Wood Stoves vs. Wood Furnaces: Which Is Right for You?

A wood stove with a fire burning in it compared alongside a Fire Chief FC1000E wood furnace with a versus symbol between the two

Finding the right heating appliance is important, especially if you live in an area with long, harsh winters. And when it comes to wood heating, your choice essentially narrows to two options: wood stoves and wood burning furnaces.

Even within each one of those categories, there are dozens of models available. But let’s start with the basics.

This guide will help you decide between purchasing a wood burning furnace or a wood stove. We’ll compare four popular wood stoves:

Against four popular wood burning furnaces:

We’ll compare these groups of stoves and furnaces based on their heat output, their overall heating area, their burn time, and their firebox capacities. By the time you’re finished here, you’ll understand whether your living space is better suited to a wood stove or a wood furnace.

Note: All wood stove and wood furnace specifications listed in this guide come straight from their manufacturers.

Wood Stoves vs. Wood Furnaces: Heat Output

A Fire Chief FC1000E wood burning furnace installed into ductwork in an unfinished basement with a full, half-cord log rack to the right

Wood furnaces and stoves deliver heat differently from each other. Stoves radiate heat into the room in which they’re installed. The closer you are to the stove, the warmer you’ll be. Some wood stoves come with a blower, but they’re few and far between (and tend not to work very well).

Wood furnaces, on the other hand, are connected directly to your home’s ductwork just like a gas furnace. They come with powerful blower motors that push the heat from the firebox into every room of your home.

While this certainly makes wood furnaces more complex to install than a wood stove, they’re also much better equipped to deliver heat throughout your entire home (as opposed to just one room). Here’s a look at the heat output of popular wood stoves and wood burning furnaces (measured in British thermal units, or BTUs):

Wood Stove ModelHeat OutputWood Furnace ModelHeat Output
Vermont Castings Defiant56,000 BTUsFire Chief FC1000E143,500 BTUs
Lopi Endeavor NexGen-Hybrid70,500 BTUsDrolet Heat Commander310,000 BTUs
Drolet Escape 180075,000 BTUsKuuma Vapor-Fire 100120,000 BTUs
Hearthstone Heritage60,000 BTUsUS Stove Hot Blast HB1520180,000 BTUs

The wood burning furnace with the lowest output delivers nearly double the heat of the wood stove with the highest output.

When it comes to the amount of heat delivered, wood furnaces are much more robust than wood stoves.

Wood Stoves vs. Wood Furnaces: Heating Area

A wood log rack stuffed with over a cord of wood in front of a wood cabin covered in snow in the middle of the woods

So we’ve covered the amount of heat each type of appliance puts out. But what about the overall area they’re capable of heating?

Stoves and furnaces can vary pretty widely from each other in their own categories. But, as with heat output, there’s a pretty clear split between each kind of heater:

Wood Stove ModelHeating Area (sq ft)Wood Furnace ModelHeating Area (sq ft)
Vermont Castings Defiant1,300 – 2,800Fire Chief FC1000EUp to 2,500
Lopi Endeavor NexGen-Hybrid2,000Drolet Heat Commander1,000 – 2,500
Drolet Escape 1800500 – 2,000Kuuma Vapor-Fire 100Up to 3,500
Hearthstone Heritage2,000US Stove Hot Blast HB1520Up to 3,500

In general, wood stoves top off at about 2,000 square feet of heating capacity. Furnaces, on the other hand, can heat homes up to 3,500 square feet.

This doesn’t mean that one is necessarily better than the other. For example, if you have a small, 700 square foot cabin, a Kuuma Vapor-Fire 100 may be overkill for your needs. Instead, you may be better off with a smaller Drolet Escape 1800 wood stove.

It all depends on the size of your living space and how much heat you need to deliver to that space. But in general:

  • For whole-home heating, opt for a wood furnace
  • For small-home or single-room heating, a stove may serve you better

Wood Stoves vs. Wood Furnaces: Burn Time

A burning pile of about six logs with ash around them against a black background

The biggest appeal of a gas furnace is that you essentially never have to interact with it (unless it needs repairs, of course). Natural gas is always available, and the thermometer dictates when the furnace turns on and off.

Wood burning appliances are different, obviously. You have to load wood into them every time you want heat delivered. Naturally, the longer the wood burns in the firebox, the less often you’ll have to load more wood.

So, between wood stoves and wood furnaces, which tends to burn longer? Or, put another way, which one do you have to load more often?

Let’s take a look at our model comparisons:

Wood Stove ModelBurn TimeWood Furnace ModelBurn Time
Vermont Castings Defiant14 hoursFire Chief FC1000E9 hours
Lopi Endeavor NexGen-Hybrid10 hoursDrolet Heat Commander10 hours
Drolet Escape 18008 hoursKuuma Vapor-Fire 10010 – 12 hours
Hearthstone Heritage12 hoursUS Stove Hot Blast HB152010 hours

Wood stoves have a slight edge over the furnaces, but for the most part, you’ll generally get around the same burn time for each kind of appliance. On average, you should expect to load a stove or furnace two or three times a day (depending on the outside temperature, the model you buy, or the type of firewood you burn).

Wood Stoves vs. Wood Furnaces: Firebox Capacity

A Fire Chief FC1000E wood furnace's firebox with fire brick stacked inside

We know how long wood burns in a stove or furnace, how much heat they can deliver, and how much area the delivered heat covers. There’s just one question left: “How much firewood can each type of appliance fit?

That all depends on the capacity of the firebox (the “compartment” that holds the firewood). Stove fireboxes tend to be a fair bit smaller than furnace fireboxes:

Wood Stove ModelFirebox CapacityWood Furnace ModelFirebox Capacity
Vermont Castings Defiant3.2 cubic feetFire Chief FC1000E3.4 cubic feet
Lopi Endeavor NexGen-Hybrid2.5 cubic feetDrolet Heat Commander3.6 cubic feet
Drolet Escape 18002.4 cubic feetKuuma Vapor-Fire 1003.9 cubic feet
Hearthstone Heritage2.2 cubic feetUS Stove Hot Blast HB15203.95 cubic feet

The smallest wood furnace firebox is larger than the largest wood stove firebox. But what’s interesting is that despite being able to accommodate more firewood, wood furnaces have slightly shorter burn times than wood stoves.

Why is that?

Think back to the heat output numbers. Remember, wood furnaces put out at least double the heat of wood stoves in about the same amount of time. This is due to the combination of a larger firebox and the furnace’s blower system, a system that wood stoves don’t utilize.

Should You Get a Wood Burning Furnace or a Wood Stove?

Stoves and furnaces both burn wood, but the way they burn it and deliver it differs quite a bit. By now, you should understand how much heat each appliance delivers, the area that the heat covers, how long the wood burns, and how much space is available in the firebox.

But which wood heating appliance should you get? It’s an important question. After all, this purchase will potentially set you back thousands of dollars, and you don’t want to make the wrong choice.

If you’re looking to heat a single room or a small house, a wood stove is probably right for you. These areas don’t need nearly as much heat in terms of BTUs, and a small, simple stove will get the job done well.

If you’re looking to heat an entire home that’s 2,000 square feet or more, though, you can’t beat the power and heat delivery of a wood furnace. They connect to your ductwork just like a gas furnace and are capable of delivering just as much heat.

If you’re leaning toward a wood furnace, it’d be wise to start narrowing down your options. We’ve compared our own Fire Chief FC1000E to the US Stove Hot Blast HB1520 to help you get started on your way to finding the perfect home heating solution.

Fire Chief FC1000E vs. Hot Blast HB1520 CTA