In recent years, more and more people all over the world have started to rediscover traditional wood-based heating solutions. The chief reason for this is the rising cost of energy. An entire heating season’s wood fuel will cost you only a fraction of what you’d pay if you were to use gas or electric heating solutions. As a result, a wood burner can pay for itself in as little as two heating seasons.
But burning firewood isn’t as simple as it may seem. If you haven’t taken the time to learn the basics, chances are you’re wasting a lot of fuel without even knowing it.
In this article, we’ll give you a crash course on making your wood heat setup as efficient and eco-friendly as possible.
Step 1: Avoid Low-Quality Firewood
As most experienced firewood users know, the sole difference between high-quality and low-quality firewood is its moisture content.
When wet firewood is burned, it smolders and releases a lot of smoke. This smoke consists of dozens of harmful organic compounds. Chief among these is creosote, a highly toxic tar-like substance, which is a known irritant and carcinogen. But dry the same piece of firewood properly and it will become a remarkably clean, smokeless, and efficient source of heat.
According to wood fuel experts, firewood needs to be dried to a moisture level of under 20% to be safe to burn, but some suppliers go well beyond this figure. For example, Lekto Woodfuels advertises its kiln dried logs as being dried to moisture levels of around 10%, with some independent reviews registering values of as little as 7.3%.
Step 2: Store Your Firewood Properly
Improper storage can greatly increase the moisture content of your firewood.
Being extra dry, firewood has a tendency to suck up moisture from the surrounding air. If stored in a humid, unventilated environment, your logs will start accumulating moisture in a matter of days. After a few weeks, you may start seeing mold appearing on your logs. Eventually, they will start to rot. Needless to say, such firewood is unsafe to burn and must be disposed of.
To ensure proper storage, store your firewood in a dry, ventilated space that is protected from the elements, such as a woodshed. If you do not have a woodshed and cannot build one, you can store firewood in a dry garage or an unused room.
If you’re unsure of whether your firewood is safe to burn, purchase a basic wood tester and measure its moisture levels. As long as the reading is under 20%, you can burn it without worry.
Step 3: Ensure Proper Air Circulation
Next, let’s talk about wood fuel waste. The most common reason why people burn more firewood than they actually need to is due to poor air circulation. The space around the stove becomes hot while the other parts of the room stay cold.
When faced with this problem, most people elect to simply add extra firewood to their burner. Naturally, this type of strategy leads to fuel waste. So instead of fighting the symptoms of the problem and wasting firewood, it’s best you solve your air circulation problem.
According to this article by Lekto, an easy way to do this is by using a stove fan. These typically cost under 20 dollars and use the heat of your stove to spin their blades, so they require no electricity. A single fan should be more than enough for a small room. For larger rooms, you might want to consider adding a second fan.
If that is not an option, consider running your ceiling fans in reverse. This will push down the hot air from your ceiling and ensure the same effect. This method is surprisingly effective and can make a real difference in your consumption of wood fuels, especially if your home has high ceilings.
Step 4: Consider Upgrading Your Wood Burning Appliance
While it may seem like all wood burners are the same, this couldn’t be further from the truth. As a result of technological advancement and more stringent emissions regulations, modern wood burners are a lot more energy efficient than older models. If your burner was manufactured over a decade ago, consider upgrading to a more efficient model.
To make sure the appliance you’re purchasing is as efficient as possible, search the EPA Woodstove Database. It contains data on the emission rate, efficiency, CO output, and regulatory compliance of all wood stoves sold in the US.
Step 5: Get Your Chimney Swept at Least Once a Year
s any seasoned firewood user will tell you, having your chimney swept regularly is incredibly important. Regardless of how dry your firewood is, it will still release at least some amount of particulate matter into the atmosphere. And this matter will eventually build up in your chimney as soot and creosote.
This buildup will eventually reduce the efficiency and lifespan of your appliance. On top of this, creosote is highly combustible, so it may become a fire hazard. So make sure you have your chimney swept at least once a year.