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:
- Are EPA-certified, forced-air furnaces
- Primarily burn cord wood
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
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
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
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
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.