Pros & Cons of Wood Heat
- Ambiance – need we say more?
- Intense dry heat
- Not reliant on the grid (electricity, propane, natural gas)
- Inexpensive or free fuel
- Fires require tending, sometimes during the night
- The smell of wood fires can bother some
- Bringing in wood and taking out ashes can be messy
Why choose wood heat?
Ambiance of wood heat
A wood stove is unlike any other appliance. There’s a certain romance to sitting by the stove with your family, friends, pets, or a good book in the evening. Watching a fire burn and feeling its heat on your skin evokes feelings of comfort and home. People don’t often feel such strong emotions when coming home to their furnace.
Wood heat is not just a beautiful fixture in a living space. It can be a very practical heat and cooking source. Wood stoves provide intense, dry heat that can warm spaces even in the most extreme climates and help control moisture inherent in small spaces. Fuel for a wood stove is relatively cheap, easy to find or purchase, and is easy to store in large quantities. When properly managed, wood is a renewable resource, and burning it for fuel can be overall better for the planet than burning fossil fuels.
Wood Stoves are safe
When properly installed and maintained, wood stoves are just as safe as other heating appliances. Wood heat can also provide the security of a heat source that doesn’t require any modern infrastructure. It works just as well as a primary heat source for an off-grid home as it does for an emergency heat source for an on-grid space when the power fails. In case of natural disasters, supply lines for propane and other fuels may stop running, but fuel for wood stoves can be foraged and processed locally. Most wood stoves are also capable of burning other solid fuels; coal, charcoal, compressed logs, and even dried cow chips can be used as fuel in wood stoves for heating and cooking.
Wood heat is affordable compared to other heating methods
Wood heat can often provide cost savings over other methods of heating, or it can be used to augment other heating systems. While the upfront costs can be high, it’s often a more affordable option in the long-run. A smaller, more cost-effective solar or geothermal heating system could be used for climate control most of the year, while a wood stove could provide supplemental heating for the coldest months.
Wood heat is not for everyone
Care and Feeding
While there are some great benefits to heating with wood, it’s definitely not for everyone. Natural draft wood stoves are an 18th-century technology: they require some manual labor and technical mastery to operate well. Maintaining an efficient fire in your stove is an art that requires time and patient experimentation to learn. Cooking with a wood stove takes longer and requires more manual participation than a gas or electric range. For some, stoking the stove periodically will feel like “work.” For others, stoking the stove sounds like a nice way to spend an evening.
If wood is your sole heat source in a tiny space, managing the fire can require even more care. Depending on the stove model and heating needs, an all-night burn may be difficult or impossible to achieve. So you may need to get up once or twice a night to stoke the stove.
The smell of wood heat
A wood stove can also give off a mild wood smoke smell. If you don’t like the smell of wood smoke, heating with wood may not be for you. A properly managed wood stove shouldn’t make your space smell strongly of smoke, but a tuft of smoke might escape occasionally when you open the door.
Burning firewood can be messy, since bringing wood into the house can bring dirt and insects with it. Also, the stove will create ash that can spill onto the hearth when emptying the ash pan. It’s easily swept up with a small dustpan and brush but if you like to keep an immaculate house, wood heat may not be right for you.
If you live in a densely populated area, the particulates given off in the smoke of a wood stove might be a problem. Some areas have regulations limiting the use of wood stoves, requiring the appliance to have a certification. On bad air quality days, a “burn ban” might be instituted. If you live in one of those areas, burning wood as your primary heat source might not be your best option.
Is a wood stove right for you?
Many folks (us included) love lighting and tending fires, and enjoy chopping wood. We don’t mind the occasional cleanup and love the mild smell of wood smoke in our homes. If any of these are a deal-breaker for you, then using a different heat source might be a better option.
There are lots of options for heating your small space if a wood stove isn’t right for you. But if you want the ambiance of a real fire without the trouble of a wood stove, you could consider a direct vent propane fireplace.
Still not sure if a wood stove is the best choice for you? Contact us with your questions and we will be happy to help you find the answers.