Wood fireplaces and stoves require fuel, which means that you must have a source of wood. Either you must chop down trees, then cut and split logs, or you have to purchase wood. Depending on how often you use the stove, you can burn anywhere between 1/2 and 2 cords of wood in a season. (A cord of wood is 128 cubic feet or 4 x 4 x 8 feet.)
What is vital however, both from the perspective of heat and environmental considerations, is that the wood be as dry as possible. That means seasoning over a summer at least, then dry storage under cover in fall and winter.
Probably the single most important aspect of owning a wood fireplace or stove is maintenance. To maintain your wood fireplace or stove and chimney, an annual cleaning to remove creosote that can build up over the winter is necessary for safety and performance.
In recent years, as gas and electricity prices have relentlessly soared, woodburning fireplaces and stoves have returned to popularity. Modern woodburners are highly efficient thanks to improvements in manufacturing processes, quality materials and better understanding of airflow and combustion.
The following key points about wood fireplaces and stoves will help you get as much heat per dollar as possible:
Burn DRY wood. Season as far in advance as possible; one year is the minimum and two is even better. The drier the wood, the less you need to heat your home. Dry wood also creates far less creosote than damp or green wood. Stack wood so air circulates. The best place to dry wood is a wood shed, basement, or garage. Dry wood is easier to split and makes a gratifying thwack when you split kindling.
Hardwoods create less creosote than soft woods. Cedar is great for starting a fire, but for keeping it going, hardwoods like oak, hickory, maple, or walnut are really the way to go if you can get them.
Insulate your home. Upgrade insulation in floors, ceilings, and walls. Seal leaks in ductwork. Call your electric company and see if they have an energy audit program. Many do and will come to your home and tell you exactly what you need to do to conserve heat. (It makes life more comfortable in the summer, too.)
How does a wood fireplace insert increase efficiency? Fireplace inserts have a firebox. This firebox is surrounded by a steel shell. Air from inside your home flows into the shell and radiant heat warms the air, which is then redistributed back into your home. This prevents the majority of the heat from escaping into the masonry structure, and therefore escaping your home.
The area between the opening of the fireplace and the insert shell is covered with a faceplate. These faceplates can be very decorative and can really make your fireplace look better or add a modern element to your home. Usually, you can choose between a variety of faceplates to best match your room.