If you have ever lived an extended time without heat in the middle of winter, you will understand when I say that I counted the days until our stove was installed. I really don’t like being cold! When we moved off grid, my family spent the winter of 2012/2013 in a travel trailer heated only by a little camp propane heater. During that time, we learned a lot of valuable information about how to stay warm! We moved into our permanent home the following September, more than 9 months into our off grid adventure. But after having several cold days in October and November, we were still waiting for our stove to be installed. We finally started using it in the middle of November. I look back at the time I spent waiting and realize that it made me appreciate our stove so much! I really can’t express how much it makes me happy! One of the best gifts that my husband can give me is a big pile of firewood in the living room and a warm cozy fire. It makes me feel so taken care of.
Our stove is the TN19 made by True North. A wood stove can be an investment. Ours is considered to be an entry level stove. Consequently, it is one of the more affordable ones on the market. I’ve often been asked why we picked the stove that we did when there are so many to choose from. Here are a number of reasons.
- It is small. We built the tile base that it sits on according to the recommended specifications. So my entire tile “hearth” takes up 13.5 square feet in my living room. The stove is recommended for small to medium spaces. We are able to heat our house (a little less than 1,000 square feet) with this one stove and we don’t have a blower. It is centrally located in our living area space. Our bedrooms are at the back of the house, but we don’t spend a lot of time in them except for sleeping. Our little stove provides great heat for our needs.
- It is efficient. Our wood stove uses a system called the Baffle System. This is a description of how it works taken directly from the manufacturer’s website. “Pacific Energy is a recognized industry leader in “clean burn” technology, as exemplified in our unique high capacity baffle system for preheating secondary combustion air for re-burning. By burning the combustible elements in the air, we improve our stoves’ environmental performance while significantly reducing the amount of wood that is consumed. The design and construction of our baffles is second to none: these removable hollow chambers are precisely formed and perforated to allow a continuous, controlled flow of secondary air—with no moving parts. Constructed from fully seam-welded 304 grade, non-ferrous stainless steel they ensure efficient combustion of secondary air throughout the entire burn cycle. Like every component in a Pacific Energy stove or insert, they are guaranteed to perform for a lifetime.”
- It is easy to regulate. The manufacturer calls this feature, single lever air control. This is the description they give: “It’s never been simpler to achieve a clean, efficient flame. With Pacific Energy systems, a single, easy-to-operate air control lever can regulate the entire burn.” I love it because at the flick of the lever at the front of the stove, we can open and close the damper or anything in between. This makes it possible to control how quickly the wood burns because it regulates how much air gets in the fire box. The more air, the faster the fire will burn. We have learned to open it completely when starting a fire and until the house reaches the right temperature. Then we close it either partially or all the way to keep the fire burning but not producing as much heat in the house. Even though the flame may go out, it does not mean the fire has died. The wood is still burning at a slower rate and the coals remain very hot so that more wood can be added later.
- It allows wood to burn a good portion of the night. Our stove’s specifications say that it will burn for 6 hours, but with the damper completely closed we have woken up to a good bed of coals in the morning and only had to put more wood on to get it going again. On the coldest nights, we open the damper halfway and wake up in the night to put another large log on the fire. This way we are able to keep a good amount of heat in the house all night. We often close our bedroom doors except on the coldest of nights because we are then able to concentrate the warm air in the living area. This keeps it warm for when we wake up in the morning. As long as we are bundled up in bed, we stay warm. I love this feature on our stove! I hate waking up to a freezing cold house!
- It has a good size fire box. We are able to put in a pretty large log at 18 inches in diameter. Logs this size are our overnight wood of choice. They burn long and slow with the damper mostly closed.
- I can cook on top of it and inside it. I’ve been asked repeatedly why I don’t have a wood cookstove. While they are wonderful for cooking and baking, they are not efficient heat sources. At least not like our little stove! Most cookstoves do not have big fire boxes and require smaller wood to be fed regularly. They are not efficient for heating homes, especially overnight. So while it is nice to have a stove specifically made for cooking, I prefer what I have. It is efficient for keeping us warm and while not made for cooking, I have learned to use it that way. I realize that the original homesteaders used their cookstoves for both cooking and heat, but today we have the advantage of new technologies to make our wood stoves even more efficient. I am able to use the top of the stove for heating up anything that I can cook on a normal stove. It just takes a little more time. I also will often use it for a dutch oven sitting on top of a trivet. It functions like a crockpot, slow cooking all day. In the inside of the stove, I can push coals to the back and bake anything in a cast iron dutch oven sitting in front of the coals.
- It helps get my clothes dry. When I hang clothes next to the stove, I’m able to get them dry so much quicker than on the line or even in other areas of the house during the winter. The wet laundry also provides needed moisture for the air. Also, my husband often sits his cold damp boots next to the stove to dry. This way they are warm for his feet in the morning.
- It is my water heater. I currently do not have a hot water heater. That project is on the to do list, but until then, as long as I have a fire going, I’m usually heating water. This is one area where I wish the stove functioned better, but because my stove is built for efficient heating, I have to sacrifice in another area. The top of the stove just does not get as hot as I would like inorder to boil water quickly. I believe this is because of the baffle system in the top of the fire box. I get around this by planning ahead and always having my tea kettle sitting on top with water heating for when I need it.
- It is easy to clean. A wood fire will always be a messy business. The firewood alone brings a mess of dirt and woodchips into the house. But with the design of our woodstove, the ash is contained pretty well. In order to empty the firebox of its ash, we let the fire die down so that we are left with coals. Moving the coals from side to side, we scoop out the ash and put it in a bucket. This is a lot cleaner than some of the older designs that allow the ash to fall through to a pan below.
After our stove was installed and sat permanently in our living room, I remember feeling such a sense of completion. Like we had come so far in our off grid life. It has improved our quality of life so much! I will always remember what my husband told me when we moved off grid. Every day will get a little better. He meant that through hard work (building, improving and figuring out how to live without the conveniences that we had been used to) things would get easier. My life got so much better and easier after our wood stove was installed.