Reliable sources of heat are essential for homesteaders seeking to produce their own food and power, as well as those in need of backup heating or heating for detached outbuildings.
Wood for an open, traditional fireplace or a modern woodstove is generally considered the most dependable choice and available pretty much everywhere.
However, if you want to prepare your home for cold weather with only wood for heat, you will require a lot of firewood.
How much firewood do you need to keep your house warm?
A two-story, 2,000 square foot house in a temperate zone will need 4 to 6 cords of wood in the colder months for heating. The total amount of firewood you should have on hand is around 500 to 775 cubic feet.
There are plenty of factors that may alter this estimate, and anyone depending on wood for heat should take them into account.
If you don’t want to wind up freezing half-to-death in the cold seasons, keep reading to learn more.
Primary Heating Factors
To determine how much wood is required to keep a home warm enough throughout the winter, personal experience in the home, burning wood, is vital.
That isn’t the most helpful answer for prospective fireplace users or first time stove buyers, but that’s the facts. This is because homes, like their owners, are all individuals in a way.
If you’re buying or inheriting a house with a traditional wood burning fireplace or a wood burning stove, your best method for figuring your firewood requirements is to ask the previous owners (if you can) about how much wood they used and when they used it.
This can help you estimate how much fuel you’ll need for heating or at least get close.
However, if you are new to the practice of wood-fired heating or cannot reach the previous owners of your new home, you’ll have to figure things out and make adjustments as you go.
As you might expect, you’ll want to err on the side of more rather than less.
That being said, you need not make wild guesses if you stop and assess the following factors when determining your wood requirements.
Square Footage of Structure
The size of your house or other structure will greatly influence how much wood you’ll need to heat it effectively.
Larger rooms and larger homes are more difficult to heat and require more fuel to warm effectively.
Larger homes also frequently have more than one fireplace or stove to help guarantee that every part of the “occupied” home is warm.
You don’t need me to tell you that feeding multiple fireplaces or stoves at once will rapidly deplete your supply of fuel!
Following this theory, a larger one room cabin would be more difficult to heat than a smaller one room cabin since the internal air volume is so much greater.
The opposite is also true, with smaller, lower areas being considerably simpler to effectively heat when compared to big, tall ones.
A small fire fed less frequently may be sufficient to keep a tiny home or cozy den warm, greatly easing wood consumption rates.
To initially determine how much wood you believe you will require, start by analyzing the size of your home, and be sure to account for the number of fireplaces or wood stoves.
Another crucial factor to consider when it comes to firewood requirements is the quality of your home’s insulation.
Houses with thick, modernized insulation, double-pane windows, and gap sealing improvements trap more heat to keep the home warmer, longer.
This saves fuel by increasing the amount of time a given space is kept warm by a given quantity of firewood.
Furthermore, older homes with only rudimentary or no additional insulation beyond what their basic building materials provide will require a lot more fuel to keep warm since heat will easily escape them.
This is doubly true if this same example house has drafty doors, leaky windows and innumerable spots where the cold can “seep” in.
You can use drastically less wood by properly insulating your home to enhance its heat-retention properties.
No matter what type of house you live in, or whether you use a fireplace or woodstove, you’ll be saving wood and money by learning how to effectively insulate and improve insulation factors, particularly in the rooms where the heat is generated.
Make sure that ceilings, doors and window casings are adequately insulated and sealed, too.
The effectiveness of your wood stove or fireplace arrangement (and, in the latter case, the efficiency of the wood itself) is crucial for maximizing heat while minimizing consumption.
Simply said, a more efficient burn creates more heat for the same amount of fuel consumed, again saving you money.
If you notice your fireplace or stove is producing a smoky burn that means that efficiency is low; ideally you want a clean, hot burn with minimal to no smoke and soot generated.
Any fire built for warming your home will have a better chance at burning efficiently and cleanly if the wood is itself of good quality and has been properly seasoned prior to use.
Hardwoods are best, particularly when well seasoned. Softwoods are less than ideal even when well seasoned, and are particularly inefficient when burned “green” or unseasoned.
In some areas, though, softwoods are the primary, or indeed only, common firewood for heating, so sometimes you just need to work with what you have.
When it comes to the fireplace or wood stove, taking care with how the fire is built and all other combustion-related factors will further improve efficiency, allowing you to get the most out of your fuel while minimizing wear and tear on your chimney or woodstove.
Modernized wood burning stoves are also quite famous for their overall high performance, and when utilized with expert installation and ventilation, they may generate a tremendous amount of heat on surprisingly small amounts of wood.
Many such stoves produce little to no smoke, and can dramatically outperform fireplaces in heat generation.
Lifestyle and Accommodations
Because they influence the amount of wood you’ll need for heat, your individual or family living arrangements within the house are vital to consider also.
Do you intend to keep every room in the home heated throughout the colder seasons? Will they be heated when no one is present?
If this is the case, you must brace for dramatically higher fuel costs.
If you don’t mind spending the majority of your time in the room where your fireplace or woodstove is placed, you won’t need as much wood overall since you will simply be trying to keep one “living” room warm and perhaps a couple of other, nearby rooms.
If you’re prepared to dress a little warmer to compensate during the chilly season, you won’t need to burn as much wood to be comfortable and this life hack will further reduce the amount of wood you need seasonally for heating.
Using wood for fuel in the manner of modern heating (all hours, every day, as needed) is extremely expensive and generally wasteful.
The weather where you reside is the last, most obvious, element that will influence your firewood usage. Cold climates and harsh, overcast weather mean more wood is needed!
Areas with long, continuous winter weather will require more fuel on hand to cope with compared to areas where winter is short, mild and tolerable.
One thing to keep in mind is that in some places you’ll need a fire going even before and after winter proper. Fall weather might be particularly chilly, and even mild springtime evenings can be quite damp and cool.
Don’t make the mistake of estimating fuel requirements based on only how long winter itself lasts in your area.
Make it a point to look at historical weather patterns and advanced seasonal forecasts to get a better idea of the typical weather in your region.
Only then, considering all factors involved, will you be able to make an educated selection on how much wood you’ll need until warm weather returns.
Do You Have Enough Firewood?
A 2,000 square foot two-story house will require between 4 and 6 cords of firewood (approximately 500 to 775 cubic feet) to keep comfortably warm throughout the typical cold weather seasons.
However, there are so many variables involved for each home, heating arrangement and area that a thorough assessment must be made on your own if you want to know for sure.
Make sure you research your wood requirements today so you don’t get caught short upon the arrival of winter.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.