Using Wood As Fuel For Go Green Enthusiasts

“Proper usage” of wood as fuel for heating purposes means that the source wood is harvested sustainably, and burned cleanly and efficiently. Benefits gained from purchasing an efficient wood-fueled heating unit, such as a wood-fueled furnace or stove boiler, can be significantly reduced by inappropriate wood care, insufficient unit maintenance, and inefficient wood selection decisions. The more you know about wood as a fuel, the better your decisions will be.

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Proper Care & Maintenance

Aside from proper maintenance of the actual wood furnace or wood stove unit, wood needs to be properly split, stacked, and stored.  A sufficiently low-moisture “aged” wood insures an optimal burn with minimal smoke output.  Using manual cutting and splitting methods also helps reduce emissions caused by fuel-powered machinery.  Expect to add wood to your unit once or twice daily.  Remove ash at least once or twice a month. Know how you will handle wood mess such as disposing of bark and ashes. Also regularly check unit maintenance guidelines such as checking water levels and replacing water filters.

How Is Wood Available

Common wood types include: oak, ash, beech, birch, maple and pine.  Especially in rural areas where wood is more plentiful and inexpensive, wood is available via pruning, blow-downs, deadfall, or harvesting.  Wood can also be purchased from local resident wood brokers.  Wood is often purchased by the cord in the U.S., thus firewood is also known as cordwood.  A full cord is 128 cubic feet in volume, equating to a pile 4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet.    A cord is also available in smaller divisions as “face cords” or “cord tiers”.  If even smaller quantities are needed, it can be purchased by the pound for slightly higher prices.   How much wood (and how often) you purchase will depend not only on your usage rate but also on storage space available.

How Much Wood Is Needed

Using Wood As Fuel - StockpilingWhen using wood as fuel several factors determine how much you need for a season include: type of wood-fueled heating unit; the wood split sizes used (smaller cuts burn faster); how cold it gets; the size of the area to be heated; and how much of your energy needs are met with your heating unit.

You can adjust your desired heat output and fuel burn rate by: having a variety of split sizes on-hand (two-foot pieces are most common); selecting denser woods for lower heat output over a long period of time (in the winter);  selecting more porous woods for higher heat output over shorter periods of time (in the summer). Look up the “Smithers Method” for a more specific cord consumption calculation.

Where to Go For Questions

For additional information about wood as fuel for heating, contact:  a leading manufacturer or local dealer of wood furnaces and wood boilers; local, municipal or state forestry services or ranger stations; and also search online for wood-heat organizations and advocates.

Helen Hoefele is a professional writer who writes on topics that she feels would be interesting and useful to her readers. Follow her @figmentations.

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