A Woodstove as Primary Heat Source

Have you considered using a wood stove as your primary heat source in your passive home? You can, but here's what you need to know.

Have you considered using a wood stove as your primary heat source in your passive home? You can, but here’s what you need to know.

Heating with wood

Perhaps you’ll be living somewhere with your own renewable source of firewood.

Maybe you’re considering resilience against more frequent power outages.

Perhaps you’ve always had a woodstove and wonder how this key feature might work in a passive house.

Whatever the reasons, more and more when we’re talking to folks about their new passive home, going net zero and possibly off grid, general resilience is more often a part of the conversation.

We’ve blogged before about Airtight Homes and Woodstoves, as a passive home is essentially an extremely airtight home that acts like a thermos. In this post, we’ll look at building codes and related considerations, as well as the appeal of taking your home off grid.

An EkoBuilt passive house built in a wooded setting.
Some locations are a natural for a woodstove, but we’ve seen them in a variety of settings.

A passive home’s low energy footprint

We talk a lot, for good reason, about the incredibly low energy requirement of a passive home. Needing only 20 per cent of the energy required to run a conventionally built home makes a passive home supremely attractive.

An exceptionally healthy and comfortable home that’s so cheap to run — what’s not to love?

For EkoBuilt customers who have the experience of heating with wood, we know they can do this for around one and a half face cords of wood for the heating season. If you had to buy the wood, that’s barely $100.

So what does building code allow us to do?

A picture of stacked firewood outside a passive home

Woodstoves and primary heat sources

Building code is what dictates many of the decisions around how your new home will be built. In most townships and municipalities across Canada and the United States, wood is only ever considered to be a secondary form of heating.

Unless you have a patch of land in an unincorporated or unregulated township, and these are rare, you’ll have to work within building code.

If you want to use a woodstove as your primary heat source – and heating with wood can easily handle the small heating requirement for your passive home, which is exceptional at holding onto that heat – then you’ll typically need to factor in natural gas or electrical baseboard heating as your primary heat source.

Electrical baseboard heating systems are incredibly affordable, and won’t add much to your home’s bottom line at the time of construction. In a passive home with a woodstove, you’ll likely never turn on those baseboard heaters. (For budget purposes, you can consider $150 per baseboard heater per room.)

A bedroom in a net zero home by EkoBuilt
Bedrooms are the usual location for additional baseboard heaters in order to meet code requirements.

Woodstoves and off grid living

If you’re going for a woodstove, it’s a good time to consider how to get the most out of that heat source.

Many woodstoves come with the option to heat something on top, but if you really want resilience from power outages and extreme weather, consider a woodstove that will allow you to handle cooking and baking properly.

The Esse Ironheart is one such option. It’s an incredibly efficient, clean burning woodstove. Its glass-fronted firebox allows you to enjoy watching the fire, and it’s roomy cookbox and heating elements make it a fully functional cooking and baking station. (Lids for the heating elements also allow for better heat control.)

At EkoBuilt, we’ve implemented woodstoves in many of our passive home projects.

Our passion for passive house design offers a one-stop option for your new, sustainable home: we have the house plans, the pre-certified passive house kit, and the expertise to make your passive home a reality. We ship across the US and Canada, and we handle full builds in our local area (Ottawa, Canada).

A picture of the Esse Ironheart woodstove and someone removing a pan with two loaves of bread.
The Esse Ironheart woodstove has the firebox on the left (covered by screen in this picture) and the baking or cookbox on the right. It also offers two large heating elements on top.

If you position your woodstove centrally in your open plan main living space, it will comfortably heat your entire ground floor, while allowing bedrooms and more separate rooms to remain cooler.

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