I love using wood heat in our home. There’s something just so comforting about a crackling fire in the middle of a blistering cold winter.
Before we moved to our homestead, each home that we lived in had a furnace. And I guess for the most part, they were fairly efficient. But there was always something missing. And I didn’t even know it until we started to heat with wood!
Yes, it may be more work than a furnace, where you just set the thermostat and forget it. But using wood heat just seems to make you more connected to the comfort of your family. There’s something – I guess you could call it another level of awareness – that comes with building a fire to keep your family warm. It’s almost a lifestyle all in its own.
The little house on our homestead is over 100 years old. It has lathe and plaster walls, and not much insulation. And it came with old baseboard heaters from the 70’s, plus a wood burning stove.
It didn’t take us long to realize that the baseboard heaters are not efficient at all. During our first winter, since we hadn’t prepared and gotten wood, our power bill was nearly $800 every month. You better believe, we made sure to get firewood ready for the next year!
Why would you want to heat with wood?
Of course, using wood heat isn’t for everyone, just as it isn’t for every house. There are a lot of factors that come in to play when considering whether or not to use a wood stove or fireplace your home. So since I can’t speak for everyone, I’ll just discuss why it’s right for us.
Wood heat is economical
After our first winter of serious sticker shock from the power bill, we realized how much money heating with wood would save us. Buying a cord of wood around here costs about $200, and we go through about 4 cords for each winter. That makes $800 for the whole winter, instead of each month!
We do use the baseboard heaters as backup, for if we aren’t home for most of the day, and for the middle of the night after the fire goes out. But when we are pretty diligent about using the wood stove, our power bill goes down to about $150 in the winter. Talk about some serious savings!
If you need to go cheaper on your wood heat, you can even look for free wood scraps and lumber. They’re still wood, and if they’re free, it will reduce the cost even more.
If you go a step further and get your own firewood, which we usually do, it’s even more economical. For about $10 for a wood permit, gas, and a lot of manpower, you can easily save yourself hundreds of dollars over buying firewood.
Wood heat is sustainable
While it may not be the most eco-friendly way to heat your home, heating your home with wood is a sustainable option. It is a clean, renewable energy source. And according to the Carbon Trust, burning wood is “carbon neutral”. So if you’re wanting to reduce your carbon footprint, using a wood burning stove is a great option.
In most cases, wood that is cut for firewood is already dead or diseased. Smart firewood harvesting actually helps relieve the forests of diseases and dead matter which fuels forest fires. And the good news is that right now, in the United States, there are more trees than there were 100 years ago.
Heating with wood can help keep you fit
Using a wood stove isn’t hard, but it’s definitely not easy either. It’s a lot of work to cut, split, and haul firewood. Plus, “babysitting” the fire will keep you up and moving throughout the cold days.
Dealing with all that is required to burn with wood can help keep you fit. You might not even need that gym membership!
We usually take a couple days throughout the summer to go to the mountains and cut our own wood. Working as a team, we can usually get a couple cords in a day. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also quality family time that helps teach the kids good work ethics.
On the other hand, if you feel like you’re not cut out for doing the chopping and splitting yourself…
Wood heat can help support your neighbors
A lot of people don’t want to cut their own firewood. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that! Buying wood from someone local that actually does it for a living is a great option. It helps support small businesses in your area, and can actually help one of your “neighbors” to pay his bills.
If you don’t have the manpower or time, but you have some extra money, check out your online marketplaces. You might be able to find someone close to you who would be willing to deliver, split, and even stack your firewood for you.
We actually found ourselves low on manpower and short on time to get our own firewood this year, so we found some wood from a local small-time lumber mill. We got a great deal on it, and the wood is better than the pine we usually get ourselves.
Wood heat is warmer and drier
Heating your home with wood can produce a much warmer, drier heat than other options. Some gas or electric furnaces can’t keep up with bitter cold temperatures. I know I personally have sat in a few “climate-controlled” homes and still felt cold. But with wood heat, you can fire it up more if you need to, to drive out that cold.
If you live in a high-humidity or high-precipitation area, heating with wood can help dry out your home. This can help prevent mold formation in your home. A lot of people actually find that they need to put a pot of water on their wood stoves just to put a little moisture back into the house.
Wood heat can help support your preparedness efforts
Since we always strive to be prepared for emergencies, wood heat is a no-brainer. A wood stove is not reliant on the power being on to keep you warm. There are so many emergencies that can cause your power to go out. Having a heat source that you can count on, no matter what, is invaluable.
And it’s not even just about heating your home. You can also use your wood stove as a means of cooking without power. In the winter, the wood stove is especially helpful to cook beans and other no-fuss dishes that take a lot of time to cook.
Even if you don’t use the wood stove on a regular basis, it’s a wonderful idea to have a wood burning stove in your home to use in case of emergencies.
Do you use backup heat?
Most people do use backup heat when they heat their home with wood. It’s sometimes not feasible to have a fire going in the wood stove 100% of the time. But, during really cold times, it’s important to keep the house from freezing. You want to be comfortable, and make sure your water pipes don’t freeze.
We typically use our baseboard heaters, or smaller space heaters as backup heat in our home. But they are set to a fairly low temperature. If we are gone for the day, we can’t keep the fire going. But we still want the house to be somewhat warm.
We also don’t get up during the night to stoke the fire, so keeping the backup heaters going will at least keep the house at a reasonable temperature. NO ONE wants to wake up to a freezing house!
What wood do you burn?
To be the most economical, you should burn wood that is readily available in your area. For some of the lucky ones, that might be maple, oak, or ash. For us, it’s pine.
We have huge forests about an hour drive from us, filled with pine trees. So even though pine is considered an inferior wood to burn, that’s what we get. It would be very costly and unsustainable for us to insist on other types of firewood.
Oak is a long-burning hardwood. Maple is very efficient but difficult to split. Cherry burns at a more medium temperature, but smells very nice. Birch, poplar, and other softwoods burn very quickly and aren’t very efficient. Chestnut burns at a lower heat, and produces a lot of smoke.
Pine, although it burns hot, contains a lot of creosote and can clog your chimney. Make sure you clean your chimney very frequently if you use primarily pine.
Beechwood fires are bright and clear
if the logs are kept a year,
Chestnut’s only good they say,
if for logs ’tis laid away,
Make a fire of Elder tree,
death within your house will be;
But ash new or ash old,
is fit for a queen with crown of gold.
Birch and fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up bright and do not last,
it is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
E’en the very flames are cold
But ash green or ash brown
is fit for a queen with a golden crown.
Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
fills your eyes and makes you choke,
Apple wood will scent your room.
Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom.
Oaken logs, if dry and old
keep away the winter’s cold.
But ash wet or ash dry
a king shall warm his slippers by.
Firewood poem written by Celia Congreve, published in The Times newspaper, March 2nd, 1930.
Do you heat with wood on your homestead?
So, tell us about you! How do you heat your home? Do you use wood heat? Let us know in the comments if you have any helpful tips on keeping your home cozy during the cold winter months.
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