Have you ever watched Norwegian public TV? If you have, then you may know that one of their most popular programs is a 12-hour show that follows the process of fire making - from chopping the wood, stacking it in beautiful piles, to finally burning it to warm a home. Norwegians are no stranger to heating with wood. In addition to the warmth wood provides, there’s a real sense of hygge [hoog-ah] - that feeling of comfort and coziness.
When thinking about building your new net zero home, lots of energy is spent talking about, well, energy! (More specifically - insulation, air tightness, solar panels, and air-source heat pumps for heating & cooling, but we digress...) It’s true that relying on a wood-burning stove as your sole source of heat is unnecessary. But watching a fire burn on TV is not quite the same as sitting in front of real flames, and if you want this feature in your home, we’re here to tell you it’s possible - with a few considerations.
To begin with, there’s no shopping around at antique stores for that vintage cast iron wood stove. You need a unit that is completely sealed off from the rest of the house. A sealed-off stove means that all of those unfriendly gasses from your fire stay inside the stove, and don’t travel into your well-balanced interior air.
Because the unit is a closed system, it will require a separate system for make-up air. Fires use make-up air to help them get to that roaring burn that we all expect. In old houses, make-up air would come from drafts around window panes or around edges of doors, basements, etc. But a sealed wood stove unit and a tightly sealed house means no ambient household air is needed in order to make that fire burn. Instead, a system is installed to provide an outside source of air for the stove, that is unconnected to the rest of the ventilation in the house.
BrightBuilt Homes are designed without the expectation of this additional heating source, as calculations for your warmth and comfort are made prior to lighting up of any wood stoves. This is all to say that when your fire is cranking, you will most likely have to throw on a bikini! The flicker of flames on a cold day can be worth the unusual winter attire, though, and after all, when the “mercury” dips below zero, it’s hard to imagine the concept of it being too toasty.
If you already have a wood stove installed, it’s important to remember to do yearly maintenance of your chimney flue and follow good fire safety protocols. Use well-seasoned, dry hard wood and dispose of ashes properly. In addition, always have carbon monoxide and CO2 detectors in your home, to ensure all those gasses are indeed staying right where they should.
After safety comes hygge. Get ready to curl up with a mug of hot cocoa, turn the lights down low, and listen to the refrain of “the fireside is burning bright…” For some, fireplaces can help turn a house into a home, and who are we to deny a good old Yankee of his or her comfort zone? If you learn the facts, and understand the system, a wood stove can be had in your already toasty-warm high-performance home.