Efficient tips for heating with wood

It is said that wood is a fuel that can warm many times: when it is gathered, split and stacked, and again when it is burned. This sums up the virtues of heating by wood — healthy exercise, comforting warmth and the old-fashioned pleasure of a wood fire. Here's what you need to know about using wood as fuel.

Efficient tips for heating with wood

A brief introduction to using wood

Despite the convenience of electricity or gas, wood retains its special charm as a heating fuel. Gathering your own firewood, particularly in country regions, can make for big savings in your fuel bill as well as providing plenty of vigorous exercise.

  • In cities and towns the use of wood as a fuel may offer little or no cost saving compared with electricity and natural gas. It may be impractical for those living in small inner-city dwellings, inadequate for those trying to generate enough heat to warm a large house, or the cause of air pollution.
  • For all that, wood as fuel is often chosen for its own sake — the pleasure of sitting in front of a fire on a chilly winter's evening is reward enough for your efforts.
  • Wood does not figure as a major energy source in industry partly because one tonne of wood produces less than half the energy of a tonne of coal or oil.
  • Wood will remain of limited significance as a fuel as long as there are more efficient and less expensive fuels, while its value as timber exceeds its fuel value, and while land is given over to agriculture rather than forestry.

How to split wood like a pro

  • After carting a load of wood home, split the blocks into smaller pieces to facilitate stacking and drying.
  • Firewood merchants use splitting machines for this work, but you can use an axe (a splitting axe makes the job easier for the inexperienced).
  • While the density of hardwood trees means they make good firewood, the same characteristic can make their wood difficult to split.
  • A good woodcutter soon develops an eye for cracks in the wood. Cracks indicate lines of least resistance, where a single blow can be aimed to split a block of wood cleanly along the fault.
  • Small blocks of wood can be split by standing them on end and chopping directly into the centre.
  • Larger blocks can be split by working around the block to split off sections.

Simple techniques for stacking and drying

The efficiency of wood as fuel has more to do with the moisture content of the wood being burned than with the species of tree from which the timber has been cut.

  • The drier the wood, the more useful the heat obtained from its combustion, as energy will not be wasted driving off moisture as steam.
  • Oven-dry wood prepared by a firewood supplier has virtually no moisture content and an energy content of about 20 megajoules per kilogram; air-dried wood containing about 20 per cent moisture has an energy content of around 17 megajoules per kilogram.
  • Green wood with approximately 50 per cent moisture has a very low energy content of about 10 to 12 megajoules per kilogram.

Wood can be a great source of fuel, used to inexpensively heat your home. Consider these tips and learn how to get the most out of your wood.

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