Keeping Warm

Despite what the ads might imply, the miracle heater is not how Amish keep their homes and buildings warm.

Here’s a shot of a stove in an Amish fabric shop.

amish wood stove
An Amish stove

With winter around the corner, these will be getting a lot of use.  One thing I always enjoy when staying with Amish friends in the wintertime is the toasty warmth circulated throughout the home by their basement stoves.

As for Amish heating, Stephen Scott and Kenneth Pellman inform us that

amish school chimney
Center chimney in an Amish school

The Amish typically heat their homes with one or more heating stoves on the first floor of the house.   In some homes a cookstove serves as a supplementary heater or the sole source of heat.  Kerosene heaters also are widely used as an auxiliary source of warmth.

Most heating stoves burn wood or coal, although a sizeable minority of Amish (more than one-third) use propane or natural gas heaters.  Communities that use gas for cooking do not necessarily use it for heating…

Unlike some items needed for the Amish lifestyle, appropriate heating devices are readily available.  In such areas as Berne, Indiana, and Ashland, Ohio, Amish shops manufacture nonelectric heaters.  In addition, many non-Amish companies produce wood-burning stoves for ecologically inclined consumers (Living Without Electricity p.56).

Central heating is a wonderful convenience, but the aroma of burning wood is one of my favorites.

Here’s another shot, of an Amish kitchen stove.

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    1. Roberta Klooster

      Well, burning wood does smell good and a log burning can keep me facinated for hours. But growing up with wood and coal heat, the soot covering everything is awful. I remember it well as we had a coal furnace and a coal burning stove in the kitchen. The only time you could keep surfaces clean was in the summer. God bless the woman who tries to keep a coal heated home clean!

    2. Lee Ann

      I agree with you Roberta on the coal burning. We had a huge coal furnace that was smack in the middle of the living room. The walls were black with soot. Finally Dad moved it to the basement and we had a fireplace that burned wood.

      I love the smell of the wood burning and the crackle when it pops.
      Every year after Christmas, would enjoy cutting up the tree and burning in the fireplace and making the house smell good from the pine.

      Several of my friends have had those stove heaters in their homes and they are very nice to have.

    3. Burning Wood

      Being a Northerner, I have never burned coal.I’ve had wood stoves that left ash and soot everywhere, and others that burned very cleanly. Right now, we have an Amish-made stove from Aylmer, Ontario, made by Suppertime Stoves. It is one of the best stoves I’ve had in 30 years of burning wood. It is a combination cookstove and heater. They make larger models, but our house is about 900 square feet and this one heats all of it. It is much admired by everyone. It isn’t fancy, but it is the stove I have wanted for years.

      1. Yochannah


        Oooohhhh! *giddy* would LOVE it if you could/would post a pic of your stove(or a pic of your type of stove)!!!

    4. Burning bad stuff

      No doubt it can be a mess. The city I live in is dealing with a perennial air pollution problem. There are still a lot of old coal and wood-burning stoves in the old tenement buildings in the city (I actually have one in my home which I use from time to time). It seems some folks like to burn garbage and other things you shouldn’t, though, which has become punishable by a pretty chunky fine.

      Lugging wood here is a challenge as well. Still enjoy it once in a while though.

    5. Lois Morgan

      Wood and Coal Stoves

      My grandparents had a coal furnace(they lived in the Anthracite Coal region of Pennsylvania) and my grandmother dusted everything every day. I remember how black the window sills looked each morning before she dusted.
      Now I have a wood stove and it is great about burning every piece of wood, cleanly.
      I love this heat, as opposed to propane, which is what we had before, and which we were priced out of!

    6. sarah

      kinds of woodburning stoves...

      all of my new amish neighbors went and bought new cookstoves last year… amish made! they were called “ashland”… they had a whole truckload brought up from lancaster(?) i would say they were a bit pricey ($3500), but i guess that’s a pretty standard price for a cookstove. i would love to get one, but i can’t seem to find a dealer. perhaps i’ll have to go to lancaster myself… with a truck of course…

    7. Yochannah

      Eric: thank you for this post. I had always wondered how the Amish homes were heated.

      We heat with wood.- and love it for many, many reasons.- not the least of which is that we can do so even when the electricity goes down because of fierce winter storms.

      1. My pleasure Yochannah; I guess my toes have been chilly lately so have heating on my mind!

    8. Laura

      When I was a kid and we lived in Oregon, we had a sawdust furnace. My dad would get a truckload of sawdust for basically nothing from a sawmill — in those days, it was considered trash — and then about once a week he’d have to shovel it into the furnace. I still remember how toasty it kept the house, and how nice it always smelled. I would love to have another furnace like that, but sawdust has gotten expensive, I understand. 🙁

      1. Brook

        sawdust furnace

        Laura, I came across your posting while searching for information on sawdust furnaces. There used to be one in the house I live in (in Eugene), before I was here, and I’ve been wanting to learn more. And now I’m a graduate student working on a project on old heating systems in Oregon homes for an architecture/historic preservation class, so I’m doubly interested. Do you have thoughts about how I can learn more about them–people to ask, companies who made them, books, etc.? Thanks.

    9. Keeping Warm

      A lot of my friends use wood-burning stoves for heat, because it’s reliable…and it’s not affected by any power outages in summer or winter. We use electric heat, but we do have a nice fireplace for warmth if we need to rely on that. Greetings from the ocean shores of California, Heather 🙂

    10. Tom

      Two Temps

      My grandparents had a wood burning stove and i remembered that the house had two temperatures. Freezing arctic cold when the fire went out at night, or surface of the sun hot during the day/evening when the fire was roaring.

    11. Paul A.B.

      Heating with wood is actually an environmentally friendly way to go, and a great alternative in these days of high-efficiency stoves and high gas prices! And wood is eminently renewable. So long as people are educated on the importance of burning seasoned wood, and keeping their stoves and chimneys maintained, I see no reason why modern wood heat can’t become even more popular. Might even help the domestic economy as well, to buy wood from nearby woodlots.

      1. My only challenge is getting it to my place without a car (I don’t have one in Poland). I tried to carry a load once, and my biceps nearly exploded. A short taxi ride can haul a big bunch though, which is probably what I’ll do again.

    12. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      That kind of reminds me of my grandmother’s wood burning stove at her cottage. Only I don’t believe she or my uncle’s current model has glass on the door. The one is for heating though, not cooking I gather.

      I actually remember food having a lovely taste actually on wood cooking units.

      Even though its probably a degree above zero here in my neighborhood, I could use a wood burning stove in my place some nights. I put a heavy blanket on a night or two ago.

    13. kerry

      Use a wood burner here but have oil as an alternative. With oil prices so high this year, though, we didn’t even get the tank filled. When it’s not absolutely freezing out, the house is still somewhat comfortable when we come home from work even though the fire is out by then – the heat does linger. And since the burner is in the basement, our wood floors are always nice and warm in the mornings! 🙂

      There are many people around here who still use coal, and not all Amish. You can smell it at night especially, and it reminds me of when I was little – such a familiar smell.

      1. Heating system subsidies

        I like the smell of coal as well, though I know some people can’t stand it.

        I just learned that my town is subsidizing new heating systems to the tune of 90% if you get rid of your coal/wood-burning stove. I don’t know if it’s quite the deal for some people due to electric and gas prices here. I think I am too attached to my stove (it’s ceramic and kind of antique-y) to get rid of it even with that kind of deal. I do have an electric system already so I actually use the stove pretty rarely.

    14. Paul A. B.

      The stoves or ovens with glass doors to the firebox have a really smart design. You can see when the box needs loading. Frankly, that’s the only kind of stove I’d want to get when in the market for a wood stove!

      1. Not your Grandparent's Stove

        Just have to say that I have been using coal and wood as my primary heating source for our house and water,for the past 4 years.
        Love being off the grid…a little work, but well worth it when I look at the savings. I bought a stove from an Amish company in Lancaster and was so impressed with the quality of the workmanship that I ask for and received permission to offer these to my “English” neighbors here in NEPA.
        They are in no way like the stoves of old…much more efficient and a lot cleaner. As with any solid fuel, I would never say there is not a bit more cleaning to do, but I just think that nothing compares to the warmth of a wood or coal stove.

    15. butch

      I often see where a fire breaks out in an amish home, what causes this fire, especially in the mercer county area of pennsylvania , I often wodered what causes the fires?