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How Does a Wood Stove Help with Heating Bills

written by: W. A. Swan•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 12/31/2010

In today's economy saving money on heating is important. Wood stoves have been used as heating sources for generations. But does a wood stove help with heating bills? It can, if used correctly. The key is to find free wood sources and learning to light and maintain the fire properly.

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    Wood Stove vs. Fireplace

    The first thing you must understand is that wood stoves are not the same as fireplaces. Fireplaces suck heat into them because they are basically an open pit, with airflow being sucked up the chimney. Wood stoves are enclosed units, allowing the fire to build heat within the combustion chamber. The heat then radiates out from the wood stove. When the heat does, a wood stove helps with heating bills by providing radiant heat.

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    Wood Stoves and Heating

    While wood stoves are not as efficient as wood furnaces they can still help reduce heating bills. How does a wood stove help with heating bills? Unlike electricity, gas or oil, you can generate your own fuel source. Heating with wood allows you to actually “grow" your own fuel if you have available space. Fuel supplies are always close by, usually within a few miles if not next door, as opposed to hundreds of miles used for electricity or gas; this reduces transportation costs. You can also go get your own fuel when needed; this eliminates the cost of having it hauled to you. The cost of a gallon of gas is still cheaper than paying an hourly wage for a driver to bring fuel to your home.

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    Finding Free Wood

    Finding free wood is not difficult and can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Even if you don’t have the available land to grow trees, you can still find wood. Several methods can be used; unwanted and unpainted pallets, fallen trees or construction lumber can become firewood. The time required is in asking for it and hauling it. Ask the utility companies as you see them cutting along roadsides; they may allow you to come in afterwards to collect the trunks and limbs. Put an ad in a local shopper or online looking for free wood or offering free tree removal. If you have the time, you can find free wood.

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    Lighting Up

    Depending on what a homeowner does, wood stoves can help with heating bills. Proper lighting of the wood stove is essential to reducing heat loss. Use smaller pieces of seasoned wood to start the fire. Learn what types of wood are available in your area; different woods have different burn rates. Red Oak, Sugar Maple and Ash burn slower and provide more heat time compared to softwoods such as Pine. Use seasoned and dry wood to set the fire. Use a “green" or unseasoned log on top of the pile to force the heat to down and out through the sides of the stove instead of the top; this allows the heat to remain in the room longer since air is a poor heat collector.

    After lighting, maintaining the burn also helps keep heat loss to a minimum while maintaining temperature. Use the damper to slow down the air flow; this allows the charcoal and embers formed from burning to maintain their heat. This allows you to keep the heat radiating from the stove when you are not able to tend it at nighttime or when you are not home.

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    Increasing the Benefits

    Careful planning of heat use does allow a wood stove to help with heating bills. Wood stoves should be large enough for the space being heated. Determine the square footage you want heated; this helps determine the size of the wood stove. Using a wood stove too small for the space results in added cost from needing additional heating measures. Placing fans in strategic locations increases the benefit of the stove. Setting a normal house fan nearby, blowing away from the stove, extends the radius of the heat. Using ceiling fans to force down rising hot air also provides a longer duration of heating.

    Additional benefits can be made through recycling efforts after the wood has burned. Scoop out the ashes and allow them to cool. These can be used to traction when you are on ice. Use a magnet to pull out any nails or metal pieces still in the ashes. Turn the metal in for scrap and the wood has now paid you, thereby further reducing heating cost.