Minnesota Farmer

Burning questions

“Every man looks at his wood pile with a kind of affection.” Henry David Thoreau

I’ve been heating with wood now for over 30 years.  Every fall I look at the wood pile and hope it is enough to get me though the winter.  This year there is no doubt.  I’ve got enough wood to get through this winter and into the next.

When I first moved to this house we had a cast iron stove sitting in the living room, and a sheet metal stove in the basement.  Although I had a gas furnace, I planned on it only running when I was not home.  Through the years the basement stove has been replaced with a corn stove, and the living room wood stove with a gas one, but I still heat with wood.

Three years ago I bought a Central Boiler wood furnace.  This wood burner sits outside so it keeps all the mess of wood burning outside.  The Central Boiler heats water and then pumps the heated water into the house.  This hot water first goes to the water heater where it leaves some nice hot water for us, then it goes to a radiator in the furnace plenum.  When the furnace fan kicks in we get hot air right away, no waiting for the furnace fire to kick in.  Before the hot water goes back to the boiler it makes a trip to my shop where it helps keep that building warm.

Over the years I’ve learned a few things that may help you with your burning questions as you contemplate heating with wood.

  • A fireplace is nice, but to get the most heat you need an enclosed stove.
  • Burn dry wood, it is less of a fire hazard for your chimney.
  • Clean your chimney.  No matter how hard you try you cannot avoid a chimney fire, cleaning it properly keeps chimney fires from happening so often.
  • Burn your fire hot, then let it go out.  A slow smokey fire adds creosote to your chimney, a hot fast fire helps keep that chimney clean.
  • Air dry your wood for at least 6 months before burning, longer if possible.
  • Wood stored inside molds, wood stored outside dries even in rainy weather.  Having a roof over your wood is nice, but walls are bad for drying wood.
  • Keep you wood off of the ground.  I like to store my wood on old pallets.  This allows air to get under the wood.  It also discourages rot where wood touches earth.
  • Rotate your wood pile.  Burn the oldest wood first.  It helps keep insect populations at bay, and keeps rodent nests cleaned out.
  • All woods do not produce the same amount of heat.  Ash, oak, hard maple, beech, birch, hickory, pecan and dogwood produce the most heat.
  • Some woods are not good for your chimney.  Pine and fir cause more creosote build up and chimney fries than other woods.
  • Some fires smell better.  There is nothing like the smell of a hickory or apple fire, most fruit and nut woods smell nice when burned outside in your fire pit.
  • Some wood stinks when burned.  A cottonwood fire is truly vile.
  • If you cut wood, you need to plant trees.

Wood heats a man twice.  Once when he cuts it and again when it is burned.  Enjoy your wood fires.




2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

We may upgrade to a central boiler wood furnace next year. They are quite expensive, but I hear it is much better heat distribution and will heat your water as well! I also hear you can load it up in the morning with logs and it will burn all day.

Comment by createityourself

Yes, a central boiler is not cheap, but the benefits have been worth it.
I don’t load my stove with heavy wood loads anymore, I’ve learned how much it will take to keep the place warm. Trusting to the electronic damper control will cause a smoky fire, and more creosote, not a clean fire.

Comment by Michael

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: