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

Wood stove in a mobile home

Installing a wood stove in a mobile homeWe started out with an exterior wood furnace because we had been told by reputable sources that you can't put a wood stove in a mobile home.  It turns out that's just not true.  Instead, there are a series of guidelines to follow when installing a wood stove in a trailer, and you also need to choose a wood stove specially tested to be mobile home safe.

This Mother Earth News article (from which I snagged the diagram in this post) and this more up to date site together tell you everything you need to know about installing a wood stove in a mobile home.  The differences between mobile home and traditional home installation come down to six main points:

Efficient mobile home wood stoveIn addition, you should choose a wood stove that has been approved for use in a mobile home.  In general, these stoves are on the small to medium side and have a top-exiting flue collar and a heat shield on the back.  These characteristics combine to make the clearance around all sides of the stove less, which in turn lets them fit into a mobile home.  In fact, from browsing the internet, it sounds like the small size of mobile homes is really the biggest danger feature, so your goal should be to find a spot for your wood stove where you can provide plenty of air space around it.

The cheapest mobile home compatable wood stoves that I've found are the Drolet Savannah 55,000 BTU stove (83% efficient!) and the Century Heating 50,000 BTU stove for $700 and $650, respectively, from Northern Tool and Equipment.  For our tiny trailer, even these would be overkill, so I was glad to hear that many other models can be converted to mobile home wood stoves by adding on an outside air kit (around $50 to $60.)

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


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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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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I went to look at a mobile home that had a wood stove in it. The owner said it was more than just "up to code" -- it was on cement blocks, the (stainless steel?) heat shield was higher up and extending further than required and very good clearance on all sides. He used propane as a backup and for times when he had to be away, but otherwise, the wood stove was enough to get him through a long, cold winter.

This trailer was in a quasi-urban park, too, so I imagine they had some rules in place to make sure it was safe enough to not endanger the neighbours. I was also impressed and pleased to see this because I also had been told, and read, that wood stoves in a mobile homes aren't safe.

But imagine the chaos of having lots people realise they don't need to spend $500,000 on a cookie cutter house and give their lfe away in servitude to a city job in order to own a "safe" home. If one has the skills and can read and think and experiment and learn, the possibilities are endless, no?

Comment by J Tue Nov 9 22:03:22 2010

"But imagine the chaos of having lots people realize they don't need to spend $500,000 on a cookie cutter house and give their life away in servitude to a city job in order to own a "safe" home."

This is exactly our take on life as a whole, and especially on living in an old trailer! I'm so glad you agree, and said it so succinctly and clearly.

Comment by anna Wed Nov 10 07:24:25 2010

Yes, absolutely -- you guys are pioneers in that regard. I think some people still live pretty simply but it's not seen as ideal e.g. my mother is horrifed at the idea of my going off track career-wise to learn food and living on the land skills. I am thrilled at the idea of spending my days looking after my food, shelter and energy production needs but, unbelievably, that's pretty far off mainstream -- as of course you know. But it's coming -- the signs are there -- people are really starting to get that city life (esp the levels of consumption and waste) are unsustainable and so the only choice left is to embrace simplicity. Yay!

You may have already posted on this but is there a list somewhere from easiest to most difficult (or maybe a scale of degree of difficulty) in terms of being completely self-sufficent? For example,

growing veggies (varies between easy and medium) growing fruit tress (medium) producing your own oil from seeds (medium) producing all your own energy (difficult)

What I'm after is -- what are the last bastions for the homesteader in becoming completely self-suffcient? Obviously, access to manufactured goods and technology/internet is a societal thing. Anything else? I guess, transportation. Seeds? I guess you could maintain a seedbank. A farmer I was talking to recently said an ideal situation is having a commuity where people have their own gardens/livestock for their own needs but then also there is a communal element for things like grinding wheat, putting up buildings, managing fields, etc. That sounds like bliss -- some privacy but also, some community. You had said a few days (weeks?) that getting some neighbours into your community is a goal of yours. So maybe we're already visualising the same dream:-) ?

Comment by J Wed Nov 10 09:18:12 2010

I was just thinking yesterday how settling it is to spend a good portion of every day working on basic elements of life, like picking and cooking our food, working around frosty nights and sunny afternoons to take a bath, and so forth. I think that my college professors might think I'm a bit odd to be using my education this way, but it certainly feels right.

I haven't seen a list like the one you're asking for, but I might have to mock one up! It sounds like a very useful thing for beginning homesteaders to think about. I think that your farmer acquaintance is totally right that having a community-based system for some things is best, but I'd put developing that system near the top of the hard list!

Comment by anna Wed Nov 10 10:50:45 2010

My dad installed a woodstove in our trailer when I was a teenager. Can't remember the brand, but I do know he was very careful. It was the smaller version of the one we put into the house we built next door, which was a brute! He would pack the trailer woodstove at night and have it burn all night. We had a blower in the trailer which would move the air around. But it was in the livingroom at the one end of the trailer, and it was pretty cold by morning in the other end. This was your regular basic length trailer. He installed those half size bricks all up the wall behind it, and it was on bricks underneath, but that's all I really remember--I was a teenager and didn't care.

What I can tell you is that it's over 25 years later and that trailer is still there, nice looking, with folks living in it.

Comment by Anonymous Thu Dec 22 00:06:22 2011
Ours has been plugging right along for a bit over a year now, and it's awesome! Glad to hear from another trailer-wood stove person.
Comment by anna Thu Dec 22 09:34:51 2011
I have a under 1300 sqft. double-wide mobile home built in 1987. My family suffered a fire back in 9/09 where the actual fire damage wasn't too bad, but the damage from the smoke and more so the fire department was extensive. No one was home and the local fire department never had the fire investigated plus I had to give up my insurance due to finances several months earlier. By the time I found out how to contact the proper person to have it investigated, it was too late for me. We think it had been set due to problems on-going with a neighbor and other things in my life. My son has spent the last two plus years fixing all the damages and when it came down to deciding on whether or not to reuse the old electric furnace, we decided to go with a wood/coal heater. For the average winter electric bill in the past for my home was $175-$225 monthly with a heat pump, but now with an old model wood/coal heater the bill is $30-$40 monthly. This includes running fans to circulate the heat to all 10 rooms and 2 hallways. We also upgraded all the insulation in the home (R13 in exterior walls, R19 in floors & cathedral ceilings, and R33 or more in the flat ceilings). We replaced all the "trailer" windows with double hung ones that were used (cut cost by 75% over new). Plus my son and I have many friends with access to more than enough already fallen trees for firewood just have to cut, haul, and use. Before next winter we plan on putting in a new wood/coal furnace with blowers and installing duct work for added circulation. My son put down 1/2" concrete board on the floor going out 4 ft in front and 2 ft on sides, then up the entire wall behind and added full size bricks to the wall. He also placed solid 4"x8"x16" concrete blocks under the stove. The unit drafted just right, heats it to 78-90 degrees most nights, we've had to open windows and the doors with it 20 degrees outside because it got too hot inside for us. This is our first season for a wood/coal stove, so its been a lot of trial and error on getting the right combination of air & wood/coal. Even our new insurance company covered us with the wood/coal stove installed for only $50 more a year on our policy (my son's Pit Bull costed us more in ins.). Just do your research on local codes and laws also with your insurance company too. I found some that didn't cover mobile homes with wood or coal heaters unless they were professionally installed ONLY.
Comment by wolfinator Wed Jan 11 19:13:58 2012

Wolfinator --- Interesting to hear your experience. We installed a very small wood stove, and even that is too much in the well-insulated addition. (One of these days we'll insulate the trailer too.... :-) )

Good data on the insurance. A friend of ours actually installed a heat pump in his farm house (not a trailer) so that he could get insurance, but didn't use it and kept using the "supplemental" wood stove. An expensive option, though....

Comment by anna Thu Jan 12 08:31:32 2012

Thanks for a great website! Have been reading through your woodstove info for trailers [mobile home is a rather pompous term for the structure I live in]. You helped me sorting out what kind of stove I would need to buy. Saving up the money to do that would take me one to two years under the best of circumstances. But the extra costs, besides buying the stove itself, might be prohibitive for me - I am not the handyman type, to put it mildly. Whoever I would hire for the installation would charge me an hourly labor cost [each minute ecxeeding each hour rounded up to the next hour], a nebulous service charge, and a charge for every mile driven to my place [roundtrip, not one way].And any other creative extra charge they may think of. The installation according to some info I came across is supposed to be between $2000.- and $2500.- !!! And I thought a $700.- woodstove is expensive.....

My question for you is : Is the astronomical installation cost fact of fiction??

Comment by Anonymous Wed Oct 24 17:57:49 2012

Anonymous --- We're only moderately handy, and we installed our woodstove ourselves. That said, we did start with a ceiling support kit (currently $200 at Lowes) and had to use fancy, double-walled pipe outside ($75 per length, and you might need two), plus the interior length of stove pipe (cheap --- maybe $8 per two foot length).

For the sake of safety, we also installed tiles for a certain distance around the stove in all directions (your stove will tell you the recommended distances), but we used the cheapest tiles, so that maybe came to another $25 with the fire board underneath.

All told, I think the installation cost (excluding our time) was maybe $350. So definitely do add that to the cost of your stove when budgeting. But I should also add that the results were more than worth it when we fired up our efficient stove!

Comment by anna Wed Oct 24 18:22:00 2012
I'm in the process of putting a wood stove in a mobile home, have everything ready, but someone brought to my attention, insurance. Can you get insurance covering the mobile home with a wood stove and if so what is the name of the company?
Comment by Anonymous Wed Jan 16 07:02:29 2013
Anonymous --- We don't bother to insure our trailer since it's literally worthless. (We got it for free. :-) ) But I have heard from folks nearby who report that it's tough to get insurance for even a stick-built home if it's heated by wood. They generally get around that by installing a heat pump...and never using it.
Comment by anna Wed Jan 16 10:00:13 2013
Loved reading all the storys everyone put on here,This summer i'm getting one put in my trailer just in case power goes out and maybe to heat with it to keep my power bill never know as tight as money is and im single,trying to pay all the bills gets hard at times,so I'm thinking of getting one this summer installed.thanks for all the info.
Comment by hairgirl Fri Feb 1 17:20:27 2013
I agree with hairgirl...just want one for backup if power goes out...winter or can heat water and cook on some of them, too. Get the right kind of wood that will burn the hottest and longest for budget's sake.
Comment by Glenda Wed Sep 17 16:43:46 2014
I live in the Mountains in New Mexico, Cloudcroft. I have used wood stoves all my life, and most in Trailer houses. As long as you have protective wall panels, ie, Hardy backer, and don't try and have too big of a fire, (I only usually put 3 smaller sticks of wood) and my new Logwoo d Stove does a great job, even in the Snow & extreme cold. Country Girl
Comment by Sheryl Lytle Mon Sep 24 12:22:31 2018

You commented in your article about converting a regular wood stove for use in a mobile home being much more cost efficient than buying a mobile home approved stove. Where did you purchase the items for the conversion and what did it entail? My husband and are constructurally savvy and our middle daughter is an accomplished welder. We are looking at putting a cast iron wood burning stove in our mobile and this is the first I ever heard of "mobile home approved" stoves. My father and a friend built a wood stove out of a 35 gallon metal barrel for our mobile when I was a kid and it worked great without any issues ever. Any information you can provide regarding the conversion would be great.


Comment by CJ Bishop Tue Dec 13 11:41:04 2022

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