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