If you are going to have a crawlspace, then consider using some variation on what it called the “Plenwood System” This was promoted by most of the big wood producer associations around the US. It is really a good system, but it didn’t go over well, because 1) they didn’t really promote it hardly at all, and 2) there was no money in it, for any of the contractors. It only produced a better house for less work, less materials, and less money, but there was no way for them charge more for it, so they didn’t do it.

Here is how the “Plenwood System” works:

First you do not vent the crawlspace to outdoors, which is an excellent idea, because the warm summer air, that is supposed to dry the crawlspace, actually carries the moisture into it, where it condenses onto the cool ground.

Next you put down a full 6mil polyethylene vapor barrier on the ground, and up the walls to the sill plate, where it can be secured. This keep the ground moisture out of the house, and stops many of the creepy-crawlies, and stop plants from growing.

Now that you saved money on the vents, and put down the vapor barrier, so that you know it will stay dry in there, and that no plants will be growing, you can insulate it with low cost fiberglass bats, instead of expensive foam insulation. Tape sections of paper backed fiberglass together, to form a continuous insulated surface that you can hang from the band joists of the floor, down the foundation wall, and then out across the floor of the crawl space about four feet., or more.

Now, this means that you also don’t need to insulated the floor of the house. The last part of this, is to use the crawl space to distribute your heat to the house. This gives you a radiant floor, and you also cut holes for floor registers out somewhere near the corners, so there will be a flow of heated air.

The system was originally designed for use with a ‘counter-flow” (down-draft) furnace (fairly cheap) but it can be used with a wood stove, too. All you would need to do is to have an air intake above the stove, that would carry the hottest air down into the crawlspace. You could also just put your woodstove down there, where its heat would simply rise against the bottom of the floor. A basement is an excellent location for a wood burner, where it (and its dirt) is out of the way, and it is easy to store wood around it. A crawl space is not a real basement, but all it takes is one small area that is deep enough for standing. A standard smoke alarm, will keep it as safe, as in you living room.

There is also a tremendous potential for heat storage. One plastic 55 gallon drum, when heated 40°F will storage 18,000BTUs. A few of them (or your cistern, for your fresh water ;O) down in the crawlspace, where the woodstove will gaurantee they won’t freeze, will make it possible for you to heat with wood, and leave your house unattended for days, in the middle of the winter, without a care for it ever freezing. No more getting up cold to tend the stove. Nice even temperatures. Just feed the stove when y….afeel like it… All very simple, and low cost.