Thermometers for wood burning stoves are a great accessory to have and are often overlooked.
Understanding how well a fire is burning inside a stove by seeing the operating temperatures can help a user to adjust their fires for better efficiency and heat ouput.
However, wood stove thermometers can sometimes give a user the wrong indication for how their fire is burning and so while using a stove thermometer can be advisable, they should be used alongside other indicators to understand how a wood stove fire is performing.
We use thermometers on both our stoves, and they help us to understand how hot our fires are burning so we can adjust accordingly if needed, but we don’t base our whole fire on what the thermometers read.
We’ve put together this complete guide to wood stove thermometers to explain what they are, what they look like, how they work, where they should be placed and how you should read them.
Our recommended wood stove thermometers can be found on our essential fireplace and stove gear page here.
What Is A Thermometer For A Wood Burning Stove?
A wood stove thermometer is a small non-electric thermometer that provides a reading of the temperature that the stove is burning at. Wood stove thermometers typically provide an optimum temperature range on the dial in which to aim for.
A wood stove thermometer can in some cases come with the purchase of a wood burning stove, but many different models of stove thermometer are available as a separate accessory.
Wood stove thermometers are small and relatively inexpensive devices, typically round in shape, that can provide an indication of the temperature that an operating wood stove is burning at.
A wood stove will typically come in a small packaging as shown below.
Stove thermometers will be made of metal and have a front-facing flat design and a dial that will move and point to the current operating temperature of the stove.
On the back, you’ll typically find a stove thermometer to be mostly hollow with a magnet that allows them to stick to stove bodies and stovepipes, and a spring device that allows the dial to turn with increases or decreases in heat.
Do I Need A Wood Stove Thermometer?
A wood stove can be operated without a stove thermometer but can be useful in helping the user to understand how efficiently a fire inside the stove is burning. A stove thermometer can help prevent a stove from over firing or being underutilized.
Each model of wood stove is designed, built, and operated differently, and they can come in a range of sizes and heat output depending on your needs.
As a result, wood stoves can take different amounts of wood and the controls may affect the burning performance in different ways.
A stove thermometer can be used to help understand how well or inefficiently a stove is burning.
By placing a wood stove thermometer in the correct location on the stove, it will display an indication of the current temperature that the stove is burning. This information can help the user to understand whether the stove is burning too hot or too cold.
Wood burning stoves should always be operated as per the manufacturer’s guidelines and best burning practices but adding too much or too little wood, or allowing too little or too much air into the stove, at any one time can affect how efficient the fire is burning and how much heat is being produced.
Stove thermometers provide a typical temperature range in which you can expect your stove to be burning most optimally.
If a wood stove is burning at too low of a temperature, then then the wood may be struggling to burn, producing more smoke and generating less heat.
Running a wood stove at too high temperatures can lead to premature damage of the stove, such as to the baffle plate.
A wood stove thermometer is therefore a great piece of kit that you can use to help understand how well you’re using your stove for each fire.
Types Of Wood Stove Thermometer
There are typically three types of thermometers for wood burning stoves:
- Stovepipe wood stove thermometer
- Stove top thermometer
- Stovepipe probe thermometer
The most common type of thermometer for a wood stove can be the stovepipe type.
Stovepipe wood stove thermometers are designed to sit on the stovepipe that sticks out the top or back of the stove.
This type of thermometer is calibrated to read the temperature of the gases heading up the flue.
This is the type of thermometer that we use with our wood burning stove, and sits a small distance up on the stovepipe.
Unless stated otherwise (either in the title or description of the product), you should assume that a wood stove thermometer will be the stovepipe type as this can be the most common type.
Our stovepipe thermometer states that it’s suitable for use on single wall flue pipes only.
Stove top thermometers sit on the top of the stove rather than on the stovepipe.
These types of thermometers are calibrated to measure the temperature at the top surface of a wood stove and so won’t provide an accurate reading if placed on a stovepipe.
We use a stove top thermometer with our multi fuel stove.
Stovepipe probe thermometers are similar to the more common stovepipe thermometers but have a metal probe located at the back of the device that’s inserted in through a hole of a double-wall stovepipe.
These types of thermometers are required for double-wall stovepipes as the standard stovepipe thermometers are only suitable for single-wall stovepipes, as a double wall can affect the readings.
Wood stove thermometers should always be used in their designated placement, which we discuss below.
Wood Stove Thermometer Placement
Stovepipe thermometers for wood burning stoves should only be placed on the front of the stovepipe and placed a certain distance up the stovepipe in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines. Stove top thermometers should only be placed on the top surface of a wood stove.
For the most accurate reading, a stove thermometer should be placed:
- In the right location depending on the type of thermometer.
- In any more specific location as outlined by the manufacturer.
Stovepipe Thermometer Placement
If you have a stovepipe thermometer it will need to be placed somewhere on the stovepipe that’s protruding out the top of your wood stove.
It may be stated somewhere on the packaging or the thermometer itself that it’s a stovepipe thermometer and not a stove top one. If nothing is stated that it’s more likely that it’s a stovepipe thermometer than a stove top one.
Our stovepipe thermometer that we use on our wood burning stove doesn’t state what type of thermometer is on the packing or the thermometer, but it does say on the back that it needs to be placed on the surface of the flue/stovepipe.
In line with what’s stated on this packaging we needed to place our stovepipe thermometer approximately 45cm (18 inches) above the top of the stove for the best results.
Your stovepipe thermometer may need to be placed at a difference distance above the stove for the most accurate readings and so place it in line with what the manufacturer of your thermometer says.
A stovepipe thermometer should not be placed on the top of a stove, but only if allowed by the manufacturer.
Stovepipe thermometers will be magnetic to allow them to stick to the flue.
Stove Top Thermometer Placement
Stove top thermometers for wood burning stoves need to be placed on the top surface of the stove.
Unlike stovepipe types, stove top thermometers should not be placed on the flue of a stove.
We place our stove top thermometer on the edge of the top surface of our multi fuel stove so that we can keep an eye on the temperatures.
Stove top thermometers will also typically be magnetic allowing them to stick to the stove.
How To Use A Wood Stove Thermometer
A wood stove thermometer should be used as a guide to understand how well a fire inside the stove is burning. A fire should be burning at temperatures indicated to be within the most optimum temperature range shown on the thermometer.
The readings on a stove thermometer will typically have three main sections:
- Low temperatures
- Optimum burning temperatures
- High temperatures
You should always be aiming for the temperature of your wood stove to be in the middle temperature range as shown on the thermometer, often highlighted on thermometers, and referred to as ‘Optimum Burn’ etc.
Within this temperature range a stove will be burning the fuel most optimally, where the fire is burning calmly and other processes such as secondary combustion may be occurring.
If the temperature of a stove is indicated to be burning at less than optimal (a lower temperature than in the optimal range) then it’s an indication that the stove isn’t burning efficiently and could be producing more creosote than usual.
If this is the case you may be:
- Using too little amounts of firewood for your size of stove.
- Not letting enough air into the stove by closing the air vents too far.
- Burning wood that is too wet and unsuitable for burning.
To help increase the temperature of your wood stove up to optimal burning temperatures:
- Place more firewood inside the stove at any one time (but don’t overfill it).
- Allow slightly more air into the stove using the vent(s), ensuring that you’re not allowing too much air in, and temperatures go above optimum.
- Burn properly seasoned or kiln dried wood.
See our guides on how to use the vents to control a wood burning stove and how to use a wood burning stove for more information on how to operate a wood stove for the most efficient burn for maximum heat.
Also see our article on what the moisture content of wood should be and how to check for more information on the right moisture content for firewood.
If the temperature of a stove is indicated to be higher than optimal on a wood stove thermometer then the fire can be burning too fast to be efficient with much of the heat being lost up the flue.
Higher temperatures in wood stove than what is recommended can also lead to damage of the stove over time though overfiring.
A high temperature operating stove may be due to:
- Too much wood in the stove.
- Allowing too much air into the stove through the vents.
- Using very dry firewood.
To help bring temperatures down in a wood stove into the optimal range as shown on a wood stove thermometer:
- Ensure a more adequate amount of wood is place within the stove at any one time going forward.
- Slowly close down the air vents to allow less air into the stove, without closing the vents too far and causing the fire to struggle.
- Use firewood that isn’t as dry but still around or below the recommended 20% moisture content.
A wood stove thermometer shouldn’t be fully relied upon to change how you use a wood stove.
Some models of thermometer, especially the lower cost ones, may not have been calibrated as accurately as the more expensive units from reputable manufacturers and may give a false indication of temperature and efficiency of fires.
A stove thermometer should therefore be used as one piece of the puzzle to helping you to understand how well and efficiently you’re operating a wood stove.
Understanding what a wood stove fire should look like, the maximum and minimum amount of wood you should be putting in your particular model of stove, and how much air your allowing to the fire can be more important than solely relying on what a stove thermometer reads.
What Is The Best Wood Stove Thermometer?
See our essential gear guide for the best wood stove thermometers we recommend.