This article should be enjoyed by newbies and “seasoned” wood burners alike. Owning a wood fireplace, stove or insert can be a rewarding experience and heating your home with a renewable resource is both practical and beneficial. Regardless of whether you dwell in a bustling downtown metropolis or on the outskirts of anything remotely resembling civilization there a few tips and tricks we’d like to share that are sure to appeal to your lifestyle.
First of all, if your home still has an open masonry fireplace your hard-earned money is going up in smoke along with all the heat from that lovely crackling fire. Likewise, if you’re the self-sufficient-I-chop-my-own-wood reader out there all that back-breaking work isn’t getting you the reward you deserve. Don’t get me wrong, open fireplaces are gorgeous and reminiscent of a simpler time…a time when people thought Earth was the center of the universe, you needed a cart and oxen to go grocery shopping, and an eclipse meant the end of the world. In today’s homes they’re just drafty, smelly, and extremely inefficient. As you consider how you’re going to heat your home for the 2012-2013 season, put some serious thought and research into high-efficiency stoves and inserts. Either your pocketbook will thank you or you’ll know you didn’t sweat through those flannel shirts for nothing.
Now, on to the good stuff! Did you know it can take a whole year for wood to completely dry? Sounds crazy, right? Yet, it’s a crucial fact for you as a wood burner and for building the most efficient fire possible. The drier the wood the hotter the fire. Why is that important? Hotter fires lead to reduced smoke and creosote build-up…this is good for you and the air and land surrounding your home. It’s important to be a conscientious wood burner and care about the health of your environment.
Tangent: Have you heard that we’re coming out with some 2012 wood appliances that produce LESS THAN 1 GRAM/HOUR of emissions? Trust me…that’s unheard of emissions reductions, and we’re so excited to be paving the way for greener and more efficient ways for you to heat your home.
Back to our regular program: Wood should have a moisture content less than 20%. Hmmm, how can you tell how much water is in wood? Well, you could buy a moisture meter. These are readily available at hardware stores, most hearth retailers, and online. For the more experienced out there with a well honed ear you can also knock two pieces of wood together and listen for that nice empty hollow sound. Just find a technique that works best for you. The bottom line is that you don’t want to burn wet wood. Picture this…every five minutes you open the door to your fireplace and throw a glass of water on it. That’s the equivalent of burning wet or green wood. Boiling off all that water makes it impossible to produce any heat. It also creates a huge buildup of creosote…and it’s in your best interest to avoid that gentle but firm lesson your chimney sweep will give you on the importance of burning dry seasoned wood. Which reminds me! Be sure to have your chimney cleaned annually.
For all you DIYers out there, here’s a handy-dandy “How To Build A Wood Shed” article that’s right up your alley. Get started right away…it’s already March!!!
Once you’ve got that superbly dried wood all ready to load into your high-efficiency wood fireplace, stove or insert it’s time to build a fire! Stack your wood with kindling on the bottom and build up to larger logs. We prefer the “Jenga” method of stacking wood…criss-crossing pieces and leaving space between the firewood. Start with your damper and air control completely open and adjust them as the chimney heats up and your fire gets going. Always leave about an inch of ash in the bottom of the firebox after cleaning…this will help for your next cold startup.
Did I mention that whole “less than 1 gram/hour” emission thing? We also just designed the first ever electric-ignition for a wood stove…call your local Avalon dealer and ask them about GreenStart. And yes, you read that correctly; an electric-ignition for a wood stove. All you do is load the wood and push a button. I know, shameless advertising, but we completely geek-out on this stuff. It’s 2012 groundbreaking technology and we hope you’ll be as excited about it as we are!
Keep those fires burning!