Wood is a great option for everyday heating as well emergency situations. It is one of the least expensive ways to heat your home and one of the safest storage fuels. A warm fire can create a welcome atmosphere in a home. There is nothing like standing by the hot wood stove when you come in from the cold.
A good quality wood burning stove is an expensive investment. We had to save up for several years to purchase ours. There is the initial cost of the stove along with the cost of installation. Proper installation is critical for safety. This is our personal favorite way to heat throughout the winter as well as during power outages. We use our furnace when it is not convenient to keep the fire going, but we absolutely love the heat produced by our Sweetheart Cookstove. It has a water reservoir on the side and is great to cook on. We will admit that there are more energy efficient models available. We sacrificed some efficiency in order to be able to cook and bake conveniently.
There are many beautiful styles and models available. Shop carefully and choose the one that works best for you. Not all wood burning stoves are designed to cook. The ability to have a cook surface is a definite plus. Shop around. Here are a few models to look at:
Amount to Store – There is not a magic number for the amount of wood you need to store. It all depends. Wood variety, stove efficiency, space to be heated, home insulation, personal comfort level, climate along with intensity and duration of cold season are all factors which enter into this equation. It can be anywhere from 2-10 cords of wood. We average about 2 cords while our neighbors use at least 4 cords. Once you have used your wood stove for a couple of seasons you will get a pretty good idea just how much you may need. Always estimate on the high side.
Wood is frequently measured by the cord (4 feet high, 4 feet wide, 8 feet long). The amount of wood can vary dramatically depending on the size and straightness of the pieces along with how they are stacked. Actual wood can be anywhere from 60-110 cubic feet. An average is 80 cubic square feet per cord.
Best Wood – All wood is not equal. Some varieties pop and smoke, some burn hotter or longer, and some just smell nicer when they burn. As a general rule, hardwoods (deciduous trees such as; oak, hickory, maple) produce more BTUs (heat content) than softer woods (conifers such as; pine, fir, cedar). The best fires are a mixture of softwoods and hardwoods.The softwood starts easily while the hardwood burns longer and produces nice coals.
Storage – It is best to store wood off of the ground on cement blocks, pallets or wooden planks. This reduces insect infestation, dirt and wicking moisture from the ground. It also improves air circulation. Store your supply in a convenient place. Storing it too far from the home makes it inconvenient during cold weather. Storing it too close inhibits air circulation, increases the mess, encourages insect problems and may present a fire hazard. Sheltering firewood decreases drying time and keeps it dry during wet weather.
Shelf Life – It is best to rotate firewood. Wood stored correctly will store indefinitely. However, after 4 years the energy output will begin to decrease. Develop a simple rotation system and use the oldest wood first.
Seasoning – Freshly cut trees may be 50-60 percent water. The moisture greatly reduces the available energy. Once the wood is allowed to dry for 6 months or so it will produce about twice the BTUs as freshly cut. Plan at least one season ahead. Better yet, store a couple years worth of wood.
Cautions– Burning wood causes creosote to form in stovepipes and exhaust systems. Creosote fires can be extremely dangerous and can lead to major house fires. Take precautions to reduce your risk of creosote fires. Inspect your stovepipe and stove exhaust system regularly. Cleaning your own pipes is easier than you might think. You will need the correct size chimney cleaning brush and a chimney brush extension rod for the job.
Burning wood produces carbon monoxide which is deadly. When burning wood indoors it is important to use a well-maintained fireplace or stove which has been specifically designed for this purpose. Always keep a working carbon monoxide detector in the area.
Heat Powered Stove Fan can make your wood stove more efficient. These fans are set on top of the stove and are powered by the heat produced by the stove. Heat powered stove fans provide air movement which increases efficiency.