Using the latest technologies to stay warm safely, cleanly and efficiently.
Wood Heat is a comprehensive and practical homeowner's guide to using wood as a reliable source of heat with the latest wood stoves and traditional fireplaces. The book explores the efficiency of wood compared to other fuels, the environmental impacts of various fuel types as well as sustainability issues that have led to so many adopting a wood-burning lifestyle.
Heating with wood does more than keep a house warm. Though it can be a hands-on expression of self-reliance, it does bring us closer to the land by using fuel that is renewable and sustainably harvested, and renews our wonder in the cycle of the seasons. And the biggest benefit is that wood heat saves money in the long run.
There are four ways that wood can be used to heat a home or cottage: wood stoves (the most popular), fireplace inserts, pellet stoves and masonry heaters. Wood Heat explains the pros and cons of each.
The book provides all of the information and advice needed to convert to a wood-heated life. How-to topics include step by step directions. They include:
Currently, over 10 million U.S. households use wood as their main heating fuel or to supplement other forms of heating. Unstable, increasing fuel costs and the desire of many people to move toward self-sufficiency will only increase the numbers of those choosing to burn wood for heat. Wood Heat is the ideal guide for all.
As an editor for St. Remy Press and Reader's Digest, Andrew Jones has worked on a wide variety of books, from Time-Life's Art of Woodworking series to several editions of The Top 10 of Everything, The Complete Road Atlas of Canada and True North Strange and Free. He lives in Oakville, Ontario.
In this day and age, is it reasonable to heat with wood when more efficient sources of energy exist? Is wood really cheaper? Is the wood-burning lifestyle for you? This book seeks to answer these questions. It explores everything from how to source, choose and purchase wood and how to season, split, stack and store it to how to build and tend fires. It explains the differences between wood-burning appliances, and it provides advice on how to heat your residence safely, whether you are warming your living room or your entire home.
Those who've had the experience would agree that there are few things more comforting in life than basking in the warmth of a crackling wood fire as the day draws to a close. Yet it's also true that heating with wood provides benefits which extend well beyond basic comfort and warmth: Wood is a sustainable fuel that can be harvested ethically and burned cleanly, and doing so can result in a great sense of personal satisfaction and well-being.
But if wood is a relatively inexpensive, renewable source of energy with such tremendous potential, why don't more people heat with it? Why isn't it part of energy policy discussions by local, regional and national governments? Why is heating with wood still largely seen as a quaint backwoods pursuit?
The answer to the first question is practical. Home heating with wood on an urban scale is unrealistic, for reasons that start with basic distribution and space. Unlike other renewable sources of energy that come straight to your house, such as electricity and natural gas, firewood requires a lot of dedicated space if you are to use it to warm a single-family dwelling through a frigid northeastern winter.
Another drawback to heating with wood is air pollution. Wood that is not burned properly creates noxious smoke, and as a result, it is strictly regulated in many municipalities throughout Canada and the United States. Older stoves and fireplaces that don't burn wood as cleanly and efficiently as newer appliances can exacerbate this problem, creating more smoke. Burning wood is thus often seen as a nuisance rather than a beneficial resource.
Yet when all things are considered, the advantages of heating with wood in some settings can handily outweigh the disadvantages, as we'll learn. Wood is a sustainable resource that requires little processing, one that limits your furnace use and offers self-sufficiency when the power goes out. Sourcing and buying wood locally also keeps your energy dollars within the community and contributes to responsible resource management.
Make no mistake--there is a considerable financial, physical and lifestyle investment in deciding to heat a home with wood. This book is not for everyone. While many will appreciate the warm feeling heating with wood evokes, fewer will take the steps required to make it a reality. But those who do will be rewarded handsomely.
A Short History of Wood Burning
Humans have burned wood to keep warm for millennia. What many of us don't realize, however, is that the use of wood as our primary home-heating fuel was displaced only relatively recently. Indeed, residential wood burning was the main source of domestic heat throughout Canada and the United States until about 150 years ago, and for much of rural North America, wood was virtually the only practical heating-fuel option until after the Second World War.
After 1945, the use of firewood for home heating dropped rapidly. Many associated wood heating with rural poverty and hardship and embraced the widespread, convenient and inexpensive energy sources of the future. During the 1950s and 1960s, the practice of wood burning was largely relegated to decorative fireplaces installed in new single-family homes that were heated with oil, natural gas and electricity. During these pivotal decades, wood became a fuel of the past. Eventually, it came to be viewed mostly as a fuel for recreational use.
It took the energy crisis of the 1970s to rekindle interest in wood heating in North America. The triple threat of skyrocketing oil prices, high interest rates and the recession of the early 1980s put the squeeze on household budgets. For many families, switching to wood became the simplest way to stop the financial bleeding caused by soaring monthly home-heating bills. Suddenly, the fusty old woodstove became a symbol of Canadian and American resourcefulness, ingenuity and self-sufficiency.
The resurgence of the woodstove, however, created an entirely new set of problems. Until U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations came into effect in the late 1980s (followed by Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards in 2000), wood-burning technology had been fairly crude. Most wood-burning appliances were little more than steel or cast-iron boxes in which to build a fire. Old cast-iron stoves and furnaces burned inefficiently, sending acrid smoke through long, leaky flue pipes to crumbling, unlined masonry chimneys. Gaskets on loading doors were rare. An entire continent rushed back to wood heating after decades of inattention and decline, and a generation of people with no collective memory of the dangers of house fires led to thousands of new wood-burning converts losing their homes. Wood heating suddenly became one of the leading causes of residential structural fires, and many people to this day retain the notion that wood heating is inherently hazardous.
Throughout the 1980s, a concerted effort by all levels of government, the insurance industry and the wood-heating industry resulted in the development of safety standards and professional training programs. By the middle of the decade, the price of oil and other energy commodities had settled back to manageable levels, and the economy had recovered. Gradually, wood heating once again lost its glow, and the new and improved gas fireplace swiftly supplanted the woodstove. Even with the stock market crash of 1987, convenience trumped energy self-reliance for many.
Then came 1998. In January, a crippling ice storm shut down much of eastern Canada and the northeastern United States for weeks, and once again, the lowly woodstove and the wood-burning furnace saved the day for those lucky enough to own one. The following autumn, woodstove dealers could not keep up with demand by new customers, who didn't want to risk another winter without a solid home-heating backup plan.
That same year, geologists Colin Campbell and Jean LaherrĂ¨re published an article in Scientific American titled "The End of Cheap Oil." In it, they broached the notion of "peak oil" for the first time. The pair accurately foretold that the global peak of oil production was near. Once that peak was reached, the price of oil would begin to rise steadily and never fall again. Wood burning began to enjoy its second renaissance.
The good news is that by the turn of the 20th century, heating with wood had evolved dramatically. It is now safer, more efficient and less taxing. Where burning with wood once meant backbreaking work, crude stoves and dangerous chimneys, now portable chainsaws cut the work in half, the efficiency of the average woodstove has roughly doubled, to around 70 percent, chimney technology and safety have vastly improved, and rigorous building codes and recognized standards have been established for virtually every type of wood-burning appliance.
Wood-heating retailers, contractors, chimney sweeps and municipal and insurance inspectors now benefit from national training and certification programs. Trained professionals can rely on clear and comprehensive safety rules. Public information, much of it produced by both governments and industry groups, is putting to rest old fears about the dangers of wood burning.
As recently as the mid-1980s, wood burning was relegated to a basement wood furnace or a stout cast-iron woodstove. Today, heating with wood has become retro chic as many North Americans try to recapture memories of their childhood as they refit cottages or build rural getaways. Woodstoves, by far the most popular type of wood-burning appliance, are no longer stodgy black boxes but are available in appealing enamel colors and both traditional and modern designs. Pellet stoves can provide 24 hours of heating in a single charge. Safe fireplace inserts allow wood to be burned cleaner at higher efficiencies. Breakthroughs in glass composition have resulted in the manufacture of doors that allow efficient heating without hiding the beauty of the flames.
By fusing innovation with tradition, wood burning is at last in a position to offer the best of the past and the future.
Chapter One: Who Burns Wood? Environmental Impact Sustainability Switching to Wood: Comparing Annual Heating Costs The Relative Efficiency of Wood Burning The Value and Satisfaction of Heating with Wood
Chapter Two: Wood Buying Wood Which Wood is Best? Just How Much Is a Cord, Anyway? Seasoning Wood Splitting Wood Freeing a Stuck Axe Splitting Wood Stacking and Storing Wood
Chapter Three: Appliances Choosing a Wood-Heating Strategy Space Heaters Certified Wood-Burning Appliances Cats & Non-Cats: Two Different Breeds of Stove Fireplaces Central-Heating Systems Burn it Smart, Burn it Right
Chapter Four: The Chimney Choosing a Chimney Type Assessing an Existing Chimney for Wood-Burning Safety Six Simple Rules for a Safe Chimney Planning a New Chimney Installation? Pushing the Envelope: Hot Not to Locate a New Chimney in a House Creosote: The Black Plague of Chimneys To Cap or Not to Cap?
Chapter Five: Installing a Wood-Burning Appliance Installing a Wood-Burning Stove Installing Other Wood-Burning Appliances Cleaning and Maintenance Installation Safety Safety Checklist
Chapter Six: Fire What Happens When Wood Burns? Bottom Up or Top Down Flash Fires and Extended Fires Tending and Maintaining Your Fire Cooking on a Wood-Burning Cookstove Charcoal and Ashes Hearth Accessories
Chapter Seven: Product Guide Wood-Burning Stoves Pellet Stoves Cookstoves Fireplace Inserts Masonry Heaters Wood-Burning Furnaces Outdoor Boilers
Appendix: Tree Identification Guide Photo Credits Resources Index