3 Best DEFRA-Approved Small Wood Burning Stoves in 2020

small wood burning stoves fire

A shepherd’s hut, tiny home or cosy small space just isn’t complete without a small wood burning stove. With space one of your most prized possessions, a compact log burner is going to be just the ticket for you and provide you with plenty of heat as well as efficient fuel burning. They don’t have to break the bank either. All of the stoves below come in well under £1,000.

Even better these small wood burning stoves are DEFRA-approved, meaning these cast iron stoves are the latest designs that have passed strict environmental tests.

Just imagine yourself coming back to your little space and lighting up your log burner after a long, chilly walk, a couple of afternoon pints down at the pub or setting the mood for a cosy night in.

This isn’t about settling for something inferior either. Small cast iron log burner are more than capable of heating your space effectively, boiling a kettle of water, even cooking a bit food, as well as providing you with that rustic, country look.

What heat do I get from a small wood burning stove?

If you opt for a bigger stove than necessary, you’re going to find yourself overheating your space on a regular basis. In compact spaces, a small log burner will give off a powerful amount of heat. Most small wood burning stoves tend to give out between 4kW and 5kW of energy. That will be the size you are after.

You can get small wood burners that emit greater outputs over 5kW, but these may be too big and give off too much heat and create an uncomfortable environment. I’ve been there a number of times when I’ve over-cooked the number of logs required and half an hour later I’m down to the bare essentials with the windows cracked open trying to cool down!

The compact, small stoves really are effective. A good quality small stove will also give you decades of good, reliable heat, so it’s worth making sure you make a great purchase to last you for the foreseeable.

They’re also a fantastic choice if you’re looking for an off-grid heating solution – all you need are a few dry logs, a bit of kindling and you’re off. Back to nature and back to simple living. Before we head in to the 3 of the best small wood burners on the market, let’s take a look at the stove considerations you need to take into account before buying.

Related post: Discover 13 ways to make your home more environmentally friendly

Small wood burning stove – What do I need to consider?

small cast iron wood burning stove ravens retreat
Image: Small cast iron wood burning stove at Ravens Retreat Shepherds Hut in Wales – read my review here

> Dimensions and Size

The dimensions of the stove are perhaps the primary most consideration. If you don’t have a stove that fits your space, then you don’t have a stove at all.

The most important dimensions to consider for your cast iron stove are:

  • Width and depth (how much floorspace is takes up)
  • Height
  • Clearance at the back/sides from the wall or nearby materials

For a small space, such as a shepherd’s hut or houseboat where the area is less than 150 square feet, a power output of 3-4kW will be ideal. This is a measure of how many kilowatts of output the stove can produce with one fuel load. This generally means a smaller firebox (the place where you put the logs) so that the heat the stove can produce is limited. More logs on the fire = more heat.

Your wood burner will also need to sit on a hearth. This ensures that the floor area can deal with the heat from the stove. In traditional houses with a wooden floor, you’ll notice that the fireplace area has a concrete flooring which is where the stove would sit.

Some stoves are certified that they won’t heat the floor to more than 100oC. If this is the case, the hearth can be 12mm thick of non-combustible material. If the stove hasn’t been certified and may heat the floor above 100oC, then it must sit on 5” of brick or concrete.

Good hearth materials are concrete, brick, ceramic tiles, stone, slate. For more info on hearths read this detailed post on stovefitterswarehouse.co.uk.

Related read: Here’s a post of shepherd’s hut floor plans if you’re wondering where your stove might fit in.

> DEFRA Approved for the Environment & Smoke Control

small wood burning stove the hobbit
Image: Fantastic space-saving raised set up of the log burner at Brostefield shepherds hut – read my review here

As part of the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968, local authorities have the power to control certain smoke emissions. This means many parts of the UK, particularly towns and cities, are smoke control areas where you can’t emit smoke from a chimney unless you’re burning an authorised fuel or an exempt appliance, such as a certain stove or burners.

DEFRA approved appliances mean you can burn wood (usually an unauthorised fuel) in a safe and legal manner within a smoke control area. You must however, only use the types of fuel that the manufacturer says can be used in the appliance.

If you do live in a smoke control zone and are using an appliance that hasn’t been authorised, then you cannot burn wood. The current maximum fine for non-compliance when it comes to smoke in a smoke control area is £1000. Do check with your local authority for further clarity.

You can find a whole load of Defra-approved wood burning stoves of all sizes here at directstoves.com.

> Efficiency Rating

The efficiency of your cast iron wood burner is important. It’s a measure of how much of the energy within the fuel gets converted to heat for you versus how much is lost up the chimney. The efficiency rating is given as a percentage, so for example a stove might have rating of 72%, which means 28% of heat goes up the chimney and 72% gets emitted to the room.

An efficiency rating of 75% or over is very good and will offer great heat efficiency as well as cost efficiency on the log front.

> Ecodesign Compliant

There are soon to be changes in the woodburning and solid fuel stove industry.

You may come across some stoves that have the ‘Ecodesign Approved’, ‘Ecodesign Ready’ or ‘SIA Ecodesign Ready’ accreditation. It’s an approval to show that these stoves are the very latest designs that have passed strict environmental tests soon to be a requirement by DEFRA.

Ecodesign 2022 is the stove industry’s response to the Clean Air Strategy 2019. The Ecodesign status is a European-wide initiative to lower stove emissions. It’s important too. Independent research available on the Stove Industry Alliance website show that Ecodesign stoves are typically 90% more efficient than open fires and 80% on stoves that are just 10 years ago.

For the manufacturers and sellers, it means any wood burning or solid fuel stove sold after 2022 will need to have reached certain environmental standards and be approved as Ecodesign compliant. These rules aren’t back-dated, so if you have a stove installed before 2022, then you’re fine, but it’s certainly something to look out for.

> Price Point

Ok, you know the size of stove you want, now to work out what makes and models fit in with your budget.

For a DEFRA-approved small cast iron wood burner of 2kW-5kW output, you can pay anywhere from £400 to £2000.

Like most products – furniture, cars, watches – the difference is price comes in the build quality and craftsmanship. With a cast iron log burner, you’ll find the key differences between the lower price end and higher point due to:

  • Design of the stove
  • Higher quality glass on the window (or windows for very fancy design)
  • Longer warranty
  • Better functionality – door locking system, flame control, air flow
  • Better finish

3 of the Best DEFRA-Approved Wood Burning Stoves

With all that in mind, let’s have a look at 3 of the best small stoves that could be perfect for your space. All the small stoves below are DEFRA-approved, meaning they can be used in smoke control areas.

1. The Hobbit SE Stove

  • Output: 4kW
  • Manufacturer: Salamander Stoves
  • Efficiency: 75%
  • Dimensions: 460mm (height), 302mm (width), 272mm (depth)
  • Construction material: Cast iron
  • DEFRA-approved: Yes
  • Prices: from £564

This stove has been one of the most popular log burners for small spaces since it was first introduced in 2009. It also received a big boost in popularity after it was featured on a certain George Clarke programme in 2015.

The Hobbit, created by a family run outfit in Devon, may be small but it filled a big hole in the market with people looking for great quality, small cast iron stoves. It’s actually the smallest DEFRA-approved stove on the market. There are plenty of upgrades to have for the Hobbit, including a log store at the bottom which raises the stove off the ground, brass fittings, gallery rail along the top, stainless steel cooktop, coal front bar and add in back boiler, personalised colours.

I’ve personally used the Hobbit on several occasions whilst visiting a shepherd’s huts around the country and it’s been fantastic. You can find it in all sorts of weird and wonderful places from canal boats and cabins to tree houses and writing sheds.

2. Flavel Dalton

flavel dalton defra approved stove cast iron
  • Output: 4.9kW
  • Manufacturer: Flavel Fires
  • Efficiency: 78%
  • Dimensions: 631mm (height), 444mm (width), 315mm (depth)
  • Construction material: Cast iron
  • DEFRA-approved: Yes
  • Prices: from £694

With a sleek, solid and elegant design, the Flavel Dalton is a DEFRA-approved stove with a 78% efficiency rating. It has a large front window and stunning metallic black finish. It’s simple to use thanks to its primary and secondary air controls, meaning you’ll have perfect control over your fire.

The good news is that it’s also backed by Flavel’s 5 year guarantee.

Buy your Flavel Dalton here on Direct Stoves.

3. Charnwood Country 4

charnwood country 4 wood burning stove defra approved stove
Image: Charnwood Country 4 – image from Directstoves.com
  • Output: 4.8kW
  • Manufacturer: Charnwood Stoves
  • Efficiency: 77%
  • Dimensions: 545mm (height), 416mm (width), 308mm (depth)
  • Construction material: Steel body + cast iron door
  • DEFRA-approved: Yes
  • Prices: from £699

Compact and traditional in style, the Country 4 is the smallest in the British-made Charnwood range. This hugely popular stove has a big front window, airwash system and spinning primary air wheel to control your fire perfectly. It also comes with a 10 year guarantee when bought through Charnwood approved sellers.

It’s available in eight different colours, plus finished with touches with solid brass and a turned wooden door handle.

Buy your Charnwood Country 4 stove here. Direct Stoves currently have a special offer running too.

You can find plenty more Defra-approved stoves here at DirectStoves.com. Located in Stockport, Direct Stoves offer free delivery and 14 day no hassle returns. Happy stove shopping!

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