Fire Wood Heats Twice

I spent a good portion of the daylight hours yesterday stacking firewood.

The second load of dry cord-wood was delivered yesterday morning and I spent the day and part of this morning moving it into the garage and getting to stacked away. That brings our store of firewood back up to snuff, giving us enough to last through April and ensuring we won't need to burn any of our still expensive propane to keep the house warm.

Despite the chilly temperatures and gusty winds, the work moving the wood kept me plenty warm with no need to wear a jacket. What they say about firewood is true: It warms you twice (or thrice).

While heating with wood may seem like a throwback, I have always found it preferable to just cranking up the thermostat. It doesn't really feel like winter to me without heat pouring out from the woodstove. It also wouldn't be Christmas without the woodstove. (I remember more than one Christmas at my grandparent's home, with a fire in their Franklin stoves keeping their house warm.

While heating with wood requires more work, there are a number of upsides to it, the first being that it can be a lot less expensive to heat with than either oil or propane. For what it costs us to get four cords of wood we can heat The Manse for the entire winter plus, meaning from late October thru early April. The same amount of money would pay for only two months worth of heating oil or propane.

A second plus is that during the inevitable power outage during an ice storm or Nor'easter we still have heat. (Some folks are using wood pellet stoves to heat their homes, but they also require power in order to function. No power, no heat.)

The WP In-Laws heat their home with wood, it being built to maximize the heating effect of their stove. They also have an oil furnace as a 'back-up', but they rarely use it.

The Barrister over at Maggie's Farm had an excellent post about firewood, one that he's reposted from time to time. He covers the reasons for heating with wood, the pluses and the minuses, and those commenting have also added their experiences with it as well.

One of the minuses covered, and one I deal with once or twice a year, is the need to have the chimney swept to clean out the creosote. That is something we usually have done twice a year – once before the heating season and once during, usually mid to late January. Regardless of how dry the wood being burned is, it can still leave creosote built up on the sides of the chimney or stove pipe. If it isn't removed it can catch fire and you end up with a chimney fire, nothing you ever want to experience.

Another minus, sort of: ashes. One of the by-products of burning wood is wood ash, which has a powdery gray appearance. It is most often mixed in with unburned coals, something I am loath to dispose of as they will burn if given the chance. Some wood stoves have a built-in shaker grate that makes it easier to remove the ashes, usually doing a pretty decent job of separating the ashes from the coals. Unfortunately ours does not have such a contraption so I end up using a modified ash shovel, a standard model with some slots cut into it to allow the ashes to fall through while retaining the coals. The coals I put to one side and the ashes I remove with an unmodified shovel. While it does take a little extra time to clean out the wood stove, it reduces the number of unburned coals to almost zero and makes sure all of the wood is burned. As to the ashes themselves, they get dumped on to a large pile out behind The Manse and later used to fertilize some of the soil at the farm where BeezleBub works. (They use the ashes from the wood-fired boiler that is used to heat the greenhouses during the winter.)

One plus I almost overlooked is that heating with wood is generally carbon-neutral, something that is not in any way, shape, or form important to me but it is to others. The downside to that is that the EPA has decided that wood stoves must meet expensive emissions standards and have implemented their own versions of Cash for Clunkers, but without the cash, banning the resale of non-compliant wood stoves. Little do they realize is that it is a disincentive to trade up to a new woodstove because there is no trade-in/resale value to their old stove.

In any case, I'm glad we got our firewood squared away considering we have yet another arctic blast headed this way for the coming week. I have a feeling we'll be using more than our fair share of wood to keep things warm here in The Manse during that time.