The kids and I survived the big storm last weekend while Jeff was gone, without incident. We then had a storm that was mostly ice this weekend that took out our power for a few hours and the phone/internet for two days. We’re expecting another mild storm beginning Tuesday with sleet and snow. We just can’t catch a break with the weather and the whole Eastern Seaboard is in the same boat with some spots currently having 3 feet of snow. We still have not had an opportunity to clear the garden or re-do the chicken coop shavings thanks to this incredibly wet weather. Locally there have been rock slides and other such assorted nastiness from ground that is too wet. The river by our house is amazingly high but not flooding. Yet. This is the highest we’ve ever seen the river, and we still have more rain, sleet and snow coming this week.
This week we will use the last of the wood we had purchased to heat our home through the winter. This winter has been so difficult that many are saying they’re in the same situation. We’re having trouble finding anyone to deliver firewood since so many other people are also trying to purchase more. In a normal winter we’d go through approximately three-and-a-half full cords of wood (as opposed to a face cord) from September to April and this year we’ll likely go through about five cords by the time we can stop using the fireplace at night. The type of wood you purchase determines how long a cord will last you, as certain types burn longer and hotter than others. This chart tells you how much heat each type of wood puts out.
Considerations and Questions
Be sure you know the difference between a full cord (4’x4’x8′) and a face cord (4′ high x 8′ long x varying lengths of pieces) and the average price of different types of woods before you begin calling people who are advertising wood in the local paper or places like Craig’s List. Know the maximum length of the wood pieces your stove can accommodate- 18 inches is standard. Be sure to ask how long the wood has been seasoned– you don’t want wood that has been seasoned less than eight months to a year for the maximum heat output and minimal creosote production. Wood that isn’t seasoned can cause a fire risk due to creosote build-up in the chimney. Kiln drying can shorten the amount of seasoning time needed.
We prefer to avoid poplar as the bulk of the load because it produces more ash than other woods for less heat output. Ash output is a consideration to stretch the time between cleaning out the ashes to help us time our fires so we can clean out the box when it isn’t as cold of a day. Poplar is easier to light, so we do use some of it for starting a fire with fatlighter. Loads of mixed types of wood will be cheaper than all one type. Another thing to consider in the price is if they stack the wood on delivery and if they charge for delivery. Most delivery men just dump it in your driveway and will charge an additional fee to stack it for you. You can get a discount if you pick it up yourself but we have found that the price difference isn’t worth the hours of work, especially when you figure in the cost of the gasoline. Ask around to people you know about what the local prices are for different types of wood to have an idea of what is reasonable before agreeing on delivery.
We keep our house at 60 degrees with the thermostat and heat the living area with the wood heater. I desperately hate heat pumps for a variety of reasons (unless you live in Florida), but because we do not have the correct R value and installation of insulation in our walls we can not heat our house exclusively with wood. Our power bill runs about $65-100 a month during the winter (depending on how much I use the dryer) as I am extremely careful with our energy usage. During the month of December, we babysat my parent’s parrots and raised the thermostat to 65 degrees and kept the living room around 75 degrees using the fireplace. Our power bill went up about $130 for that colder than average month for the extra five degrees. Considering one cord of non-dense wood costs about $130 here, the use of firewood can be a significant cost savings if you are able to drop your thermostat while burning the wood.
During the December power outage, we were able to keep the living area 10-15 degrees warmer than the back of the house and over 20 degrees warmer than the basement thanks to to the wood heater by hanging a blanket in the hallway to trap the heat in the living room and using a three-blade ecofan my husband had purchased on clearance to push the rising heat into the room.
Finally, consider that depending of the type of wood heater you have, you might be able to heat water/leftovers or cook on top as an additional form of savings. You might be able to heat up a soup for lunch or if you have one that can accommodate a modified toaster box or a camp/stove top oven, even bake on top of your wood heater.
KerryAnn Foster runs Cooking Traditional Foods, the longest running Traditional Foods Menu Mailer on the internet. KerryAnn has over nine years of traditional foods experience and is a former Weston A. Price Foundation chapter leader. Founded in 2005, CTF helps you feed your family nourishing foods they will love. Each mailer contains one soup, five dinners, one breakfast, on dessert and extras. You can learn more about our Menu Mailers at the CTF website. For a free sample Menu Mailer, join our mailing list. You can also join our forum to chat with other traditional foodists and learn more.