are wood stove fans worth it

Are Wood Stove Fans worth it?

Are wood stove fans worth it? And do they really work? In this article, we’re looking at wood stove fans, what they are, how they work, and whether you should get one. Also, we’re clearing up some common misconceptions. So let’s jump right in!

Quick answer: Wood stove fans are worth it, but only for smaller rooms. They will help distribute the hot air a little but are more of a toy and nice to look at as a design item. If you seriously have to distribute heat in your home, you should use an electric floor fan. Floor fans are very powerful and are able to quickly move large amounts of air between and within rooms.

What is a wood stove fan?

A wood stove fan is a gadget you can place on a hot wood stove to blow the hot air in any direction you want. Normally, wood stoves radiate heat in two ways:

  • infrared heat radiation
  • hot air rising (convection)

Both of these forms of heat combined make the comfortable feeling of wood stove warmth. The infrared heat radiation is the kind of heat you feel when the sun shines on you, or when you are sitting in front of a campfire. While the air itself is cold, the heat radiation makes you feel warm.

What makes you feel really comfortable at home is, however, not just the heat radiation, but also warm air. Your room temperature has to be at a certain level so you feel comfy at home.

Now, because the hot air from your stove always rises to the ceiling, the heat distribution in your room is unbalanced. While the floor is cold, the ceiling is warm.

Wood stove fans attempt to solve this problem of heat distribution. Wood stove fans blow the hot air into your room, so it doesn’t just rise straight up.

With a wood stove fan, you can control where the heat of your stove is going.

Wood stove fans are available in different colors and different designs.

But more importantly: Most wood stove fans don’t use any electricity. They are purely powered by the heat from your wood stove.

There are also electrically powered wood stove fans. These are capable to push more air, but produce noise and are not as magical to look at.

Are wood stove fans worth it?

Now that we know what a wood stove is, let’s have another short look at the promises of one.

In the following sections, we will see whether these promises hold. And if a wood stove fan is really worth it.

The hot air of a wood stove always rises to the ceiling. A wood stove fan catches some of the heat and uses it to blow the hot air into the room. This way it keeps the warmth down for a longer time. This helps with increasing the room temperature in the lower air layers of your room.

You can place a wood stove fan however you want, so it blows the air in any direction you desire. You have full control over where the wood stove fan blows the warm air.

The non-electrical heat-powered version of wood stove fans does not produce any noise and is nice to look at.

Downsides of wood stove fans

At a first glance, a wood stove fan seems like a nice gadget to have. Actually, it’s true. It helps to distribute the heat a little and looks beautiful. If that’s all you need, go ahead and buy one.

However, not everything is perfect about wood stove fans. Let’s have a look.

The first thing that’s apparent when looking at a wood stove fan is that they are bare-metal products and have no safety features. There is no guard that protects fingers from spinning blades.

If you have kids at home, the spinning blades could be dangerous and cause cuts. I don’t think wood stove fans are strong enough to cut a finger off since they are merely heat-powered. But I believe it’s enough for a small injury, a crying kid, and a ruined evening.

Also, the spinning blades could be problematic with pets. I can think of pets trying to play with the wood stove fan.

Generally, though, the safety risks of a wood stove fan are negligible. The much bigger danger is, of course, the burning hot wood stove itself. There is a much higher risk of your kid or pet burning himself on the hot wood stove surface.

Also, kids are oftentimes not big enough anyways to reach for a wood stove fan on top of a wood stove. But this depends on the dimensions of your wood stove.

Are wood stove fans efficient?

Wood stove fans that are powered by heat only have to convert some of the heat energy that rises from your stove to kinetic energy. The kinetic energy is responsible for the rotational movement of the fan blades.

Since at all times the wood stove fan blades are spinning, a part of the heat energy is always retained to power the spinning blades. This means, your wood stove will actually heat less than without a fan on top of it. The fan consumes some of the heat energy, which results in kinetic energy, which then, in turn, is only converted back to heat through friction. The fan, therefore, retains some heat.

However, that is only a very minor effect and surely not noticeable. The conversion of heat energy to kinetic energy is very inefficient. If the wood stove fan would draw considerable amounts of energy from your wood stove, the fan blades would spin like a jet engine and your wood stove would not produce heat anymore.

So, in terms of physical energy efficiency, a wood stove fan actually decreases the efficiency of your wood stove a tiny bit by withholding some of the heat as kinetic energy.

But that effect is unnoticable.

Keep on reading. Later we will see how wood stove fans still increase the perceived energy efficiency of your wood stove.

Do wood stove fans really work?

I’ve seen some sources online write things like “If you want to increase the efficiency of your stove, get a wood stove fan”.

However, that is plain false information.

Wood stove fans do not increase the efficiency of a wood stove. We can view the efficiency of a wood stove as the room temperature your stove produces in comparison with the amount of wood you put into it. In actual physics terms, it should be output energy divided by input energy.

But room temperature produced per wood inserted is easier to think about. And both room temperature and the wood inserted are closely related to output and input energies.

By placing a wood stove fan on top of a wood stove, your wood stove does not produce higher average room temperatures.

Therefore, a wood stove fan does not improve the efficiency of your wood stove.

Wood stove fans, however, blow the hot air in your direction. Because the warm air is directed where you need it, the perceived temperature increases.

So, we can conclude that the perceived efficiency of a wood stove indeed increases when you place a wood stove fan on it.

And perceived efficiency is all that matters. The human body only cares about wellbeing. It does not matter whether the physical efficiency increases. All that matters is how warm you feel.

Yes, wood stove fans work and increase the perceived efficiency of your wood stove.

How strong are heat powered wood stove fans?

A wood stove fan only distributes the heat a little.

In the video below, the channel “Stands Out” compares the cubic-feet-per-minute (CFM) ratings of different wood stove fans.

The result of the experiment is that most wood stove fans push 75 to 125 CFM of air. That’s not a lot. Later, we’ll see a better alternative to wood stove fans with a CFM rating of 4650!

Heat-powered wood stove fans work through the conversion of heat energy to kinetic energy, which spins the blades. The spinning blades then push the rising hot air forward.

Because the conversion of heat to kinetic energy is generally very inefficient, the fan blades rotate only weakly.

A wood stove fan will cause just a slight change in the distribution of heat in your room. It is not able to push significant amounts of heat over longer distances.

What is a better alternative to wood stove fans?

What is the best alternative to wood stove fans? We’ve just seen that wood stove fans don’t work perfectly. Mostly, because they work without an additional power source. Wood stove fans convert heat energy to kinetic (movement) energy, which is generally an inefficient process. Therefore, the wood stove fan blades rotate only weakly and are not able to push any significant amounts of air.

Most wood stove fans have a cubic feet per minute (CFM) rating of 75 to 125.

To be able to really distribute the heat evenly in your home, a wood stove fan is not sufficient.

Electrically powered wood stove fans can output much more air and are much stronger. However, even the electrically powered wood stove fans are not perfect, as they are suited for just one use case: blowing air from a stovetop.

Why you should get an electric floor fan instead

If you want to have a real powerful solution to distribute hot air from your stove around your home, you should get a floor fan. 

Strong floor fans are the single best tool to push air around your house. They come in different sizes, shapes and colors, so you can always find one you like.

Floor fans are capable to produce strong airstreams in your home and are able to quickly distribute the heat.

The reason I recommend floor fans over wood stove fans is that they are

  • orders of magnitude stronger. I guarantee, a good floor fan will distribute the air in any room
  • multi-use

You can use floor fans not only to distribute wood stove heat but also in the summer heat when you want to vent your room. Or you can use them whenever you need to cool down and you don’t have air conditioning (AC) available.

Floor fans are great for venting bathrooms after showering, or bedrooms after sleeping. They are able to blow the entire moist air out the window within just a few minutes.

Electric floor fans are among my favorite products. They are affordable and I think that people underestimate their usefulness greatly.

I have a floor fan at home classified as a “wind machine” and it’s one of the best purchases I ever made. I can’t find the exact same model online because I bought it in Europe, but this High-Velocity floor fan here looks very similar (click here to view it on amazon).

These fans can move huge amounts of air over big distances across your home. Floor fans have CFM ratings of well over 4000. The one I linked above has a rating of 4650, which is approximately 40x as strong as a wood stove fan.

On the strongest setting, they are noisy (wind always produces noise) but you can turn them on in bursts instead of leaving them on continuously. Or you can just pick a lower airspeed setting.

Conclusion

Wood stove fans are gadgets, but can still be worth it. They are just a toy to have fun with. Wood stove fans will not significantly impact the efficiency of your wood stove. Because of the inefficient conversion of heat to rotational energy which blows the air, wood stove fans are generally weak and don’t make that much of a difference.

They blow some air, but if you have a serious heat distribution problem, there are better alternatives that cost not much more than a wood stove fan.

However, you should still get a wood stove fan if one of the following statements is true:

  • You love gadgets and think wood stove fans are fun to look at.
  • The physics of the wood stove fan are interesting to you and you want to explain them to guests (as an ice breaker).
  • You are fine with slightly better distribution of heat – you don’t really rely on the wood stove fan to keep your home warm.
  • Your kids will learn something from it.
  • You sit rather close to the wood stove.

In any case, if you don’t have access to electricity where your wood stove is, a wood stove fan is always worth it.

If, however, you need to seriously distribute heat in your home, and you have access to electricity, a high-velocity floor fan is a much better option. Floor fans are able to push large amounts of air within and even between different rooms and distribute the heat quickly and reliably.

About the Author

Daniel Hirsch

Daniel is an electrical engineer, blogger, and author. He studied electrical engineering and information technology and decided to blog about heaters after working in the temperature sensing industry.