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
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 Chef 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.
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.