Let’s Talk Wood Preparation & Storage

Let’s Talk Wood Preparation & Storage

Did you know burning green wood can severely damage your woodburning stove and cause residue build-up in your chimney? Green wood (or freshly cut wood) releases a lot of creosote (tar). It will burn, but it won’t burn well, and if done regularly can cause a chimney fire or worse. Green wood is safe for outdoor use, but seasoned wood is best for the most efficient and clean burn indoors.

Seasoning is the process of allowing wood to dry over a period of time (usually six months) depending on climate, and type and age of the tree. Although some wood may require less time, six months is considered a reasonable amount of time for the moisture content to drop from 50 per cent to 20 per cent or less.

Once you have selected the correct seasoned wood for maximum woodburning efficiency, consider which species of wood is best for heating your home. Hardwoods (maple, walnut, oak) were traditionally the preferred burn choice because leaky cast iron stoves wouldn’t maintain a fire made of softwoods (cedar, red pine, fir) overnight. However, with the latest advancements in technology, woodburning appliances all function well with a wider variety of wood species, due to their better control over the combustion process. In modern stoves, both soft and hardwoods make excellent fuel for spring and fall use, but it’s still best to save your hardwoods for the coldest part of winter. Also, consider burning fruit trees, such as apple or cherry, as they produce a pleasing aroma, and do well heating your home too.

Want to save time and energy? Buying pre-cut wood is a great way to go, but it is important to know what you are getting. Check with the seller to see what types of wood are included and be clear on how much wood you will receive. Don’t forget to determine the appropriate log dimensions so they fit inside your stove. It is good practice to visit the woodlot and inspect the wood before purchasing.

The official measurement of firewood is a “cord”. A “full cord” is four feet tall by four feet deep by eight feet long. Depending on the log size (commonly sixteen to eighteen inches), a “face cord” may only offer a third the firewood as a full cord, and should be priced accordingly. Firewood is also sometimes sold by the amount that fits in a truck bed; this can make the amount of wood difficult to gauge and can conceal a higher price per cord measure.

The amount of wood you need depends on climate, length of seasons, size of your home, and whether or not your appliance is the primary heating source. In theory, a cord of wood could last you four months in a smaller home with conservative use and moderate winter temperatures. However, it is better to err on the side of caution and overestimate the amount of firewood needed, so you aren’t left out in the cold. Always source a couple of woodlots to keep your options open. A cord most likely will only last you two months.

Once your wood has been delivered, or you’ve just finished splitting your own wood (the most inexpensive firewood source), it now needs to be stacked and stored properly.

Stack wood near the entrance to your home, but not against the wall, as this prevents insect and critter problems. Construct an open shed or use a tarp to shield wood from rain and elements. Keep your wood raised three to four inches off of a solid base or the ground to prevent the bottom rows from rotting. Pallet boards work very well for this purpose. Whatever you use, keep in mind there needs to be room for good air circulation all around the stack to aid in seasoning, and protection from the elements year-round. If you split your own wood, the storage area should ideally be sized to hold a three-year supply, to allow for proper seasoning and rotation.

Thank you to woodheat.org for the above information. woodheat.org is a great source for information on heating your home with wood.

Don’t Burn Garbage!

Don’t Burn Garbage!

Some might think it’s better to burn garbage rather than bury it in a landfill, but that’s not the case.

Never burn garbage in your wood stove, your fireplace or a barrel in your yard. These devices are not incinerators.

Food packaging is one of the biggest sources of household waste. A good way to reduce your waste production is to avoid buying overpackaged products. Most papers and plastics can be recycled. Recycling is more environmentally friendly than burning because it does not pollute the air and is the raw material for many new products.

Unlike natural wood, garbage contains a wide range of materials and products that cause damage to the inside walls of your appliance and chimney. Most manufacturers specify that the warranty on your woodburning appliance will no longer be valid if damage is caused by burning garbage or other material which is prohibited. Check your owner’s manual but this will likely include treated or painted wood, driftwood, coal, garbage or plastic.

Burning garbage does not destroy the chemicals it contains, quite the opposite. Burning changes the chemicals, causing unpredictable and harmful chemical reactions. Dioxins are just one of the many pollutants produced by burning garbage. These highly toxic carcinogens do not decompose; they are bio-accumulative. Airborne dioxins are deposited on the ground, in water and on vegetation, and can be ingested by animals and fish. Burning garbage at home or in the cottage is the fifth largest source of dioxin in Canada.

Even paper burning can be risky due to chemical contamination. Always remember that diapers, cardboard, cardboard boxes and magazines usually contain plastics, additives and dyes.

In short, only burn firewood and recycle plastic and paper.

Wood Heat – New Technology Improves a Time-Tested Sustainable Fuel

Over half a million homeowners in Ontario get some or all their space heating from wood stoves. While most use it for supplementary heat, as part of an effective zone heating system or to combat power outages, many others use it as their primary source of heating.

Whether you are a power wood user, with logs being your primary heat source or you use wood at the cabin or chalet, creating a cozy ambiance at the cottage, this is the time for a refresher on smart wood heating.

Laura Litchfield, Executive Director of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association of Canada (HPBAC), the Canadian wood heat industry association, observed, “With the advent of new clean burning wood stove technology, wood is increasingly seen as a smart fuel choice in many parts of Canada. Wood heat provides warmth when the power goes out, it is easy to obtain and is locally sustainable. The reduced GHG’s from clean burning wood stoves is recognized in the Ontario Climate Change Action Plan and pending wood stove changeout program. Finally, not to be ignored, money paid for firewood very often stays in the local economy.”

A new clean burning wood stove and dry wood are key to successful heating with wood. No matter the type of wood you have available, it needs to be “seasoned”, which usually means splitting the logs and ensuring covered storage over the summer season for drying. The sweet spot is to have wood which has less than 15-20% moisture content, using wood with over 30% moisture means it will be hard to both light and burn. Wood that isn’t being burned completely risks dangerous creosote buildup in your pipes and chimney.

Calculating the moisture content of your woodpile is fast and easy if you use a hand-held moisture meter.  While virtually any dry wood can be used in your fireplace or wood stove, more dense hardwood species such as maples, oaks and beeches require less volume to get the same heat output (measured in British Thermal Units – BTU’s) as a much larger pile of softwood like spruce, pine or poplar. Red Oak has roughly 40% more BTU per volume than White Pine. Low density wood will keep you warm, but will require more work transporting, splitting and greater storage area.

Ms. Litchfield, went on to say, “New wood heat units with proper fuel are a clean burning energy source that deliver more heat per unit of wood than older units.  Many people see the reduction in wood use including less splitting, stacking and carrying as sufficient motivation to replace stoves over 20 years old, while others tout the indoor and outdoor air quality benefits of the cleaner burning units.”

Whether your stove is old or new, to ensure optimal performance and safety, make sure you have your chimney cleaned regularly.  This should be done annually by someone with WETT certification. Your local wood appliance retailer can refer you to a qualified company.

Other common-sense tips include having smoke and CO detectors with fresh batteries installed when you start your wood heating season. You should also have a designated place outdoors to dump ashes safely away from combustible sources.

If you have questions visit www.hpbacanada.org or your local wood stove retailer for reliable answers.

Most wood heat retailers and manufacturers in Canada are represented by The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association of Canada (HPBAC). The HPBAC is the Canadian industry association for manufacturers, retailers, distributors, representatives and service firms in the hearth industry. The Association provides professional member services and support and consumer education. There are more than 575 members in the HPBAC.

For more information, or to schedule interviews please contact:
Laura Litchfield, Executive Director, HPBAC laura@hpbacanada.org 1-705-784-0315