We tend to take the simplest things in life for granted.
In this case, I’m talking about the simplicity of heating our homes. In the past, I always turned up the thermostat if I felt cold. I never considered what and where the source of heat was coming from until we bought our first house. It was then that I started exploring and learning about different heating options. In the dream world, my house would be solely heated by solar power. But since that is unrealistic for our current budget, my husband and I preferred natural gas heating due to the “reasonable” price compared to propane or oil. We never once considered heating our home with a wood furnace and that’s what we wound up with! …I didn’t even realize people still did that nowadays! (How naive… I guess that’s what happens when you stay in the city for too long.)
We moved into a farmhouse out in the country this past November. Our house is set up to heat through a propane and wood forced-air furnace. The previous owners filled the barn with wood each spring and used it to heat their home throughout the entire winter. We were extremely fortunate to begin winter with a free barn full of wood AND have a lengthy conversation on how to heat with it. The lady spent her entire life heating with wood so she shared her expert knowledge. We couldn’t have received better advice on how to use our wood furnace. It’s only been two and a half months but I feel pretty darn confident about my ability to efficiently heat our home using wood alone. The fun will begin come springtime when we have a billion logs to split. I’m seriously stoked! (No pun intended.)
Simple Ashley Wood Furnace Diagram
Essential Wood Furnace Accessories
We burn oakwood. Hard wood creates less creosote, which is a black tarry residue that sticks to the inside of the chimney when the air is not hot enough to move it out. Too much creosote can cause a chimney fire.
Usually includes a poker, shovel, tongs, and broom. I use the fire poker to push logs further back into the furnace and the shovel to spread out embers once the wood burns down. Occasionally, I will use the brush to sweep under the ash pan or to sweep inside the fire chamber when replacing firebricks.
These are important to prolong the life of the furnace. I have learned to be careful when throwing in wood because I’ve already broke a couple. They have to be replaced to keep the furnace performing at optimal efficiency. (And they aren’t the cheapest bricks either. The best price I’ve found online is 6 firebricks for $27.97!)
Fireproof Metal Ash Bucket
It is extremely important to practice fire safety and care when heating your home with a wood furnace. A metal bucket with a secure lid will help to contain the ashes or a possible ash bucket fire.
I was sent the Epica 3-Piece Ash Bucket Set for review purposes and have found a lot of value in it. You can immediately place hot embers into the bucket instead of waiting for the ashes to cool down. This is important during extreme cold spells because it is necessary to use more wood to heat your house and therefore, you will have more ashes to displace. They advertise the esthetic design stating you can keep the ashes next to your fireplace without compromising beautiful interior decorating. However, I would be cautious of this. It’s always better to keep ashes outside of your house for safety purposes because it is difficult to tell when the ashes are truly cooled. This is why the metal lid is important: to keep a potential fire contained.
- Pros: affordable, durable, quality metal, 6 gallon bucket with lid, attached shovel holder, comfortable wooden handle, and esthetically pleasing
- Cons: short handle on shovel
- Epica 3-Piece Ash Bucket Set retails at $24.99. You can find more information here.
Fire Resistant Gloves
I mainly wear the fire resistant gloves when I am emptying the ash pan. Since we tend a fire all winter long, the ash pan rarely has a chance to cool completely. Gloves are necessary in order to avoid third-degree burns.
Wire Bristled Chimney Brush
Unless you hire a professional chimney sweep, you need a wire brush and ladder to properly clean the chimney. It should be thoroughly swept several times throughout the cold season to remove creosote and soot buildup. This is very important for avoiding chimney fires that could quickly turn into deadly house fires. Our chimney is located on the exterior of the house and only requires three bolts to be removed in order to clean it. It takes about 20-30 minutes to sweep it ourselves.
Basic Wood Furnace Instructions
- Open damper and air vent to ensure proper air flow.
- Pile kindling and hard wood into fire chamber.
- Use dry and warm hard wood. Cold wood can crack the firebricks.
- For a cold start, we use a small amount of corrugated cardboard to help start the fire.
- Allow fire to burn steadily for 15 minutes before adjusting the damper.
- Damper fully opened: cold start, loading wood
- Damper closed: after furnace is hot after about 15 minutes
- Adjust air vent accordingly.
- Opened air vent: bigger flames, more heat, wood burns faster
- Slightly closed air vent: smaller flames, steady heat flow, wood burns slower
- Adjust blower as needed. We keep the knob set in the middle unless it is extremely cold. Then, we turn it all the way up to move heat faster through the house.
- Empty ash pan as needed.
- Use cast iron handle to rotate interior racks so ash can fall into the tray. As long as the weather isn’t too frigid, we let the ashes sit in the ash pan for a day or longer before emptying them into a metal bucket.
Overall, I absolutely LOVE using wood to heat our home. It brings a sense of comfort and accomplishment to be able to rely on ourselves to meet a basic survival need. When everything in society is so technological and done at the click of a button, heating your home with wood can be very grounding. Not to mention, it sneakily forces you to exercise. I prefer to exercise by working outside and getting things done instead of dedicating a treacherous hour to strict cardio and core workouts.
Did I miss something? Do you have any further questions?
Please let me know in the comments below and I will address them.