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modern wood burning stove

Home heating with wood-burning stoves offers up unique benefits. Here are a list of them, with maintenance tips for wood heating in the modern home.

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Although wood is the most eco-friendly heating method, it never seems to be discussed in federal, state, or local energy bills. It would be a good addition to Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) to lower environmental impact and help states reach their energy goals.

Wood heat is seen as evil, even though it has been a source of heating and cooking fuel for millennia! Many people are starting to burn wood again to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, and save money on energy bills. There are many benefits to wood heat as a primary or secondary heating source. There is also annual maintenance to be done on the system.

6 benefits of heating with wood

1. Wood is renewable. Trees keep on growing, but they need to be harvested sustainably to keep a woodlot or forest producing for decades. A home woodlot should have ½ cord removed per year to be sustainable.

2. Newer woodstoves are very energy efficient, and they release few emissions. Any pollution they do create is offset by the CO2 that is captured by the planet’s forests.

3. Firewood is a local product that creates jobs. The money stays in the community as income for wood sellers, property taxes for woodlots, and permits for cutting on public land.

4. Burning firewood is a buffer against unexpected fuel increases over the winter. A woodstove is excellent back-up heat during power outages, and it provides ambience. Who doesn’t like to cozy up to a fire during a snowstorm and a blackout?

5. Wood stoves are versatile household items. You can cook on a woodstove, heat water for domestic use, hang laundry to dry, and spread the ashes in the garden to raise the pH of acidic soils. Splitting and hauling wood is good exercise, too! The old saying goes, wood warms you twice – once when you split it, and once when you burn it.

6. Gathering firewood is a seasonal and community ritual. Where I live, most of the region heats with wood. It is a major topic of conversation from August through the end of the year. Everyone is tied together whether they are wood sellers or buyers, or friends, family, or strangers.

Connected to nature

You are living with the planet when you heat with wood. Each year, your wood fire shows you what the weather is doing. In the fall and spring, you build a small fire to take the chill off the mornings. In the coldest spells, you can’t seem to keep enough wood in the stove to stay warm. It’s easy to see the cycles of the seasons.

If you collect your own wood, you are out in the forest day after day, working with the elements, and enjoying the scenery and wildlife. You are unplugged and connected to nature.

firewood stacked

Wood burning stove maintenance

If you would like to get started heating with wood, visit a specialty store or a large hardware store to find the right stove. Have a professional come out to your house to make recommendations, and have them install your stove properly. After the initial set-up, you will need to do annual maintenance.

Whether wood is your primary or secondary heat source, the chimney needs to cleaned and inspected each fall by a chimney sweep.

The stovepipe for a woodstove needs a good brushing inside to remove creosote build-up. The cap should be checked for a secure fit, and cleaned of creosote. The stove should be vacuumed out, and the damper checked for proper performance. Gaskets must be checked to make sure they create an airtight seal, and the blower fan should be cleaned of summer’s dust.

Fireplaces and chimneys

A brick fireplace chimney should be checked for damage. Leaks, cracks, and missing mortar need to be repaired for best performance and safety. The damper should open and close all the way. Bird nests and critters need to be removed. A chimney cap will keep them from taking up residence during the non-heating season.

Clean the fireplace andirons and tools. Be sure you have a screen to keep embers off the floor. A glass cover will keep the house heat from escaping up the flue and will radiate warmth back into the room. Consider a fireplace insert for highest efficiency and safety.

Related chores

While you’re doing fireplace and woodstove maintenance, replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Have your fire extinguishers checked to be sure they work properly.

Install fans to move the warmed air around the house. There are small, quiet fans that fit in the top corner of a door frame. Ceiling fans turning clockwise push air down to living level.

Stay warm and safe

Burn wood safely and warmly! Many winter house fires are due to wood burning stoves and fireplaces that are not used properly, or cleaned and maintained regularly. Don’t be a statistic! Stay safe!

Enjoy the benefits of wood burning while you use less fossil fuels, save money, and lower your carbon footprint.

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.