Wood Insert vs Wood Furnace

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Should I go with the Wood Insert or Wood Furnace?

  • Wood Insert on the main floor

    Votes: 3 75.0%
  • Wood Furnace in the unfinished basement

    Votes: 1 25.0%

  • Total voters


New Member
Dec 18, 2023
Hi all, I am new here but I'm really excited to tap some of the deep knowledge on this site.

Here's some background info. I am a new homeowner of a 2880 sq. ft. single story ranch. Luckily I also have a great view of the river, unfortunately that involves a lot of windows and sliding doors (drafty). So I am looking to reduce my electricity bill, but I'd also like to have some redundancy for heating my home in case the power goes out. I live outside of Cincinnati, so we do have winters but they aren't that harsh, but I am planning on using wood to as the primary heat source of my home. I have 16 acres surrounding the house and an endless supply of wood that drops on the ground all by itself. I just need to split and season.

Where I am torn is what would be the most effective or efficient method of heating my home. I have 2 options.
1.) I have a masonry fireplace located centrally in the home that I could use a fireplace insert to provide heat. It is located in the living room which is an open concept to include the kitchen and dining room totaling roughly 1500 sq. ft. I am considering the Buck 91 wood insert for this scenario. My return vents are located at the top of my walls so if I needed to distribute heat the theory is I could turn on the fan for the HVAC and let it pull air warm air from the top of the room and distribute it through the rest of the house.

2.) I also have an unfinished basement that has a masonry fireplace. I know unfinished basement are big heat sinks, however it must remain unfinished because of flooding concerns. We have had multiple feet of water in the basement and I don't want the headache of redoing a finished basement if the water rises too high. However, I am considering utilizing a wood furnace in the basement because all of my ducting runs along the ceiling of the basement and tying the wood furnace into my existing ducting would be a breeze. Of course flooding is still a risk but I would have enough warning to disconnect the furnace and get it to higher ground before water ruined the furnace so that isn't a huge concern.

I am torn on which would be the most effective / efficient at heating the home. I don't really have a strong preference either way. I'm not worried about aesthetics, or pricing, or install complexity (that may be unwise) I just want something safe, efficient and that I could rely on to keep the family warm throughout the house and throughout the night. Eager to hear your guys' thoughts. If you need any additional info to provide a response please let me know.
I'd be inclined toward having the insert in the living room. That way you not only get the benefit of heat where it's needed, but you also get to enjoy the pleasure of the fire. The setup with an open floorplan and central fireplace sounds ideal.

Using the ductwork to distribute the heat will be lossy if it is unsealed and uninsulated. It's often more effective to use a box or table fan on the floor in the colder space, blowing the cooler air into the warm stove room. Warm air will replace the displaced colder air.
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Living room imo. Having a cozy fire in your home is something else. I think sitting by the fire triggers an ancient, instinctual response to relax and feel happy, almost like it’s built into our DNA or something lol.

I put in my wood stove for heating, but we quickly discovered having a fire to sit by was our favorite thing about our house. You may be surprised how effective a centrally located stove is, even without ducting. For reference we heat 100% with wood most days, 3400 sq ft house and no ducting. Centrally located stove with a very open floor plan, north jersey, tons of windows (we also burn a ton of wood, of course). Going to basement to reload wood could be annoying too
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I'm no expert, compared to many of the folks here, but I'd definitely go with the insert. As others have said, using the HVAC fan is unlikely to work. Our house is 2040 sq ft and I tried using the HVAC blower to draw warmth from the insert in the living room and send it up to our 2nd floor bedroom. It blew cool/cold air. However, using a floor fan or two, the insert can keep the bedroom above 60 and the living room above 74 with ease (and we like a cool bedroom for sleeping). In a power failure, with no fan available on the insert (or on the floors), it still keeps the first floor very toasty and the upstairs above 50, meaning no worries about frozen pipes.
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Are you able to put a freestanding stove in front of the fireplace? Would do better at heating and you wouldn't have a fan running to push the heat out like an insert.
Either way, another vote for stove upstairs over furnace. If you feel you need more heat or want a furnace, you can add that later.
I have a big old house with an insert, free standing stove, and a wood furnace. The stove and insert see more use.
I'd have to agree put it in the living space. I also live on a river and having a fire while looking at the water is well living the dream for me. I put our insert in last year and we are loving it. Exterior wall so just does the living, dining and kitchen for us. Just supplemental heat for us. as far as the ductwork unfortunately it won't work. It's what I do for a living and haven't even bothered trying. Learn from my mistake and start getting wood yesterday. That is a great insert form what I've read .
Thank you guys for all of the info. I trusted the group and went ahead and purchased an insert. Fiancée liked the look of an insert vs a free standing stove.

It’s a bit of a gamble but the price was too appealing. I bought the Englander Blue Ridge 500-I. It just shipped so when it arrives I’ll fire up a new thread with thoughts and after a bit of use I’ll post a rating. I spoke with their technical support team and they confirmed that very few items aside from the vermiculite baffle are different from the Osborn 3500. I’ll do some more digging and let you know what I think. Thank you guys for the help!
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I suspect you may be able to put in the Osburn C-Cast panel baffle when the time comes to replace the vermiculite one.