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9 Things I Love About Our Wood Stove

Last week we lit our first fire of the season to take the chill out of the air after a cold rainy day.  I’m so grateful for our wood stove and the heat it provides.  When I think about off grid necessities, a wood stove is at the top of the list.  It is so important in making off grid living possible.  And there is nothing like the feeling of a home heated with a wood fire.  It creates such a cozy glow during cold winter nights.  I’ve looked forward to a lot of things in my life, but the day we got our wood stove is high on that list.  I will always remember that day.

firewood1If 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.

  1. 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.
  2. It is efficient.  baffle-systemOur 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.”
  3. It is easy to regulate.  single_leverThe 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. dutch-ovenI 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

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About JaimieB

Jaimie lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead known online as An American Homestead. They live with their two sons and her parents Tim and Joann on 50 acres located deep in the American Ozark Mountains.

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34 comments

  1. How do you cook inside your wood stove?

  2. I have the larger pacific energy two step stove and I love mine! If you can afford the cost of about $25.00 each you can get a 5 gallon Igloo drink jug that will keep water hot overnight and up to 18 hours after it is primed like a thermos. I have a smaller 2.5 gallon Igloo I use for hot water to clean hands either in the kitchen or bathroom that is a convenient size for the counter

    • Jamie, please explain. I’m not sure I understand what you mean. How does a plastic igloo keep water hot? You heat it on the stove and then pour it in? I’m interested in your idea.

      • I have a couple of large stock pots and I fill them with water and set them on the lower step to boil. It takes awhile with over 4 gallons of water to heat. I then transfer about a half gallon of boiling water to the igloo jug put the lid on and let the hot water “prime: the jug for about 20 minutes. After that I add the rest of the boiling water and the Igloo jug will keep the water hot 150-180 degrees F. overnight and it will stay warm enough to do dishes for up to 24 hours.

        The Igloo jug does not care if if you are keeping water hot or cold as long as it is primed the insulation will help retain that temp.

        I think the 5 gallon igloo jugs are the best size but you can buy 10 gallon Igloo jug at a higher cost. You can usually find the 5 gallon jugs for about $25.00 new at most big box stores.

        In Jan. of this year I went without tap water for 5 days because of a busted water main and with these jugs filled at night with hot water I could take a shower or bath in the AM each day and use the stockpots to have hot water all the time as long as I kept the ‘igloo jugs” filled.

        • Sorry forgot to say I have two of the 5 gallon igloo jugs and seems to work great for me as a single person. For a family I would probably add an extra jug per 1-2 family members.

          If you can fill up the jugs at night with heated water and keep the hot water heating on the stove through out the day you can have plenty of hot water for cleaning up and basically rest from moving that water while you sleep.

          I’m disabled so I have to cheat/conserve my physical energy and the jugs are great if you have to go without a water heater.

          • Interesting! I like it. You got my wheels turning to think about if something similar would work for my family. 🙂 I just have to say that I get a lot of suggestions from people of things we “should” do. Most of them I have already thought of and dismissed for one reason or another. But I had never thought of your idea. Thank you!

          • You might check out yard sales and even pawn shops that sell construction tools and equipment to get the jugs a little cheaper than buying new.

            My Igloo jugs were store in my house so they were kept at room temp. and I had no problem of them cracking or suffering a heat shock by adding boiling water but if you store them in freezing temps you might want to warm them up a little before pouring boiling water into them.

            Also these jugs are great multi-taskers for storing both hot and cold items. In summer they can work not only as a “water cooler” but as camp cooler for food or as last minute fill up of water storage in the event of a storm.

          • I don’t think I’m wrong as I have gone without tap water/hot water on demand for 5 days. If this does not work for you at the very worst you end up with a couple of 5 gallon water jugs. Test it out with a thermos or even small water jugs. I’m certain that it will work and you will be surprised how long an insulated jug can keep water hot or at least warm.

  3. This article brings back memories of my childhood in Eastern Kentucky. My Dad would get up and build a fire in the woodstove in the front room and we kids would jump out of bed and get behind it until the house warmed up. He would then build a fire in the kitchen cookstove, Mom would fix his breakfast, and off to his job at the brick plant. Don’t know if I could do it again!! Unless it was DOWNRIGHT NECESSARY!

  4. I actually just cleaned out my wood stove today – we have a pioneer princess wood cookstove. I am so thankful for it! We cook on it, heat our water with it and it heats our house. The coals stay hot all night long and up to 12 hours depending on how we build up the fire before banking it.

    You simply cannot find anything better than woodstove heat. It seems to heat all the way through your body instead of just the surface. I also like that my bedroom stays cooler … helps me sleep better. Ok, one more ‘like’ – I like that I can open the windows and/or doors as needed in the middle of winter if things get a little too hot in the house, which happens often, especially if I’m baking and/or cooking. I appreciate being able to have a window or two always cracked for fresh air.

    We have an unlimited supply of free wood for the taking. My boys keep us stocked all year and also sell wood to several customers. It keeps them busy during the otherwise slower winter months when farm and ranch work slow down.

    :~)

  5. I have been working on my husband about getting a woodstove. I grew up with one. We have a spot in our current house for one (the previous owners took the woodstove out and removed the chimney, but the platform is still there). He is usually open to all my crazy ideas, but he’s adamant against a woodstove because 1. he thinks it a fire hazard and 2. he’s afraid our house will smell like smoke. I am going to save this article and keep working on him! This model sounds pretty great!

    • @ Andrea, just whisper in his ear at night… It seems to work for my wife, I didn’t even think I needed ride-on lawn mower until I was loading one on my truck… She uses it for everything now…

  6. Jamie – did you get your woodstove locally? I’m trying to talk Jim into a lower end model to install even though he plans to put the house on the market in the spring. I miss having a woodstove and propane is way too expensive.

  7. Jaime,
    I love reading your articles.Somehow i can still hear that that sweet voice of yours just like you sound on the videos. I have vicariously lived on your farm for a year now. I have thoroughly enjoyed each episode and article.

  8. Jaime,
    I love reading your articles.Somehow i can still hear that that sweet voice of yours just like you sound on the videos. I have vicariously lived on your farm for a year now. I have thoroughly enjoyed each episode and article. I also am a big fan of ZAchary. He took some negative hits on hih video about the 700club dude. I have learned a lot about Torah and living out. I am excited in that God will continue to give me understanding.
    Lj

  9. I clicked on the link to the wood stove (on Pacific Energy) and the page link is dead. Can you show me a link to the model you have? I am very interested.

  10. Hi my name is Celine Bridges… I’m live in a small town in Texas ..
    Last week first time I ‘ve seen your videos.. There are great !’!!
    Loaded with tons of great information … I also love the family atmosphere … As for our family we work together also as time permits .. But also have some questions ..
    1. What do you feed your chickens in the winter and how do you keep them warm … We’re ordering our first set of chickens this spring .. Which I’m quite excited … You also put your meat chickens with you laying hands …
    2. I hope you do show us when you’re finished with your turkey house and what you going to feed your turkeys ..
    3. I would like to purchase some of your cucumber seeds .. Do you post your address or do I post my address so I can see the money …
    4. I do you-tube and email .. Thanks
    5. Do you think your dad can make me a bread box or send the plans on how he made it ….. I love my husband to try to make one if he can’t thanks so much any way .. … He did a great job on your bread box .. I know you will enjoy it …
    6. Keep us posted on the winter months ..
    7. Keep up the great job .. You ‘ll have a great homestead…
    8. My grandmom and mom would collect old RC, Cola bottles clean them out out them underside to dry on a home made wood rack..
    All clean out with hot soapy water and rinse ..
    and whole tomatoes cut up .. and poke them with a wooden stick … Work great .. And seal them with a cap .. And water bath them in a big wash tub over the fire … They came out great .. When then run out a canning jars .. They still do this When they run out of canning jars .. Just a little note on how they do there …
    But like they said it easy with canning jars … Haaa I would think so ..
    Well thanks so much .. Have a great bless winter …
    Celine

  11. Forgot to add we use our Wood ash to start our fireplace ..
    We get our wood ash and put some in a pail and mix some kerosene and make like a paste …we just Store ours in a coffee can anything with a lid … So it can stay moist …
    Get old spoon ..sprinkle some on the wood and light the fire works great …..
    Have a bless day ..

  12. We use a pellet stove, so I find articles about alternative heating sources fascinating. The one huge advantage I see to wood stoves is that you do not need electricity to use one, unlike a pellet stove which still uses electricity. We also find our pellet stove helpful for drying clothing, shoes, wet winter clothing, and more! I also set bread near it to rise.

  13. Ha! We got a True North a year and a half ago to use in the house we moved into last June. So it’s our first winter with it, and so far I LOVE it. We’re in the same situation as you are (or were when you wrote this) concerning hot water, so we’re using the stove top for that, too.

    • Dan, We still use the wood stove to heat our hot water. It works so well that I don’t see a need to change.

      • I definitely feel like it has potential to be that for me, but I either need a much bigger pot to heat water, a smaller tub to bathe in, or a plumbed system using the stove. While I usually shy away from complexity, I like the idea of a plumbed line that thermosiphons to a storage tank. Man, when I put it like that I feel like going and getting a bigger pot right now 🙂
        Which way do you heat it?

        • We heat water on our wood heater when we can as well as heating water on our propane stove. Some have suggested a wood burning hot water heater or a solar system, but the way we are doing it is simple and meets or needs. A bucket shower hung over the bath tube is an ideal solution for us.

  14. Maybe putting hot water in a metal container inside an igloo would be a step better?
    Still feel refrigeration and hot showers, even tho luxuries, would ease the work stress level and be a nice reward. I’ve known of tough ole birds (women) who were able to live without these two luxuries. I’m a strong woman, but appreciate a bit of tenderness. A spa day now and then, maybe once a week, won’t spoil you.
    How about an old claw bathtub set near the fireplace?

  15. Hmmm. Thanks, Tim! I appreciate the voice of reason every once in a while (to counteract my own tendencies toward novel ideas that may be interesting, but may end up as a lot more work in the long run 🙂 I have to remind myself, or be reminded by others occasionally, that I am trying to create a life that can maximize what I like to do (play with kids, play music, enjoy the world around me) and minimize the stuff I don’t like to do (troubleshoot technology that was supposed to make my life easier).
    And Sheri, the clawfoot tub by the fire sounds nice. Our tub is stuck to the floor in the bathroom, so I’ll just have to dream of the warmer situation.
    I’ve got a couple other questions, though, for you experienced folks. One regarding woodstoves in general: Do I need to worry about putting a big pot of cold water on my hot, hot stove? Will that cause some kind of thermal, weld-busting trouble? Nothing comes up online when I google it, which makes me think there’s probably nothing wrong with it, but still… Any thoughts would be appreciated.
    The second question is related to the TN-19 specifically. Do you ever experience your reburning pipes falling out? It happens somewhat regularly for us that either the front one or the second one slips out and tilts down. Maybe once a week or so.

    • Don, I hope you never get your stove glowing red which would may cause problems. We try to keep our stove under 400 deg. Any higher and the house gets to hot. We also set the pot of hot water on a trivet. If the tea kettle sets directly on the stove it tends to make to much noise as the water boils. We have had our stove going on three years and have not experienced any problems with the reburning pipes. Thanks Tim

  16. Hey Jaimie!

    I have been watching your videos for a couple years now and adore your lifestyle and your little family!
    My teen daughter, baby boy, and I are currently converting a “building” into a tiny house and are going off grid. I’m curious , with a wood heater/stove, how do you heat your water for baths and cooking etc, without making the house too hot during summer months. I live in the South so the summers get pretty toasty and I am trying to keep from having to install propane just to have a small instant hot water heater in the shower. Do you have any suggestions? such as a method of heating our water in the sun maybe? and how would you go about doing it?

    Thanks so much , God Bless!

    • In the summer, I fill 1/2 gallon juice bottles with water and put them in my sun oven in the morning. By the afternoon, they are really hot! I use them for all our hot water needs in the summer. The spring and the fall are a little tricky for heating water. The best thing I have tried is to always make sure that you have pots of water on the wood stove when you have a fire going. The water will stay hot for a surprisingly long time even after the fire goes out. You can also fill an “Igloo” type drink cooler with boiling water heated on your wood stove. I’ve done this frequently and it works well. It keeps the water hot throughout the day from water boiled on the stove in the morning. In the spring and fall, the morning is often the only time of day when we have a fire going, just to take the chill out of the house after we get up. Blessings!

  17. Permaculture Freaks

    Hey guys, this was a great little post. We are in the process of choosing a wood stove for our home. It’s a ton of options and designs to look into. As with any big purchase it can seem overwhelming so thanks for the info. I think we are leaning towards a Steel stove over a Cast Iron because we were told they are a lot less to maintain. Have a fantastic day.

    Matt
    Permaculture Freaks

  18. I have lived in my house for 39 years and used just a wood stove to heat the house. we bought it new in ’77 and it heats the house entirely. never a problem with it. had to replace the grate 2 times and the gasket around the door. it heats the house, dries my clothes, cooks food and dries boots etc. I use between 4 1/2 to 6 cord a year and I live in Vermont. I think the company has gone out of business because I keep trying to find a replacement as this one won’t last forever.

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