How to get Duct Heat from a Wood Burning Stove for Cheaper Heat

Josh Miller

Josh is a contributing writer to the site and former HVAC specialist.

Last Updated on June 9, 2021

Wood burning stoves provide a fantastic heat source, especially if you live in an area with an abundance of firewood. However, they require safe ducting to use indoors. You can use ducts to get heat for your stove while ensuring proper ventilation throughout your home.

The best option for getting duct heat requires you to connect the stove to an existing ductwork system via your furnace. There are many safety considerations to keep in mind, especially if you live in a smaller home where carbon monoxide may accumulate more easily. Here’s how to get duct heat from a wood burning stove for cheaper heat.

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Table of Contents

How Duct Heating Works

Duct heating works by sending warm air through metal ducts built into your home’s floors, walls, or ceilings. In most homes, this involves a central furnace located low in the house, especially in the basement. Usually, one heat source can warm the whole home.

One potential issue with duct heating is that some heat gets lost between the furnace and the vents in each room. However, this heat loss is minimal in homes with good insulation in the walls and ducts.

Safety Precautions

Determining how to get duct heat from a wood burning stove isn’t difficult, but you need to be careful to do it safely. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are essential, but place them across the room from the stove to avoid false alarms. Also, place carbon monoxide sensors near vents in bedrooms and other key rooms.

Ensure the stove is installed on a tile or concrete floor and that all ducting you have built in your home is rated at high enough temperatures to withstand the heat. Read the manufacturer’s directions for the stove to get a thorough understanding of its safety warnings and maximum heat output.

You should also partner with a trusted heating specialist to get an inspection done on your final work. Although some contractors might try to upsell you to invest in a more typical home furnace system, an honest one will give you a fair assessment of whether your system is safe and strong enough to heat your home properly.

Keep in mind that most experts do not recommend using wood burning stoves for heat constantly. They may be safe to use for up to several hours at a time, especially if your home is large and carbon monoxide does not pool in any one area. Homes in regions with constant low temperatures in the winter will need to maintain their primary central heating system.

Pellet stoves, in particular, are likely to have manufacturers’ directions that discourage use for heating via ducts. You might even void the warranty if you attempt to connect it to ductwork. Read all instructions carefully to ensure that the specific stove you purchased doesn’t have unusual safety considerations.

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Planning Your Ducts

The key to remember for how to get duct heat from a wood burning stove is that heat rises. Your wood burning stove will work best if it is in a basement with heat running through floor ducts, but ceiling ducts may be acceptable if your home is well-insulated and the winters are mild.

Consult with your home’s blueprints to ensure all essential rooms in your home will get enough heat from the stove. Your master bedroom may get cold at night if it’s at the end of the home farthest from the stove, but you can supplement with an electric heater if necessary. If several key rooms are far from the stove, wood stove heating might not be the best option for you.

Your stove will still need some kind of fresh air intake from the outside, in part to help keep carbon monoxide from building up indoors. Choose a location for your stove that’s both near the central furnace and near an outside wall for easy ventilation.

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Connecting to the Furnace

If you have existing central heat, your system will pump that heat more efficiently if the wood burning stove connects to the furnace. Connect the ductwork to the plenum, the heat distribution box, at the top of the furnace. Instead of connecting it to the very top, measure about six inches from the top and cut a hole large enough to fit a ductwork collar.

Unscrew and remove the top of the plenum before attempting to push the collar into the hole. You will need to bend the collar’s metal tabs inside the plenum’s hole to keep the collar in place, and this is easier to do if the plenum has been removed.

Once the collar is in place, run the rest of the ducting to the inline stove fan. Since the ducting closest to the stove will be exposed to the highest temperatures, get ducting with insulation that more than covers your stove’s maximum output. The ducting can run either directly out of the top of the stove or out of the side, but keep in mind that it shouldn’t interfere with the intake vent and that smoke’s tendency to rise may make side ducting a better option.

Set up the inline stove fan, making sure it has a three-pronged outlet nearby if needed. Test the fan on its own before loading up some firewood and giving the stove a test run. You might need a second fan elsewhere in the home to help push air along, especially if you need to move heat through a long horizontal length of ducting.

Testing Your New System

Wood burning stoves are imperfect because they can’t automatically switch off once your home reaches a certain temperature. You might need to monitor it more closely at first, especially if you have it well-ventilated so it can burn wood quickly.

With a little trial and error, you will likely find a balance of efficiency and cost that makes a wood stove worthwhile. Although their ability to heat larger homes is limited, it’s possible to operate one safely on mild winter days with enough safeguards in place.

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