Wood stove vs outdoor or indoor wood furnace

loessismoreAugust 23, 2013

We are building a house in the country in Iowa. The land is heavily forested so we would like to take advantage of this ready supply of wood to reduce our energy costs and also have an alternative heat source. Our home will be all electric but we are looking into either a wood stove, outdoor wood furnace to augment a standard furnace if the price isn't too high, or indoor combo wood/electric furnace (Yukon). Does anyone have experience with either the outdoor or indoor wood furnace? We do not mind the extra work involved and like the idea of having it outdoors. If we decided on the indoor model, we would have a chute from the garage to the basement to bring wood in. We are also considering a wood stove but like the idea of less mess with the outdoor or indoor furnace. The other downside of a wood stove is that for ideal central placement it would mean that our pipe would have to run exposed for two stories in our vaulted great room and I'm not sure how that would look. Does anyone have experience with any of these heating methods?

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I recommend the wood stove. We love ours...when the power goes, it not only keeps us warm and dry, it provides a source for cooking and even makes coffee from an old timey coffee making gig. The stove pipe is two stories and it does not look bad at all, it is part of the charm of the place. And the mess is nothing, you get an ash bucket and a broom to collect it and you have some excellent free fertilizer for your corn :)

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 10:49PM
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Sasafras, good to know you think the 2-story exposed pipe looks fine. That is the biggest thing that is stopping me from going with the wood stove and causing us to really consider the indoor or outdoor wood furnace. Just not sure how it will look. Would you mind posting a picture?

    Bookmark   August 25, 2013 at 11:49AM
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We heat exclusively with a wood stove in a not centrally located spot. I don't think a 2 story flue would look bad.maybe)

    Bookmark   August 26, 2013 at 5:04PM
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I think you researched this well.

If you pick something I would be more apt to picking something EPA certified. It might cost you a little more and your payback will take another year but they are smoke free if operated correctly. The quality of the outdoor air in the immediate vicinity is better for your own family's health and you also take the risk on your investment where big government or nazi environmentalists possibly imposing some sort of restriction using a non certified burner.

I think the wood stove/ furnace/boiler decision depends how much of a pyro you are. If you really enjoy seeing a fire burning get an indoor wood stove. I really don't know your budget or size of home to recommend something there except if you are in growing zone 7 or higher I would probably stick with a catalytic or hybrid stove which offers a much better burn control to regulate your indoor temperature in warmer weather.

The trade off is the indoor mess and dust. If that is a bigger concern then consider an outdoor gasification furnace/boiler.

As for the work involved oddly enough the outdoor furnace probably will end up to be less overall work even though you will burn more wood because you don't have to split the wood as small and time saved cleaning up/dusting indoors.

The initial overall cost on the outdoor system is higher though.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2013 at 12:54PM
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Have you considered a masonry heater? It is true that they are expensive to install, but from what I have read, far less polluting and much more productive of heat than other wood-burning heat sources. There are ready made ones like the Tulikivi, or they can be built in place.

If I were in your situation and I wanted wood as a serious heat source rather than merely something to enhance the coziness of a cold evening, that is what I would choose.

Here is a link that might be useful: Masonry heaters

    Bookmark   September 2, 2013 at 4:55PM
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Rose--I would love to have a masonry heater. I have done alot of research on them and that would be ideal. However, I can't swing the cost. So, it's between a wood stove and an indoor wood furnace that also runs electric. Still trying to decide.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 5:35PM
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Personally, I LOVE my woodstove. I have waited YEARS to "trade in" my DV Gas stoves (old house) for a real wood stove. It was put in the week after we closed on the house-I spent a chunk of vacation time doing the stone work on the hearth pad that DH built (he made the frame, I set and grouted the stones).

We CSS our own wood and are hopefully (depending on the weather) about 7 to 10 years ahead so we'll have good seasoned wood to burn. Just doing that was pretty hard work (we put up in the range of 30 cords in the past two years). We heat exclusively with wood, with two small backup propane heaters (one 10K BTU blue flame in the utility area and a small VF "fireplace" in the dining room) just in case. But otherwise we have no other heat source-no furnace whatsoever.

Here's my opinion of what it's worth having lived this way now going on three years. I don't know if I would have done anything differently. Right now we don't have the budget to put in a secondary heating system-we're discussing splits because there's really no space for ducting and we don't really want pipes everywhere again for radiant. HOWEVER, not having a "true" back up system makes going away midwinter pretty difficult. It's not like a typical "hey can you stop by and pick up my mail" kind of thing to ask family/friends, someone would need to really come by at least 2x a day to feed it. On the other hand, we paid maybe $100 for heat last season if you figure the cost of fuel for the saws and splitter and truck (we "scrounge" our wood-meaning, we pick up wood people are giving away) and chain sharpenings. We need to get our own sharpener. We also get to see the flames dancing away in the stove all winter. Our stove is a main feature of our living room, and because of how our house is set up, you see it right when you walk in the house too. It heats whether there's electric or not and we can cook on it also.

I don't find it terribly messy. I use a wood bag to bring the wood in, and an old wood crate on the hearth pad to store about a day's worth. I have a little dust vac to clean up any hearth mess (**being careful to do so BEFORE loading the stove so no embers might accidently get vaccumed up). When run and installed properly there's no smoke or anything in the house.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2013 at 2:00PM
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david52 Zone 6

I have an ancient wood burning Earth Stove that will be replaced shortly by an EPA certified Jotul wood burner. In the process of deciding which stove to get, we looked into an out-door wood furnace.

They do have advantages - larger pieces of wood, cleaner indoors, and so on. The main disadvantage is that they're pretty much useless for the transition seasons - fall and spring - when you just want to take the chill off because they take so long to heat up the water that then heats up the house. Now in the winter, they do keep the house warmer, longer, than the indoor wood stove.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2013 at 3:51PM
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Thanks everyone for their input. Still trying to decide between the Yukon Eagle wood/electric combo indoor furnace in the basement and a wood burning stove on the main level with an exposed 2-store pipe in our open concept home. Just don't know about all that exposed pipe and how it will look. Need to decide in about a month, so any additional opinions would be appreciated!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 5:27PM
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