Wood boilers take the idea of the traditional wood stove and improve on it, solving some problems inherent in wood burning and making wood a clean, safe, and efficient source of heat.
Wood stoves have been used for centuries; a very famous American, Benjamin Franklin, invented the Franklin stove in the 1700s as a safe alternative to fireplaces, which were dangerous - likely to catch the mainly wooden homes standard back then on fire - and not particularly efficient. The stove provided radiant heat in a relatively safe manner compared to the open fires of fireplaces.
While wood stoves were supplanted by central heating decades ago in urban and suburban environments, in the country many people continue to heat their homes, as well as cook their meals, partly or entirely with wood. But problems remain in the use of wood as a fuel; while a properly maintained and operated wood stove is relatively safe, the build-up of creosote in stove pipes and chimneys can still result in dangerous fires.
Another problem is time. In an era when at least one person in the family spent the majority of the time at home, feeding a hungry wood stove was not a big problem; now, however, with adults working outside the home at least forty hours a week, if not more, having a fire go out means coming home to a cold house and, in extremely cold weather, dealing with the possibility of frozen and burst pipes. Also, walking away from a house with an active fire burning in the wood stove doesn't necessarily inspire a lot of peace of mind.
Enter the wood boiler. Designed to burn cleanly, with a minimum of creosote build-up, a boiler can be loaded with enough wood to burn for hours without having to replenish the wood supply. The boiler, which can be located inside or outside the home, heats water which can be used in hot water heating systems and, combined with a hot water storage system, can be stored for long periods of time (from seven to ten days) between firings.
Some boilers are constructed to be used with a variety of fuels, including wood, oil, and gas, offering a lot of flexibility to the homeowner, particularly with the fluctuations in the availability and pricing of different fuels. Other boilers are designed to burn corn or wood pellets, two more fuels which are increasing in popularity as alternatives to traditional fuel oil or natural gas.
With more consumers waking up to the problems inherent in heating with oil and natural gas, people are looking with renewed interest at alternative sources of fuel for heating their homes; and more and more are choosing wood boilers as a safe, sensible, and moneysaving solution.