Cozy up to the crackling fire
Our next few posts will focus on heating and climate control. We will start with the wood stove, the next will feature heated floors, and then the use of a mini-split for the main HVAC system. You are considering building a home, let's make sure it is very comfortable all year around.
Very common in a traditional home, a wood-burning stove creates ambiance and can generate significant heat. The crackling of a fire and the dancing lights from the flame can make any environment feel warm and cozy. The perfect ingredient to a romantic evening. On a cold fall day or when the snow falls outside in the winter, a wood burning stove will emanate heat, easily making the whole house very comfortable.
Wood is fairly cost effective and a renewable energy source. However, it is not for everyone. It is old technology that requires some work. This is probably not a good choice as the sole heating source in a travel home. But if you are like us, there are few things like a warm cozy fire. The dry heat of a wood stove is great for managing moisture in a small space and as an emergency backup, it s fairly fool proof.
DESIGN - Of course, incorporating a wood burning stove in the design of such a small space that must hold up to the earthquake-shaking of every day travel, requires some planning. First of all, the stove must be bolted down securely, and the stove pipe and its fittings securely fitted through the roof. Here are some of the design considerations.
VENTING - Venting a wood stove is critical to ensure high performance and requires putting a hole in your roof. While in some traditional homes, you may vent out a wall, this is less practical in a travel home since we are often maximized in the width allowed on the road already. Having the proper vent stack height creates a better draft, prevents backdraft, and keeps smoke off your roof. The vent pipe should be double wall insulated piping, which makes it possible to have a tight seal around the opening. Depending on the travel home height, a removable top vent pipe may be needed so that it can be removed during travel. Inside the home, it can be a combination of single and double wall piping depending on the look you want to achieve. Single wall piping does emanate more heat and may therefore require the use of more heat shields.
HEARTH - Building a sturdy hearth around the wood stove will not only help with securing the stove, but is required to buffer the heat of the firebox from the floor. It will also provide a good safety net to ensures no hot coals or embers accidentally jump out causing issues when you open the door. While most hearths are built using stone, brick or metal, all pretty heavy materials, using legs or stand will limit the heat transfer, requiring a smaller foot print.
HEAT SHIELD - The wood stove will generate a lot of heat and having a proper heat shield protecting the walls is required. Most often a metal material is used. Mounting it on the wall with spacers allows air to travel behind it. Building codes require very specific measurements to ensure the right amount of protection and every stove will come with guidelines for a proper installation.
AIR HANDLING - Let's be clear, this is not an an open fireplace, but rather an airtight wood stove. It has a door, it is air tight, and has controls to regulate the intensity of the fire. It does need air to operate. Using the inside air will use precious warm air and pass it out through the chimney. A feature found on some stoves is their ability to have outside air feed the fire.
Now when we have the stove designed, what about the operation? What about what kind of wood to use? First of all, any stove destined for a Travel Home or RV will require small size logs. Most often these are no larger than 10-12' in length and could be smaller. With just a few logs fitting in the fire box, having good wood will make it last longer. Hardwoods is highly recommended as it will not only last longer, but also burs cleaner, generating less creosote. There are even some great man made logs that will burn super efficient and clean. Just be sure not to get anything with wax as a binder. That will cause lots of buildup that you do not want.
When it comes to the make and model, there are a few different ones out there. We chose the Tiny Wood Stove company in Idaho for a few reasons. Their stoves are very well designed, has several size options depending on the BTU you need, you can specify an outside air intake, and perhaps most important for us, was the availability of an oven component. Yes, they have an option to have an oven as part of the stove. This is great for cooking pizzas, bread, and cookies.
This is post # 7 in our weekly series of consideration when building a Travel Home. Please reach out to us if can help in anyway and you want to get the process started. It has changed our lives and it may do the same for you.