Wood Stove Features and Accessories
Choosing the right wood stove for your small space means making sure the stove you choose has all the features you need for your small space.
Wood stove efficiency can be difficult to compare across models. Not every stove has a published efficiency rating, and those that do are not all reporting the same measurement. Learn more about small wood stove efficiency. However, efficient wood stoves tend to have a few features in common.
Hotter fires are more efficient fires. One of the best ways to help a fire burn hotter is to surround the firebox with refractory insulation. Look for a firebox lined with firebrick or ceramic fiber insulation.
Secondary Air Supply
Providing oxygen to the top of the firebox will help fuel to burn more completely and efficiently. For best results, look for a stove that has separate air controls for primary and secondary air, and a tertiary air wash to keep the glass clean.
A baffle is a piece of metal between the top of the firebox and the top of the stove that causes the flue gases to travel horizontally before exiting the flue system.
Adding a baffle to the top of the firebox gives flammable gases more time to burn completely before escaping the stove, and helps to improve heat transfer from the stove into your living space.
Stoves with airtight construction like Dwarf Stoves are easier to control with the built-in air controls, and slow flue gases down to give them a chance to radiate into your living space. Not only does an airtight stove give you longer burn times, but you'll get more usable heat with less fuel.
Moderate Clearance Requirements
Moderate clearance requirements (10" to 20") can indicate a good balance between compact installation and good heat transfer. For tight spaces, wall clearances can be reduced by up to 2/3. Read more about how to reduce stove clearances with heat shields.
Very small clearances (6" or less) can suggest that a stove may be highly efficient at converting fuel to heat, but most of that heat goes up the chimney instead of into your living space.
Longer burn times mean less work to keep a fire going in your wood stove. Larger wood stoves may even be able to keep a fire going all night, though selecting too large a stove for your space will make it an impractical heater. Learn more about how to choose the right size stove for a tiny space.
Burn time can vary quite a bit between similar sized stoves, but a few features are helpful for extending your burn time as long as possible.
Stoves with relatively open air controls tend to burn wood hot and fast, and can be difficult or impossible to slow down. If a stove's manual requires the addition of a damper in the flue system, that's often a good indication that the stove is not very airtight.
Stoves with airtight construction like Dwarf Stoves are easier to control and slow down burn rates, so you can achieve up to 5-10 hours of burn time depending on the model, air settings, and your fuel choice.
Separate Air Controls
The ability to independently control the air supply to different areas of your firebox is the key to getting the longest possible burn times without smoldering. Wood fires burn most efficiently when primarily fed with air from the top (secondary air). Too much air from the bottom (primary air) can cause the coal bed to burn itself out prematurely.
The upside-down fire method can produce the longest possible wood burn times in a small stove, but it only works if your stove has independent primary vs secondary air controls. Learn more about getting long burn times with the upside-down fire method.
While burning anthracite coal is not for everyone, it does provide much longer burn times than is possible when burning wood. If you want to use anthracite coal for extended burn times, make sure the stove you select is capable of burning coal, and has features like a coal bar, riddling grate, and independent air controls needed to maintain a deep coal bed.
Fire Viewing Window and Air Wash
If you want to enjoy the experience of watching a fire in your wood stove, you'll want a model with a good sized fire viewing window.
Cleaning the window of a wood stove is a fairly straightforward task prior to starting each fire. See wood stove maintenance for more information on cleaning stove glass. However, keeping the stove glass clean while the fire is burning can vary depending on whether your stove has a good air wash.
An air wash is an air intake located above the stove glass, which coats the inside of the glass with a layer of fresh air. Stoves like the Dwarf Stove will also have a manifold, which helps to distribute the air wash evenly over the surface of the glass.
Without a good air wash, stove glass is not very useful. Creosote from the fire box will tend to block out the glass fairly quickly after starting a fire, and cleaning between burns will be a much more difficult chore.
If you plan to use your stove for cooking, or if you just want to keep the option available in case of emergency, you will want to take the size and availability of the cooking surface into account.
Some small stoves are designed for heating only, and do not offer any cooking surface. Others have a relatively small top cooking surface that would work well for a small kettle or pan, but would not be sufficiently large for cooking complete meals. Still others, like the Dwarf Stove, offer a rear exit option to make keep entire top surface of the stove available for cooking, which will allow you to fit a medium sized cast iron skillet or dutch oven.
If you want to use your stove for baking or roasting, other accessories may be required. A preheated dutch oven can be used for baking some items, but others may require the use of an oven attachment.
Outside Air Supply
Wood stoves exhaust all their combustion air outside, so they need to have a sufficient fresh air supply to function. If your space is relatively airtight, or if you just want to avoid cold drafts, you may want to connect the air intake of your stove to an outside air supply.
Accessories like the Dwarf Direct-Air Intake allow your wood stove's air intakes to be hard-piped to an outside air supply. Giving your stove its own air supply ensures that adequate air is available for combustion, even if your building is relatively airtight. Other styles of air intake may simply open up an air supply near your stove, which could allow cold outside air to enter your living space.
If your stove is not connected to an outside air supply, then it is using your pre-heated room air for combustion. Any air that's used from inside the room needs to be replaced with air leaking in from outside, so a wood stove can sometimes create cold drafts near leaky windows and doors. To avoid drafts, connecting your stove to its own outside air supply is a good option even if your living space is not airtight.
Stove Mounting Accessories
It's often easier to stoke and view the fire in a small wood stove if it's raised closer to seated eye level. Very small stoves can also look somewhat awkward if they're installed on the floor, so most people choose to elevate their tiny stoves off the ground.
Dwarf Stoves have available tall legs and wood storage stand accessories that can be used to elevate your stove for a nicer freestanding installation. The wood storage stand can also be stacked with the standard legs or the tall legs for even more height and a slightly different aesthetic.
Wall mount kits are not currently available for Dwarf stoves, but wall mounting is an option for some of the smaller tiny stoves on the market.