Firewood is an excellent fuel for heating your home, be it your main source of heat, or a supplement to oil, electric, or gas. Not only is it extremely cost-effective, it is also a renewable energy source. While other fuel sources deplete natural resources over time, selective cutting a forest is actually the best way to improve the health of a tree stand. By doing so, you encourage new growth to the forest’s understory. That, in turn, invites new flora and fauna (plants and wildlife, respectively) to the environment, making it a more balanced, healthy habitat.
The newer wood stoves on the market today burn very efficiently, producing less emissions than ever before. This makes wood one of the most environmentally-friendly heating fuels around. And, while the large amounts of ash produced in a wood stove have sometimes been cited as a drawback, wood ash is actually very useful. Spreading wood ash in your garden has actually been shown to increase plant growth and harvest by approximately 45%, in certain plants, according to Clemson University Extension.
The easiest way to get firewood is to purchase it by the cord, cut, split, seasoned, and delivered, but if a wood stove is your primary source of heat, it will cost as much as oil to do so. The retail cost of a cord of wood runs anywhere from $180.00 to $275.00, depending on your location and time of year. Another problem with purchasing by the cord is that many companies don’t give you a true cord of wood. A legal cord of firewood measures 4x4x8 stacked, totaling 128 cubic feet. Keep that in mind while shopping around if purchasing wood is your only option.
Scrounging for firewood on your own land, and that of friends and family, is a great, inexpensive way to fill your wood shed. One can also scour their local papers and classified listings for free firewood, or at least discounted wood. To acquire your wood in this manner, however, you will need some special equipment to do so. You will surely want a pickup truck, or at least a trailer that can be hitched to your vehicle. The purchase of a new chainsaw and wood splitter should also be on your shopping list. Just remember, purchasing good equipment can be a costly investment up front, but it will save you a lot of money down the road.
When purchasing equipment, such as chainsaws and wood splitters, make sure you read every piece of literature that comes with them. Chainsaws, in particular, are very dangerous pieces of equipment when not used properly. You can also find videos on the internet for safe operation and maintenance of your new purchases. Safety and maintenance can never, ever be stressed enough when talking about heavy duty tools and equipment.
Another way of getting your firewood at an inexpensive price is to buy it by the “tree length.” It can be delivered right to your property via a crane truck. It is usually sold this way green, or unseasoned. This means you will need to purchase it at least eight months in advance of when you want to burn it. This generally costs in the neighborhood of $80 to $100 per cord, or about half the cost of retail. This is a very cost effective way to heat your home. Most companies will deliver wood in sizes ranging anywhere from 14” to as big as 30” in diameter. If you ask when purchasing your wood, most will deliver as small as you wish, as best they can.
When burning firewood in your woodstove, or even in a fireplace, you must remember to burn only seasoned “hardwood.” Trees such as oak, maple, ash and poplar are all examples of hardwood. It is not recommended to burn “softwood,” such as pine, spruce, and fir. Softwood does not burn as hot as hardwood, meaning you will use much more softwood to get the desired heat you want. Softwood also leaves behind more soot and creosote, which builds up in your smoke stack, creating a greater chance for a chimney fire. This is also the reason you want your wood to be seasoned. It burns hotter and leaves less soot and creosote.
Remember, safety is always your top priority when getting started in wood burning to heat your home. Ask questions when purchasing your new stove and/or equipment, and research the products heavily when deciding which brands to buy. There are also companies that teach classes on firewood safety.
Burning firewood for heat is a great way to be more independent from the utility companies. What could be more comforting than sitting in front of a wood stove on a cold winter night with a good book (such as the Farmers Almanac), and a cup of your favorite hot beverage?