Much of our heat at Winding Pathways comes from our two woodstoves. We love the cozy warmth given by our stoves but there’s more to it than just heat.
The wood we burn comes from trees that snatched carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the past 100 years. Photosynthesis transformed carbon and water into wood, so we’re not contributing to global warming as much as if we burned coal, oil, or natural gas. And we get our wood free, thus helping the family budget.
Wood heat isn’t completely without cost. Each year we hire a company to clean and inspect our chimney and stove. So, we lay out some cash but far less than for conventional fuel. Wood heat also requires sweat equity to cut, stack and move firewood. At this point, it’s worth it. An added benefit is the security we feel when gazing at our six cords of stored wood. When storms shut down utilities we’ll stay warm.
Summer is an ideal time to prepare for autumn’s crisp nights.
We have a professional chimney cleaner tend our chimney.In summer’s heat, we have our chimney cleaned. Chimney’s tend to accumulate build ups of a substance called creosote and soot. This build up can catch fire and ignite the entire house. Cleaning the chimney removes deposits and makes burning safer. We clean one chimney ourselves and hire a professional from Midtown Sweeps to clean a longer one that requires going up on our high roof. Chimney cleaning companies are located across the country and Midtown Sweeps has offices in many states. For information check them out. Don’t delay. As fall approaches cleaning companies get busy, so it’s best to have the chimney cleaned in the hot months of summer.
Burning the right type of wood properly yields the most heat and leads to minimal buildup of creosote. We get our wood free, and because we know how to find and choose firewood we keep cost and labor down. When choosing what wood to gather, cut, split, and burn it’s helpful to be able to identify the species of tree that the wood comes from. Every species yields a different amount of heat. Assuming the same level of seasoning, for example, a chunk of white oak yields about double the heat of a similar sized piece of basswood. By choosing high heat yielding wood labor and space needed to store wood is reduced. An outstanding way to learn relative heat value of most species of tree go to Chimney Sweep for a detailed chart. Many books and websites help with tree identification.
To burn wood safely and hot, it needs to be cured. When we cut wood from a live, recently felled tree we split and stack it in an airy place sheltered from the rain. Place the wood up off the ground to promote air flow and reduce decay. The smaller the pieces the faster water will evaporate out of the wood. We prefer to season big chunks for 18 months but when properly stacked and split into relatively thin pieces, six months is usually adequate.
Two Scrounging tips:
- Sometimes scrounged wood is already seasoned. If the bark is off the tree and if the tree was dead and standing when it was cut down it’s likely the wood is already seasoned for burning.
- The best time for finding free firewood is during summer’s hot days when no one else is competing for firewood. The worst time to find free wood, especially seasoned wood, is during winter when competition is intense.
Winding Pathways Sources of Free Firewood
Our firewood comes from these sources that are generally available to most Americans:
YARDS. Whenever we cut or trim a tree we cut up the wood and put it in storage. Few of our neighbors burn wood and are happy to give us theirs when a tree breaks or is felled. We are also urban wood scroungers and when we find a chunk that’s fallen off a truck we collect it and add it to our woodpile. It’s surprising how much wood is available by simply being observant. After storms, home owners often drag bucked up limbs to the street edge, where they are free for the taking.
WOOD DUMP: Our city, Cedar Rapids, dumps sections of trees it has removed from streets and parks in a place they call THE WOOD DUMP. Sign a liability release form and the City welcomes anyone to remove as much wood as they’d like. It saves our town the cost of disposal and puts the wood to good use. Other cities may have similar programs. Call the town clerk or access their website for information.
SCRAP HEAP: Several nearby companies pile broken pallets and crates near their parking lot and let people scrounge wood. Mostly these are made of pine or spruce. It’s great for kindling to start fires but not for sustaining a vigorous burn. However, we sometimes find pallets made of ash, elm, or even oak. Often these include 2″x 4″ chunks, which do provide outstanding heat. We cut up pallet wood using a circular saw with a carbide blade. Use safety equipment and be careful of nails.
Get going now. Have the chimney cleaned and inspected in summer and have a shed filled with seasoned firewood before the first frosty autumn night.
Winding Pathways has no relationship, other than as a customer or user, to companies or information sources noted in this blog.