inexpensive (relatively) tiny house stoves that would do in a pinch to at least keep the main living area warm. The downside seems to be these stoves are not “certified”.

    I reallly liked the cubic mini grizzly you can mount on a wall. No need to tear up the floor! Have to cut a hole in the roof or the wall no matter what, so I expect that.

    All the wood stove experts on woodstove forums have a fit about these tiny, uncertified, stoves.

    I don’t know what I don’t know. So I’m sending up a flare. I figure you fine folks might have some ideas.

    How important is it for a wood stove to be “EPA certified”? The EPA certification means nothing to me if it is anything like the certifications handed out for car emmisions.

    The cubic mini looks safe. I mean, it shouldn’t explode or anything. The biggest risk is not properly ventilated, or too close to combustbles. That’s applicable to any wood stove I believe.

    My alternative was the tiniest Jotul I could find. I love the hobbit stove, but they don’t sell in the US.

    Feedback welcome.



    Have you ever had a wood stove or used one before?  What about wood supply?  I used to use a wood stove for several years but I’m not the one who put it in.  You have to be careful about creosote buildup in the chimney.  And different kinds of wood burn differently.  I used to burn maple and birch mainly.  I know nothing about certification.  Maybe we didn’t have to do it then.

    Some people around here make a stove out of a 55 gallon drum and put sand in the bottom.  I think there is a kit at Lehman’s for it.  I’ve seen some soapstone stoves that were gorgeous but expensive.  Mine was cast iron.  We had a stove board under it and I believe it had asbestos under the metal- don’t even know if you could find that now.   I will leave the technical questions to someone else.


    Osito Arelano

    @woodsrunner  Yes i have some experience with wood stoves. We had one in the outbuilding where I grew up. But, it was not modern, and I didn’t do the loading and maintaining of it. So I guess my adult knowledge is purely academic.

    I really was trying to avoid a DIY stove. I do not have the tools or the skills to work with metal.


    Crow Bar

    The more modern designs have “rebreathers” built into them.

    They re-introduce air into the upper section of the firebox to burn off the unburnt gases, making them more efficient.  Realistically, you want to see no smoke coming out the the chimney.  No smoke means a complete and total burn of all the gases.  Now, that is assuming seasoned wood, proper chimney draw, etc.

    I have two.

    One is a furnace providing heat via HVAC.  BUT!  We have had when the power went out, keeping it going prevented the pipes from freezing, and the first floor warm.

    The second is a stand alone wood stove, no HVAC.  It is small, and hindsight I wish we would of gotten a larger one.  It has a realistic burn time of about 5 hours.  Had we got the next size up, the burn time would of been closer to 8 hours or stock it at 10pm and not have to worry about it till the next morning.

    Additionally, I would look into purpose built wood stoves to cook on.  We had a old cast iron stove that was great, except it had a very small fire box.  But once it was hot, I could make pasta on it easily.

    In short, I would recommend to go one bigger than what you think you need.


    Osito Arelano

    @crowbar  Interesting, I have read a lot of recommendations to go smaller than you think you need. Something about if it gets too hot you’re cooking. Having lived in a place with radiator heat where the boiler got stuck running 24/7 I remember opening the windows in January to keep from dying.

    The little grizzly looks virtually smokeless. One reviewer even commented he kept thinking his fire had gone out. So that’s a plus.

    Sometimes too many options is not a good thing. Whatever I settle on will be what I have for a long long time, so I’m trying to not get a lemon.

    Modern catalytic wood burners get mixed reviews. More parts to replace?



    If your building a house in a cold climate , you might consider what is called the ” Russian stove ” or ” Finnish heater ” , as well as other names . Its a masonry stove / heater . They are massive , but once up to temperature , they require very little wood , to keep them there . They use all the exhaust to heat , very efficient , much more so than any other variants . In centuries past , the house was literally built around the stove , the stove actually forms some of the interior walls in some designs .


    Crow Bar

    @Osito Arelano,

    For me, the size was less about the amount of heat it could put out, and more about the burn time.

    Having to get up in the middle of the night to load up the fire box is something of a chore.  Be nice to load it at 10pm and not have to think about it till next morning.  And then still have embers/coal bed to work with to get it going again vs having to restart the fire all over.

    IF I had the money, I would of gone with one of these:  http://www.vermontcastings.com/


    James Mitchner

    Its wise to have some means of alternative heat.  We have a woodstove that sits on the fireplace hearth and uses the existing chimney. We only use it if we loose power in the winter or sometimes when we get a patch of frigid temps.  I think the certification may entail a UL listing to satisfy some insurance companies.  Commercially manufactured stoves would have that, I imagine, as opposed to the homemade stoves.  The EPA also got involved with the wood stove industry.  Our’s has a catalytic feature as Crowbar mentioned that is designed to help it burn cleaner.

    Don’t overlook propane heaters or natural gas heaters.  Even if you don’t have a fireplace, ventless heaters can be installed on a wall and supplied by an outside tank.



    It has been  many years since I was even around a wood burning stove and that was also used to cook on. My great uncle lived off grid and that is all he used. I have a fireplace that needs work right now as I am not using it till I get it checked out. It needs some work and I want to fix it to cook in as well. I do know that pine is not good to burn in a wood stove nor a fireplace. You can buy things to burn in the fireplace to help prevent creosote buildup. We use it in the fireplace. It has helped but been awhile since we used it. Our house is heated by baseboard gas heat. But if we loose electric then we have no themistate. So would not be able to maintain temps. Looking at the possibility of putting that on solar but still working on getting the air conditioner replaced. Once that is done and we have the themistate changed over to one to control both heat and air. I want to get that switched to solar to run both heat and air. Not sure how we will do that yet. We have a non vented gas heater in garage for when I am washing clothes. It does not require a vent and works really well.


    Loving Life

    I recently built a house in UpState New York (very cold winters). I heat my house almost exclusively with a wood stove (I have electric baseboards as backup).

    Yes, @crowbar I have a Vermont Castings Defiant. I love that stove for many reasons. I can load it at night and it is still going when I wake up. Also, I can cook on it. Cooking on a wood stove is not as easy as it sounds, but with a little practice, you can make the basics.

    Besides the wood stove, you have to look at your wood source. Do you have access to sufficient wood? Burning seasoned hardwood is best.


    John Park

    Our woodstove is burning right now.  It is our “back up” heat source as we lose power with some regularity.  In truth, it is the primary heat source Friday night to Monday morning, then it is usually left alone during the week as we are too busy with work to tend it.
    A few thoughts:
    1) A woodstove is wonderful. One with a cooking top is even better.
    In today’s modern/tight homes, you may well need a “cold air intake” in order to get proper draw through the stove – this involves a pipe (double walled is best) from outside of your house, through the wall, and into the back of the stove.  Otherwise the stove tries to pull air into itself to burn, via drawing through any cracks around windows and such.  Modern homes are often too airtight, and so the fire doesn’t burn well.
    2) Firewood really needs to be seasoned – usually until it “checks” (starts cracking at the end).  You want to use hardwood (maple, ash, oak, birch, beech), as softwood (pine, spruce, etc) causes too much creosote to build up.
    3) Firewood is a prep in itself.  You’ll need a shed.  If you’re just worried about a week or so, you won’t need more than a cord.  But if you are thinking EMP prep – you’ll need a bunch of wood (my shed holds 7 cords – it wouldn’t get me through a full winter if it was my only source… unless we restricted ourselves to 1 room).
    Then comes firewood tools – chainsaw (look for a class on how to be safe – like “game of logging”) maul, and again axe and crosscut saw if you’re thinking long term grid down (yes, I’ve gone that far 😉  ).
    4) If you are not going to get a regular woodstove, you might consider a “tent stove”.  These are woodstoves designed to go inside “wall tents”.  Having said that, you still need a hearth to place it on, and probably one behind it.  These are pretty affordable at any stove store.
    5) CAVEAT – there are rules and regulations, I would not dream of using anything other than a professionally installed stove – unless it were a SHTF scenario.  Saving money on heating isn’t worth burning your home down and killing your family.

    I’m not trying to be a downer, but just expressing how deep the rabbit hole goes.  It’s one thing to buy a tent stove and some extra piping, and read up/prep how to run the chimney out a window… and then never use it unless SHTF.
    In any other situation, from regular use, to hurricane power outage, I would have a professional installation.
    If finances are an issue, maybe consider buying the stove in year 1, then in year 2 buy the hearth and backing and chimney, in year 3 get it hooked up and the chimney placed?

    Good luck with whatever you decide!


    Loving Life

    Oh my! @johnpark makes it seem so difficult to safely a wood stove.

    @osito. I don’t think it is as hard as @johnpark makes it seem. Poor little old me (single female 50s) heats her house almost exclusively with her wood stove. You can retrofit your house, even a modern house. Financially you may need to do it in steps. I put in my Vermont Castings (with a 25’+ chimney pipe etc for under $10k, the piping and it’s installation was the most expensive). You might do a smaller stove for much less and maybe do in phases with a smaller stove for much less.

    The bigger issue is the wood. Depending upon your wood sources, you can also have wood delivered. Before I moved to UpState NY, I lived outside Philadelphia PA and had wood delivered annually for my wood fireplace. My fireplace was sufficient to keep the living room and a few surrounding rooms heated very nicely. If the SHTF, I could easily have survived one winter.

    Not sure why @johnpark thinks you need a shed to store your wood as no one in my area stores their wood in a shed. I would like to know the reasoning. I season and store my wood in covered stacks. My extended family has done the same for generations. Chainsaw safety isn’t that big a deal. Now climbing a tree etc that is a little more tricky.

    Ok I am really flummoxed about @johnpark needing over 7 cords to heat his house! Oh my! I have to wonder how big his house is to need that much wood. Utilizing my wood stove, I heat my house 90% of the fall/winter/spring using less than 3 cords for the entire year! I also live in Up State NY where it gets really cold. I would suggest that @johnpark check his insulation. For any house, your insulation is an easy fix to help save on energy.

    Good luck with your project. Keep us updated 🙂


    Osito Arelano

    Thank you @john park and @Loving Life

    Yes, I’m aware of the risks of just willy nilly installing a wood stove. One reason we don’t have one yet.  🙂

    I agree, keeping wood cut is a lot of work. We used covered wood piles when I was a kid too. But I do also know people that prefer the wood shed.

    @Loving Life I admired the vermont castings stoves. But I don’t have 10k to toss at something that I don’t plan on using every winter.

    If it is a SHTF scenario, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a lot of firewood around here. Too much has been cleared for farmland. But at the same time, in SHTF where you going to get propane for a heater?

    In my mind, a wood stove has more potential for most scenarios. But it’s so expensive.I have also looked at tent stoves, they look about the same as the little Jotul, but I could be wrong.


    1. You can get coal Inserts for fire places, cheap and easy to store totally anti environment.  When installing wood stoves biggest problems are roof penetration,  using standard stuff is not in your best interest, going to heavier pipe same diameter is way better ie 8 Inch shedual 40 pipe 5/16 thickness. The roof penetration insulate with thermo 12 hard Insulation, or preformed rock wool to pipe diameter size then cover it with a stainless steel jacket. The standard caps and roof crickets will still fit. The pipe can be cut down and welded in  place for ease of install or if you want and have  equipment lowered through hole in roof in one piece.


    Why go so heavy? Chimney fires, once you do this you can sleep without care of fires. The pipe will never burn out no matter  how hot you get wood stove or have a cresote fire. The insulation on there should be MIn  1 1/2 thick wall. You can find the lenths you need at Industrial insulation shop. The  binder may smoke first few times but once set the pipe can get 1600 degrees inside and  you can put your hand on the outside jacket. This is how Industrial boilers are vented think steel foundries and aluminum smelter, pulp mills. The piping is more expensive but a one time and forever cost, standard to code stove pipe is so thin if you ever have a fire it can collapse. One of biggest causes of fire is chimney fires, even if past point  that insurance matters, where in shft will you get new piping? Plus with this set up burning greener wood is not an issue as chimney fire  does absolutely  nothing  expecially if onto a metal roof.


    We do have hard woods, but mostly burn pine and cedar as easiest to salvage from clear cut piles, plus easier on chainsaws.

    If you really want to cook on it you can find old pio eer stoves made by Amish called pioneer princess, get the extra hot water heaters as hot water is a huge bonus when nothing works all gravity fed just cloth wrap the drain handle or extend it like we  did to avoid scalding your hands. The cooking temp marked are for birch and maple seasoned wood,  baking is a snap has warming  trays to keep food warm or reheat.  We have the grill top so we can do breakfast restaraunt style 2 kg bacon 12 pancakes has browns and dozen eggs  at once. When done there are scrapers and run offs to clean while hot like professional cook top in restaraunt.


    As for amount of wood we store 17 chords a year, it’s used to warm houses, shop, 3 barns and green house,  the barns, greenhouse and shop are with rocket stove mass heaters so no flame once you are gone but still keeps heat for up to 2 days above 0 c in up to-40c. Excellent insulation is must we do most building to r 60 walls and roof. The green house you need to heat rockets stove mass heater everyday as greenhouse has  poor Insulation value.


    Also the stainless steel top in the pioneer princess is easier to clean.


    To add wood to princess we have a tool for opening the top burners, and stick wood in that way rather than through door on fire box.

    The only problem is in summer as it gets too hot I house, we are building a new outdoor kitchen this summer, will have smokehouse, bbq, wok  wood fired or coal. There is also running water and counter space sinks and propane heaters for canning outside in covered bug netted area.











    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by  namelus.

    John Park

    Loving Life, I didn’t mean to sound histrionic, but only to emphasize that there are different levels of firewood prep.
    It’s one thing to have a small emergency supply, as opposed to a full winter’s worth for SHTF.  It’s rather like emergency food I suppose, you can have a few weeks stored up, a few months, or a few years – all depending upon how crazy you want to get about it.
    I live in the mountains if Vermont, I cannot imagine it is much colder than upstate NY, and our house is well insulated, but if I were to require firewood as the only heat source, plus cooking source, from October to May – and tried to keep more than the main room warm, I would need more firewood than I can store just in the woodshed.

    Namelus, your set up sounds amazing!  Do you regularly clean the chimneys due to the use of softwood, or do you just let the chimney fires happen and burn it up?

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