Wood heat can be economical as well. A cord of ash or oak has about the equivalent heating value of a ton of hard coal, 130 gallons of fuel oil or 3500 kilowatt hours of electricity. You do the math. Ok, I’ll do some…if fuel oil is selling at $3.50 a gallon, I think I can pay $455 for a cord of dry hardwood such as ash or oak (130 x $3.50 = $455). Currently, you can buy wood by the cord for about half this price. If you have a chainsaw and pickup truck you’ll find wood readily for free. That big storm Sandy was a windfall for some of us… literally. These figures assume you are burning that wood in a reasonably efficient wood stove, not a fireplace.
Of course, tending a wood stove is different from turning a thermostat. Not to mention the need for a wood storage area, hauling ashes, the centralized nature of heat from a wood stove, hitchhiking bugs, cold mornings, etc, etc, etc. I admit it’s not for everyone. On the other hand, it’s hard to get a real romantic feeling from a radiator. At least it is for me.
There is an awful lot to learn if burning wood is a new venture for you. Safety is a major issue. Proper stove installation and venting is critical. Oh, I forgot to mention, the chimney for your new wood burner may cost more than the stove…..yea, I guess we’d better figure in the infrastructure costs of burning wood… not just the fuel itself. Somewhere in my files I have a humorous piece that pokes fun at all of the hidden costs of burning wood. Conclusion is that it can’t pay!
On the other hand, maybe you are lucky and have some of these elements in place, left behind or second hand. That helps a lot. In any event, be sure to make safety first. None of this is worth it if you burn down the house.
Cornell University has an excellent wood heat site. And Heating with Wood and Coal from Northeast Cooperative Extension is a very comprehensive publication on the subject.
Finally, as I poked around on the web I came across a fantastic blog on wood call GoWood. Where? At Penn State! Written by Chuck Ray, Associate Professor of Wood Operations Research at Penn State, this site looks at many aspects of wood uses. Makes sense. We are in Penn’s Woods, after all. Chuck is a prolific blogger and brings many interesting facts and insights to the subject of wood. Lots of cool video links. Old and new.
I stumbled on Chuck’s blog as I was poking around the internet, trying to figure out a way to speed up wood drying. Remember that windfall from Super Storm Sandy? Yep, I have a lot of wood that is not dry enough to burn and I want to accelerate the process. Chuck, too. We both ended up exploring holzhausens. Wood houses, in German. All I can say is… check it out. Above is a picture of my first attempt at making a holzhausen. It's only 6 feet in diameter and about 5 feet tall. Time will tell how well it dries wood. I don’t care anymore; it’s the best lawn ornament I have. Chuck’s blog has a link to the best video I found on holzhausen construction as well as some amazing work of wood art form around the world. Go Wood!