Why An Outdoor Wood Furnace is A Homestead Must-Have

Outdoor Wood Furnace Boiler


My favorite thing about the outdoor wood furnace on my homestead is how mess-free my wood heat is. I’ve had wood stoves that filled my house with smoke because the flue wasn’t warmed enough, and lugging logs into the house daily makes a huge mess, too. Now, with an outdoor biomass boiler, I can still live off grid using wood heat without any dirt, smoke, and woodchips entering my tiny home.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

In over a decade of off-grid homesteading, switching from a wood stove to an outdoor wood furnace is one of the biggest improvements I’ve made to my lifestyle. Now, I can heat my tiny home through the winter with an outdoor biomass boiler — a cleaner and safer option.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

What Is An Outdoor Wood Furnace Or An Outdoor Wood Boiler?

What Is An Outdoor Wood Furnace

An outdoor wood furnace is a heat source that uses wood to boil water, which runs in pipes to the areas you’d like to heat. These furnaces, also known as outdoor biomass boilers, keep the mess outside while providing great flexibility in where your heat goes.

Why Are Outdoor Wood Furnaces So Popular With Homesteaders And Off-Gridders?

Why Are Outdoor Wood Furnaces So Popular With Homesteaders
Outdoor wood furnaces are hugely popular with homesteaders and off-gridders because they enable you to live fully off the grid (not connected to gas or electric) while lasting a long time and being fairly low-maintenance.

As a homesteader living off-grid, I can personally vouch for how wonderful the option of an outdoor heat source is. Living in a tiny home, like I do, having an outdoor biomass boiler frees up space I would otherwise have to use in my home for a stove and woodpile — another huge bonus for me.

I’ve seen friends set up their outdoor wood boiler a short distance from their house under a covered area to keep the snow off the furnace and their wood piles. Many run the water line underground and pass beneath beds in their greenhouse to warm the soil before going on to heat the house itself. It’s a sweet system, and the possibilities are pretty much endless. You could arrange your pipes to provide heat to coops, doghouses, or other pens you might have on your homestead, as well as your greenhouse and home.

heating a tiny house

How Do Outdoor Wood Furnaces Work?

How Do Outdoor Wood Furnaces Work

If you’ve never heard of outdoor wood furnaces, you’re probably wondering how it works. Known interchangeably as an outdoor biomass boiler, an outdoor wood furnace, or an outdoor wood boiler, this heat source is completely different from the indoor heating most of us are used to because it keeps the heat source outside the home. It works by using heat to break your firewood into a gas that’s rich in hydrogen and carbon. This gas is burned to then heat the water in the boiler and sends the hot water through your underground pipes to heat your home through floors and baseboards.

tiny house water heater

How Much Does An Outdoor Wood Boiler Cost?

How Much Does An Outdoor Wood Boiler Cost

Like just about any other home investment, outdoor wood furnace prices are determined by the size of your home and the brand of the furnace you choose. The average national cost of outdoor wood boilers in the U.S. is $12,500, but your price could be more or less depending on the size of your home.

If you’re heating under 2,000 square feet, you’ll be looking at $10,000 or less, but if you’re heating up to 4,000 square feet, the cost is closer to $14,000.

Calculating Outdoor Wood Boiler Cost

Are Outdoor Wood Furnaces Worth It?

In my experience, outdoor wood furnaces are absolutely worth the investment. The mess-free side of wood heat and the space-saving benefits sealed the deal for me, but having the option of heating my greenhouse and other buildings on my property was an added bonus.

outdoor wood furnaceThat said, an outdoor wood-fired boiler isn’t the most economical solution for everyone because of the price of wood in certain areas. I know some homesteaders who trade labor for wood from local tree services and others who are trying to clear out farmland on their own property and can use their own trees for firewood.

You’ll want to look into local options for wood in your area and crunch some numbers before you make up your mind. But if the price is reasonable, you could actually end up saving $1,000 or more a year with an outdoor biomass boiler.

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How Much Does It Cost To Install An Outdoor Wood Furnace?

Installation is another expense to consider when looking into an outdoor wood furnace, which can cost an average of $2,000 to $4,000 in addition to the price of the boiler. The actual price will depend completely on the company doing the installation, the number of hours it takes them to complete the job, the amount of insulated piping they need to lay down, and the size of the home you’re heating.

how to make the most of a wood stove

How Long Will An Outdoor Furnace Last?

A well-maintained outdoor wood furnace can last 20 years or more. This aspect of outdoor wood boilers makes them highly appealing for homesteaders and off-gridders. So many things around the homestead require yearly changes and upgrades, but knowing my furnace is with me for the long haul is reassuring. It also makes the price worth it in the long run.

Maintenance Checklist To Keep Your Outdoor Wood Furnace Working

  1. Clean your filter whenever it starts to look gunky.
  2. Complete an annual sediment flush.
  3. Consider burning a creosote stick weekly to keep the furnace healthy.
  4. Allow your furnace to burn down to hot coals once daily to remove moisture.
  5. Always keep your furnace operating above 140 degrees.
  6. Keep your water level full.

winter on the homestead

Frequently Asked Questions About Outdoor Wood Boilers

Frequently Asked Questions About Outdoor Wood Boilers

Everyone wants to know how these outdoor wood furnaces work and how to go about installing them, so here are some FAQs to give you a bit more info.

Are Biomass Boilers And Outdoor Wood Furnaces The Same?

Outdoor biomass boilers and outdoor wood furnaces are basically different terms for the same thing. We’re all familiar with wood furnaces to some extent, but some refer to them as biomass boilers because wood falls under the category of biomass fuels (which also includes animal waste and organic matter from plants and animals). This broader term is often used to emphasize how renewable this type of energy is.

how much does a cord of firewood weigh

How Far Can An Outdoor Wood Furnace Be From The House?

The most common location for an outdoor wood-fired boiler is within 50 to 200 feet of the house. There are several things to consider when choosing where to place your furnace.

Considerations For Where To Place Your Outdoor Biomass Boiler

  1. The cost per foot of your insulated piping.
  2. Safety considerations and insurance company stipulations.
  3. How many buildings/areas you plan to heat and where they are located.
  4. Where you want the wood pile to be located.
  5. Where you have enough space for both the furnace and your woodpile.

Can You Still Buy Outdoor Wood Boilers?

Yes, outdoor wood boilers are available for purchase in most states, though a few states or local municipalities in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and California have restrictions or wood-burning bans. You’ll also find that the closer you live to a city or highly populated area, the more likely you are to run into regulations for wood boilers, so always check with your local municipality for up-to-date requirements and restrictions.

homesteading skills

How Efficient Are Outdoor Wood Furnaces?

Wood heat is one of the oldest tried-and-true methods for heating homes, and finding a high-efficiency wood furnace is easy, as most outdoor boilers have an efficiency rate of up to 90%. When choosing which furnace is right for you, read up on efficiency, longevity, and check user reviews.

How Many Cords Of Wood For An Outdoor Wood Furnace?

An average-size home can be heated with an outdoor wood furnace using around six to 10 cords of firewood per winter. The exact amount of wood you’ll need to heat your home will depend on the winter temperatures in your area and the square footage you need to heat.

An outdoor wood furnace has transformed the way I heat my tiny home from a messy, smoky hassle into a straightforward process that keeps the mess outside and the cost low. I highly recommend choosing a quality biomass boiler to heat your home this winter.

weight of a cord of firewood

Your Turn!

  • How has an outdoor wood furnace made your homesteading life easier?
  • Do you use something besides wood to heat your homestead?

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