Safely Heating a Yurt With Wood

the yurt before chimney

Here’s a photo of Hannah’s yurt last summer before the chimney was installed.

My 24-foot diameter yurt is a 450 square foot living space, with lightly insulated cloth walls over a wooden lattice structure. When I think about building a fire in there, I think it had better be done safely! I also notice that the space heats up quickly, as it’s not all that large after all, but the heat dissipates quickly after the fire goes out, too. Better insulation than mine would be a must if I needed to count on my dwelling staying above freezing when I’m away for the day.

Luckily, my Regency wood stove comes with instructions, including how close is too close to flammable materials. I learned that the stove needs non-flammable floor protection underneath it around a certain radius. I’m grateful that my stove only needs 1 foot of clearance on the back, so it can be near the edge of my yurt, with the chimney going through the side wall instead of the roof.

yurt with chimney installed

After the chimney was installed…very cool! (Or should we say, very “warm”…)

I use double-walled insulated pipe for my chimney to go through the wall of my yurt and on the outside. That way, the pipe only needs to be two inches away from flammable materials. Because the yurt walls are flexible, I had to build a heavily-fortified wooden structure outside the yurt to support the chimney. I was glad to double up the function of the chimney support by turning it into a lean-to where I can store firewood.

Building a good fire in a wood-burning stove is a satisfying thing, and takes some time and presence. First, I build a little pile of paper, often a cardboard egg carton, and kindling with firewood stacked on top. I bring a match to it and leave the door cracked open a little bit, and I watch the flames respond to the draft created by air coming in the open door and up through the chimney. Once I’m sure the fire has caught and it’s roaring away, I close the door but leave the air intake of the stove wide open. Then I watch the stove thermometer, which I have mounted on the chimney just a foot above the stove. Once I see it reading 300 to 400 degrees, usually after less than 10 minutes, I can damp down the stove to give it less air so that it burns more slowly. If I fill up the stove box with my wood (which is primarily box elder, not the best wood) and start a fire this way, it will last and keep my space warm (up to 70 degrees, and tapering off to more like 50) for 5 hours.the hearth

I sleep in a very well-rated sleeping bag, so I don’t actually notice if it gets cold overnight until I have to get up in the morning! My coldest morning in the yurt so far was on a 5 degree night when the yurt got down to 25 degrees! I would have to have a different heating system if I were to put running water in my home. As it is, I keep my canned goods, musical instruments, and other things that don’t want to be frozen, in my church and in a friend’s basement.

It’s definitely more work to heat with wood than to heat with gas or electricity, but it feels good to have a tangible attachment to the heat, cutting the wood I use from trees that grew in my place, and attending to every fire that warms me.

Editor’s Note: Lehman’s is your source for heating with wood! We carry heat and cook stoves online and an even wider selection at our store in Kidron, Ohio.