Wood Burning Furnaces Grow in Popularity
What’s Old is New Again in Home Heating!
While home heating technologies and efficiencies have advanced significantly in recent years, many homeowners these days are taking a more retro approach to home heating and installing wood burning furnaces in their homes.
Wood burning furnaces have been around just about as long as the United States. Benjamin Franklin built his first Franklin Stove — the world’s first practical home heating system — back in 1742, and for over a century, it set the standard for home heating until the advent of coal, oil and other heating fuels.
Whether you’re concerned about the impact of fossil fuel consumption on the environment or are just tired of being subjected to the high cost of home fuel, wood burning furnaces are an attractive alternative to traditional home heating sources.
There are plenty of reasons why folks are turning to yesteryear to heat their homes today. Wood is a biomass fuel, which means that burning it doesn’t increase carbon dioxide in the atmosphere nor contribute to greenhouse emissions. Wood is also a renewable resource, which means that wood harvested responsibly can last forever.
Purchasing wood for fuel also gives you greater control over your heating costs—you can choose to buy local, buy only as much as you need, and even save as much as 25 percent on your heating bill. Wood burning furnaces can hey certainly can add a charming, traditional touch to your home decor.
Types of Wood Furnaces
Even though a wood burning furnace may seem somewhat out-of-date in the 21st Century, today’s wood-burning furnaces actually employ some interesting and modern technologies and features.
- Central Wood Furnace: Installed inside your home, usually in the basement or garage, this type of wood-burning furnace uses forced air or hot water to distribute heat throughout your home.
- Outdoor Wood Furnace: Usually set in a shed or enclosure outside the home, outdoor wood furnaces are effective within 50 to 150 feet of your house. The furnace is surrounded by a water tank; water is heated by the furnace and then pumped into the house through insulated pipes underground. The heat from the water radiates throughout your home. These are safer than some other models, as the fire is outside the house.
- Multi-Fuel Furnace: These models can be installed either inside or outside the home, and are capable of burning several types of fuel including wood, gas, oil, or coal. These are popular because of their flexibility, allowing owners to use wood as a primary fuel source with the option of using another kind of fuel as a backup alternative.
Each of these types of wood furnace is controlled by a thermostat, just like more traditional heat systems. When the interior temperature of the house reaches the set level, a damper on the wood furnace closes and causes the fire in the furnace to smolder. If the temperature inside the house drops, the damper opens and the fire is stoked again.
Installing a Wood Furnace
Most wood-burning furnaces can use the existing pipes and ductwork in your house, so converting from another type of heating system is generally easy. It is important to work with a professional to help you match the furnace to the square footage of your home. Your contractor will calculate the size of the blower and BTU output that’s appropriate for your home, as well as determine the air filter, humidifier, and blower mechanism that best fits your system.
Before you decide that a wood furnace is right for you, make sure you have ample access to a reliable, responsibly harvested wood supply. Most wood furnaces average about five to 10 cords of wood a year, but that amount can be higher if you live in a colder climate.
While some consumers still associate wood-burning appliances with increased fire risk, but industry and government safety regulations have made wood furnaces safer than ever. In fact, since many of these measures went into effect nearly thirty years ago, wood burning furnaces are now just as safe as any other type of home heating system.