Fire Chief

Firewood on a bar grate on the left and a pair of hands holding wood pellets on the right with a versus symbol in the middle

Wood Pellets vs. Logs: Which Fuel Should You Burn?

There are a lot of wood fuel options out there, but most wood burning appliances accommodate either wood pellets or wood logs. And even among those two types of fuel, there are several varieties to choose from.

You’re probably at least decently familiar with firewood, especially if you own a fireplace, a fire pit, a wood stove, or a wood furnace. Pellets, on the other hand, may be less familiar.

So which one should you use, and in which appliances? Can some appliances accommodate both? And what kind of burn time can you expect out of each fuel?

At HY-C, we make appliances that utilize both fuels, and we even produce our own pellet fuel. And we want to answer any and all questions you may have about pellets and logs.

By the end of this comprehensive guide, you’ll understand the differences between wood pellets and firewood logs. You’ll know what varieties of each fuel are available, which appliances accommodate each fuel, how much smoke each one puts out, and much more.

More importantly, you’ll know whether your wood burning appliance should use wood pellets or logs so you end up with the best wood burning experience possible.

Wood Pellets vs. Logs: Varieties

A close-up of a pile of wood pellets


Wood pellets are used for two purposes: heating and barbecuing. Barbecuing pellets are made to be burned in wood smokers or grills to season meat, enhancing its flavor. Common types of wood pellets used for flavoring include:

  • Apple
  • Cherry
  • Hickory
  • Maple
  • Mesquite
  • Pecan

Heating pellets, on the other hand, consist either of hardwood pellets or softwood pellets. Hardwood pellets are denser and tend to burn for a longer time as a result. Softwood pellets, by contrast, burn hotter, putting out more BTUs (British thermal units).


There are several types of firewood, and if you asked ten wood burning experts the best species of wood to burn, you may get ten different answers. Very generally, though, common varieties of firewood species found throughout the United States include:

  • Oak
  • Black locust
  • Maple
  • Ash
  • Walnut
  • Elm
  • Birch

Like pellets, firewood can be broken out into hardwood and softwood. Hardwood logs are more dense than softwood logs. Most experts agree that hardwood is better wood to burn, as it burns longer and hotter than softwood. Hardwood entails a higher price as a result, though.

Wood Pellets vs. Logs: Appliances

A person reaching into a smokeless fire pit filled with pellets with a long lighter to light a fire


There are quite a few appliances made to burn wood pellets.

Pellet grills allow you to cook meat using wood pellets as fuel instead of charcoal. These grills utilize barbecuing pellets (instead of heating pellets) to flavor food. They’re designed to burn pellets only; they’re not compatible with firewood.

You’re probably familiar with wood burning stoves, but there are also pellet stoves on the market designed to burn wood pellets rather than logs. These stoves radiate heat into the room in which they’re set up, providing warmth during the fall and winter months.

Most wood burning furnaces on the market are designed to burn logs, but there are some pellet furnaces out there. These furnaces tend to burn more cleanly and efficiently than their log-burning counterparts, but they are often much more expensive.

Finally, there are pellet fire pits engineered to burn wood pellets (though most models can also burn logs with no issue). These pellet fire pits are smokeless, leaning on both the pellet fuel and the fire pit’s airflow system to eliminate smoke byproducts.

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There’s certainly no shortage of appliances that burn logs.

Fireplaces are one of the most common. Whether homeowners use them for warmth or just ambiance, fireplaces have been around for hundreds of years. Most fireplaces feature a grate that holds the wood as it burns, allowing air to flow underneath the logs to keep the fire lit.

Another tried-and-true home heating appliance, wood stoves have been around for centuries, too. They predate their pellet counterparts, but they work the same way, radiating heat into whichever room in which they’re installed.

While smokeless pellet fire pits are catching on in popularity, they’re yet to overshadow the classic wood fire pit. Many backyards across the country feature either a homemade or store-bought fire pit to provide some extra warmth during fall and winter outdoor gatherings.

Finally, wood burning furnaces act as a viable central heating alternative in place of a gas or electric furnace. Firewood burns continuously in the firebox while a distribution blower pushes warm air from the furnace, into the air ducts, and throughout the rest of the home.

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Wood Pellets vs. Logs: Smoke Output

A Flame Genie Inferno smokeless firepit burning wood pellets on a patio


Have you ever wondered why fire produces smoke? The answer is moisture content. Trees survive and thrive on water, and when they’re cut into firewood, logs retain much of that moisture. A log can contain 50% or more of its weight in water. That results in a lot of smoke.

Pellets are made of compressed sawdust, so they contain much less moisture than logs. Wood pellets typically have moisture levels of just 5% to 10%. This means that when they’re burned, they tend to produce very little — if any — smoke.


Do logs give off more smoke than pellets?

The answer is, “It depends.” Even wood that appears dry can have a high moisture content, which will result in a lot of smoke (you can use a moisture meter to test the moisture content of a piece of firewood).

Ideally, firewood should have a moisture content below 20%. Seasoning freshly cut firewood involves splitting it, stacking it, covering it, and storing it. In order to achieve that twenty-percent-or-lower threshold, firewood needs to sit for about 6 to 12 months before use.

Getting your logs’ moisture content down won’t necessarily eliminate smoke entirely. But low moisture will help to mitigate smoke, making for a better burning experience.

Wood Pellets vs. Logs: Burn Time

Ashen firewood burning up in a fire


Wood pellets — even dense hardwood pellets — tend to burn up quickly. If you fill a pellet fire pit with about ten pounds of pellets, those pellets will burn for perhaps 15 or 20 minutes before you need to add more to the fire.

Using pellets, you’ll end up with a smoke-free experience and a very efficient fire, but you will have to babysit it quite a bit, adding more fuel relatively often. Be sure to add more pellets slowly, as too many at once will snuff the fire out.


You’ll get much longer burn times out of firewood compared to pellets. If you start a fire in a fire pit with four logs, you may need to add a new log every 30 to 40 minutes to keep the fire going (that time will vary depending on which species of wood you use and its moisture content).

Using firewood, you’ll likely wind up with more smoke than with pellet fuel. But you won’t have to keep as close an eye on the fire, freeing you up to do other things.

Should You Use Wood Pellets or Logs?

Choosing the right wood fuel can be confusing. Given the differences between pellets and logs, the different types of pellets and logs available, and different species of wood, it can be hard to keep it all straight.

You may be wondering at this point, “Which fuel should I use?”

To answer that question, start with your appliance. A pellet grill is made specifically for pellets, while a wood burning furnace is made just for logs. Fire pits can often accommodate either, so that’s left to your discretion.

After deciding whether you need pellets or logs, choose between hardwood (if you want a longer burn) or softwood (if you’re looking for a hotter burn).

And whatever fuel type you decide to use, always be sure to follow good fire safety habits. Keep a watchful eye on your fire and keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case things get out of control. This way, you’ll enjoy the comfort of the fire while keeping your home — and everything in it — safe.

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A close-up of chopped, stacked firewood

Best Firewood: Top 10 Types of Wood Fuel to Burn

There’s more to burning wood than you might expect. Whether you’re using an outdoor fire pit, your fireplace, or a wood burning furnace or stove, different woods burn differently from one another.

And maybe you just buy whatever firewood is available at your local store. But have you ever stopped to ask, “What kind of wood is this, anyway? Do certain types of wood give off more heat than others? What type of wood should I be burning?”

The type of firewood available to you often depends on what kind of trees are native to your area. But, given the choice, some types of wood are better at some things than others. We should know — we’ve been through the process of getting a wood burning furnace approved by the EPA, and that involves dozens of burn tests with many different kinds of firewood.

In this guide (and with the help of data from Utah State University), we’ll cover 10 different species of firewood. We’ll tell you how much heat each species puts off, how much a full cord of each species weighs, and more insights to help you find the right wood to burn.

Firewood BTU Chart

The following chart covers basic information on ten species of wood common in North America. Depending on where you live, some species of firewood may be more readily available in your area than others.

SpeciesHeat per Cord (Million BTUs)Weight per Cord (Dry)Ease of SplittingSmoke
White Oak29.14,200 poundsMediumLow
Black Locust27.94,020 poundsDifficultLow
Maple25.53,680 poundsEasyLow
White Ash24.23,470 poundsMediumLow
Black Walnut22.23,190 poundsEasyLow
Elm20.93,020 poundsDifficultMedium
Birch20.82,990 poundsMediumMedium
Douglas-fir20.72970 poundsEasyHigh
Green Ash202,880 poundsEasyLow
Sycamore19.52,810 poundsDifficultMedium

The second column indicates how much energy (in British thermal units, or BTUs) a full cord of each species of wood will radiate when burned.

The third column indicates how much a full cord of each species of wood weighs after it’s been fully seasoned and dried out.

The fourth and fifth columns indicate how easy (or difficult) each type of wood is to split and how much smoke each species of wood tends to give off, respectively.

How Much is a Cord of Wood?

A full cord of wood stacked in the middle of a field with a sign reading "ONE FULL CORD" on it

A full cord of stacked firewood measures 4 feet high, 8 feet wide, and 4 feet in depth (for a total of 128 cubic feet). A full cord usually contains between 600 and 800 logs.

You may also see the term “face cord” used; this is about ⅓ of a cord, or 4 feet high, 8 feet wide, and 16 inches in depth.

A half cord of wood measures 4 feet high, 8 feet wide, and 2 feet in depth.

How Long Does it Take to Season Firewood?

The best way to season firewood is to stack it on a log rack and let it sit anywhere from 6 months to a year. This allows moisture to evaporate from the logs.

A piece of firewood may contain up to 50% of its weight or more in water. Waterlogged firewood won’t burn well. The goal is to get the moisture content to 20% or less (and you can test the moisture contents of a piece of firewood by using a moisture meter).

Because it takes so long to season firewood properly, most people buy their firewood a year in advance. When seasoning firewood, leave it outdoors in the open at least a few feet away from walls or other obstructions to facilitate proper airflow. Cover the top with a tarp to keep the wood safe from precipitation (but leave the sides uncovered to allow air to circulate).

Is Oak Good Firewood?

One full cord of dry, properly seasoned oak firewood will put off 29.1 million BTUs of energy, making oak one of the most efficient species of wood to burn. Though it’s heavy (with a full, dry cord weighing in at around 4,200 pounds) and not necessarily easy to split, oak wood puts off relatively little smoke when seasoned correctly.

  • Heat per cord (in millions of BTUs): 29.1
  • Weight per cord (dry): 4,200 pounds
  • Ease of splitting: Medium
  • Smoke contents: Low

Is Black Locust Good Firewood?

At 27.9 million BTUs of energy per cord, black locust wood is nearly as efficient as oak. It maintains a comparable weight at about 4,000 pounds per cord. It also puts off relatively little smoke, though it is pretty difficult to split if you’re cutting it on your own.

  • Heat per cord (in millions of BTUs): 27.9
  • Weight per cord (dry): 4,020 pounds
  • Ease of splitting: Difficult
  • Smoke contents: Low

Is Maple Good Firewood?

Maple is one of only three species of firewood on this list to put off over 25 million BTUs of energy per cord burned. It’s quite a bit lighter than oak or black locust, averaging about 3,700 pounds per cord. It’s also very easy to split, and it puts off very little smoke.

  • Heat per cord (in millions of BTUs): 25.5
  • Weight per cord (dry): 3,680 pounds
  • Ease of splitting: Easy
  • Smoke contents: Low

Is White Ash Good Firewood?

White ash is a great middle-of-the-road firewood option in terms of millions of BTUs per cord at 24.2. A dry, seasoned cord of white ash firewood weighs in at around 3,500 pounds, and it produces relatively little smoke. It’s not the easiest type of firewood to split, though, so keep that in mind if you’re cutting your own wood.

  • Heat per cord (in millions of BTUs): 24.2
  • Weight per cord (dry): 3,470 pounds
  • Ease of splitting: Medium
  • Smoke contents: Low

Is Black Walnut Good Firewood?

Black walnut is a relatively efficient firewood, offering about 22.2 million BTUs of energy per cord. It’s pretty light for its efficiency, with a full cord clocking in at around 3,200 pounds. It’s also easy to split, and it puts off very little smoke.

  • Heat per cord (in millions of BTUs): 22.2
  • Weight per cord (dry): 3,190 pounds
  • Ease of splitting: Easy
  • Smoke contents: Low
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Is Elm Good Firewood?

At about 3,000 pounds per cord and with an energy rating of about 20.9 million BTUs per cord, elm is a good middle-of-the-road firewood. Be cautious, though — it’s pretty difficult to split, and it puts off quite a bit more smoke than oak, black locust, maple, white ash, or black walnut.

  • Heat per cord (in millions of BTUs): 20.9
  • Weight per cord (dry): 3,020 pounds
  • Ease of splitting: Difficult
  • Smoke contents: Medium

Is Birch Good Firewood?

Birch’s energy capacity is comparable to elm at 20.8 million BTUs per cord. Its weight per cord is also comparable to elm at around 3,000 pounds. Like elm, it puts off a medium amount of smoke, and while it’s not the easiest wood to split on your own, it is easier than elm.

  • Heat per cord (in millions of BTUs): 20.8
  • Weight per cord (dry): 2,990 pounds
  • Ease of splitting: Medium
  • Smoke contents: Medium

Is Douglas-Fir Good Firewood?

Douglas-fir firewood is on par with elm and birch in terms of energy efficiency; it puts off about 20.7 million BTUs per cord. It weighs in at about 2,970 pounds per cord and it’s easy to split. The biggest caveat with douglas-fir is that it probably puts out the highest amount of smoke of any firewood on this list.

  • Heat per cord (in millions of BTUs): 20.7
  • Weight per cord (dry): 2,970 pounds
  • Ease of splitting: Easy
  • Smoke contents: High

Is Green Ash Good Firewood?

Though every type of firewood on this list is very efficient, green ash does come in second-to-last at just 20 million BTUs per dry, seasoned cord. It is relatively lightweight; at just 2,880 pounds per cord, it’s about 1,300 pounds lighter than oak. It’s also easy to split and emits a low amount of smoke.

  • Heat per cord (in millions of BTUs): 20
  • Weight per cord (dry): 2,880 pounds
  • Ease of splitting: Easy
  • Smoke contents: Low

Is Sycamore Good Firewood?

Sycamore has the unfortunate distinction of being the only firewood on this list not to crack 20 million BTUs per cord, just missing the mark at 19.5. It puts off a medium amount of smoke, too, and it’s relatively difficult to split. It is the lightest, though, with a properly seasoned cord of sycamore weighing about 2,800 pounds.

  • Heat per cord (in millions of BTUs): 19.5
  • Weight per cord (dry): 2,810 pounds
  • Ease of splitting: Difficult
  • Smoke contents: Medium

What Type of Firewood Should You Get?

As you can see, there’s more to burning wood than you may have expected. Thermal efficiency can vary by millions of BTUs per cord and weight can vary by thousands of pounds. There are also big variations in how easy each species is to split and how much smoke each species emits.

So — which firewood should you get?

In a lot of cases, this simply depends on which wood is native to your area. You may not have many options.

But, if given the choice, oak, black locust, and maple are high on the list in terms of heat per cord. Green ash and sycamore may be less energy efficient, but they’re very lightweight if you plan on hauling the wood yourself.

Whichever type you choose, be sure to store and season your wood properly. That way it will burn efficiently and cleanly, keeping you warm through the fall and winter months.

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Fire Chief FC1000E wood burning furnace shells on wood pallets on an assembly line in a factory

The 4 Best Wood Burning Furnaces of 2023

Buying a wood burning furnace is not something you should do lightly. A wood furnace is a big commitment, and you want to do everything you can to make sure you wind up with a fantastic appliance that will last a lifetime.

But there are so many questions to consider: how much should you spend? How does each model compare with each other? What options are even available in the first place?

In this guide, we want to take as much of the guesswork out of buying a wood burning furnace as possible for you. So we’ll compare four of the finest furnaces on the market today to help you find the right one for your home and budget.

A quick note before we begin — we manufacture one of the furnaces on this list: the Fire Chief FC1000E. Still, we know all four of these furnaces very well, and we’re going to compare them as objectively as possible (in no particular order) to help you decide which one you need, whether that’s a Fire Chief or another one of the great furnaces on this list.

Best Wood Burning Furnaces: Criteria, Definitions, and Methodology

Before we get going, note that all four furnaces on this list:

Also, in order to be as objective as possible (because, again, we manufacture one of the furnaces), we leaned on EPA testing data to gauge each furnace against its competitors. Here are two pertinent definitions for you to understand from that testing data:

  • Efficiency rating: The percentage of heat that is transferred to the space to be heated when a load of fuel is burned. Efficiency percentages are based on the EPA-specified CSA B 415-10 stack loss testing method.
  • Maximum heat delivered: Maximum amount of heat provided to other rooms through ducting at ten pounds per cubic feet fuel loading density over one total burn cycle

With that established — and in no particular order — let’s get into the top four wood burning furnaces.

Drolet Heat Commander

A Drolet Heat Commander wood burning furnace against a white background

The Drolet Heat Commander at a glance:

  • Firebox Volume: 3.6 cubic feet
  • Efficiency Rating: 77%
  • Maximum Heat Delivered: 42,234 BTUs
  • Average Price: $3,999

If reviews from online forums are to be believed, the Drolet Heat Commander is a well-liked wood burning furnace from many a customer’s perspective. It’s made in Canada by skilled tradespeople who know their craft well — they also make EPA-certified wood stoves and pellet stoves, among other hearth products.

One of the best things about the Heat Commander is that it boasts the highest efficiency rating of all the furnaces on this list according to the EPA test data, meaning you’ll get the very best out of each log you put into it.

Drolet’s Heat Commander is also unique in that it offers a limited lifetime warranty for its combustion chamber and cast iron door frame — the only furnace on this list to offer any kind of lifetime warranty for any of its components.

On the downside, it’s a little pricey at $3,999 (relative to other options on the list). It also weighs just a bit over 600 pounds, meaning that getting it set up in your basement (or wherever you want to place it) may prove tricky. Its distribution blower’s delivery rate of 1,135 cubic feet per minute (CFM) is also the second-lowest on the list.

Still, the Heat Commander is, without a doubt, one of the best EPA-approved wood burning furnaces you can find today. It’s no surprise that a Canadian company knows how to make a good heater.

US Stove Hot Blast HB1520

A US Stove Hot Blast HB1520 wood burning furnace on a white background

The Hot Blast HB1520 at a glance:

  • Firebox Volume: 3.95 cubic feet
  • Efficiency Rating: 70%
  • Maximum Heat Delivered: 53,042 BTUs
  • Average Price: $2,300

Around since 1869, US Stove is certainly not lacking in experience. The company simply knows heating products — they make warm air furnaces, gas stoves, wood stoves, portable forced air heaters, and much more.

When it comes to wood burning furnace prices, their Hot Blast HB1520 simply can’t be beat. At the time of writing, the average price of one of these units comes out to about $2,300. Also, the HB1520’s firebox measures in at a staggering 3.95 cubic feet, the highest on the list.

The Hot Blast simply can’t be touched on maximum heat delivered, either; at just a bit over 53,000 BTUs, this furnace’s heat delivery capability is nearly 7,000 BTUs higher than the next-highest furnace on the list, our own Fire Chief FC1000E.

If that all sounds too good to be true, there are a few caveats to consider. For instance, if you prefer to support domestically made products, the HB1520 is the only furnace on this list which is not made in North America, but overseas.

The Hot Blast also has extremely high clearances-to-combustibles, the distance from which the furnace must be kept from flammable materials. The HB1520’s clearances are 25 inches on the sides and 26 inches on the back.

To put that in perspective, the next-highest clearances on the list — the Heat Commander — are 11 inches on the sides and 14 inches on the back. This means that the HB1520 requires more empty space around it than some homeowners may have in their installation location.

Finally, the EPA data indicates that the Hot Blast HB1520 also puts off the most grams of carbon monoxide per minute — 4.6 — of all four furnaces on this list. This is well over double the next-highest rate of 1.73 grams per minute. Still, if the pros outweigh the cons for you, US Stove’s Hot Blast HB1520 is a totally viable wood burning furnace option.

Kuuma Vapor-Fire 100

A Kuuma Vapor-Fire 100 wood burning furnace on a pallet on a factory floor

The Kuuma Vapor-Fire 100 at a glance:

  • Firebox Volume: 3.9 cubic feet
  • Efficiency Rating: 76%
  • Maximum Heat Delivered: 33,691 BTUs
  • Average Price: $7,895

Kuuma’s Vapor-Fire 100 is also a big favorite among wood burning enthusiasts. These furnaces are made by Lamppa Manufacturing Inc., a family business in Minnesota who are very passionate about their wood burning products; in addition to the Vapor-Fire, they also make wood burning sauna stoves.

For starters, the Vapor-Fire 100 is made in the USA by skilled workers who have been in the business for years — a testament to its quality and dependability. Its firebox is virtually just as big as the Hot Blast HB1520’s, too, meaning you can fit more wood for longer burns.

Perhaps the best thing going for the Kuuma Vapor-Fire 100 is that, according to the EPA testing data, it’s the cleanest-burning furnace on the market today. EPA-certified furnaces are ultra-clean by necessity, but the Vapor-Fire takes it to another level.

It boasts an emissions rate of just 0.1 pounds of material per million BTUs at a 76% efficiency rating. It also puts off the least carbon monoxide of any furnace on this list at 1.46 grams per minute.

So what’s the catch?

The price, for one thing. At the time of writing, a Kuuma Vapor-Fire 100 will set you back $7,895, nearly double the next-priciest furnace on the list, the Drolet Heat Commander.

The Vapor-Fire also claims the lowest maximum heat delivered on this list at around 33,700 BTUs according to the EPA data. At 675 pounds, it’s also the heaviest furnace by 70 pounds, so getting it into your house for installation may prove challenging.

Still, with these caveats aside, the Kuuma Vapor-Fire 100 is about as good as a wood burning furnace gets. From a company based in chilly Minnesota, we’d expect nothing less.

HY-C Fire Chief FC1000E

A Fire Chief FC1000E wood burning furnace on a white background

The Fire Chief FC1000E at a glance:

  • Firebox Volume: 3.4 cubic feet
  • Efficiency Rating: 70%
  • Maximum Heat Delivered: 46,435 BTUs
  • Average Price: $3,100

Rounding out the list of the 4 best wood burning furnaces is the Fire Chief FC1000E. Each Fire Chief furnace is made in the USA, right at our headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. The folks who make these furnaces have been making them for years, and they pack all of that experience into each and every weld.

The FC1000E is also engineered to be very easy to self-install. The electrical components require no professional electrical work. They come pre-wired, and all that’s required is to plug one component into the other. If you can plug something into a wall outlet, you can install the electrical components on a Fire Chief FC1000E.

The furnace comes with a built-in plenum for easy ductwork installation, too, and at just 435 pounds, it’s the lightest furnace on this list by 150 pounds, so getting it to the install location will be a (relative) breeze.

We’re certainly not so bold as to say our furnace doesn’t have caveats or that other furnaces on this list don’t do some things a bit better than ours. For instance, the FC1000E’s firebox is the smallest on the list at just 3.4 cubic feet. That means you may have to load it more often than the others.

Also, its 70% efficiency rating, while high enough to pass EPA certification, is tied with the US Stove Hot Blast HB1520 for lowest on the list by the EPA’s testing data. It also has the highest emission rate on the list at 0.14 pounds of material per million BTUs.

Still, the upsides include this furnace’s price, quality, and its made-in-USA construction. We’re up against some stiff competition in the furnace market, and that pushes all of us manufacturers to work hard to make better furnaces for you.

Which Wood Burning Furnace Should You Get?

Before now, you probably had little insight into the current state of the wood burning furnace market. You may have been wondering on which merits to compare furnaces, or even which options are available to homeowners today.

By now, though, we’ve taken a good look at four industry-leading wood burning furnaces and compared them on their efficiency, their prices, their heat delivery capabilities, and more.

So — which one should you get?

It really all depends on what you’re looking for out of your furnace. Do you prefer something manufactured domestically, or are you okay with buying an overseas product for a bit less money?

Are you most concerned about heat delivery? Do you want best-in-class efficiency out of your furnace? Or do you want the biggest possible firebox so you can set your fire and let it burn for the longest period possible?

To end up with your perfect furnace, consider the aspects that are most important to you and choose the one that fits them best. If you’re still unsure, take a look at our more granular comparison between the Fire Chief FC1000E and the Hot Blast HB1520. It should give you an even better idea of what to look for when comparing furnaces and help you narrow your search even further.

And if you feel like you want to give a Fire Chief FC1000E a try, our Fire Chief furnace store locator will help you to find a retail location near you.

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Firewood burning with a roaring flame

Wood Burning Furnaces: Best Burn Practices

It’s easy to get lost in a sea of details when thinking about wood furnaces. People tend to wonder, “How do I know which one to get? When I do find one, how am I going to install it? How do I connect it to my ductwork? How do I clean and maintain it over time?”

And those are all important questions. But perhaps the most important question that you should keep front and center in your head is, “How should I be burning wood in my furnace?

Wood burning is as much an art as it is a science. We should know; we manufacture an EPA-approved furnace, and the process of getting a wood burning appliance approved by the Environmental Protection Agency includes plenty of burn tests. From the kind of wood you should use to the process of keeping a fire burning, there’s a lot that goes into good burn practices. And that’s exactly what we want to teach you about.

By the end of this guide, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to burn wood in your wood burning furnace the right way. We’ll teach you about moisture content, firewood storage, and starting and maintaining a fire so you can get the best out of your wood furnace.

How to Season Firewood for Your Wood Furnace

A close-up of a stack of seasoned firewood

Before even putting wood into your furnace, you have to make sure you have the right kind of firewood. In some cases, 50% or more of the weight of a piece of firewood may be water, which doesn’t exactly translate into a good burn.

Firewood burned in a furnace should contain 20% moisture or less — a measurement you can ascertain from a moisture meter. But how can you reduce the amount of moisture in your firewood? The answer is a process called seasoning, and it involves four steps:

  1. Splitting firewood
  2. Stacking firewood
  3. Covering firewood
  4. Storing firewood

Splitting Firewood

Picture a cylindrical piece of a tree trunk or branch that’s about 16” high and 12” in diameter. It’s not a good idea to try to burn this piece of wood. It’s too bulky, and it may contain too much moisture. It’s best to split that wood into four (or more) pieces to help it dry out quickly and burn more easily.

In most cases, when you buy firewood it will already be split. But whether you’re buying wood or you plan to split it yourself, you should be looking to wind up with logs that are about 12” to 16” long and about 4” to 6” in width.

Stacking Firewood

The best and most efficient way to organize your firewood is to stack it. But it’s not a good idea to stack firewood on the ground; it will gather moisture, which defeats the purpose of the seasoning process.

Instead, buy (or make) a log rack. They allow you to store firewood neatly, and the bottom of the rack rests a few inches above the ground, preventing moisture from finding its way to the logs you’re trying to season.

Covering Firewood

In order to season your firewood effectively, you need to cover it with either a sheet of metal, some plywood, or a tarp to protect it from rain or snow. This may sound counterintuitive, but it’s best only to cover the top of the logs, leaving the sides uncovered.

Covering the sides of the logs on your rack may actually cause moisture build up on them, slowing the seasoning process. Instead, leave the sides open to promote airflow to your firewood. Also, be sure to angle your cover in such a way that allows precipitation to run off and fall to the ground (instead of pooling on top of the cover).

Storing Firewood

After you’ve split, stacked, and covered your wood, the rest is simply a waiting game. Over time, the moisture will evaporate from the wood, bringing you below the 20% threshold. Then your firewood will be ready to burn.

Generally, there are two types of wood you can season and burn in a furnace: softwoods (like cedar, pine, spruce, or juniper) and hardwoods (like oak, hickory, maple, or birch). The length of time it takes to season each type of wood varies:

  • Softwoods need to be stored for at least 6 months
  • Hardwoods need to be stored for 12 months or more

Plan accordingly and start seasoning your winter firewood in the spring. The longer the wood is allowed to season, the more cleanly and efficiently it will burn.

How to Start a Fire in Your Wood Furnace

Close-up of a smoldering fire that's starting to die down

After you have a good supply of well-seasoned firewood whose moisture content is under 20%, you’ll be ready to fire up your wood burning furnace.

If you’ve ever made a campfire, the process of starting a fire in a furnace is similar. Start with some kindling (e.g., dry twigs, newspaper, etc.) and get a small fire going. Starting small allows your furnace’s flue to warm up, which promotes a good draft and helps to alleviate creosote buildup.

As the kindling burns, add some medium-sized pieces of seasoned wood to get the fire growing bigger. It’s helpful to keep the furnace’s door open to allow in a bit of air to get the fire going (or if your furnace has a draft blower, you can turn that on to promote airflow). If you do open the door to allow air in, do not leave the open door unattended.

Keep adding bigger and bigger pieces of seasoned wood until the fire takes hold and encompasses the furnace’s firebox.

How to Maintain a Fire in a Wood Furnace

Close-up of a healthily burning, roaring fire

After you get a fire going and the wood fuel burns up, the fire will inevitably diminish (a process that depends on the size of your furnace’s firebox, the type of wood you use, how well-seasoned it is, how much air is getting to the fire, and other factors). As the flames begin to dim, it’s important to stoke them to make sure the furnace continues to put off heat.

To start with, when adding more wood to the fire, open your furnace door slowly to prevent smoke from spilling out. From there, use appropriate hearth tools (like a shovel or fire poker) to spread the coals around.

Don’t put new firewood directly on top of the coals. Instead, push the coals to the perimeter of the firebox and put new wood in the middle. Doing this will promote better airflow and speed up the combustion process. Put the split end of the firewood (i.e., the end opposite the bark) toward the coals. It will catch fire more easily.

Be sure not to overload the firebox with firewood. If there’s too much wood, the fire will smolder, provide less heat, and create too much smoke due to a lack of airflow. Instead, spread logs out, allowing the oxygen coming into the furnace to move freely and feed the fire. If your fire needs a boost, turn your draft blower on to supply it with a bit more air.

How to Remove Ashes from Your Wood Furnace

A bucket full of ashes from an extinguished fire with a small black shovel in it

Wood burning furnaces come with two doors on the front of them — a larger door that leads to the firebox, and a smaller door that leads to the ash pan. Firewood burned in the firebox disintegrates into ashes, which fall through the grate and into the ash pan. After using your furnace for a while, this ash pan will fill up and need to be cleaned.

Wait for your fire to simmer down a bit, and open the door to the ash pan. Scoop the ashes out, and dump them into a metal container away from flammable material. After closing and sealing the ash pan door, allow the ashes in the metal container to cool off. Be absolutely certain the ashes have cooled off completely before you dispose of them!

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Why You Should Follow Good Burn Practices

Wood burning furnaces are complex machines. Like engines, their designs are intricate and intentional, and they rely on a combination of engineering, chemistry, and physics to work their magic. Also like an engine, improper operation of a furnace poses a very real risk of injury or damage to property.

Not following good burn practices can lead to excess smoke in your home, the buildup of ultra-flammable creosote in your chimney flue, or even something as simple (yet dangerous) as a hot coal falling out of the furnace door and starting a fire.

It’s not hard to prevent these dangers, either. Use seasoned wood, be cautious when your furnace’s door is open, and dispose of ashes properly. If you follow good burn practices, you’ll be able to heat your home while keeping everyone in it safe.

Fire Chief FC1000E wood burning furnace on white background

Is a Wood Burning Furnace Right for You?

The majority of homes in the United States use natural gas as their primary fuel source for heat. Of the homes that don’t use natural gas, electricity and propane are the next-most-popular heating energy sources. While wood burning appliances are still around, they’re certainly not as ubiquitous as they once were.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t viable in the right circumstances.

You may have wondered at one point or another whether a wood burning forced-air furnace is right for you. There are a lot of variables, though: do you live in the right climate? Is there a potential for a return on your investment? Is your living space even fit for a furnace? It can be tough to decide whether or not a wood furnace is even worth your while.

As manufacturers of the Fire Chief FC1000E — one of the few EPA-approved residential wood burning furnaces around today — we want to help answer those questions. And we should be clear: our goal is not simply to sell a Fire Chief furnace to every home in the country. Our goal is to help you decide whether a wood burning furnace is even right for you to begin with, and from there, to help you find the right one  — whether it’s a Fire Chief or not.

By the time you’re done here, you’ll know if you should stick to your electric or natural gas furnace, or if you’re the right kind of person to give wood heating a try. And, if you decide you may be interested in a wood burning furnace, we’ll help you start to narrow your focus on the right one to buy.

4 Signs That a Wood Burning Furnace is Right for You

1. You Live in a Cold Climate

Natural gas furnaces work a bit differently than wood burning furnaces. Imagine that a natural gas furnace is like a faucet. As you turn your thermostat up, gas is fed into the furnace. That gas catches fire, and the heat from that fire is distributed into the rest of your home. Once the thermostat’s temperature is met, the gas stops flowing, the fire goes out, and the furnace turns off.

Wood burning furnaces work similarly: they’re attached to a thermostat, and warm air from the burning wood is blown throughout the house. The difference, though, is that you can’t just shut off a wood fire. Even when the blower turns off and warm air stops flowing into the ducts, the furnace itself still radiates heat into the room in which it’s located (because the wood inside is still burning).

Because wood burning furnaces are continuous use devices, they’re best-suited to cold climates, usually areas that have an average temperature of about 50°F or lower. As that heat continues to radiate, it will fight the cold air seeping in from the outside, keeping your home warm.

2. You Have Limited Access to Natural Gas

Natural gas furnaces rely on a vast national infrastructure in order for their fuel to be delivered to the device. The gas follows a series of pipes from the local gas company to a home or business — and that’s not even mentioning the huge undertaking of finding, producing, and processing the gas from its natural source.

Map of Natural Gas Pipelines in the United States

Unfortunately, some areas of the U.S. simply don’t have much (or any) infrastructure to deliver natural gas for heating, as is evident in the image above. These areas need to rely on other methods (like propane or coal) to heat their homes.

If you live in a cold climate and don’t have access to natural gas, a wood burning furnace is a great alternative, especially because good firewood is readily available virtually anywhere in the country.

3. You’ll Save Money (or at Least Break Even)

The price of natural gas varies from state to state, potentially resulting in huge discrepancies in heating costs. Depending on the price of natural gas in your area, the size of your home, and the temperature at which you keep your thermostat, you could wind up paying well over $1,000 on your annual heating bill.

Let’s run through a quick example. On average, our Fire Chief FC1000E furnace costs between $2,500 and $3,000 (let’s say $3,000 for this example). Let’s also assume that you pay $1,500 per year to heat your home with your gas furnace. Finally, let’s imagine you decide to install a Fire Chief furnace, and you end up paying $500 per year for firewood.

You would wind up saving $1,000 per year in heating costs ($1,500 for gas heating minus the $500 you spend on wood), and your $3,000 wood burning furnace would take 3 years to pay for itself.

This example is admittedly oversimplified; for example, it doesn’t take into account the electrical costs of running the furnace’s draft blower and distribution blower, and the cost estimates for firewood and natural gas can change depending on a number of factors.

Still, the opportunity to save money on heating with a wood burning furnace is definitely there. Be sure to plug in the numbers specific to your living situation to see how long it will take to start saving.

4. You Have a Pre-Existing Chimney and/or Ductwork

Like a natural gas furnace, a wood burning furnace can’t function without two vital components:

  1. Air ducts to distribute the heat
  2. A chimney to vent out smoke and other gas

The process of installing a wood burning furnace is a battle in and of itself, but it’s made much easier if your home already has ductwork, a chimney, or both. If you’re replacing a gas or electric furnace, your new wood furnace can simply hook up to the existing ducts and chimney system, saving on time and cost.

DIYers will likely be able to take on this project on their own. But if you don’t feel confident in installing your furnace yourself, have a certified installer do the work. You’ll incur hundreds of dollars more in upfront costs, but you’ll save yourself some huge headaches down the road (e.g., warm air not distributing evenly or correctly, or a home full of smoke from an improper chimney connection).

3 Signs That a Wood Burning Furnace Isn’t Right for You

1. You Live in a Warm Climate

Image of a Desert Climate

Remember: the fire in a natural gas furnace can turn on or off with the simple adjustment of a thermostat. The fire in a wood burning furnace, on the other hand, continues to burn even when the draft blower and distribution blower turn off. For this reason, heat continues to radiate from the furnace even when it’s idling.

This is advantageous in cooler climates — environments where, especially in the winter, a continuous supply of warm air and heat is the goal. In a state like Texas or Florida, though, a wood furnace — even in moderate temperatures — can quickly cause a room (if not an entire house) to overheat.

For this reason, a wood burning furnace may not be the right heating appliance for you if you live in an area where temperatures don’t often fall below 50°F.

2. You Live in an Apartment or a Mobile Home

Wood burning furnaces are, on the whole, designed to go into a house. While they can be used for supplemental heating (in parallel with a natural gas forced air furnace), apartment complexes don’t typically allow tenants any control over which central heating unit is used in their living space. Plus, a wood furnace installation requires a bit of electrical work and ductwork, and you likely can’t (or aren’t allowed to) access the components you’d need to install a wood burning furnace in an apartment.

Mobile or modular homes aren’t a good fit for wood furnaces for a similar reason: in most cases, they lack the robust HVAC system a wood burning furnace requires. The space requirement can be limiting in a mobile home, too.

3. You don’t have the Space for a Wood Burning Furnace

Wood burning furnaces tend to be big and heavy. While their dimensions may be similar (if not a bit shorter in height) than a natural gas furnace — our Fire Chief FC1000E measures 26” x 45.5” x 42”, for example — they’re quite a bit heavier. Most natural gas furnaces weigh around 100 pounds, while the FC1000E weighs 435 pounds.

You need a big enough space to put the furnace in, and the foundation of your domicile needs to be able to support the weight of the furnace over time. For this reason, apartments, mobile homes, modular homes, or houses with a lack of floor support aren’t a good fit for a wood furnace.

It’s also vital to adhere to a wood burning furnace’s clearance-to-combustibles ranges. These are the distances from which the front, back, and sides of a furnace must be kept away from flammable materials like wood, cardboard, or drywall (after all, there’s essentially a live campfire right inside the firebox).

Again, using our Fire Chief furnace as an example, its clearance-to-combustibles are 48” from the front of the furnace, 12” from the rear, and 6” from the sides. If you don’t have a roomy basement or utility closet for a wood furnace, your home may not be right (or even safe enough) for one.

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What if You’re the Right Fit for a Wood Burning Furnace?

In all likelihood, you came to this article wondering whether or not your living space is right for a wood burning furnace. You should have a good sense of the answer to that question by now based on the climate in which you live, the prices you’ll pay both for gas heating and wood heating, and your existing ductwork and electrical work.

If it sounds like a wood furnace won’t work for you, that’s ok — natural gas, propane, or electrical furnaces are completely viable options. They’re easy to use, and they tend to require less maintenance and attention than a wood burning furnace.

But if you fit the criteria and you’re starting to think about getting a wood burning furnace of your own, a great next step is to start comparing popular wood burning furnace models. This will give you a good sense of what to look for in a wood furnace, the extra features available, what you’re looking at in terms of cost, and so much more.

And, whether you buy one of ours or a different model, we hope you eventually decide to jump into the world of wood burning forced air furnaces if you can. We’re passionate about wood burning products. We build furnaces right here in the USA every day, and we want anyone who’s interested, willing, and able to have a wood furnace that will keep them warm and satisfied for years to come.

Fire Chief FC1000E Furnace

How to Install a Fire Chief FC1000E Wood Burning Furnace

The installation of a wood burning furnace is typically a pretty involved process. It can involve hiring a sheet metal fabricator, an HVAC professional, an electrician, and maybe even a mover to get the furnace to its desired location. And if you’re like most buyers, the thought of a self-installation won’t even cross your mind — many people simply defer to the professionals.

If you’re DIY-inclined, though, and you end up buying one of HY-C’s Fire Chief FC1000E furnaces, you’re in luck: we designed it to be about as self-install-friendly as a wood burning furnace can be. So if you’re interested in installing your FC1000E without professional help, you’re in the right place.

By the time you’re done with this guide, you’ll understand the 9 steps of the Fire Chief FC1000E’s installation process, and you’ll be ready to hook your new wood burning furnace up all on your own — no professional assistance required.

9 Steps of the Fire Chief FC1000E’s Installation Process

Step 1: Place the furnace as close to the chimney as possible

Fire Chief FC1000E Installation - Step 1

The first step sounds easy: put the furnace where it needs to go. It’s tougher than it sounds, though, as wood burning furnaces are heavy; the FC1000E weighs over 400 pounds, and most wood burning furnaces are installed in basements. Maneuvering the furnace into your house and into place is a delicate process, so do it carefully and thoughtfully (preferably with a dolly).

Installing the chimney flue is critical to ensuring efficient wood burning performance. Note that the connecting pipe from the furnace to the chimney may not have a horizontal run greater than five feet to function properly, so place your furnace accordingly.

It’s also crucial to abide by the FC1000E’s suggested clearance-to-combustibles ranges — the distances from which the furnace must be kept from any flammable materials (like drywall, wood, cardboard boxes, etc.). These distances are as follows:

  • Front of the furnace: 48”
  • Rear of the furnace: 12”
  • Sides of the furnace: 6”

Before moving on to step 2, if you would like to set your furnace on a furnace stand, now’s the time to do it.

Step 2: Attach the distribution blower

Fire Chief FC1000E Installation - Step 2

The distribution blower is the big, motorized fan that pushes warm air created by the fire in the firebox throughout the rest of your home. Attaching the FC1000E’s distribution blower is fairly straightforward: the furnace comes with angle brackets, nuts, bolts, and mounting screws.

Just attach the angle brackets to either side of the distribution blower with the nuts and bolts, and then secure the distribution blower to the base of the furnace with the mounting screws.

Step 3: Assemble and attach the filter box

Fire Chief FC1000E Installation - Step 3

An air filter helps to protect the distribution blower and circulate clean air throughout your home. In order to add an air filter, you have to assemble the filter box. The box consists of four panels — a bottom panel, a top panel, and two side panels. Each panel comes with pre-drilled holes and sheet metal screws for easy assembly.

Put the filter box together and attach it to the furnace around the distribution blower. After you’re finished installing your furnace, slide an air filter into the filter box. Do note that the FC1000E does not come with an air filter.

Step 4: Install the draft blower

While the distribution blower is the fan that blows hot air from the furnace into the rest of the home, the draft blower is a smaller fan that blows air directly onto the fire to keep it burning longer and hotter. Installing the draft blower on an FC1000E furnace involves 3 steps.

1. Attach the draft blower

Fire Chief FC1000E Installation - Step 4.1

The first step is to use the included hardware to mount the draft blower itself onto the front of the furnace (near the ash pan door).

2. Mount the electrical control center

Fire Chief FC1000E Installation - Step 4.2

Next, attach the electrical control center to the filter box. Two important components will connect to the electrical control center: a wall thermostat (to help regulate how much heat your furnace puts out), and the distribution blower.

The wall thermostat must be connected with 28-gauge thermostat wire (more on that in a bit). The distribution blower, on the other hand, features “plug and play” electrical components that plug into the control center similarly to a wall outlet.

3. Attach the fan limit control

Fire Chief FC1000E Installation - Step 4.3

Finally, attach the fan limit control just to the left of the flue exit. The fan limit control is the mechanism that tells the distribution blower when to turn on and off. It does so by detecting the temperature in the plenum — the open area in the top of the furnace just beneath the two ductwork attachment points.

With these three components installed, the draft blower installation process is complete.

Step 5: Install a thermostat

Fire Chief FC1000E Installation - Step 5

Connecting your FC1000E furnace to a thermostat allows the distribution blower and draft blower to know when to turn on and off to deliver (or stop delivering) heat. We recommend installing a new, separate thermostat (included with your FC1000E furnace) next to your current household thermostat.

A lot of this step should already be done for you: if you have a gas or electric furnace in your home, it should be connected to your current thermostat. We recommend running 28-gauge thermostat wire along the same path as the wiring to your existing home thermostat.

From there, just mount your new, Fire-Chief-specific thermostat on the wall next to your existing thermostat, and connect the 28-gauge wire to the new thermostat and your furnace (the connecting points on the furnace are located on the electrical control center from step 4.2).

Step 6: Connect your furnace to a chimney

Fire Chief FC1000E Installation - Step 6

When connecting your furnace to a chimney, you have two options:

  1. Connect the furnace to an already-existing chimney
  2. Build a new chimney and connect your furnace to it

Connecting to an existing chimney is common in older houses that have (or previously had) a coal or wood burning stove. Whatever the case, if you’re connecting to an existing chimney, be sure to have it inspected to ensure it’s in proper working order. It’s also very important not to connect your Fire Chief furnace to a chimney that’s already servicing another appliance.

Each homeowner’s chimney connection process will be unique. But whether you’re installing a new chimney or connecting to an existing chimney, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • We encourage lining the chimney with a 6” stainless steel chimney liner (this may be required by law in some areas)
  • The pipe connecting the furnace to the chimney should be a minimum of 24-gauge black stove pipe
  • If you need to install any pipe horizontally, remember that there should be 2” of rise for every 12” of horizontal run

Finally, NEVER use galvanized pipe to connect your wood furnace to your chimney. Doing so will result in the generation of deadly, poisonous gas. Galvanized pipes should be used for air ducting only.

Step 7: Connect your furnace to your ductwork

Fire Chief FC1000E Installation - Step 7

Next, it’s time to connect your furnace to your HVAC system. Like the chimney connection, each ductwork connection project will be unique. It’s important to note, though, that the two starter collars at the top of the furnace are eight inches in diameter, which necessitates 8” ducts.

You should never use more than a 45-degree elbow when connecting ducts; this will cause the heat not to be distributed correctly. The distribution air should be connected to the ducts at an angle, and should be directed downstream to ensure proper airflow as well.

Step 8: Connect the cold air return

Fire Chief FC1000E Installation - Step 8

Your furnace’s main function is to distribute heat into your home. Perhaps equally important, though, is to allow air to flow through the filter and into the back of the furnace to keep it functioning properly.

To provide this return air, the simplest option is to promote proper circulation to the area which houses your furnace — usually a basement. There are three good ways to ensure proper air circulation:

  1. Simply leaving the door to your basement open
  2. Installing louvers in the basement door
  3. Installing vent registers in the basement’s return air ducts

If you decide to install vent registers in the basement’s return air ducts, be sure to keep them closed in the summer to allow your air conditioning system to function properly.

If you still have your electric or gas furnace attached to your HVAC system, another option for supplying return air to your Fire Chief furnace is to connect it to the same, already-installed return air system of your existing furnace.

Should you decide to go this route, a word of caution: be sure your existing furnace does not pull your Fire Chief’s heated air into the return air ducts. To prevent this, simply install a damper to the distribution air duct of your existing furnace.

Step 9: Start your first fire

After the electrical components are installed, the chimney is connected, the distribution air ducts are set up, and you’ve ensured your Fire Chief is receiving adequate return air, the installation process is complete! All that’s left to do is plug the furnace into an electrical outlet and start your first fire.

A quick note — if you notice a moderate amount of smoke coming off of your furnace during your first few fires, don’t worry! This smoke is coming from the oils used during the manufacturing process in our factory. The issue should dissipate on its own relatively quickly.

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What if You Have Trouble Installing Your Fire Chief FC1000E?

While this guide should give you everything you need to get your furnace installed properly, we know that every installation is unique. Should you run into any problems, reach out to our customer service team. We’ll be more than happy to help you with any issues you may experience during installation.

Fire Chief FC1000E Wood Burning Furnace

How Much Does a Wood Burning Furnace Cost?

Choosing the right wood burning furnace can seem like an overwhelming, logistically complex process. The purchase tends to involve dozens of variables and hundreds of questions, but the one we hear most often from our customers is, “How much will this cost?” After all, the cost of the furnace itself is half the battle; installing the furnace brings a whole slew of additional options (or hurdles) that affect its price.

At HY-C, our furnace-making operations take place in the same building as our office. From the price of raw materials to a furnace’s function and features, we know exactly what goes into building a wood burning furnace from the ground up. We do it every day.

This comprehensive guide will help you understand — from the price of the unit itself to its installation — how much a wood burning furnace may cost you. We’ll also outline the pertinent questions to ask your installer to help avoid cost-related surprises during a consultation.

How Materials Affect the Price of a Wood Burning Furnace

The price of a wood burning furnace essentially boils down to two distinct factors: the cost of the furnace itself, and the cost of the furnace’s installation. The cost of installation can vary widely, and we’ll touch on that in a bit. For starters, though, let’s talk about the attributes that determine the cost of the actual furnace.

At its core, a wood burning furnace is just a big steel box. The price of steel tends to be volatile; many factors — especially the COVID-19 pandemic — have caused wild fluctuations in the price of steel during the early 2020s. 

For example, at the beginning of 2016, a ton of rebar steel cost about $1,800. By October of 2021, the same amount of the same steel cost nearly $6,000. As you dive into the buying process, keep an eye on the price of steel, as its current rate could impact how much you pay for your furnace.

Some wood burning furnaces may use more steel in their construction than others. Furnaces with thicker steel fireboxes, solid cast iron doors and grates, and other high-quality components will demand higher prices. The upside of a higher price, though, is durability (especially if you operate and maintain the furnace according to the manufacturer’s recommendations).

How EPA Regulations Affect the Price of a Wood Burning Furnace

EPA Wood Burning Furnace Regulations

In 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency issued new performance standards for residential wood burning furnaces. In order to meet the new EPA requirements, furnaces became more complex than ever. The design of the furnaces, the location and size of their intake ports, the airflow throughout the furnaces, and the additional technology to control these (and other) factors can all potentially drive costs up.

Getting a wood burning furnace EPA-approved can add to their cost, too. On average, companies pay about $100,000 to get their wood burning furnace through the process from start to finish. This cost includes permits, fees, research and development, and any other odds and ends associated with the stringent review process.

Companies have no choice but to pass these costs onto consumers since, as of 2017, all new wood burning furnaces need to be EPA-approved. If a company sells 1,000 furnaces a year on average and spends $100,000 to get their furnace approved, they’ll have to add $100 onto the retail price of their furnace to recuperate some of that cost.

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How Labor and Location Affect the Price of a Wood Burning Furnace

Wood Burning Furnace Construction

Once the raw materials are gathered, they need to be assembled into a finished, fully functional wood burning furnace for your home. Like any other product, the nuances of this process have an effect on the final price tag. Today, the United States, Canada, and China are the three most common manufacturers of EPA-certified wood burning furnaces.

Manufacturers in the United States and Canada utilize expensive, skilled labor to assemble their wood burning furnaces. The “Made in USA” sticker is a well-recognized stamp of quality; just be aware that it tends to come at a higher cost. Parts manufactured overseas tend to utilize less expensive labor and lower-quality materials to help keep their prices low. Bear in mind, too, that overseas cost savings may be offset by tariffs and additional freight costs.

After taking tariffs, transportation, steel, and labor into consideration, a furnace made in the USA or Canada costs (on average) about 30% more than a furnace made in China.

Two Additional Features that Impact the Price of a Wood Burning Furnace

A wood burning furnace may just seem like a big, self-contained steel fireplace, but there’s much more to them than that. They come with a variety of bells and whistles that affect how much they cost, how conveniently they operate, and how cleanly they burn. Here are two common features of wood burning furnaces that have an effect on their pricing.

1. Firebox Material and Capacity

Fire Chief FC1000E firebox

The firebox is the portion of the furnace that houses the burning wood. The material from which the firebox is made determines how well-insulated and durable it is, and most fireboxes are made either from firebrick or high-temperature insulation wrapped in stainless steel.

Firebrick absorbs heat, while insulated stainless steel keeps the heat contained in the firebox, ready to be transferred to the hot-air plenum. Both materials are durable and long-lasting, but not without their issues; firebrick can chip and crumble, while stainless steel might become dented over time.

The capacity of the furnace’s firebox is an important consideration, too. Measured in cubic feet, firebox capacity indicates how much wood a furnace can hold. Bigger fireboxes take more material, resulting in a higher price.

2. Blower System

Fire Chief FC1000E distribution blower

As the fire burns in the furnace’s firebox, warm air needs to be pushed out in order to heat the house or building. The furnace does this by way of a distribution blower, a high-powered fan that forces warm air from the hot-air plenum above the firebox into the air ducts (and, subsequently, into each room of the home). The power of a distribution blower is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). The higher the blower’s CFM, the more warm air it can push out of the furnace.

Bigger distribution blowers tend to entail higher price points. A blower with 1,800 CFM has about 40% higher capacity than an 1,100 CFM blower and, as a result, effectively costs about 40% more.

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Wood Burning Furnace?

Fire Chief FC1000E duct collars

After you find the right furnace with the right features that meet your needs and budget, the final step is to install it in your home. We do not recommend attempting to install a wood furnace yourself. Instead, you should hire a professional to install your furnace. With that in mind, the question naturally follows: “How much does it cost to install a wood burning furnace?

Coming up with a definitive price is difficult; every home is unique, every furnace is different, and every installation professional charges different rates. As a helpful starting point, there are some good questions to ask, as their answers will determine the cost of your furnace’s installation. Keep these questions (and their answers) handy for your consultation with your installer of choice (and, if you don’t know the answers, be sure to ask your installation professional):

  • Are you replacing an existing furnace or installing a new one?
  • Do you have an existing HVAC system that your new furnace will be supplementing?
  • Will you need to install additional ductwork for return air?
  • Do you have an existing chimney or flue?
  • Where will your thermostat be installed, and what additional obstacles does its installation entail?

Remember, installation prices may vary from region to region, installer to installer, or furnace to furnace. That said, we can offer an estimated range based on years of experience with furnace installations:

  • The lowest-cost, best-case scenario is that of a home with existing ductwork and an existing chimney or flue. Installing a furnace in this situation may cost as little as $300 to $500.
  • Furnaces without an integrated plenum require custom sheet metal work. These installations may cost between $300 and $800.
  • If your furnace installation requires new ductwork or a new chimney, you could pay as much as $3,000 to $8,000.

Is a Wood Burning Furnace Right for You?

The purchase and installation of a wood burning furnace is clearly not an easy process. From the materials, the size of the firebox, the capacity of the distribution blower and more, there are a lot of complicated variables to consider.

By now, though, you should have a clear idea of which features to look out for, what affects the price of a furnace, and how much its installation will cost. To get an idea of how two furnaces compare and contrast with each other, it’s good to compare two popular models, like the HY-C Fire Chief FC1000E furnace and US Stove’s HB1520 furnace.

And even if you don’t buy either of those furnaces, you’ll still come away with a good understanding of the process of shopping for a wood burning furnace. That will put you well on your way to finding a whole-home wood burning heating solution.

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Fire Chief FC1000E

Fire Chief FC1000E vs. Hot Blast HB1520: Which Wood Furnace is Right for Me?

In a world where natural gas home furnaces have become the norm, wood burning furnaces are a commonly overlooked option. They shouldn’t be, though, as they offer an environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and energy-independent way of heating your home (or supplementing your existing furnace).

If you’ve decided to declare your independence from your propane, heating oil, or gas company, the question remains: what is the right wood burning furnace for me?

In order to help answer that question, in this post we’re going to compare two highly regarded, tried-and-true furnaces: HY-C’s Fire Chief FC1000E and US Stove’s Hot Blast HB1520. We’ll consider each furnace’s heat dispersion capabilities, the build quality of each furnace, how easy each furnace is to install, and some important safety considerations to keep in mind. By the end of this guide, you should have a much stronger sense of what to look for in a wood burning furnace, and you’ll be ready to start considering pricing options.

Heat Dispersion Capabilities of Each Furnace

Fire Chief FC1000E thermostat connection

Above anything else, a furnace’s primary function is to deliver heat throughout your home. In wood burning furnaces, that heat is measured through British thermal units (BTUs) — the higher the BTUs, the more heat the furnace can provide. US Stove’s HB1520 is rated for 180,000 BTUs while Fire Chief’s FC1000E tops out at 143,5000 BTUs.

If you live in a frigid area that demands continuous performance from your furnace, the HB1520 might be the better choice for you. However, if the climate in which you live is a little more forgiving, the FC1000E is up to the task.

As wood burns in the furnace, the heat in the firebox needs to be pushed out into the home’s air ducts. Wood furnaces accomplish this by way of a distribution blower. The amount of air a distribution blower is able to push out is measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). The HB1520 features two distribution blowers which put out 550 CFM each. The Fire Chief FC1000E has one distribution blower, and it’s capable of 1,800 CFM.

Wood Furnace Build Quality

The quality of your wood furnace is what will help determine its longevity. High build quality means less repairs and better overall, long-term performance. Wood burning furnaces are made primarily of steel, a strong, sturdy metal that holds up well long-term.

The Fire Chief FC1000E is made in the USA with domestically sourced steel. Its firebox (the part of the furnace where wood fuel is placed and burned) is designed both with steel and an additional layer of insulation, which means heat won’t escape and will be channeled through your ductwork to heat your home efficiently.

US Stove’s Hot Blast HB1520 is not manufactured in the USA, and it’s made with non-domestic steel. That means it comes with a cheaper price tag than the Fire Chief FC1000E, which might make it a better option for more budget-conscious shoppers.

Ease of Furnace Installation

Regarding the installation process itself, the Fire Chief furnace comes with both pre-wired, “plug and play” electrical components and two duct attachment points to help make self-installation simpler. The Hot Blast may require assistance from a metal fabricator to fashion the ductwork connection. US Stove recommends using a qualified electrician to install the Hot Blast’s electrical components.

Top: The US Stove HB1520’s two distribution blowers, draft inducer, and electrical components.
Bottom: The Fire Chief FC1000E’s distribution blower, draft inducer, and electrical components.

It may not be top-of-mind for most customers when making their purchase, but the size of the furnace itself is also an important determining factor when installing it in your home. Maneuvering a furnace to its installation location often includes fitting it through the basement door and down the steps.

The Hot Blast HB1520 measures about 45” x 25” x 54” and weighs around 580 pounds while the Fire Chief FC1000E is a narrower 42” x 26” x 45” and weighs around 435 pounds.

Furnace Door and Clearance to Combustibles

One of the primary safety concerns of a wood furnace is its clearance to combustibles range, or how far combustible materials (like extra firewood or a wall) need to be kept from the furnace to avoid them catching fire. The Fire Chief FC1000E’s clearance to combustible range is six inches, while the Hot Blast HB1520’s is 18 inches.

So think about the area where you want to install your furnace. What’s there? Walls? A work bench? Other combustible materials that can’t be easily moved? If you have more open space, either furnace will work well for you. The Fire Chief FC1000E’s shorter clearance to combustible range makes it a more versatile choice in tighter spaces.

The HB1520 also comes with a glass pane on the front of its loading door. The glass is useful for seeing into the furnace in order to know when to add more wood. The Fire Chief FC1000E features a solid steel door (without a glass viewing pane) that can be locked into place when it’s closed.

Which Wood Burning Furnace is Best for Me?

There’s no simple answer to this question. Everyone’s home, heating needs, and available space are different. Even still, at this point you should have a better idea of the differences between the Fire Chief FC1000E and the Hot Blast HB1520 so you can decide on the best one for you — or even a different wood burning furnace altogether.

Fire Chief store locator CTA with Google Map of St. Louis metropolitan area