With a chill in the air and the cozy season upon us, I thought I'd share some thoughts about wood stoves, sparked by the small-houses book I'm writing.
Nowadays, a wood-stove insert -- like the one we had installed in our small-house fireplace (above) -- or a freestanding wood stove is a far more efficient way to enjoy the warmth and glow of a wood fire than a conventional wood-burning fireplace. Current EPA standards for wood stoves mean they deliver more heat to your home and yield less particulate emissions. So you don't need to acquire, store, haul and burn as much wood, and you don't need to remove as much ash, all while you enjoy greater heat output that is gentler on the environment.
An insert like ours or a free-standing wood stove can be a good fit for open or semi-open living spaces such as those in many of the small houses featured in the book I'm writing. A wood stove can readily benefit a shared kitchen/dining/living common space and an adjoining open loft where dividing walls or ceilings don't interfere with heat transmission or view of the fire. In a cathedral ceiling space, ceiling fans can help re-circulate heat rising from a wood stove. Several homes in the small-houses book I'm writing feature European free-standing wood stoves like the RAIS Gabo or Morso 8150 that don't occupy much space and offer a simple, contemporary aesthetic. I'm also a fan of the Wittus Shaker model and the Stûv 30-compact.
Naturally, you should select the model that's configured and sized appropriately to heat your space and to accommodate the size wood you expect to burn. (I recommend using a wood stove as a secondary or intermittent heat source rather than a primary heat source.) We selected a non-catalytic American-made insert that includes a fan, which can be turned on when the stove is up to temperature to further distribute the heat. If you're considering a steel freestanding model, soap stone accents can be attractive and help store and radiate heat for a period of time after the stove has slowed or stopped burning. Of course, enameled or unenameled cast-iron stoves that are more traditional in appearance may appeal to some. However, free-standing cast-iron models tend to be larger and boxier, often rendering them poorly suited to corner locations or in front of views. Of course, there are exceptions.
This season, we've already been enjoying our wood stove insert to heat the open dining/living space in our small house. Maybe the open kitchen/dining/living space in your small house would benefit from a wood stove, too.
by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast