When considering an outdoor wood burning furnace or outdoor wood boiler (OWB) there are a number of important price considerations. The cost of the appliance itself is the bulk of the outlay. But getting the most cost-savings out of an OWB really depends on where you plan to use it; if you live in a wooded area and harvest your own wood, your heating costs will be negligible, save for your time and cost of chainsaw and tractor fuel. If you purchase wood from a vendor, the prevailing price of cordwood will determine your energy costs, but in either case the cost of heating with an outdoor wood furnace can be significantly less than heating with oil or propane.
According to Ray Given of Mainline Heating & Supply in Ashford, CT (now out of business) it costs approximately $3,000- $5,000 to have an outdoor wood furnace installed by a professional contractor. That includes all plumbing related to the set-up, but excludes the cost of the unit itself. The cost of installation varies from contractor to contractor and can typically be negotiated. The price can also vary depending on how far the furnace sits from the home or structure, and how many structures will rely on the OWB for heat.
Consumers typically do the work themselves of choosing the brand of outdoor wood furnace they want. A good contractor will then install the unit and dig a trench from the unit to the home or structure, and will also provide names of qualified plumbers to do the underground plumbing work that leads to the house hookup.
Many OWB’s are do-it-yourself projects. Given says “many customers who are handy will get some buddies together who have the right skills to help do the installation.” The unit needs to be assembled, a trench needs to be dug from the OWB to the house, and piping needs to be laid and hooked up to the home or structure.
While it’s typical for an outdoor wood boiler to heat a home that’s already been plumbed, Given also says it’s possible, in homes with woodstove heat in the basement, to remove the interior stove and install a water-to-air heat exchange with a fan that kicks in when changes in temperature are needed. That unit represents a cost separate from the OWB itself.
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Individual outdoor wood furnaces and boilers retail for prices ranging from about $2,000 to nearly $10,000, with the bulk of prices clustered around $3,500 – $6,000.
The higher priced units are designed to heat multiple structures such as a home, a barn, and a garage, and possibly more. Given adds that most systems pay themselves off in two to five years.
Price Variations Depending on the Type of Wood
It makes a difference what type of wood is used in an OWB. Pine burns fast but inefficiently; oak or other hardwoods are considered cleaner burning fuels. Fuel costs will remain lower if wood is not burned prematurely, in other words it should be well seasoned. Depending on the dimensions of the harvested wood, it should in most cases be split to promote efficient burning.
Homeowners who heat their homes with wood stoves already may experience a reduction in their insurance costs because the risk of fire has been moved off-site. Consumers who are heating with wood for the first time may see an increase in their homeowner’s rates.