Wood-burning stoves can get hot enough to heat a house, but too hot a temperature can make sitting near them uncomfortable.
The ideal temperature for comfort is between 500°F and 800°F (260°C to 426°C), with a steady ember best at around 380°C (716°F).
How you ‘feel’ this heat depends on the ferocity of the flame and how hot the metal gets.
The trick with wood-burning stoves is to get them hot and kill the oxygen so the charcoal glows away, giving you steady, comfortable heat.
This guide explores how hot a wood-burning stove can get, with insight into the different types of heat and why burning within a set temperature range is best.
How Hot Do Wood Stoves Get?
Non-catalytic wood-burning stoves usually reach a maximum temperature of 1,100°F (593°C) in the firebox once charcoal from the wood starts burning away.
When combustion starts, moisture in the wood evaporates, and when it reaches 500°F, the wood begins breaking down chemically.
The initial combustion of the wood – where it burns in flame – has a lower temperature than the charcoal. A fire will increase in temperature as the wood burns, capping out above 1,000°F and then dying down.
In a catalytic wood-burning stove, a lower temperature is maintained inside the chamber to burn off smoke and gases more efficiently. The catalyst is a waffle-shaped plate coated with metal, which converts ash and smoke into heat.
The catalytic process increases the burn time of the wood and maintains a steadier temperature, even if it is not as high. A catalytic stove can burn wood at temperatures as low as 600°F (316°C) and reduce fuel usage.
Radiant heat is the heat coming off the wood stove, i.e., the heat you can feel radiating off it when you are sitting nearby.
You can expect the temperature of a stove’s flue to reach up to 662°F (350°C) and the exterior metal to reach over 575°F. You will feel comfortable sitting four feet from the stove at these temperatures.
The greater the radiant heat, the higher the heating power of the stove at that moment.
Note that the heat produced by a wood-burning stove is measured in kW, which gives you a clear indication of the stove’s heating power.
However, while the kW measurement helps us determine the correct wood-burning stove size for heating a space, it does not provide a temperature range determined by the fuel you use and the fire’s ferocity.
Conductive heat is the transfer of heat through physical contacts, such as placing a mug on top of your stove to heat your coffee.
With the steel exterior of a wood-burning stove ticking over at over 575°F with a steady burn, you can expect rapid heat transfer. The cold liquid in a regular mug placed on a stovetop will heat up in less than two minutes and boil in less than five.
This also makes wood-burning stoves dangerously hot to the touch, so we recommend using a child guard if you have pets or children.
Top tip: If you find the radiant heat of your stove is insufficient for your space, you can harness the power of conductive heat with a stove fan, a self-powered bolt-on device that pushes heat away from the stove exterior.
Firebox heat is the internal combustion heat of the stove – a higher firebox temperature means more radiant and conductive heat (providing it is sustained).
The average wood fire burns at 600-700°F after the flames die down and the charcoal starts glowing away. The firebox will trap heat due to a layer of ash, reducing the need to throw on more logs.
You can increase the firebox temperature by increasing airflow into the chamber using the top and bottom vents. Bringing the firebox temperature up increases radiant heat and the burn rate, requiring more fuel.
Is There Such a Thing as Too Hot?
There is such a thing as too hot from overfiring.
Overfiring a wood-burning stove means adding too much fuel and air, substantially increasing the burn rate and temperature.
It is usual for a stove firebox to hit 900-1,100°F before settling down, but anything above 800°F once the flames are gone is too high.
A higher temperature in the firebox means more radiant heat – too much heat makes a stove unbearable to sit close to.
Another reason too much heat is terrible is that lots of that heat will only escape up the chimney breast. Using less fuel for a lower temperature is better so that most of the heat radiates out of the stove and into your space.
The Benefits of an Optimal Wood Burn Temperature
We recommend a temperature range between 500°F and 800°F (260°C and 426°C), which is sufficient to heat most spaces without radiating too much heat.
However, bear in mind that temperatures under 350°C produce smoldering fire.
Comfort and fuel consumption are the most significant benefits of keeping wood stove temperatures in check, and there are others to consider:
Also, if you are unsure what stove temperatures are best for your space, your stove manufacturer probably has recommendations.
You can usually find these in your manual or ask your manufacturer for support.