In order to protect our planet for future generations, more and more homeowners are trying to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels to heat their homes. They are instead choosing to heat their homes with renewable resources, like wood.
Of course, the decision to have a wood burning fireplace or stove installed in your home is not one to be taken lightly; there are any number of different aspects worth considering.
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make will involve deducing which of these two options will best suit your heating needs and your expectations. In order to do that, you’ll need to understand the pros and cons of each type of wood burning apparatus, and how each type’s unique features fit into your home and your lifestyle.
Wood Burning Fireplace
Does your decor favor a traditional stone fireplace with a mantelpiece? How about more of a sleekly modern metal-and-glass style? Regardless of the look and feel of your home, though, all wood burning fireplaces offer you the advantage of being able to snuggle up in front of them and watch the flames as they dance and swirl in the currents of air they create.
From a strictly visual standpoint, many homeowners prefer the appearance of a fireplace and the ability to create a roaring fire, complete with wood popping and sparks flying.
The primary disadvantage of a traditional fireplace is that the vast majority of the heat produced goes right up and out of your chimney. This makes them a rather inefficient way to heat your home, requiring much more wood to be burnt in order to achieve and maintain a desired temperature.
Fireplace inserts, designed to keep down the draftiness of a traditional fireplace and create a more contained and efficient burning space, will significantly increase a fireplace’s efficiency. So too will fans that are placed strategically along the heated air’s path into your home. Even with these improvements, though, a wood fireplace will not heat as effectively or efficiently as a wood stove.
A fireplace’s open design, while making it attractive to watch, means that it’s difficult to maintain the fire safely overnight, or when you leave your home. This results in waking up to — or perhaps returning to — a mighty cold home. And when you take the time to start that new fire, it also results in a delay in getting the house warmed up.
That’s why most people who use wood burning fireplaces to heat their homes find the need to also maintain an alternative heat source, such as a gas or oil burning furnace, to prevent issues like these.
Wood Burning Stoves
Wood burning stoves provide homeowners with a much more efficient way to heat their homes with wood.
The stoves’ design allows for them to be placed in a kitchen, say, or a living room or den, which results in more of the heat they generate staying in whichever part of the home it’s needed most. In addition, their closed-off design means that the rate of burning can be much more easily controlled. This allows for a rapidly burning fire to displace a chill and then, by reducing the flow of oxygen to the flames, a slow down in the rate of burning to maintain a more steady temperature.
The fact that you can easily control the amount of air a fire is given access to means that a wood stove can safely be left to burn without constant observation. Once carefully banked, a wood stove fire can be left to smolder over night, providing that much-needed middle-of-the-night warmth. And when you wake up in the morning? All you need to do is open the dampers, stir the coals and add a bit more wood, and in no time your wood stove will be heating at full capacity.
Today’s modern wood stoves often have large viewing areas through which you can watch the flames. While the experience doesn’t quite compare to that of a roaring flame in an open-faced fireplace, it does allow for the ambiance of the fire to enter the room.
The Choice Is Yours
Ultimately, choosing between a wood burning fireplace or stove depends upon your own sense of style. It also depends on whether you intend to use wood as the primary source of heat in your home, or just to supplement your current furnace or boiler. But before heading too deep into the decision-making process, you might want to consider contacting a local company that can answer all your questions.
Those of you living in Bucks County, Montgomery County, the Philadelphia area and the surrounding suburbs can give us a call at Estates Chimney Sweeps. (Or better yet, stop by one of our two brick-and-mortar locations.) Our staff — all local folks familiar with just how harsh the winters here can be — will take the time to answer all your questions, and ensure that you make an informed decision about the best way to heat your home with wood.