5 Things to Consider When Switching to Wood Heat

Wood Stove

Wood heat is enchanting. It’s easy to fall in love with the sizzling crackle and aromatic scent of burning wood, especially when it heats your home so efficiently and affordably. Adding a wood stove to your home can be a great way to create a cozy, warm environment while also reducing costs and becoming energy independent.

Plus, with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, EPA certified wood stoves produce little smoke, minimal ash, and require less firewood than non-certified models. Here at Higgins, we carry dozens of wood stoves that meet these criteria, so choosing to switch to wood heat is easier than ever!

If you’re considering the switch to wood heat, there can be a lot of information to process. To help you get started, we’ve gathered 5 things to consider when choosing a wood stove and switching to wood heat.

1. Square Footage

Overview: The size of your space determines how much heat you will need.

One of the first things you’ll consider when switching to or adding any alternative heat source is the square footage of your desired heating area. A small stove may work fine to heat a single room or small house, but you’ll need a larger stove to heat a large house or several floors. However, other factors may influence your heating needs as well, such as the age, layout, and insulation of your home, and even your local climate.

If you’re willing to do a bit more math to determine the best size stove to purchase, it is helpful to look at the BTUs that the stove outputs. What is a BTU? A British Thermal Unit measures the amount of heat needed to raise one pound of water by 1° Fahrenheit. For your home, a BTU measures how much heat it will take to warm your house to a set temperature.

You can determine how many BTUs your space will need with the BTU Calculator from We Love Fire to find a stove that can meet your needs.

2. Chimney

Overview: A proper chimney is essential for keeping your home safe.

A chimney is an essential element that aids in the efficiency and safety of operating a wood stove. The chimney acts as a vehicle for the pressurized warm air created by the stove to transfer from inside the home to outside the home. It carries with it the byproducts of the wood fire, preventing smoke and debris from floating around inside your house and causing a house fire. As such, it must be vented from the wood stove to outside and above the home with proper clearance and lining.

You should get your chimney and your wood stove inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist to ensure proper operation and safety standards. Our service team has nationally certified chimney sweeps and chimney liners who can help you determine and service all your chimney needs.

3. Stove Material

Overview: The material the stove is built from will determine the type of heat you get.

The material the stove is built from can influence its usage and heat. It’s important to find a stove material that will heat your home in a way that fits your lifestyle. There are 3 major materials wood stoves are built in: soapstone, cast iron, and steel. A fun technique to help distinguish these materials is comparing them to common kitchen appliances.

Soapstone: Similar to a Slow Cooker

A slow cooker can be set to cook on a low, slow temperature for hours without ever getting scorching hot. A soapstone stove acts this way as well. Once it is lit, it is a low, slow burn, so it will keep your home warm with little effort and less firewood. One thing to consider is that turning the stove on won’t heat your home up right away. Soapstone stoves takes some prior preparation, but the result can be a beautiful, mellow heat that keeps your home warm for hours on end.

Cast Iron: Similar to a Cast Iron Pan

If you’re familiar with cooking with cast iron, you’ll know that it takes a little more patience and effort than a quick nonstick or stainless-steel pan. A cast iron pan does heat up quicker than a slow cooker but not quite as fast as other materials. However, it holds heat exceptionally well. A cast iron stove is similar. It will heat up quicker than soapstone, but won’t come up to a fast, hot temperature as well as steel, and will hold heat for longer than steel. It is a good middle ground and is very commonly built.

Steel: Similar to a Stove Top

A steel stove can be compared to turning on your stovetop. A click of a button or a turn of a dial and the stovetop is scorching hot within minutes. Steel stoves come to a hot temperature the quickest out of its competitors. It’s a great solution for when you come home after a cold day and want a fast heat to warm the room as quickly as possible. However, the steel stoves need more attention and loading, as they will burn through wood more quickly.

If you want a “one match fire” where it burns for an extremely long time with little maintenance, a soapstone is a great way to go. If you like a fast, hot burn for quicker results, steel is great. There’s no one perfect material when choosing a wood stove, so it’s important to consider the characteristics of each material to find one that fits your lifestyle.

4. Firewood Maintenance & Storage

Overview: Firewood works best when it is dried and stored properly.

The fuel for your wood stove is the most common factor you will encounter when operating with wood heat. Firewood, whether it is hardwood or softwood (tip: always go for the hardwood when burning in a wood stove!), needs to be stored and dried properly to ensure your stove burns the material efficiently.

The term “seasoned wood” describes wood that has been cut and left to dry for approximately 12 months, during which time the moisture and sap content has come to its optimal burning point. Properly seasoned wood affects heat output, emissions, cleanliness, and life of your stove and chimney.

To store your firewood properly, it needs to be cross-stacked and open to allow airflow, but not trapped inside plastic or exposed to excessive moisture, like snow or rain. This requires a designated space at least 30 feet away from your home. No matter if you cut your own or purchase firewood from a vendor, ensure that it is cut to the right size to fit your wood stove and dried for long enough to allow for perfect moisture content.

5. Cost

Overview: Wood heat saves you money in the long run, but there are other costs to consider.

Wood stoves are a very affordable heating option for many families. The cost of installation, fuel, and upkeep on a wood stove can be lower than that of oil, gas, forced hot air, or electric heat. However, it is important to consider all up front and maintenance costs associated with a wood stove, so you know what to expect.

Your 4 main costs when switching to wood heat will be:

1. Purchase & Installation

The purchase price of your selected wood stove will depend on the brand, size, and material. At Higgins, our sales team can give you a breakdown of costs associated with installation and permits to ensure that your project comes with no surprises.

2. Firewood

Another cost to consider is the cost of the fuel itself: your firewood. Whether you purchase firewood from a distributor or cut it yourself, you will need to ensure that your wood is dried and stored properly. Purchasing firewood already cut down to size will most likely cost more than ordering larger logs, but your own time and labor spent will be reduced drastically.

3. Chimney Upkeep

Your chimney may require an added cost if it needs to be installed, relined, or repaired to bring it up to code and fit the new wood stove addition. This is something our team can check for you, as our service and install team has nationally certified chimney sweeps and chimney re-liners.

4. Yearly Maintenance and Cleaning

Both your stove and your chimney will work more efficiently, stay cleaner, and last longer when they are properly maintained and cleaned. You can book an annual service appointment with Higgins to have a certified professional come clean and look at your stove to ensure it is in proper working condition.

Our team here at Higgins Energy has been creating cozy homes for over 45 years and have matched many families with the wood stove of their dreams. We can help determine the best size, material, style, and cost of wood stoves to meet your needs, plus we offer financing, chimney services, professional installation, and service to care for your stove for many years. Give us a call at 978-355-6343 to get started creating your own wood heated, cozy home!

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