Using an outdoor wood furnace can be a rewarding experience, help free us from foreign oil, and be healthier for you personally. However you should follow the recommendations listed below.
Be smoke conscious. Breathing wood smoke has been shown to be hazardous to peoples health. This is not only true for the person who tends the fire, but for the people and neighbors that surround it.
Never buy a outdoor wood furnace if you live in town. This is true whether or not you town has an ordinance against them. As of this writing there is not any manufacturer that makes a furnace that never smokes. Depending on the type of wood used, heat being drawn, and the local atmospheric conditions – all wood stoves will smoke at times and cause you problems with your neighbors.
If you have a neighbor that is within 500 feet of your furnace, be sure to add enough chimney to get above the roofline of their home.
Locate your furnace so that it is convenient to get to and get the wood to, but if possible have it out of view of other homes. You are always going to have piles of wood around it, buckets with ashes, etc. You do not want to have this out where everyone sees it and can complain about the mess.
Please realize that wood stoves are good at doing what they are designed to do, burn wood. Some people buy stoves with the impression that they will only be filling it every couple days, or that they don’t hold anymore wood than an inside fireplace. This simply is not the case. You will be filling it 2 times a day most of the winter if you size it properly. Depending on how well your house is insulated and how much you are heating, you might only use 5 pickup loads a year or you might use 30.
Use good dry, seasoned wood. The larger the pieces, the cleaner they will burn. Yes we know a lot of dealers will tell you these furnaces will burn green wood. However, if you use green wood you will have a lot more water in your firebox – which when mixed with ash, is very corrosive. The would will burn longer but you may burn more wood, by as much as 100-150%. When you burn more wood you are going to create more emissions. The best wood has is dried wood for at least one season.
Never burn trash, building debris, rubber, plastic or anything else that is not recommended by the manufacturer. NEVER burn painted, glued (OSB) or treated wood. In some furnaces, you shouldn’t burn pallets. When loading a stove with pallet wood you have a lot of small pieces of wood with a large amount of surface area. The wood tries to burn all the way around each piece, which starves the fire for oxygen. This makes the fire burn cooler to the point it cannot get enough heat to burn up the smoke so it exits the chimney unburnt. This causes low efficiency, and excessive emissions.
Using your furnace for hot water in the summer may sound like a good idea, but it is not in most situations. The smell of an idling furnace on a warm, humid, summer day is not what most people want in the middle of the summer. The exceptions to this are if you are also using it to heat a pool, or hot tub, or large amounts of domestic hot water. In most situations if the furnace is working hard, it will not smoke.