Wood-Fired Central Heat

The benefits of selecting a wood-fired central heat system such as a wood-burning furnace or boiler to heat a home over a woodstove, including forced-hot-air systems, hyrdonic systems, combination systems, dual units and installation.

  • Diagram: Wood burning heating systems.
    Diagram: Wood burning heating systems.
  • When using a wood-fired central heat system is it best to choose a wood-burning furnace or boiler or a wood stove?
    When using a wood-fired central heat system is it best to choose a wood-burning furnace or boiler or a wood stove?

  • Diagram: Wood burning heating systems.
  • When using a wood-fired central heat system is it best to choose a wood-burning furnace or boiler or a wood stove?

A wood-fired central heat system is a cleaner-burning heater and economical too.

If you want to heat your home with wood, should you choose a wood-fired central heat system such as a woodburning furnace or boiler rather than a woodstove? Woodstoves generally cost less and have better overall efficiency and lower emissions, but sometimes stoves just aren't practical as the sole heat source in homes with many rooms. Some people also prefer a furnace to keep the associated mess or potential hazard out of the main living space.

Central wood heaters and boilers, normally installed in the basement or a utility room, distribute their heat with forced hot-air or circulating hot-water systems, and can heat any home. If you have a ready supply of firewood and you enjoy handling wood, a wood furnace or boiler may be a good choice.

"There have been substantial changes in the last 10 to 20 years that make it easier and more convenient to use wood-fired central heat," according to Lloyd Nichols, co-owner of boiler distributor TARM USA, Inc. in Lyme, New Hampshire. "Part of that equation is that homes have become less energy demanding. Couple that with a more efficient, cleaner-burning heater and the results are impressive. Now, instead of using eight to 10 cords to heat a typical home, we're talking between two to five cords."

The best modern wood-fired furnaces are designed to achieve extremely hot fires that create a lot of usable heat and leave little in the way of emissions to go up the stack. Except for the handling of the firewood, these heaters tend to function more or less like their oil- or gas-fired competitors and are generally controlled by a standard thermostat. When your home is warm enough, the thermostat causes the damper to close, and the fire burns at a reduced level. When more heat is called for, the damper automatically opens again and the fire comes back to a higher temperature.

Forced Hot-Air Heating Systems

If your home already has forced-hot-air ductwork, you may want to consider installing a wood-fired furnace (as opposed to a hydronic hot water system). These furnaces generally are thermostatically controlled, have a good-sized firebox, automatic draft control and optional hotwater coils. Many wood furnaces also are designed to burn coal, and some have blowers for increased combustion temperatures as well as optional evaporation pans for humidification. Regardless of their individual features, they all burn wood to heat the air in a heat exchanger. The heated air then is distributed to the living space in your home through ductwork. Because there is generally no heat storage capacity in a forced-hot-air system, the furnace needs to be refueled regularly in order to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home during the colder winter months. This can be a problem for people who are away from home for extended periods of time or who have irregular or unpredictable schedules during the winter.

7/15/2016 6:57:50 AM

Well I must acccept that wood fired boiler systems are very economical and energy effucient. Thank you for taking time out and publishing such an informative writing.

Johnny Shi
3/18/2015 6:49:59 PM

I have never considered having a wood-fired central heat system because it seemed impractical. However you mentioned that homes have become less energy demanding, and the efficiency of modern wood fired furnaces making it seem more practical. Even if the entire houses isn't heated by it, I think it would be great to at least have a good fireplace. http://www.artsacrepairrockwalltx.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=47&Itemid=56

10/2/2014 9:17:55 AM

An excellent stove to choose is the Grand Stove Wood Cook Stove. This stove is great for areas with minimal space. It can hold logs up to 18 inches long. The vent system allows for you to give off as much heat as you'd like using the controls on the front. This stove can be stoked at night and you will wake up to a warm house still in the morning. It also has an oven in which you can cook up to six loaves of bread. I recommend anyone looking into purchasing a wood stove to check out this link: http://antiquestoves.us/shop/grand-wood-cook-stoves/161-grand-wood-cook-stove.html

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