Heating with Wood Stoves
Wood stoves create a warm and cozy atmosphere — while helping you save on the oil bill
Wood stoves are a great alternative or addition to oil or gas heat.
Think of a cold December night, the wind whipping and the snow falling. You’re wrapped in a blanket on the couch, sipping tea and reading a book in front of a warm, crackling fire. Perfection.
Now think of how you felt upon opening your oil bill after a string of those windy, snowy December nights last winter. Quite a bit less like perfection, most likely — which is why, even if the first scenario didn’t sway you, you may want to consider switching partially or totally to wood heat.
“Besides just being an exceptional source of heat and all the benefits of it being renewable energy and everything else, you have the element of saving money heating your home,” explains Ken Naylor, president of New Hampshire fireplace store Fireplace Village. “Anywhere between 50 percent and 75 percent of an oil bill could possibly be eliminated using wood heat.”
Naylor also says burning wood isn’t as labor intensive as it may seem. “Is there some work involved? Yes. Is it a ton of work overall? Not really,” he says. “It’s harder than turning up your thermostat, but it’s not what many people perceive it to be.”
It’s also quite easy to integrate wood heat into your home, says Chad Sanborn of Stone Age Design in Gilmanton. “You can pretty much build whatever you want. It’s nice to be different,” he says. “I try to do a different design in each one instead of having a cookie-cutter type. Just do something different.”
He encourages homeowners to consider the style and feel of their home before designing a fireplace — and stresses that old New England farmhouses aren’t the only ones that look great with a hearth. “You want to match the house somewhat. If you have an Adirondack-style home, you may typically go with a New Hampshire fieldstone,” he recommends. “If it’s more of a modern-type home, you may go with a quarry stone like granite.
Personally, Sanborn says he likes the look of no-cement joint — meaning the fireplace appears to be made only from stone with no cement showing —in a more classic style. “Interior-wise, I love the no-cement joint New Hampshire fieldstone,” he says. “I like that look a lot, especially since most of the houses I end up working on are more to that type of home.”
But while stone fireplaces are great for boosting your interior design, Naylor says they may not be best if you’re looking for a serious dose of warming power.
Idyllic as they may be, Naylor says traditional fireplaces can actually be counterproductive from a heating standpoint. “For the amount of fuel that you’re burning versus the amount of heat that’s coming back to you, it’s negligible,” he says. “You’re probably losing more heat from your home by using that fireplace” since the damper is open. To fix the problem, Naylor recommends wood inserts — wood-burning appliances that are inserted into your existing fireplace and sealed off — to prevent losing any heat.
Another option for those looking to cut down on oil is wood-pellet heating, a system that burns tiny, compressed pellets made from things like sawdust and waste wood in a boiler.
In addition to saving money from heating costs, Morton Bailey of Lyme Green Heat, which specializes in wood-pellet heating and sources its pellets from a New Hampshire company, says it’s more eco-friendly. “We kind of come at it from a perspective of eliminating oil from the home completely and going completely to this sustainable, renewable, locally produced fuel,” he says.
Unlike oil, which emits fossil fuels into the environment when burned, Bailey stresses that wood pellets can return to the carbon cycle when burned, thus sparing the environment. “The trees that are growing are recapturing the carbon that we burn when we burn the fuel,” he explains. “Another great part about the wood pellet industry is the majority of material used is waste wood. It really keeps it a good, sustainable product.”
Bailey says entire homes can easily be heated with a wood-pellet system, and that nearly any home has space for a boiler. Plus, he notes that wood-pellet boilers are extremely safe. “They’ve been through the most stringent safety standards of any equipment that’s out there,” he says.
As for who can benefit from wood-pellet heating, Bailey says the answer is simple: anyone and everyone. “My mantra has always been, we want to sell a system that a person in a three-piece suit headed out in the morning can work with and still burn wood,” he says. “We really feel that our target audience is anybody who heats their home in New England. It’s really how simple these systems are now.”
More Fireplace Resources
The Stove Shoppe
25 Indian Rock Rd., Windham
The Fireplace Center
23 Rte. 125, Kingston
The Stove Barn
249 Loudon Rd., Concord
328 Dover Rd., Chichester
All Basics Stove Shop
236 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack
1203 Union Ave., Laconia
163 Daniel Webster Hwy., Meredith