Affordable Wood Heat for Your Home

by Debra Karplus
Affordable Wood Heat for Your Home photo

Heating your home can be costly. Perhaps using wood heat to supplement your furnace could help keep winter electric costs in check.

“Heating and cooling accounts for more than half the energy used in most homes,” according to Ed Begley Jr., actor and environmentalist, in his 2009 book Guide to Sustainable Living.

If you live in an area with distinct seasons, you know how costly heating and cooling can be after examining your monthly gas and electric bill. Perhaps wood heat or some alternative fuel source to supplement your furnace could lower your winter power bills.

A Quick History of Wood Heat for Homes 

Before homes had furnaces, people heated homes by burning wood. Fireplaces became popular during the 1600s. Fireplaces are cozy and beautiful, but a fireplace is not a cost-effective way to heat a home because much of the heat escapes through the chimney.

Cast iron stoves proved to be a better, more efficient method for home heating. During the 1740s, Americans began using the Franklin stove, invented by Benjamin Franklin. The more sophisticated Franklin stoves of the 1820s allowed families to cook food on top of them or even inside them.

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Many Homes Still Rely on Wood Heat as a Heat Source

Although furnaces and HVAC systems are now used to heat most homes, some still use wood as a primary or secondary home heating source.

There are several options for alternative heating. People in many parts of the country still burn wood indoors in addition to using their furnaces. The price of heating with wood involves the one-time cost of purchasing the stove and installation and the yearly expenses of fuel and chimney cleaning. It’s a terrific way to heat your home less expensively, especially when you find free firewood in your own neighborhood. You may be surprised at how plentiful wood is; you just have to look!

If you can find free firewood, then a wood-burning stove may be your best and least expensive option. Stove prices range from about $500 to $2,500, depending on the size and features. A larger stove will hold more wood and thus burn hotter and longer. Stoves that are larger, more decorative or have more features, such as blowers for circulating the heat, will cost more. Installation could be pricey, especially if you need to put up a chimney, as you never want to use the same chimney for a gas furnace and wood burner; it could put you at risk for a house fire.

The Choice of Firewood Makes a Difference

Firewood needs to be dried or seasoned; there should be no moisture inside a log. Sometimes, it takes a few years for wood to season. Unseasoned wood does not burn easily, produces little heat, and makes the inside of your chimney sticky with dangerous creosote. Many people don’t like burning wood from pine trees because of its never-drying sap.

Firewood from certain kinds of trees creates more heat than other kinds of trees. Woods that are considered to be hardwoods, such as hickory, oak, or maple, burn the hottest. Softwoods, such as birch or willow, produce much less heat. Learn what kinds of trees grow in your area.

A Pellet Stove May Be a Better Option

If you don’t have access to free firewood, then your home may be best suited for a pellet stove. With the popularity of Presto-logs in the 1930s, pellet stoves evolved; their popularity gained impetus during the oil crisis of the 1970s. You’ll pay more for the stove itself, from $1,200 to over $2,000, plus the installation cost. However, the price of the pellets isn’t unreasonable. Depending on how hot you’ll keep your home, expect to use about a ton of pellets per season, which cost about $300 to $400 and store neatly in a space of approximately 64 cubic feet.

People often prefer pellet stoves to wood burners as they’re easier to use. The pellets are simply compacted wood or sawdust. Some burners also allow the use of seeds, grains, and wood chips. Simply put the pellets into the hopper that’s part of the stove. The pellets will automatically feed regularly into the stove, creating constant, steady heat. Unlike a wood burner, no adjusting is involved. Clean-up is also easier and less messy.

A corn stove is similar to a pellet stove but is designed to burn whole-kernel shelled corn. It has a device to stir the corn. Corn stoves are typically cheaper than pellet stoves but more expensive than wood stoves.

Evaluate All Aspects of Wood Heat Before Buying

Wood burners or pellet stoves can be freestanding or inserted into a fireplace. Also, they can be installed in the basement rather than the family room through the duct system. This circulates heat through the entire house. Before purchasing and installing a wood or pellet stove, check with your insurance agent to be certain your homeowners insurance will cover your home, and obtain in writing any special requirements, such as distance from the wall.

Prices on all of these options will vary by year and by region. You’ll want to check with the local country extension service and suppliers to see how much fuel you’ll need in your area and what it will cost. Then, do the math for yourself to see what works out best for you.

Sitting by the fireplace or wood stove is a relaxing family activity. Whether you’re playing board games, reading, or snoozing, an indoor fire’s cozy warmth feels wonderful and is a sensible dollar-stretching source of energy. Stay warm this season!

Reviewed January 2024

About the Author

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon (Kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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