Wood serves as a low-cost fuel for heating the home, and homeowners with easy access to firewood should be able to heat their homes all winter for around $1,000, according to the National Association of Realtors. While many people picture a crackling fireplace when they think of wood heat, fireplaces represent just one way to heat things up with wood. If you're considering switching to wood heat, consider these five technologies to see if one could work for your home.

Old-Fashioned Fireplace

The traditional wood fireplace lends a cozy, romantic air to your home, but also represents a notoriously inefficient method of heating. The California Air Resources Board reports that the most efficient fireplaces are only about 30 percent efficient—that means that around 70 percent of the wood burned is wasted. To make your fireplace more efficient, keep the damper closed when not in use. When you want to light a fire, open the damper wide and build a small, hot fire with well-seasoned hardwood. Avoid less efficient softwoods and any wood that hasn't been properly seasoned.

High-Efficiency Insert

Make the most of your wood-burning fireplace with a high-efficiency insert. These devices work almost like wood stoves, but fit within your fireplace and use the existing chimney, though you'll need to add a proper liner. Many models offer equal efficiency to freestanding wood stoves, which generally come with an 80 percent efficiency rating depending on design. Fireplace inserts come in both wood and pellet-burning models.

Wood or Pellet Stove

Wood stoves burn hardwood or pellets, and can be used to heat the entire home. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends a 60,000 Btu stove for a standard 2,000 square foot house. You can also choose a smaller stove to add warmth to a single room or series of rooms. When shopping for wood stoves, choose a modern unit certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA-certified models are generally safer and more efficient than older wood stoves, which means they will waste less wood and help save you money over time.

Outdoor Boiler

Want to heat with wood, but hate the smell or particulates found in wood smoke? An outdoor wood boiler sits in its own dedicated shed-like structure in the yard, and burns enough wood to heat both your home and any outbuildings, like a workshop or barn. These units work best in rural areas, on properties with no close neighbors, due to the smoke they emit.

Wood-Burning Furnace

While most homeowners choose electric, oil or natural gas furnaces, wood-burning furnaces are also available for home heating. They can be used alone as a central heating system, or joined to a standard oil or gas furnace so you can switch fuel sources based on price and convenience. For even greater convenience, consider a flex fuel furnace, which is designed to burn wood, oil, coal or electricity as needed. Simply set the thermostat like you would on any traditional furnace and load the unit up with wood. If wood runs low, the unit will automatically switch to another fuel source to keep your home at the desired temperature. Contact a company like Allied Air Conditioning & Heating Corp to discuss your options.

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