How To Own a Wood Burning Stove and Why Burning Logs Makes Sense!
The long term price of energy continues to increase and companies are either going bust or shedding jobs.
So here is some good news, a simple solution to save money on energy. Start burning wood. Preferably in a modern wood burning stove.
We had a wood burning stove installed recently. It's a Morso Squirrel (manufactured in Denmark). Before that we had an open fire that was highly inefficient and messy.
We had a large stone fireplace with an open hearth with a log basket and, depending on the weather, the smoke and ash sometimes invaded our kitchen/dining room. Now the old stone fireplace is gone and the new stove sits inside the enlarged opening.
Advantages of Owning a Wood Burning Stove
Wood Burners have a number of advantages when compared to an open fire. The fire is enclosed so you can leave the stove without worrying about embers on the carpet.
They are much more efficient in terms of converting fuel to heat energy. An open fire is typically 20% efficient whereas a modern wood burner is 70-80% efficient.
You don't have to burn wood. The stove we bought is a multi-fuel. I burn wood because it is free. We have a wooded golf course behind our house and there is always plenty of timber lying on the ground ready to harvest. I drag what I need back to my garden.
How to Cut Wood for Fuel
Before you can burn wood you need a few accessories. With the hungry wood burning stove to feed, I originally purchased an electric, plug-in chain saw. More recently, I've bought a small battery model.
It's very light to carry and cuts much more efficiently than the mains original. The battery fully recharges in an hour and its ideal for cutting up big branches, where they are lying, rather than having to drag the whole branch home.
In order to make cutting logs as safe as possible I've also bought a metal sawhorse. This is very sturdy and supports large sections of branch for sawing at waist height. It also has a couple of chains that can optionally be used to secure the branch during cutting.
What Size Should the Logs be Cut?
Your stove should have a maximum recommended length and diameter of logs suitable for burning so make sure your logs will fit into the stove. My stove is quite small and the recommended maximum diameter is 4 inches (10 cm) and the maximum length 12" (30cm).
Tip: I recently found my log pile difficult to stack because I've been cutting my logs random lengths. It may sound a bit daft but I've got a log of the right length and have wrapped tape around it and i use it as a template. Now all my logs are the same length and so they stack together well!
But what do you do if the diameter of some logs exceeds the diameter recommended for your stove? Simple. You can split the logs, along the grain, into smaller sections.
The simplest solution is to use a splitting axe, sometimes known as a maul. Unlike a normal, cutting axe, this has a much broader cross-section behind the blade.
The principle is simple. If you hit the log with sufficient force, the blade penetrates the log and the wedge-shaped head splits the log along the blade edge. The disadvantage is you do need to be reasonably strong and fit to do this successfully.
Other options include the use of a simple wedge which you drive into the log with a sledgehammer. If you want something less labour intensive and are prepared to pay far more than around $20 for the splitting axe, then go for a log splitting machine.
The more basic ones are pneumatic and typically involve a foot pump which provides sufficient pressure to split the log. More sophisticated, industrial models typically have a motor or can be attached to tractors or diggers.
To get the best from your newly harvested timber you need to store it for at least six months in order to dry out fully and be properly seasoned. If you burn 'green' or damp wood then it burns less efficiently and produces more tar in the smoke. Signs of burning unseasoned wood include the inside of the glass door of the stove becoming darkened by tar and soot.
We have a large garage with doors at front and back which allows plenty of air past the wood pile. If you store it outside then it should be covered to keep the rain off.
24 Hour Operation?
It is possible to keep a stove operating continually during winter. You can close it down when you go to bed and then open up the air vents again and put fresh wood on first thing in the morning.
However, my stove supplier told me you need to add coal or other solid fuel to keep the heat going all night. Also this isn't recommended, for environmental reasons as the stove is not burning efficiently when left unattended and will therefore emit relatively harmful smoke.
Wood Burning Makes Sense!
With uncertainties over fossil fuel supplies, there has never been a better time to consider wood burning and the purchase of a wood burning stove. Even if you pay for your wood it is still far cheaper than conventional fuels such as natural gas, oil or electricity.
A wood burning stove is far more efficient than an open fire and burning wood is carbon neutral and therefore good for the environment.
But the most compelling reason to buy a wood stove is the joy of having a real fire coupled with the convenience and safety of having the fire safely enclosed.