Current Topic: There is a simple formula to good firewood and we have figured it out. Basically: Energy out equals volume in minus moisture content. A.K.A. Seasoned (low moisture) firewood creates great heat without creating too much heat (chimney fire).
This Year We Planned Our Firewood A Lot Better...
To this point our wood-burning heat production has only been satisfactory at best. Yeah! It's offset Winter energy costs substantially. Ok completely. But it has also been a little disappointing in that the effort it took to turn marginal fuel into comfort has been a bit unrewarding and I'm hoping that's about to change.
Here's the deal. If firewood is not 'seasoned' (dry) enough then a proportional amount of the energy it produces goes to burning off the moisture inside the wood. Translating to low energy output meaning more effort and unsatisfactory material used with lower then expected efficiency... If that isn't disappointing enough. The additional creosote laden steam, burning at a lower temperature, condenses on the inside of the flue (chimney) causing a fire hazard during a real hot burn at a later date. Surprise! Chimney fire.
Ok. The fire hazard can be greatly reduced by regular cleaning but for most homes it is a miserable and hazardous chore of itself. And when the weather is just plain rotten people take their chances.
We have been put in this position for the first two seasons using our first wood-burning appliance. Fortunately it is very easy to clean our chimney. We brush it from the bottom up and it takes probably five minutes in the worst of weather. That's a real functional bonus.
So in the mean time... A great opportunity for firewood came to us early this year. Towards the end of Winter we were offered two dump-truck loads of logging slag. Mostly treetops and curly stuff not suitable for commercial use. Too small, to knotty or to crooked. Perfect for firewood and, when delivered, better then expected and certainly enough for the Winter.
In total there were over 100 small logs delimbed (a huge bonus) average 20 ft. It took more then three weeks to buck them up into 14 in. lengths and haul them to the back of the property to season. Unfortunately... In the middle of the effort I was afflicted with the cold/flu from hell. Long to short... Two months later we had it all bucked, moved and stacked. Eventually we had to move some six to eight foot tops after bucking of the bottoms so we could make up lost time, get it out of the way and situated in a more suitable location for more processing. Yes... This effort is not even close to over yet!
At a good point, between major tasks, we took a break from the Tri-Shed-Complex project to split the rounds we bucked at the start of the season. They had been sitting for a few months but the summer was creeping up (quickly) and I was determined to have good seasoned wood for this Winter.
Seasoned wood means dry wood and wood takes time to dry. The thicker a piece is the longer it takes to dry. So... We had to spend a couple of weeks splitting the wood into smaller more 'seasonable' chunks. Now... The smaller pieces of wood get a better chance to dry while the Summer is at it's hottest.
Oh yeah! We split the lot with old fashioned splitting mauls. Even worse with Summer coming up quickly I had to start early in the morning to get in a half-days work before the sun hit and the heat ended the work day. And I don't function well in the early morning.
And... No we don't have a hydraulic-splitter. And... Yes we can rent one. But when you break it down, splitting with a medium weight maul is not so hard. It's the constant bending down to set the rounds and then the constant bending down to toss the splits out of the way so you can bend down more to set more rounds. And the fancy log splitter doesn't remove this burden.
What does that mean. Well... As long as you can do the work. Splitting the firewood by hand is not a less efficient effort. It's good exercise and it's very rewarding when it's heating you up in the Winter. It also reduces my carbon footprint making us that much closer to...
Where Am I Going With All This...
In the last two weeks the weather here has gone from working in shorts and tee-shirts with an impossible rate of re-hydrating the sweat from a calm Summer day to heavy trousers, flannel shirts and hoodies. With the hood up. Yeah! Cold. My Summer is over. Now It's time for damage control.
We're cold. We have wood (fuel). So I cleaned the stove, the chimney, replaced the firebox bricks and brought in a couple of wheelbarrow loads of the wood we've been 'hopefully' seasoning. My expectations were not high given our history and since in the last two weeks it has rained four days out of seven. On the wood stack. I wasn't sure what to expect.
All of our neighbors were burning (I don't like to be the wimp on the block) so I guess it's our turn. The phrase 'A thing of beauty' can't even describe how satisfying it was. The recent rain had little effect on wood split and cured over the Summer and it burned. No... I mean it burned, not smoldered. And it throws heat. So much heat we have to throttle it down and still it's too much. If it was Summer we might use the Air-Conditioner it's so hot.
This is all fine and dandy but now in order to make the proper use of all this the wood has to be moved, once again, to final storage behind the main house where it will, finally, provide much comfort during the coming months.
Ugh! That sucked. But even though I'm feeling crippled now after moving an entire Winters worth of firewood in four days I'm satisfied knowing I will be using it only a day at a time making it smooth sailing from here. Even in the most unfavorable of weather it is not an unpleasant chore to fetch the daily firewood. And just as easy to stockpile in the basement for the lazy. Ahh!
Nope. We're not finished yet. There's still the estimation of how much wood we re-stacked. If you average out the big random (thrown) pile I'm figuring about 5 feet (tall) by 6 feet (wide) by 16 feet (long) and still random. That's 480 cubic feet A.K.A. 3.75 cords. Assuming that the random vs stacked ratio presents a twenty percent loss (which I think is generous) let's say this pile is three cords. In addition to the smaller stacked pile which I'm considering as being greater than a cord I'm going to claim there is at least four cord of firewood seasoned, stacked and ready to burn. And I'm sticking with that estimate.
And we still have about a quarter of the wood left over from what we acquired for this season. Yeah! It's a real rags to riches story so far. We'll see how it plays out.
Is There A Moral To This Story...
In the past two seasons We were forced, by circumstance, to use sub-standard firewood for our stove (heater). With less then expected results. I knew why all along. I understand exactly the relationship of moisture content (green) and how it reduces the energy released from the wood during the burning process. Basically... Energy equals heat and moisture consumes energy. What is surprising is the number of people I know here that don't understand that. They collect their firewood late in the season and get only adequate results. And don't know why. Geez! Really...
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