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Cut the cost of heat with a wood furnace

These handy units can burn wood from your property.

If you are looking for ways to reduce the cost of heating your home or shop, an outdoor wood furnace might be a good investment. You may be able to virtually eliminate your fuel costs (other than the time and labor it takes to cut the wood) if you have trees suitable for firewood on your property. Even if you don’t have the time or resources to supply your own fuel, buying wood is still cheaper per British thermal unit (Btu) than traditional heating methods. Wood furnaces can even be used to heat a garage or other outbuildings in addition to your home.

Before hooking up your outdoor furnace, be sure to level it on cylinder blocks or concrete. Then dig a trench about 2 feet deep and run a well-insulated line to your house.

Once you get to the house, you can switch to a high-density polyethylene (PEX) line, which is less expensive. Your electrical line that supplies power to the furnace will also run in the trench.

Outdoor wood furnaces to heat a small home cost approximately $5,000 to $6,000. A furnace to heat a larger home or a smaller home and outbuildings costs around $6,200 to $7,500.

Make sure the wood furnace you purchase is compatible with your current heating system.

Choose the right fuel

Burning hard woods, such as oak or hickory, helps a furnace heat your home more efficiently, according to forestry expert Karen Potter-Witter. Hard woods tend to burn longer and create hotter coals than softer woods, such as pine or spruce.

Potter-Witter says you also gain efficiency if you burn wood that has been seasoned or dried out for a year. Seasoned wood has up to 20% more heat value than freshly cut wood. If you don’t have any seasoned wood, you will have to purchase wood to burn in your furnace for the first year. Then cut your own wood and store it away to dry out for next year.

When storing your freshly cut wood, make sure you stack it so there is good air circulation. Protecting it from rain or snow will help it dry out faster.

As always, be sure to follow the EPA's best burn practices when operating your wood furnace.

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