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Can An Outdoor Wood Furnace Be The Answer To Your High Heating Bills?

Whether you're heating with oil or propane, you may have faced higher than expected fuel prices over the past few winters. And although you can take advantage of lower seasonal prices by filling your tank in the summer, if you have an especially harsh winter and burn through your fuel quickly, you can find yourself paying a premium to refill your tank at the worst possible time. Fortunately, the answer to cheap and plentiful fuel could be as close as the trees in your backyard. Read on to learn more about outdoor wood furnaces and how installing one could help you permanently reduce your heating bills.

How does an outdoor wood furnace heat your home?

Although indoor wood furnaces have been popular for decades due to their low installation cost and efficient use of wood as fuel, they can cause your homeowner's insurance rates to skyrocket due to the risk of fire, and are less efficient at heating larger homes or those with multiple rooms than forced-air furnaces. You may also not want the smell of smoke on your clothes or textiles. 

An outdoor wood furnace is installed outside your home, and heat (not smoke) is piped from the wood-burning furnace to an indoor furnace that forces this warm air throughout your home. From the inside, this furnace operates no differently from a propane or heating oil furnace -- you can set your desired temperature with an indoor thermostat and go on about your business (except to refill the stove with fresh wood when it begins to run low).

How are these furnaces installed?

If you already have the ductwork in place from an existing propane or heating oil furnace, your new furnace will be relatively easy to install. You (or a crew) will need to dig a 2 foot deep trench and run the ductwork from your wood furnace to your interior blower. This pipe will need to be thoroughly insulated with warm water tubing, so that your furnace will be as efficient as possible and avoid losing precious heat to the frozen ground.

Although this installation can be performed by a handy homeowner with the right tools (and access to trench-digging equipment), often this is a process best left to the professionals. Someone who installs wood furnaces on a daily basis has unique expertise that can help you determine the best placement and location for your furnace, as well as ensure that the ductwork is properly insulated and there are no topographical issues that could complicate your use of the furnace.

How much does purchasing and installing an outdoor wood furnace cost?

Furnace and installation costs can vary widely, based on brand, size, heating capacity, and your local labor rates. However, you'll generally find yourself paying anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 for the furnace itself, and another $3,000 to $5,000 to have this furnace professionally installed. Although this can be a hefty outlay, you'll be able to minimize your ongoing heating costs, helping the unit pay for itself within a few years.

What type of wood should you burn in this furnace?

Whether you have extensive wooded acreage you plan to pluck your fuel from, or will be purchasing your wood from a retail establishment, it's important to select slow-burning varieties to help you make the most of the effort and money you've invested. Because of their higher density, hardwoods (like oak, walnut, or hickory) tend to burn longer than softer trees (like cedar or ash). However, even if you only have access to softer woods, you should be able to maximize your heater's efficiency by ensuring that your fire wood is fully dried and stacked in a pattern to help encourage slow but efficient combustion.

For more information, contact a company like Summers & Smith Cooling & Heating Limited.