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Heating your home with wood is easy, safe, and cost-effective.
Wood is the oldest fuel source used for centuries for home heating and cooking. Even today, with the high gas, oil, and electricity prices, many have decided to go back to the basics and take advantage of this renewable resource.
Use this practical guide to learn more about wood heating and its benefits, and see how it can play an important role in your lifestyle.
There are many benefits to using wood-burning appliances for home heating, and we will focus on important ones.
We will help you understand the differences between wood stoves, fireplaces, and wood furnaces, including advantages and disadvantages.
We'll write about the best and worst wood for burning and which produces the most BTU or power.
There are many things to look at when buying a wood heater, but the wood type, quality, and its effect on the environment when burning must be particularly taken into account.
As stated by the experts – "wood is a renewable energy resource that doesn't contribute to the problem of climate change."
Wood has been used as fuel for heating and cooking for centuries. It has been considered the most affordable heating source for many years, especially when using modern high-efficiency models.
Since this fuel source is cheaper than others, such as gas, and because delivering gas pipes to distant places can be expensive, heating on wood stoves and heaters can be great alternative. There are often wanted in rural areas where wood is easily accessible, and if you own some, wood heating becomes free for you and the most reliable source of heat.
And if you live in the city, you know how hard and inconvenient it is to get firewood.
If you want to compare the current energy costs, including firewood, gas, electricity, and oil, use this article or this chart, where you can also enter your own costs to compare.
As per homeadvisor.com, firewood prices in the US range between $120 and $660 per cord.
For example, oak can cost you between $180 and $600, maple from $300 to $450, and ash from $360 to $420.
Note that wood is ready to be used after being stored for some time (sometimes it takes years) and when the amount of moisture gets below 20%.
For the proper storage, stack wood in a way to provide adequate air circulation and cover it at the top to protect it from rain.
Never burn insufficiently dried wood!
And the reason is simple, with the higher moisture content in the wood, thermal power gets reduced because the energy is needed to dry the wood and water to evaporate - producing more smoke and condensation.
Homeowners often use tree species such as oak, birch, beech, maple, and others, in the form of logs, briquettes, and sawdust.
Hardwoods such as hickory and ash are the best burning firewood with the highest BTU and longer burn time. They produce more heat, burn clean, and produce less sap.
Softwood firewood such as cedar, pine, and fir are also popular because they are cheaper to buy but tend to burn faster.
Firewood with the lowest heating value are cedar, pine, and spruce.
Some experts also recommend mixing different types of firewood for cleaner and more efficient burning. If you want to use oak, which is a very dense hardwood tree, you might have a problem starting the fire and keeping the wood burning. That is why adding softwood such as pine or fir can solve this problem.
Avoid firewood that can produce dangerous fumes and smoke and have a lot of sap or resin. Softwood trees with needles rather than leaves should not be used for home heating. When they burn, they tend to create creosote which sticks to the chimney and becomes a fire hazard.
For example, Hemlock trees are tough to split and burn, while aspen and willow trees produce less heat due to poor quality.
This also includes painted and pressure-treated wood, compressed and other wood by-products.
Since the heat content, burning characteristics, and quality varies from one tree type to another, use the information from the table found in this link from Utah State University Forestry Extension. This is where you will also find information such as the produced percent of ash, how much spark and smoke it generates, the fragrance, and how hard it is to split the firewood.
No matter the wood type you want to use, only burn season firewood because it lights easier, burns hotter, and is safer than green or wet.
If you haven't decided how to heat your home during winter, we encourage you to check the following benefits when heating your home with wood.
Wood heaters can warm your room very quickly and effectively because they produce a lot of heat. While open-fire appliances such as the fireplace come with an efficiency of around 20%, some advanced stoves and wood pellets can achieve an efficiency of as much as 80%.
Wood heating saves money, especially if you own wood and cut it yourself. Buying cheap firewood is another way to save money.
Efficient space heating with various heat pumps
This type of heating is environment-friendly because wood comes from renewable and natural sources. As it is carbon-neutral fuel, it doesn't pollute the globe like other carbon fuels.
Wood burning releases radiant heat, which warms you like no other heating device. The heater radiates from all sides sending heat in all directions.
You are in charge of getting and burning wood. No need to rely on big energy suppliers and unpredictable weather that can affect fuel delivery.
And, in addition to that, no cold winters.
Heating and cooking on wood keep you ready in case of an emergency. Wood can be used for room/home heating, water heating, and cooking, regardless of gas and electricity availability.
Sourcing and cutting wood make you active. Cutting your wood with an ax or chainsaw keeps you active and healthy.
It delivers more comfortable heat. When burning, wood generates quality heat, enhancing comfort and a cozy feeling.
Support your local economy by buying firewood from someone local. And, you might get a better deal.
Wood can be your primary heating source or occasional. And you can heat the room with the fireplace, furnace, stove, or wood pellets. The heat can also be used for cooking and water heating.
Either you buy a wood stove with the traditional, classic, or contemporary style, it will make your room appealing and elegant.
When sitting in front of the wood fire and surrounded by their loved ones, people enjoy the cozy atmosphere, soft glow of the fire, and traditional spirit.
Wood heaters provide one of the most effective ways to heat your room or a house. Wood-burning appliances that directly heat a space are known as space heaters, while whole-house heaters like furnaces use a system of ducts or water pipes to deliver heat to rooms.
The following types can be great alternatives to your existing home heating system:
If you are looking for a cost-effective, reliable, and environment-friendly heat source, consider a wood stove. They are efficient, deliver a lot of clean power, and are visually attractive.
Wood stoves are mainly built for space heating but can be used for cooking too. When centrally located, larger models with higher heat output can heat more rooms at the same time, even the whole house.
Wood stoves are usually made of cast iron or steel and utilize an enclosed fire chamber where firewood is burning. They use vents and a chimney to remove the fumes and gases out of the house.
Depending on their design, wood stoves can deliver heat either by radiation, convection, or both.
Using a traditional open masonry fireplace is more about the atmosphere it provides and a look than efficient heating. Most of its heat is wasted through the chimney polluting the air more than other types. But, if you like the warmth, comfort, and beauty of natural fire, get the wood fireplace.
Fireplace inserts, as the name implies, are inserts made of cast iron or steel that go into an existing fireplace opening. They come with a close-combustion firebox and a blower system to increase efficiency. They also include a glass door on the front so you can enjoy the sight. Fireplace inserts look nice and can be easily customized to use different fuel types.
When compared to wood stoves, wood furnaces can distribute heat equally throughout your home using a network of air ducts and water pipes. These central heating systems are designed to heat not only one room but the whole house and other dwellings. Appliances that heat potable water are called boilers, where water is forced through pipes utilizing a circulation pump.
There are two types of wood furnaces to consider; an outdoor and indoor types.
Outdoor wood furnaces are designed with an inner firebox and a water jacket that surrounds them. Water is heated by fire and then pumped into the radiators or heat exchangers via pipes, delivering heat to the whole house.
The greatest advantage is that the danger of the fire spreading to your home is significantly reduced, and the cleaning is much easier and less messy.
The main disadvantages are lower efficiency (50-60%) and the large amount of smoke it produces.
Indoor wood furnaces are more efficient than outdoor units delivering more heat and producing less smoke. During the cold weather, you don't have to go outside, load the wood, and keep your furnace running.
They also require you to load only small pieces into the chamber, so you need to bring wood often, day and night, to keep the heat level steady.
Both furnace types generate a lot of ash, requiring frequent cleaning.
Wood pellet stoves are similar to wood stoves but are much more advanced, utilizing a circuit board, mechanical auger, thermostat, and fans. Such an innovative design makes them easier to run and control, also efficient, and much, much cleaner.
They do not use firewood for heating but biofuels such as compressed wood fiber (wood pellets). Wood pellets are usually made from compacted sawdust and wood-related products.
Note that all wood-burning heaters must be EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) certified and meet emission standards.
According to the Government of Canada, wood burning can harm your health unless you take steps to prevent the risk. Wood smoke contains pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, smog-related matter, carbon monoxide, chlorinated dioxins, and other toxic compounds.
And this is how you can reduce the environmental and health impact.
If you notice smoldering and smoky fires, your wood is not burned correctly, reducing the efficiency and air quality.
Burning wood for heat does not increase your carbon footprint because it releases almost the same amount of carbon whether you burn it or it naturally decays.
So, don't worry; wood is an environmentally friendly source and is considered carbon neutral when burning.
There are many ways to increase the efficiency of your home, from buying advanced appliances to home upgrades. You can do it by yourself by analyzing weak spots inside your house and changing daily habits that were causing energy losses. Or, you can hire a professional to assess your home's energy use.
In general, these are the things you can do to improve your home efficiency:
Hydronic vs. forced air heating systems
With the winter just around the corner, rising costs of gas and electricity, and supply concerns, heating your home with wood might be the solution you are looking for.
Wood is an excellent source of heat for water and home heating, available to many for an affordable price.
As explained before, homeowners like wood heating because it is economical and reliable in case of emergency and energy supply disruptions; it reduces the carbon footprint and provides a cozy and warm atmosphere to spend with your family and friends.
And with the availability of many styles and sizes, you can be confident that wood burners will look lovely in any room, whether in use or not.