What size stove do I need for my small space?
To properly size a stove to your home, it’s best to use the BTU output of the stove as a guide. Stove manufacturers like to list square footage numbers in their product descriptions, but those numbers are mostly meaningless. A small space in Alaska has very different heating requirements than the same space in Texas. A cabin with six-inch spray foam walls will have very different heating needs than a yurt with canvas walls.
Plug your space into our online BTU calculator and see what you get. For primary or emergency heat, find a stove whose output falls into that range. It’s best to choose the smallest stove that can adequately heat your space through the coldest day of the Winter. Any larger, and you won’t be able to build a hot, clean and efficient fire without overheating your space.
If you’re using your stove purely for supplemental heat or ambiance, you may want to size it a little smaller, which will allow you to use it more frequently throughout the year without overheating your space.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT STOVE
Once you have decided on the size of stove that best fits your space, you can look at the small stoves that are available in that size, and choose your favorite design.
If you plan to use the stove for cooking, design features like a cooking surface large enough for a pan can be useful. Stoves that have an available rear exit will often have a larger cooking surface than those that only have a top exit. A bake oven accessory can also be useful for cooking if it’s available in the size stove that fits your space, or a dutch oven can be placed on the stove top for baking and roasting.
A large fire viewing window can vastly improve the ambiance that wood heat brings to your space. Wood stoves with no windows will heat just as well, but lack the romance that dancing firelight adds to a space. Wood stoves with large windows that don’t have an air wash feature will quickly become covered in soot, will be difficult to clean, and are hardly any better than no window at all.
Other stove accessories like wood storage stands and long legs can be a functional and aesthetic improvement to your space. Elevating the fire box makes it easier to stoke the fire without having to bend over too much, and can bring the fire viewing window closer to eye level when seated. Very small stoves can look out of place if they’re installed directly on the floor, so you may consider building a cabinet or platform for them to set on.
Availability of other stove accessories can also be an important factor in your decision. If you have a small and relatively airtight space, is an accessory available to connect the stove directly to an outside air supply? If you’d like to connect the stove to radiators for hydronic heat, is there a water boiler attachment available?
VET THE VENDOR
A wood stove is a significant investment that you’re going to be living with for many years, so you’ll want to be confident that the company you’re buying it from will provide the support you need.
Once you’ve narrowed your choice of stove down to a few candidates, it’s worthwhile to contact each company to ask a few questions. Tell them about your space, and ask for their feedback about your plans. How responsive are they to your questions? Do they also carry the parts that you need for a safe installation? Are they willing and able to help you with your design, and make sure you order the right parts? If your stove is damaged in transit or if you have a warranty issue, do you get the impression that the company will do everything they can to make it right?