Wood stove heat is warm and comfortable. It’s affordable, and it can be replenished. It takes more work to heat with wood, but once you use a wood stove, you’ll never want to go back to other types of heat. Wood stoves can easily heat a two-story home, but certain codes and precautions should always be followed.
Local building and fire codes should always be consulted before a wood stove is used. Some codes have strict measurements that must be followed for wall clearance, pipe diameters and extensions above the roof line. Other codes address the type of stove. Some states require stoves that emit only a stated amount of pollution, while other states will permit almost any stove. Other codes are very strict regarding outside air conditions and will not permit wood stove operations if air quality is bad. This type of regulation must be consulted on a regular basis in states such as California.
Wood stoves should always be installed on the lower level in two-story homes. Heat rises, and although you can install a wood stove on the top floor, it will not heat lower levels with any efficiency. If possible, an air duct should be cut through the floor somewhere near the stove. There is often room inside the floor for a fan to be installed to blow upward through a grate on the floor. This simple solution can heat the entire upper floor and it feels great on bare feet on a cool morning.
Hearth and Shield
Hearth selection is key to good wood stove operation. These thick stone or masonry products can be bought and placed under the stove to provide a barrier against the floor. They also catch refuse such as ashes and wood chips that would otherwise scatter across the room. The other component is the wall shield. It’s much like the hearth, but attaches to the wall to protect the wall and add another safety factor. When you purchase the hearth and the wall shield together, they match and look better as a pair in your decor. Hearths are heavy and work best on the ground floor.
The type of wood you burn is very important. Hardwoods or “deciduous” trees produce the most heat and burn the longest, but they are also the most expensive. Conifers are used more often because they are more affordable and more readily available in most states. They are also more prolific and grow faster. You can harvest your own firewood if you have access to trucks and saws, but it is back-breaking work and typically, you don’t save that much money. A two story home in a moderate area will burn approximately three cords in one year. Expect to pay between $175 to $250 dollars per cord, depending on the type of wood and where you live.
To heat a two-story home, you will need a stove that is rated for at least 2,000 square feet or bigger. Build a moderate fire in the stove with kindling and a few pieces no bigger than about 2 inches thick. Wait for the wood to burn down into a bed of coals. Place one or two larger chunks of split wood into the stove. On the front of the stove there are one or two valves that allow air into the chamber. Close the valves halfway. The chunks of wood should burn for at least two hours without any problems. However, never leave a wood stove unattended for any amount of time.
One other factor should be considered if you’re planning to install a wood stove in a two-story house. The chimney should be vented out horizontally through the wall about 12 to 24 inches above the stove. The remainder of the chimney pipe should run up the exterior of the house to extend above the roof line. This type of installation is proper for two story houses because it avoids running the chimney pipe straight up through the upper floor. There are also lots of choices for chimney pipe. Interior chimney pipe is usually single wall, that means it actually aids in heating the room because it also radiates heat. Other types of pipe that are used for close-clearance do not radiate heat, and are safe to use within a few inches of other materials. This type of pipe is used on the exterior and is known as double or triple-wall pipe.
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