The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Stove pipe fans

Vozelgang Stove Pipe FanOur original plan for getting heat out of the wood stove alcove included one of those nifty stove pipe fans, which are designed to turn on when the stove pipe heats up, blowing the hot air into the room.  You can find a couple of different kinds on the internet, where they go by names ranging from "Magic Heat Reclaimer" to the more simple "Stove Pipe Heat Reclaimer" and cost anywhere from $100 to nearly $200.

However, after some online research and then looking at the real fan in the store, we decided against the stove pipe fan.  The model sold at Tractor Supply says right on the box that it's not suitable for use with an efficient stove, and various reviews on the internet note that the fan reduces the stove's draft and causes excessive creosote buildup in the pipe.  In addition --- and here we admit to being a bit lazy --- the fan doesn't wrap around an existing pipe the way we thought it would.  Instead, you have to take apart your chimney, cut the stove pipe sections to size, and then install the fan as one of the pipe sections.  Since we went to a lot of trouble to get our stove pipe straight and beautiful with no cutting, we're not willing to take it back apart to install a fan that looks like it would make our stove work improperly.

Magic heat reclaimerThere do seem to be a few applications where the stove pipe heat reclaimers make sense, so I thought I'd post in case some of you were considering a similar purchase.  If you're burning coal, you might be okay --- the higher heat fires and lack of creosote in the smoke delete some of the potential pitfalls of the stove pipe fan.  Also, if you're running a really inefficient stove, you're probably sending a lot of heat up the chimney pipe and might want to try to reclaim it even if the fan messes with other parts of your stove.  For our own application, though, Mark's on the prowl for a small, metal-bladed fan that he can mount on the front ceiling of the alcove to do the same job for less cash and no impact on our princess's job performance.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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You can get vane axial fans like the ones used in electrical and electronic panels that run on very little electricity. Some are metal, most are thermal plastic and come in many sizes. For your use, one of 4 to 6 inches mounted at or near the ceiling would be more than enough to move the heated air in that space, out into your living space. You can run them off a thermostat or just turn them on and off as desired. You can get them at any electric outlet or radio shack and they don't cost much.

Another idea is to take a regular box fan and have it blow into the space while sitting on the floor. It is a bit inconvenient for efficient use of space but it works and moves more air. Slow speed would be more than enough.

Comment by Vester Sat Dec 25 10:55:38 2010
Good ideas! So, the box fan would work by blowing cold air from the lower parts of the house into the alcove, which would force hot air out the top, right? That kinda makes sense, and I like the simplicity (and the amount of air moved.)
Comment by anna Sat Dec 25 14:16:01 2010

table fan made out of metal that oscillates
This is the fan I'm thinking of at the moment.

The Ace hardware website calls it a 12 inch Retro table fan.

It oscillates, it's metal, and it cost 40 bucks.

I've got a few different thoughts on how to mount it.

Comment by mark Sat Dec 25 14:24:41 2010

Instead of looking at heating the air, look at how to get the IR radiation out of the alcove.

Generally radiant heat does more for comfort than heating the air, especially if you can get the walls to warm up. Besides, air is a very poor transport medium for heat.

I've been in a workshop where the air was cold enough that the moisture from your breath condensed. Yet due to a couple of gas-heated radiators it felt fine to work in.

Comment by Roland_Smith Sat Dec 25 16:04:45 2010
We had the same dilemma as our wood stove was in the kitchen, my husband mounted a small "muffin" fan from an old computer that didn't work in a corner of the doorway going out of the kitchen into the rest of the house. This worked very well. He had to add an electric cord with a plug and used on that had an off on switch on the cord. You could mount the little 4 " fan anywhere you wanted though. He just screwed it into the wall. Good luck.
Comment by Alison Sat Dec 25 21:02:59 2010
Roland has a good point about the IR radiation. If you don't already have it, perhaps aluminum foil on the wall behind and on the sides of where the stove is at would reflect the IR heat out. Just don't use anything flammable like foil covered bubble wrap.
Comment by zimmy Sat Dec 25 21:50:29 2010

Good ideas, everybody! On the whole, I tend to subscribe to an Asian mindset on heat --- put your heat source in the most used space and focus your more sedentary activities there. The stove does a great job of heating up our main living/dining/kitchen space, and I don't like heat in my bedroom anyway. (Mark has a space heater in the East Wing while we're figuring out another stove for him.) When we work in the office, we have a fan that blows heat down the hall and does quite well.

But we do feel like there's a lot of heat that accumulates in the alcove that we'd like to move just a foot or so out into the main living area. Thus the fan. I think Roland's suggestions on my Cooking on the wood stove post would work great in a more traditional household where you expect to have heat in a much larger area, and don't need to be able to leave home for several days and let the house drop below freezing without causing problems. We like the freedom of leaving the farm in the cold if we want to and not worrying about backup heat for an empty house.

I love Alison's husband's idea of using an old computer fan --- we certainly have a lot of those lying around! Zimmy --- we do have metal on the walls as heat shields, but could maybe use one on the ceiling.

Comment by anna Sun Dec 26 09:03:10 2010
I like the muffin fan idea to move the air from your alcove, but I use mine to move the cold, dense air into the area that seems to be heated unnecessarily. A muffin fan is quiet, but then, too, is a ceiling fan that is really inexpensive on a 2nd had basis.
Comment by Dave Wed Dec 23 02:27:27 2015

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