The Lowdown on Stove Fans
Now you have your wood burning stove installed and have had it running for a few weeks, you may have noticed that there are cold spots in your room. Through your research you may have heard about stove fans. Maybe you know someone who has recommended using a stove fan to help with distributing the heat around your house. We have been in the stove fan business for a few years now and feel that we can help you answer your mounting questions:
- Which is the right model?
- Do I really need a stove fan?
- Is there a fan for inset wood burning stoves?
- What about low temperature stoves?
- Which stove fan would suit the size of my room?
- Are they ugly monstrosities?
- And of course – Do they actually work?
Which is the best wood burning stove fan?
We’ve been asked this question thousands of times through our online chat box or over the phone and, as there are very different settings of heating stoves, the answer isn’t simple.
How big is your room?
Is it an open plan room that you’d like to warm evenly?
The most powerful stove fans are those powered by a Stirling engine, like Vulcan or Warpfive – both of which are handmade and British.
Probably the most popular Stirling fan is the Vulcan. It was the first model of this kind on the market and for many years the only one available. It has many satisfied customers who are astonished at the idea of engaging the ingenious innovation of Dr Robert Stirling in driving the circulation of the stove heat around the room. As the construction of the fan proved successful only a few minor improvements have been introduced since it was released a few years ago; this includes the shape of the blades – the most visible change. The Vulcan stove fan is covered by a 3 year warranty – which is a lot when compared to Peltier stove fans – but the following Stirling fan brand has been boasting a lifetime warranty for all of their Warpfive models!
Note: Vulcan have temporarily ceased manufacturing during the 2017/18 heating season as they are moving their headquarters and site of operations, but they assure us it will be back to business as usual for the 2018/9 heating season.
Warpfive devices have massive fan blades, they work at high temperatures and produce enough energy to push enormous amounts of air – the manufacturer claims their fans create a stream that can even be felt five meters away from the stove -that’s really awesome!
The Stirling stove fans are generally speaking quite large, but if you have a small opening over the stove it’s possible the Warpfive Sidewinder will fit in there as it’s only 225mm high. The fan blades are mounted on the platform above the mini Stirling engine and a belt powered with the energy harnessed from the stove top drives the fan; which added to a graphite piston, borosilicate cylinder and contrasting brass screws and counterbalances, it is a thing of pure beauty.
If you’re not especially technically inclined, you might want to consider the largest and probably the most powerful Peltier powered stove fan by Valiant, the Vanquish 250. This model was introduced to the market last year (2016), is 250mm high and has two aerodynamically profiled blades that push large volumes of heat and is designed specifically for large rooms.
A stove fan for a standard room.
The vast majority of stove fans that pop out at you, when you start your research are designed to work in a standard room, the size of say 200 square feet or less. Sure, you can use the Stirling powered stove fans mentioned above to eliminate cold spots in a room, but in many cases the smaller fans powered by the TEG module will do the job just as well – you could even use them to direct the warmth to stream through the door and climb upstairs so that the bedrooms feel the benefit of the stove as well. We have checked this and can assure you it works just fine provided that it’s not one of those cold, windy and miserable days, and you leave the bedroom doors open!
If you want to warm up a standard room with a stove that won’t reach temperatures above 350°c, then you need to consider stove fans like Valiant Premium, Ventum 3 or Phoenix. If you’re not sure what maximum temperatures your stove can reach, then you are better off buying a stove thermometer. It is an inexpensive device that not only helps to protect your fan, but also gives you a better understanding of the best operating temperatures of your stove. The Valiant stove fans are powerful, yet silent, reliable and covered by a 2 year warranty. The Ventum 3 is an evolution of the Premium. It starts at a lower temperature and spins faster thanks to the lighter blades.
Phoenix fans are fitted with a back cover that protects the fans’ wires from unintentional damage.
Most modern Peltier fans have a bimetallic strip built in the base that tilts the fan to protect the Peltier module from overheating. However, bear in mind that even with this protection the fan won’t withstand very high temperatures and will need to be removed altogether if the stove top gets over 350°c.
The SmartFan Original fan is the only device that pushes the air in different directions simultaneously; this smaller fan cools the top chamber to secure a better temperature divergency, therefore increasing efficiency.
What if my stove doesn’t have a flat surface?
The design team at Valiant have noticed that there are any number of designs for the wood stove now and listening to their customers’ feedback they have created the first heat powered stove fan that attaches directly to the flue pipe. They took their fantastically popular Premium 4 stove top fan, removed the base which would have stood on the stove top and replaced it with a magnetic attachment they call ‘wings’. The Remora was born.
The Remora stove fan creates a good air flow without being too noisy and disturbing what you are doing. With its hard wearing satin black anodised finish the Remora looks just as stylish as its predecessors. It is suitable for use with all flue pipes that have magnetic attraction and will fit onto most 10-17cm flue pipes. The Remora, including the blade, is 200mm high, 180mm wide and from blade to flue pipe 120mm deep. Weighing just 770g it is fairly light too.
To attach the Remora stove fan to your flue pipe you simply fold back the magnetic wings and when the fan is in the right place the wings are gently returned to position around the flue pipe and secured in place. When folding the wings back in place around your flue pipe, be careful not to let them snap in place as it could damage the magnets. The fan has to be a minimum of 20cm away from the stove top so the blades are clear when they spin and also avoids overheating the motor inside. The magnets on the wings are able to hold in place to well over 400°C.
This is a perfect fan should you have a stove that doesn’t generate a lot of heat, such as a soap stone stove, as it uses the heat from the hottest part of the stove, the flue, to generate the electricity needed to power the fan. It is also a good solution for the stoves that are designed with a decoration on top, or are simply not perfectly horizontal for a stove fan to sit on.
Are there any fans for inset wood burning stoves?
There are hundreds if not thousands of gas, wood or multi-fuel burning stove brands and models on the market today, so customers can purchase the one that not only meets their requirements but also fit their unique circumstances, like the building construction, chimney set up or the size and shape of the recess the stove would need to be built into. Stove fan manufacturers follow very similar requirements when designing their models.
For a very long time the owners of any kind of built-in stove had been ruled out from being able to have a stove fan and the advantages they bring, as the fans were designed to be placed on a big, flat stove top, which obviously precludes the inset and insert stoves. This marginalised a huge chunk of the market, and a solution had to be found sooner rather than later.
2016 brought a new model of the Sirocco stove fan, the Sirocco Plus. As the name suggests, the Sirocco Plus is the very same as the Sirocco original plus the addition of a Vertical Mounting Kit (VMK).
The Sirocco, produced in Lithuania by the German company – Hansa, has been one of the first stove fans on the European market. Weighing nearly 2kg, it’s quite heavy when compared to other Peltier stove fans. It has a massive heat sink which secures energy accumulation, so the fan works long after the fire in the stove dies down. The fan’s base is equipped with three screws which act as feet and six threaded holes so the fan can be levelled if the stove top surface isn’t perfectly horizontal. Another purpose of the countersunk screws is to lift the fan so it stays away from a stove top that might get too hot for the fan’s motor and Peltier module.
Hansa engineers came up with the Vertical Mounting Kit that can be adapted to any kind of stove door front and attached to the stove fan using a couple of the three screw holes in the base described before. This way owners of the built in stoves can use the Sirocco Plus fan to get the heat distributed evenly around the room. All in all, The Sirocco Plus stove fan is nothing more than an original Sirocco fan plus the VMK.
As of today – November 2017 – the Sirocco Plus is the only stove fan that can be adapted to work on the built in stove.
How about low temperature stove top fans?
There are many stoves that whose top rarely get hotter than 250 centigrade, such as the soapstone stove or gas powered stove.
These stoves need dedicated stove fans that have their best operating temperature range shifted towards around 150 centigrade. You might be surprised but there are quite a few Peltier fans designed to work on a low temperature stove top, and even one Stirling engine fan.
The Glasshopper by Warpfive is powered by a miniature Stirling engine built in its base. In order to convert much lower temperature of the soapstone stove into mechanical energy there are a few changes made to the construction of the engine when compared to the higher temperature fans of the Warpfive family. Including a bigger cylinder or lighter dispenser. Skipping the very technical aspects, this fan starts to operate at 70°c, and its operates until 300°C. As with all Stirling engine fans it’s a pleasure to watch this beautiful invention at work.
The Stirling engine fans will set you back well over £200. There is another option for the low temperature stove at half the price; the SmartFan “LT” – “LT” meaning ‘low temperature’ to emphasise its intended use. This two axial fan designed by the Irish company IQ Design will distribute warmth evenly throughout any room it is in. Should there be restricted clearance above the stove, the company offers a smaller version of this fan that is only 190mm high: the SmartFan LT Mini, with just a slightly poorer performance due to the shorter blade diameter.
To operate on lower temperature stoves the SmartFan LT ranges have a special Peltier module installed that – unfortunately – won’t withstand any temperature above 190 centigrade so they cannot be used interchangeably on all kinds of stoves.
There is one more stove fan dedicated to work on the beautiful soapstone, gas or convergent stoves – the Ecofan BelAir. It was introduced by the pioneering stove fan manufacturer, Caframo – based just 150 miles away from London… in Ontario, Canada. The Ecofan Belair is less than 160mm high, and has been fitted with two Peltier modules to provide enough energy to propel 140 CFM.
A budget starter stove fan
If you are still unsure about the effectiveness of stove fans and thinking the price of them can be quite an investment, we are very pleased to introduce a great little starter fan. It has a retro design reminiscent of the first fans to market from the big brands such as Caframo or Valiant nearly a decade ago. Despite their revisions over the years the retro design of My Stove Fan will in no way affect the efficacy of its main purpose, which is to circulate the hot air around your room.
It has very large blades that produce a good volume of airflow, we could feel it from 6ft away (about 1.8m). The blades do give a quiet hum, but it is not intrusive. You can hear it when you are stood next to the fan, but it doesn’t disturb a conversation, the radio or the TV.
As with many other modern designs, the My Stove Fan is fitted with a bi-metallic strip that bends, and in turn, tilts the fan to protect its motor and Peltier module from overheating; a common problem with all stove fans. If the components within the fan reach above 320° Centigrade they will become quite seriously damaged. We suggest you use our SFR stove thermometer if you expect your stove to reach temperatures of 320°C or above. The SFR stove thermometer can be placed next to your fan or on the flue pipe as it comes with a screw and wire to secure mounting. This gives you the comfort of knowing how hot your stove is and that your fan is safe from damage.
The My Stove Fan costs slightly more than £40, we have given it the same thorough testing we give to all the products we review and sell on StoveFanReviews.com and to show our complete faith in this fan, despite its low price point, we are covering it with a 2 year warranty.
Small stove fans.
As IQ Design’s goal was to provide a range of stove fan models to fit nearly every heating stove and their settings, they offer a smaller version of the SmartFan Original, which is the Smartfan Mini and is only 180mm high.
In case there is a height restriction above the stove, the market has a fair number of small fans to offer. Probably the smallest fan is the UK made Fan-C by Look Creations, unfortunately we have never tested it so cannot give a reliable recommendation.
Although if the aperture is not that low, the Valiant Ventum 2 at 180mm might be the perfect solution. Check our video where we compared every facet of the Ventum 3 and Ventum 2 to get a better understanding of their construction differences:
Another interesting fit for a low opening over a wood stove might be the Phoenix Mini with 4 blades.
Where to place a stove fan?
All stove fans need to be kept away from the flue pipe – the Peltier powered fans are the most vulnerable to overheating. These fans should be placed at least 100mm away from the flue, if the fan is to be placed in front of the flue then a 150mm gap is required. Because of the unusual SmartFan construction their fans should be placed so the axial fan never draws air in that has been warmed by the flue pipe, which usually gets hotter than the stove top.
A few words of conclusion.
The market is flooded with extremely cheap stove fans, as with every other product, you can always find some flimsy copies of the quality merchandise. We cannot recommend them as we only test the above fans and we always pack in a top notch customer service; check out the reviews from our verified customers.
Stove fans are very easy to use and are proved to provide heating and fuel efficiency – just find the one that meets your stove, room and aesthetic requirements. In case you still don’t know which one to go for – drop us a line, we’re here to help!