"When used for heat, Wood can't be beat."
My personal motto. Yeah, gas might be more efficient, but you don't hear of romantic evenings by the gas furnace, now do you? Seriously, however, the classic fireplace or wood stove is not the most efficient way to heat a whole home. Great for zone heating, sure, but so is an electric heater.
So, how do you heat a whole home, or even multiple buildings with wood? My way was an outdoor wood stove.
Outdoor Wood Stoves
Outdoor wood stoves are really the same basic concept as an indoor one, with some added technology. They add a heat jacket to the firebox, with water in it, that can be used to transfer the heat via insulated pipes and a heat exchanger to your blower or in-floor heat system. It's more complex than that, but that's the basics.
For my house, I got an Outdoor Wood Furnace (thanks to Burnrite Outdoor Wood Stoves in Mount Pleasant) so that I can heat both my house and my unattached garage. I live out in the 'boonies' as they say, and I got lots of land (16 acres) and fair distance from my neighbors. For me, it was a natural choice. It might work for you too, and so I made this page as a fan of wood heat to give my perspective on the matter, and give useful, real advice to those interested in changing their heating method from gas to wood.
There is a debate over outdoor wood stoves, and wood heat in general. Some people say that it is bad for the environment. Others say it is good for the environment. Like most things, I believe it depends on how you approach it. If you practice responsible harvesting of wood, the burning of wood for heat is pretty much carbon neutral (I have more on that in wood facts, so do a lot of other websites). If you're clear cutting like our ancestors from the dark ages, yeah, you're not doing anyone around you a favor. It's also against the point of getting an outdoor wood stove. You want a renewable heat fuel. Wood is renewable, but only if you harvest right and replant as needed. Gas might be more efficient, but it's not renewable.
For me, living outside the main city distribution lines? Wood is the way to go. I got a good set of chainsaws (one gas for in the woods, one electric for use once I get it home), my new Outdoor Wood Stove, and no more need to pay the gas man to refill my pig. If you're independent minded and don't mind a little work, an outdoor wood furnace might be for you too. If you're in the city, an outdoor wood stove probably is not for you, but if you have a fireplace, a fireplace insert would work. And there are many good indoor wood stoves on the market for zone heating. That can help you run a gas furnace less as well.
What You'll Find Here
So, in short, my site here is broke up into two main parts, facts about wood, and about how to clean and maintain your outdoor wood stoves. Maintenance is very important to a good, clean burn. The kinds of wood you use will determine if you're actually saving money or just burning it. Also, I'm willing to bet that at least half of the people that complain that their (or their neighbors) outdoor wood stove makes too much black, nasty smoke is the result of some guy not reading his manual and burning green wood. I'll cover that in more detail in the wood facts sections.