How Do Outdoor Wood Stoves Work? [Knowledge]

  • An outdoor wood stove is a wood-burning, heat-producing appliance intended to be used in an exterior space, such as on a patio or deck. They are often built-in with brick or stone as a permanent installation. Examples of this are the “Dutch Oven” and the “Wood Butte”.
  • Outdoor stoves can be attractive additions to homes that have them built around bars, patios, decks and gardens for entertainment spaces. Stoves can provide a focal point to the outdoor spaces while providing heat. They are often used in combination with fireplaces and chimneys, where the items will all be connected together.
  • Wood stoves are usually fired by wood or biomass. The fuel for a wood stove is generally wood. Some stoves can also use coal or pellets, which are cheaper forms of fuel than wood but produce more pollutants. (Learn more about using coal in a wood stove)
  • They use wood as the fuel, and they get their heat from at least two things: the heat generated by burning the wood, and heating exhaust.

How Do Outdoor Wood Stoves Work?

  • Wood stoves work using a basic principle called convection. Your house doesn’t generate enough heat to keep you warm on its own, so it has to rely on combustion and convection. Combustion is the process of burning a fuel to create hot gas that can then be used for other purposes (such as boiling water). In order to get the heated gas, you’ve got to use convection. (Learn more about wood stove overfiring.)
  • The heat that’s generated by a wood stove convects and moves through the air of your home in one of two ways: radiation and conduction. As a basic rule, most people only take part in radiation. Radiation is simply the transfer of heat using invisible light waves – think about the way it feels when someone is giving you some sunburn or why your skin feels warm when you hug someone. (Learn about how wood stoves compare with fireplaces.)

The three main components of an outdoor stove are as follows:

  • A fuel bed or fuel base is located directly below, or below and above the burner. This allows air to flow up into the burner with each cycle of combustion.
  • An access door allows users to add more fuel.
  • A blower or a fan is used to circulate air through the stove, and make the most efficient use of fuel. This is why outdoor stoves can be so efficient – it’s just like using a fan on your radiator at home. You can run your heater much longer than without a fan.

The Basics

A typical outdoor wood stove consists of three parts: the firebox, where the wood is burned; the flue, which carries the smoke and heat up and out of the stove; and the chimney, which vents the smoke away from the home.

Outdoor wood stoves are usually made of cast iron or steel, which can withstand high temperatures. The firebox is lined with fire bricks, which help to reflect heat back into the fire and make the stove more efficient.



The type of fuel you use in your outdoor wood stove is important. The best type of wood to burn is hardwood, such as oak or maple. Hardwoods are denser than softwoods, so they burn slower and produce more heat.

They also create less smoke, which is better for your chimney and the environment.

If you must burn softwood, make sure it is well-seasoned. Softwoods have a higher moisture content than hardwoods, so they produce more smoke and creosote, a sticky substance that can build up in your chimney and cause a fire.

To season wood, cut it into pieces and stack it in a dry, sheltered place for six months to a year. You can speed up the seasoning process by splitting the wood or stacking it in small piles so that air can circulate around it.

Burning Tips

Burning Tips

  • For the best results, build a hot fire when you first light your stove and then let it burn down to coals. This will help to dry out the wood and make it easier to ignite. When adding new wood to the fire, use small pieces so that they will catch fire quickly.
  • Avoid over-firing your stove, which can damage the stove and create safety hazards. Don’t burn trash, chemicals, or pressure-treated wood on your stove, as these can release harmful toxins into the air.
  • Keep your firebox clean. No smoke means no heat, so regularly sweep out the ashes that gather in the bottom of the stove and off to the sides of the stove. Smoke is not only emitted from burning wood, but also from burning trash or any other substances. Keep your chimney clear of all ash, tar residue and other materials that could prevent smoke from leaving your home.
  • A stove will only run at its best when it is fed fuel constantly. It is a good idea to fill the firebox with wood in the morning so that it can burn all day.
  • Keep children and pets away from your stove when it is in use. Properly installed and used, your stove should be completely safe, but it is always best to exercise caution when using any kind of furnace or fire.

So why choose an outdoor wood stove?

So why choose an outdoor wood stove?

  • If you own your home, you can burn whatever you want in your outdoor wood stove. If you rent, check with your landlord to see if they allow open-flame heat sources.
  • In most cases, an outdoor wood stove is cheaper to heat with than other fossil fuels (like propane or natural gas). These stoves are not only less expensive to operate but will cost much less to maintain and service.
  • They consume less fuel, so you can use your stove longer before needing to refill it.
  • They are a clean and safe way to heat your home.
  • Since they burn hardwood, they will help reduce the threat of forest fires in your area.
  • You will not have excess heat from a gas furnace running all day, which puts additional strain on the furnace and electric bill this winter!
  • They create an authentic, “woodsy” atmosphere.
  • You will save a lot of money on wood, pellets, or coal bills as long as you keep your log storage area in tip-top shape and let your stove do the work for you.
  • They provide lots of heat for a small amount of wood and can heat rooms up to 800 square feet, depending on the model.
  • They provide greater heating control than an oil- or gas-fired furnace.


Outdoor wood stoves are the most efficient heaters when considering the burn time, efficiency, cleanliness and safety of the stoves. Outdoor wood stoves only use natural fuels which means you can use them for many years without having to change any parts of them.

With proper care and maintenance, an outdoor wood stove can be a great way to heat your home while using a renewable resource.

Eugene Duke Pic

Hi, my name’s Eugene Duke and I love sitting by my fireplace reading a book and sipping on an adult beverage. Do you have a fireplace in your house? I’ll help you figure out the best type and style of fireplace for your home.


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