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Smallest wood stoves

Vogelzang Lit'L Sweetie stoveIf you're in the market for a tiny wood stove, the choices are relatively limited.  The smallest stove I've found among mainstream stores is the Vogelzang Lit'L Sweetie, $199 from Northern Tool and Equipment.  This cast iron stove is marked on their website as being eligible for the federal tax credit, which suggests that it must be efficient, but I can't seem to find any efficiency data on the internet and the model is small enough that it is exempt from EPA certification.  On the other hand, even this 19 by 25 by 23 inch stove feels too big for us since it's rated at 63,801 BTU.  Various reviews also suggest that it isn't very well put together and may leak smoke or be unsafe.

Four dog stoveMoving down to smaller stoves, you'll find the Two, Three, Four, and Five Dog Stoves.  These stoves are made for use in tents and yurts, so I find them very difficult to compare to more traditional stoves.  The Four Dog Stove ($305 once you factor in shipping) has a 15.5 by 11.5 by 24 inch firebox and "will heat up a 14' X 16' wall tent at -30".  Its smaller siblings heat progressively smaller spaces.  All of the stoves in the Four Dog line have baffles and an airtight gasketed door, which make the stoves more efficient and safer while also concentrating heat on a hot spot on the surface for cooking.  On the negative side, the stoves are light-weight with walls made of 3/32 inch hot rolled steel, no fire bricks, and aren't designed to preheat their combustion air, so they lack some efficiency and maybe longevity.  I wonder if it would be possible to take a Four Dog Stove (which I suspect might be too big for us) and retrofit it with fire bricks to turn it into a more efficient model with a smaller firebox.

Jotul F 602 wood stoveIf we want to spend an arm and a leg, the Jotul F 602 is just the right size for us, with a 19 by 12.5 inch firebox (with a guestimated third dimension of around 16 inches) and a heat output of 28,000 BTU.  Due to its baffles, the stove is 75% efficient, has low emissions of 5.2 g/hr, and is eligible for the federal tax credit.  The price seems to be a bit harder to figure out, but one review lists it at $700 (which would end up costing us $490 after the tax credit.)  One website notes that this model is "alcove approved", perhaps because of its heat shield, which makes me wonder if it might be the safest of the options to put in a mobile home.  The Jotul stove even has a cookplate on top, which is something I'm yearning for as a backup cooking option.

I estimate that any of these stoves would cut our wood use (and the associated labor) at least in half.  However, we would have to install one stove in the trailer and another one in the East Wing, so the up front cost would be pretty steep.  I'm pondering a Two Dog Stove in the tiny East Wing ($240) and a Jotul F 602 or Four Dog Stove in the trailer, and am counting on spending a few more hundred dollars on associated hardware for the safest installation (and we might even splurge beyond that to pay for a professional to install the stove in the trailer.)  If we went the most expensive but most efficient route (the Jotul), it would probably take us about six years to pay back the cost through wood savings, whereas we'd pay ourselves back in five years using the cheaper option.

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This post is part of our Wood Stove lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:



Trailersteading

Edited to add:


Learn how to safely install an energy-efficient wood stove in a moibile home in
Trailersteading.  Now available for $1.99 on Amazon.




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Consider what you'll have at the end of five years. Jotuls have kept scandinavians warm for what, a century?

We got our Jotul at auction for $150, slightly used. Have you checked craig's list and Iwanna?

Comment by Errol Thu Nov 11 12:29:52 2010
We've found great information about my mom's small wood stove on Small Cabin forums. Many people use them to heat hunting cabins and the like. Check out some of the posts at http://www.small-cabin.com/forum might pick up something that helps.
Comment by Fostermamas Thu Nov 11 13:42:06 2010
Yeah, I think we're sold on Jotul, but on a much smaller version than I've been finding when I search for used stoves. It looks like if you want something as small as we want, you have to get it new. But it does seem to pay for itself in just a few years in lower wood use even when compared to using a larger version of the same stove bought used.
Comment by anna Thu Nov 11 13:42:58 2010

I'm very interested in your ongoing research. We only have a need for heat about 1-2 months in the year, but considering that we currently have an electric powered furnace that is VERY ineffiecient, it still might be worth the switch. We're in a pretty small trailer, too, so it's nice to know that there are some options for wood heating.

This isn't something that I've looked into much, I think because I am afraid of the high initial cost of switching over.

Comment by Sara Thu Nov 11 13:52:06 2010
It's been a while since I was able to drop by and I'm thoroughly enjoying your thoroughness. One of my farmer friends has a wood stove and I've been very impressed by how efficiently it heats their home.
Comment by Eliza Thu Nov 11 14:35:34 2010

Sara --- If you can hold out, you might follow Arthur's advice and shop this coming summer. That might help you find a good deal that would make it more worth your while. Jotul has a fun fuel calculator at http://www.jotul.com/en-us/wwwjotulus/Tools/Fuel-Calculator/ that helps you estimate how much you'd save per year on fuel costs by switching to wood, which should make it easier to crunch the numbers and see if the up front investment in a more efficient wood stove is worth the switch.

Eliza --- I'm glad you're back! Wood stoves certainly do put off a lot of heat, and they survive power outages. Last week's 10 day outage really put the fear of lack of electricity into us. :-)

Comment by anna Thu Nov 11 15:20:10 2010

While price is certainly a factor, I don't think it should be the most important. My old (gas) stove was 23 years old when I replaced it. A shove without moving parts should be able to last as long as that, I'd think. So a break-even time of six years is no big deal.

Remember that it can be very expensive to buy cheap! You get what you pay for, as the saying goes.

BTW, WRT cast iron stoves, woodstoveguide.net is quite critical of them. It claims that the cement seams in cast iron stoves are easily damaged by overheating. I think he's got a point. The welds in a steel body would be just as heat resistant as the original steel. And I don't think the 1/4" steel walls that they recommend would warp easily.

Comment by Roland_Smith Thu Nov 11 15:24:14 2010
Fostermamas --- Thanks for the link! I really liked the ideas on that site --- very down to earth and safe without being expensive.
Comment by anna Thu Nov 11 16:29:03 2010

"...even this 19 by 25 by 23 inch stove feels too big for us since it's rated at 63,801 BTU."

I have heated with wood all my life, and in everything from tiny cabins to mobile homes to vans to my current 4500 square foot off-the-grid three-story house. If the stove is physically too large for the available area, then it's too large. But those ratings are always inflated, and under perfect conditions with the very best dry hardwood fuel. Remember, you don't have to fill the fire box! Smaller fires produce less BTUs.

The best stove I ever owned was cast iron with an enamelled tin shell around it. The air-flow was excellent.

BTW, the cheapest and most effective way to increase the heat output from your stove is to add more exposed stove-pipe. You'll have to clean the pipe more often, but you'll have far less heat escaping into the atmosphere. A small fan blowing on that extra pipe is like adding another stove, without using more wood.

In my experience, the key to successful country life is to scratch your head a lot rather than spending more money.

Shas

Comment by Shas Fri Jan 6 00:31:35 2012

While you can build a small fire in a big stove, there are limits, and you get maximum efficiency by building a fire of the recommended size. We ended up getting two Jotuls --- one for the trailer and one for our 160 square foot addition. The Jotul is just right in the trailer, but is really too big in the well-insulated addition. Even if we only make a tiny fire, it gets far too hot in there nearly immediately if we use the wood stove when the outside temperature is above freezing. That makes me pretty sure that the Litl' Sweetie, with an output over twice that of the Jotul, would have been very hard to manage to keep us warm without overheating in the trailer.

I think what you have to keep in mind is that we're talking about truly small spaces here. Our trailer is only 500 square feet (and we really only heat about half of that since I like it cold when I sleep and we don't use the office all that much.)

Usually, we're entirely with you about thinking more rather than spending more, but these highly efficient wood stoves have cut our wood consumption in half while increasing the warmth of our home. This is one of the few expensive items I wish we'd bought earlier.

Comment by anna Fri Jan 6 09:00:38 2012

Dear Blogger, I am also seeking the smallest of wood stoves - Our near net zero house is under construction and I have not yet found a small wood boiler for under $1000. I need something like 30,000 to 40,000 BTU. I have looked and looked and cannot find a small, high-efficiency wood boiler. I am amazed - why are mobile homes not needing such an appliance - why is there no market for a wood-fired small boiler capable of replacing the hot water tank in our homes... Thanks LT

Comment by Lyndon Tue Jan 31 13:41:47 2012
When you say "boiler", it sounds like you mean some kind of water heater? I've read up on heating water automatically with wood stoves, and it seems problematic. Just putting a pot on top seems to work well for us --- much safer.
Comment by anna Tue Jan 31 19:37:01 2012

The smallest wood stove that I know of is made for use in very tight spaces. It isn't cheap by a long shot but it is interesting to see what can be done. Check out the Solid Fuel Stove at Dickinson Marine http://www.dickinsonmarine.com/Specsheets/SolidFuel-2008.pdf.

In terms of using small stoves, one thing you can do with small, lightweight stoves is to surround them with stacked brick, leaving a bit of an airspace and gaps in the lower bricks for airflow. It adds thermal mass so just running a brief hot fire for maximum burning efficiency of the stove heats the mass for slow dissipation of the heat later. Incidentally, when it comes to heat storage, water offers the highest amount of heat storage per unit volume so a big pot of water on the top of the stove will help a lot....

You might want to talk to a welding shop to see what they would charge you to build you a simple small box stove with baffle or baffles and pre-heated air intake. Made of lighter 1/8" steel (or whatever they have lying around as scrap) and lined with fire brick you might just save yourself some money and get exactly what you want.

Comment by James Wed Feb 1 22:25:11 2012

I did look into stoves meant for sailboats, but they're expensive. (I mean, even the efficient Jotul we chose was pretty pricey, but the marine ones are obscene.)

We considered getting a four dog stove (plate metal, no insulation) and stacking bricks like you suggested. It probably would have worked to, but I'm in love with our Jotul, so I wouldn't change a thing. :-)

I like the idea of keeping a pot of water on the stove! I see a lot of people doing that, but didn't make the leap to realize it would act as thermal mass when I let the stove go out at night.

Comment by anna Thu Feb 2 08:08:39 2012
Have you considered a d.i.y. option? You may want to check out Milkwood.net Permaculture farming and living website "Rocket Stove Water Heater redux." That is for an outdoor shower, but I don't see why you couldn't have the plumbing deliver the water inside. For a much more limited solution (i.e., instant (almost) hot water for coffee, coco in the workshop/shed) check out Hybrid Rocket Stove Parts 1 through 3 on You Tube. Make sure to see the third one where he figures out the solution to his problem! Best of luck, Taril
Comment by Taril Wright Sun Jul 15 19:40:45 2012
Taril --- We don't really use enough hot water to make a specific system just for it. Maybe a gallon a day? We just heat a little bit up on the electric stove when we need it at the moment, which is plenty for dishes and bathing.
Comment by anna Mon Jul 16 15:00:45 2012

Have you thought about surrounding the Jotul with thermal mass. You might be able to manage the overall heat, especially in the well insulated annex. I suspect it would also lower wood consumption, but I'd also guess that you would need to ignite a new fire each day.

I used a small jotul for 4 or five years to heat a 640 sq ft house. I always had to get up to add wood in the wee hours. Looking back I believe if I had added thermal mass, and burnt at a higher rate, the residual heat would have held until morning.

I live in New England, and the house's temperature on cold days was uneven, and thermal mass would have helped there too. We eventually went to a larger stove with a 10 + hour burn.

Comment by Gerry Thu Oct 25 09:27:59 2012
Check out The Hobbit stove from Salamander Stoves in Devon, England. We just put one in our 33' 5th wheel trailer and have been very toasty and warm even when it's freezing outside (we're in the California mountains in the winter). Delivered to our doorstep for less money than most of the others, and aesthetically quite beautiful. Check 'em out!
Comment by Anonymous Sat Feb 23 11:46:59 2013

checkout sardine stoves, made by marine stove. they have 3 sizes, are cast iron, have enamel options, optional glass doors, lightweight, affordable, and gorgeous. I hope I can buy one soon. one even has an oven: http://www.marinestove.com/sardineinfo.htm

Comment by Anonymous Sun Mar 24 21:50:23 2013

We recently bought a Hobbit for our tiny house build. It looks like a really well made stove, however the 4" diameter wood stove pipe and insulated chimney you need to install it safely is EXTREMELY difficult to find, and will double the cost of your stove installation. I've seen some people try to install these with pellet stove pipe, which is NOT THE SAME THING and can cause dangerous zinc fumes to burn off into your home.

We ordered 5' of chimney pipe that was damaged by FedEx in shipping. I just posted it on Ebay. We paid over $350 for this, so you can get yourself a super deal if you don't mind the dings. This is also what you need if you're trying to do a cabin installation of a marine stove by Navigator or Shipmate.

Here's the link to the chimney on Ebay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Selkirk-High-Temp-Model-HT-4-Insulated-Chimney-/151026956435?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2329e87893

Thanks! We really enjoy your blog.

Esther

Comment by Esther Fredrickson Mon Apr 15 13:24:58 2013
You can also add http://graystoveworks.com/ to the list. USA made, and from the example I saw in person, very, very, very well made. We are selling our insert, and a washing machine to help pay for one.
Comment by Matthew Mon Aug 11 19:33:43 2014

Hi folks,

I'm planning to move to Mongolia next year, and although I grew up with a woodstove as our only source of heat, I really know nothing about them. I'm looking for a small, not super super heavy (if that's possible) wood stove that doesn't have to be fed firewood every half an hour like the Mongolian ones (just maybe 1/4" steel welded, not insulated). I'd like to not have to get up every couple of hours in the night to put ore logs on.

Also need to be able to cook on it - would be used in either a yurt, or a small cabin. The winters are long and cold there, with temps down to -40, so I need something that meets these needs and so I don't go through as much wood there, and will keep me warm. I'll actually use it all year round since I will have to cook on it. I head something about cast iron stoves cracking if you try to boil frozen water on them, so maybe steel is better?

I appreciate any advice! And oh... I can't afford a really expensive one.

Comment by Cheri Tue Sep 23 02:19:41 2014