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7 Reasons An Outdoor Boiler Is Just Plain Better Than A Wood Stove

7 Reasons An Outdoor Boiler Is Just Better Than A Wood Stove

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Heating your home with an outdoor wood boiler can be a great way to save both time and money during the winter months. Modern fossil fuel-based heat methods are almost always more expensive than wood, which can be sustainably harvested from your own land or purchased for a modest sum. Outdoor boilers allow you more flexibility than wood stoves, since they can burn almost any type of wood and help keep your house clean by leaving all of the bark, dirt and bugs outside.

Here are seven reasons you should consider an outdoor boiler:

1. Greater efficiency.

Outdoor wood boilers are often referred to as “wood gasifiers” because they technically burn the wood twice, extracting extra BTUs of heat energy that are otherwise lost up the chimney in a traditional wood stove. In the initial burn chamber, wood is burned as it would be normally, and the energy begins heating a thermal reservoir that will be piped to your house. The gas created in the initial burn chamber is then “re-burned” to extract additional heat energy from the volatilized gasses produced by the initial burn.

2. Works with softwood or hardwood.

Since the wood gasses are burned more efficiently in an outdoor boiler, you’re able to burn softwood, including fir, white pine, cedar and hemlock, all of which are dangerous to burn indoors in a normal wood stove. The re-burn helps prevent buildup in the chimney, and lowers the risk of chimney fire when burning soft woods. Still, it’s important to keep your chimney clean with a thorough sweeping each year.

3. Warm floors.

When you’re warming the air in your home, often you still feel cold as you walk around on cold floors. With an outdoor wood boiler, you use the heat generated for radiant floor heating, meaning that the floors stay toasty warm and slowly diffuse the heat into the room.

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This means more consistent warmth, as the heat slowly diffuses throughout the room and helps keep your home at a constantly comfortable temperature.

4. Cleaner household.

7 Reasons An Outdoor Boiler Is Just Better Than A Wood Stove

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An outdoor wood boiler means that all the mess, dirt, bark and bugs that accompany firewood stay outside in the boiler shed rather than coming into your house. Unless you have extra money to burn on clean kiln dried bug-free firewood, firewood in the house means extra mess in the house. Some homesteaders store wood in the basement, but that can create another problem in that it can continue to dry and release moisture in your basement – creating mold and health issues.

5. Less wood hauling.

With both the wood and the heat source outdoors, wood can be split and stacked once, outside under cover and ready for use, rather than having to be hauled indoors before burning. It’s already enough work to haul wood out of the woodlot; keeping it outdoors saves you a lot of time and a few slips on the ice during winter time.

6. Less cutting & splitting.

Outdoor boilers are generally much larger than in-home wood stoves, allowing you to use longer lengths of firewood. This means less cutting and splitting for the same amount of wood — a great labor savings! Feel free to use wood as long as your boiler will hold, but make sure that the wood is still split into small pieces, as the boiler will work much more efficiently if the wood is kept to a manageable size, avoiding wasted space and extra empty air pockets in the burn chamber.

7. Safer.

Indoor wood stoves are dependable and generally easy to work, but they can be hazardous to small children playing nearby because of the direct heat source. They also pose a risk of chimney fire, which can catch and quickly spread throughout the house.

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With an outdoor boiler, the risk is outdoors — and in a completely different building. They’re also generally safer because the re-burn process helps prevent chimney fires. Nonetheless, avoid burning garbage or excess paper in your boiler, which can send flaming ash into the pipe and potentially start a fire.

Downside of an Outdoor Boiler

There are also a few downsides to heating with an outdoor wood boiler. A traditional wood stove does not require electricity, while a wood boiler requires electricity to run both a fan to keep the gasifier functioning efficiently as well as pumps to conduct the heat to your house. With a little home ingenuity, both of these can be wired to run on DC power straight from off-grid batteries, but it’s still wise to have a backup wood stove in the house just in case power is out for an extended period of time.

The second major drawback is cost. While they’re inexpensive to maintain, the initial investment can be sizable. It’ll pay you back in efficiency and the ability to burn low-cost wood in the future, but in the short term be prepared to lay out some cash to get your outdoor boiler installed.

Have you ever used a wood boiler? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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  1. Bought a second hand boiler 5 years ago and have never looked back. Endless hot water, and not beholden to propane cost spikes. Alot of work, but still physically manageable. Supplement with a dump truck load of already cut sawmill slats from a local mill. Run ours typically from Oct/Nov to Mar/Apr. Estimate yearly heat and electric savings to be $1500-2000. Working on a solar hot water collector to tie in for year round free hot water. Like they say, sometimes its not what you earn but what you can save.

  2. When grid goes down, outdoor boilers are just so much waste iron. No electricity, no heat.

  3. I agree with BuddyBob .No electricity no heat. I nave a friend that has a outside boiler and he uses 5x the wood I do with about the same size house. 1] Show me where they are more efficient than a in house wood stove. 2] Inside stoves can burn BOTH hard and soft woods. 3] about 50/50 a lot of people have their wood stoves in their basement so they have warm floors too. Mine are warm but mine have a r 24 in the floors. 4] you got me there it is a little dustier with the stove in house. 5] With a out side boiler you will handle more wood than a person with a inside stove . The inside stove you handle one time more but move a lot less wood so at best a 50/50 here. 6] I agree you can cut longer and bigger BUT you need a lot more. So again at best 50/50 . 7] I will agree the outside ones are safer just for fires. You said —- They also pose a risk of chimney fire, which can catch and quickly spread throughout the house. Now I clean my chimney every 2 years and I never get more than a cup of gray powder. If you have the creosote in your chimney you are either burning to cold of a fire or wet/green wood. Soft woods like maple pine and walnut I use every 2 years. Most of your hard woods I leave set for 4-5 years. 3 years is great but I do well with my set up.

  4. Many (most?) outdoor wood boilers burn at 30% efficiency which means 70% of the energy goes up the smokestack as smoke and waste energy. More waste means more wood to cut and haul. Buy a truely efficient boiler to save time, energy, and reduce emissions! Your choices now pave the way for of our future generations!!

  5. I have used a Heatmor outdoor boiler for the past twelve years. I heat two homes and a 2400 SF shop north of Toronto. My propane bills were crazy before the Heatmor. Now I burn free wood supplied by arborists and landscapers. The wood splitter and chainsaw have been paid for by the money saved on propane. I do use a lot of wood however. About twenty bush cord a year. The cost of the unit and installation was recovered in three years. It’s a lot of work but I enjoy the exercise.

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