Using Wood Heat as a Primary Heat Source

Heating Your Home With Firewood is a Viable Option

Budget-conscious home-owners are getting in touch with their wood-burning roots. But while the majority of wood stove users burn wood to supplement their primary heating systems, there are a number of dedicated home-owners who burn wood as their only heat source.

Indeed, there are thousands of people across Canada and the United States who use wood as their only source of heat. And not only are these wood stove enthusiasts saving money, but they are also one passionate bunch!

This two-part series discusses:

• The financial benefits of heating with wood
• The personal benefits of heating with wood.

Financial Benefits

primary heating systems

In order to understand the financial benefits of heating with wood, home-owners must think in the long-term. This is because purchasing a modern wood stove can be a substantial cost. However, the purchase of an efficient wood stove is a one-time cost, which is followed by lower annual costs. Over the long-term, wood heat is generally a more economical way to heat one’s home.

The Gordon Family

Take the Gordon family, in Phoenixville, PA, as an example. Darren Gordon, his wife Malia, and their young son live in a 2500 square-foot open-concept home, which they heat entirely with wood. A few years ago, the Gordons purchased an EPA-certified wood stove, a chainsaw, and everything else needed to successfully heat their home with wood. Their purchases totaled just over $3,000.

But now it’s a few years later, and the Gordons have already paid for everything needed to heat their home. With a year’s supply of free firewood stacked and ready to burn, the Gordons anticipate that the family’s heating expenses over the next year should be, in the words of Darren Gordon, “almost zero.”

So the Gordons won’t have a heating bill this year. Nor next year. Nor the year after that! And, if they continue living in their home as they are today, in fifteen years their story will sound a lot like the Ballenthins’ story below.

The Ballenthin Family

Jim and Jean Ballenthin live outside of Backus, MN, and have been heating their home with wood since 1990. Being without a monthly heating bill for the past eighteen years, the couple conservatively estimates that they have saved between $20,000 to $30,000 in heating costs.

Is it actually possible to see such substantial savings by switching to wood? Consider the following example, using today’s numbers:

• Average annual home heating costs in the United States range from $3 000 to $4 500 per year.
• Multiplying $3 000 per year over an eighteen year period adds up to $54 000 in heating costs!

Firewood

A key factor in both families’ savings is that both households have access to free firewood. Both families obtain their firewood supply for free off their own property or through connections (and hard work).

Darren Gordon jokingly calls his firewood-collection methods “scrounging.” Gordon confides, “Once you get good with a chainsaw, you also have an instant side business; people will pay you to remove fallen trees from their property, and you get free wood at the same time.”

Jim Ballenthin, on the other hand, cuts all of his family’s firewood from their own property. “I rarely cut down live, healthy trees,” says Ballenthin. “I take down diseased, dying, or storm damaged trees.”

But, unlike the families mentioned here, not all wood burners have access to free firewood.

Nonetheless, purchasing wood is still a financially viable option. Estimates suggest that it’s common to cut one’s energy bill in half by purchasing firewood instead of oil or natural-gas.

Darren Gordon is pleased with his family’s financial savings. But, with a smile, he warns, “I must admit, I wouldn’t do this for the money savings alone. It’s simply too much work. I heat with wood for a long list of reasons.”

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