Question: What wood burning systems are available to me?
You have several choices when determining what wood burning system you want to use in your home. There are fireplaces and fireplace inserts, wood stoves and wood furnaces. Using the best woods for burning and picking the right wood burning system is the key to a enjoying a wood heating unit.
Answer: Wood burning systems vary considerably in both design and operating efficiency. There are six basic types of wood heating units.
Conventional fireplaces - The conventional fireplace is used in nearly 50% of all homes burning wood. Interestingly enough, this type of wood burning unit is the least desirable system when considering capturing the maximum heat for the longest period of time. An open fireplace has an operating efficiency rating of about 10% meaning that only 10% of its energy makes it into the home as usable heat.
Convectional fireplaces - The convectional fireplace is a metal fabricated fireplace with a double wall around the firebox. It improves heat retention and availability over the conventional type by about four times. Hot air between the walls is returned as usable heat. This type of wood burning unit has an operating efficiency rating of about 40%. Fireplace inserts - The fireplace insert is a metal fabricated fireplace designed to fit into an existing conventional fireplace. It has a similar double wall around the firebox and hot air between the walls is returned as usable heat. This type of wood burning unit has an operating efficiency rating of about 40%. Airtight stoves - Airtight wood stoves are the most popular wood heating stpve sold in the United States. These reasonably priced stoves come with an airtight firebox and controlled air flow features for more precise burning. This type of wood burning unit has an operating efficiency rating of about 55%. Non-airtight stoves - Non-Airtight stoves are otherwise known as Franklin stoves, pot-bellied stoves or parlor stoves. This type of stove was the most common used before the airtight units were developed. Out of favor, these types of wood burning units have an operating efficiency rating of about 25%. Wood burning furnaces - Wood burning furnaces can be expensive but are one of the most efficient of all the wood heating units. The central firebox of a furnace is usually attached to ducts. These types of wood burning units have an operating efficiency rating of about 55 to 65%. Wood burning masonry heaters - Wood burning masonry heaters are considered the most desirable (but expensive) of all wood heating units and are certainly the most efficient. The main thing that distinguishes a masonry wood heater is it's ability to store a large amount of heat. This means that you can rapidly burn a large volume of wood without overheating your house. These types of wood burning units have an operating efficiency rating of about 65 to 85%.