Burning Firewood

When winter approaches and fuel costs remain high, people turn their attention to alternative fuels. One of our oldest and most reliable sources of heat is firewood.  Any homeowner that has a wood-burning stove or furnace is ready to offset the high cost of fossil fuels.

How much can you save on fuel costs? Heat is commonly measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). One BTU is equivalent to the amount of heat that it takes to heat one pound of water (1 gallon equals 8.34 pounds) by one degree fahrenheit. A cord of mixed hardwood, when burned, produces approximately 19 million BTUs of heat. It takes 135-140 gallons of #2 fuel oil to equal that amount of heat. A cord of firewood in this area costs approximately $250.00 and #2 fuel oil fluctuates and has often been over $4.00 per gallon during the past few years. Ask yourself how much fossil fuel you used last year. Now do the math. It won't take long for a wood burning stove to pay for itself will it? Below is a fuel comparison chart that Popular Mechanics published a couple of years ago:

Fuel comparison chart

Please, use reputable professionals for the installation and maintenance of your wood burning appliance. They are aware of national and local fire-codes. Remember that if you use a wood stove all season to have a chimney sweep clean your chimney once at the beginning of the season and at least once during the heating season.

If you don't have your own source of firewood you will have to buy it. Here are some tips: Firewood is measured in cords, one cord is four feet wide, eight feet long and four feet tall when stacked neatly. A stacked cord is the basis of comparison shopping. If you don't have the time or means, you will probably have your wood delivered. If however, you do have the time and means some firewood dealers will let you pick up your wood from them and pass a savings on to you. Start with local dealers. Remember that the farther they have to bring your wood, the more it costs them in both time and fuel. Because of invasive insects--such as the emerald ash borer-- there may be legal restrictions on transporting firewood over state or county lines. It's a good idea to buy your firewood locally. Before you buy, ask the dealer how they load their truck. Do they stack the wood in the truck or do they load it with a machine? The difference can be significant. If the wood is stacked on the truck, then it's very easy to determine whether or not you will get a full cord.  Remember, a cord is a measure of stacked wood--not a cubic measure of a truck bed. Some dealers will quote a price for dumping wood in your driveway. This can save you some money if you are willing to move and stack the wood yourself. Other dealers will quote a price for unloading and stacking the wood a reasonable distance from their truck. A reasonable distance may be about 75 feet or less and does not include stairways. Realistically, a reasonable distance may be the distance from your driveway to the back of your house. If you want it moved up a stairway and onto a deck or very far from where the dealer may park their truck, be prepared to pay extra.

This winter the savings from using a wood-burning heat source will probably be significant. Even if you have to buy your wood and have it delivered, a smart shopper can realize a savings. Remember to shop local first.

A few other things you need to know about safely burning firewood---