We might enjoy all of the many varieties of modern heating systems, but for off-grid homesteads an emergency backup heat it is hard to argue against, be it for an open, traditional fireplace, or a dedicated wood burning stove.
But if you want to get ready to withstand winter with wood heat alone, you are going to need a lot of firewood. How much wood do you need to heat your house?
A two-story, 2,000 square foot home will need anywhere between 4 and 6 cords of wood for heating throughout the cooler seasons. This totals anywhere from 512 to 768 cubic feet of firewood.
As you probably guessed, there are many variables that could change this estimation. If you don’t want to be left with your teeth chattering during the winter you had better read on to learn what they are!
Consider the Factors
Determining how much wood is needed to reliably heat a home to a level comfortable for its inhabitants throughout the colder seasons is best determined by experience. I know that is not the answer that many people are looking for, but it is the truth!
If you are buying or inheriting a home that either has a traditional wood burning fireplace or a wood burning stove, your best bet for landing close to the bullseye is to ask the previous occupants how much wood they would use and at what times.
This can allow you to extrapolate the amount of fuel you will need for heating, or at least get close.
However, if you were coming around to wood fire heating without benefit of this information, you’ll have to figure it out as you go, and you definitely want to have more rather than less. Consider the following factors for making an informed estimate
Size of Home
The size of the home plays a huge part in determining how much wood you will need to heat it efficiently. Bottom line, larger spaces are more difficult to heat and require more fuel. Larger homes also often feature multiple fireplaces or stoves to help ensure adequate wants.
As you might imagine, burning multiple fireplaces or appliances at once will consume your fuel supply at a ravenous rate!
The opposite is naturally true, with smaller spaces being much easier to meaningfully heat compared to larger ones. A smaller fire that is fed less often might be more than enough to keep a cabin or other small space toasty warm.
Begin with an assessment of the size of your home to help determine how much fuel you think you will need. Don’t forget to count the number of fireplaces or appliances!
Quality of Insulation
The quality of a home’s insulation is another serious consideration when it comes to wood heat costs.
Homes with extensive, modernized insulation, windows and gap closure techniques will trap more heat for longer, minimizing the amount of fuel wasted on keeping a space at a comfortable temperature.
Conversely, older homes with minimal or no insulation beyond what their basic materials provide that are drafty and leaky will require considerably more fuel to stay warm.
No matter what kind of home you live in and what’s your wood burning appliance of choice is, you can save a meaningful amount of wood by boning up your homes insulation value through any and all means available.
Don’t forget to ensure that ceilings and areas near the tops of Windows are appropriately insulated or sealed!
Efficiency of Burn
The efficiency of your wood stove or fireplace arrangement is a major factor. Simply stated, a more efficient burn produces more heat with less waste, saving you fuel and maximizing your return on investment.
On the other hand, a smoky, sooty burn means your fuel value is quite literally going up in smoke instead of being transformed into heat.
Part of this calculation is determined by the type and condition of the wood itself, with particular hardwoods that are properly seasoned burning more completely and cleanly, whereas moist softwoods will prove to be highly inefficient by comparison.
Concerning the fireplace or wood stove itself, improving the way that the fire is built and all other factors of ignition and combustion can improve efficiency which will prolong the life of your appliance or fireplace and help you get the most out of your fuel.
Modernized wood burning stoves are famously efficient, and when coupled with proper installation and ventilation they can crank out a remarkable amount of heat on just a little bit of fuel.
The living arrangements inside the home are sort of a corollary to the size when it comes to fuel consumption factors.
Do you want to keep every, single room in the home toasty warm at all times whenever it is cold? Even when they aren’t occupied? If so, be prepared to go through geometrically more fuel all other things being equal.
Conversely, if you don’t mind spending most of your time in the den or other space that is directly heated by your fireplace or wood burning stove you won’t need as much fuel since you are only trying to keep one room properly warm, and perhaps a couple of adjacent rooms.
Similarly, if you’re willing to dress a little warmer during the colder seasons you won’t need quite as much fuel to feel comfortable, further helping to minimize the consumption of wood.
Using wood fuel in a manner of modern heating conventions to keep an entire home warm from front to back and top to bottom is extremely resource intensive.
The last, and to some most obvious, variable that will affect the amount of fuel you will need is the weather, the climate overall, where you live.
Areas that are bitterly cold longer throughout the year will require more fuel on hand to deal with, whereas ones that have shorter cold seasons will require less.
One thing to keep in mind is that you will likely need fuel sometime before and sometime after winter proper.
Fall weather can be quite cold, and even springtime evenings can be quite chilly. Don’t fall into the trap of gauging your fuel consumption off the length of winter alone.
Make it a point to check historical weather records and seasonal forecasts that extend before and after the winter months for a full understanding of the weather in your area.
Only then can you make an informed decision about how much fuel you will need to remain comfortable until warm weather properly establishes itself.
An average 2,000 square foot two story home will require between 4 and 6 cords of firewood to stay comfortably heated throughout the cold season.
However, there are so many variables attendant with a given space, the method of heating and local climate conditions that a careful assessment must be performed if you want an accurate and dependable measurement. Make sure you put in your due diligence well before cold weather arrives!