Use a fan to circulate the heat. Old wood-burning stoves just radiate heat into the area where they reside. A fan will push the heat around the room, distributing the warm air to make the stove a much more efficient heating device. There are many types of fans to choose from, from plug-in house or box fans to fans that are non-electric and specifically made to run off the radiant heat of the wood stove. Fans are available at department stores, hardware stores or online.
Burn seasoned dried firewood. Wet firewood uses its own heat to dry the wood and loses efficiency in the process.
Burn hard woods instead of soft woods. Softwoods like pine take up the same amount of space as a hardwood like oak but burn faster. A hardwood burns more slowly because it is denser and therefore gives off more heat over the entire burning cycle than a softwood.
Keep the vents open to allow a cleaner and hotter burn. An ideal burn can be checked at the chimney. If there is a pillowing of smoke from the chimney, the burn is incomplete and you are wasting fuel and efficiency. A slight wisp of smoke or no smoke at all is a sign of a complete and hot, efficient burn.
Start the fire in the wood-burning stove with small pieces of kindling. Kindling burns hot, and the wood you add will ignite more quickly and efficiently to provide usable heat in the shortest amount of time possible.
Don't burn garbage, plastic or anything other than wood in an old wood stove. These items can dampen the flames, release a lot of ash and deposit creosote in the chimney.