Heating with Wood

Burning wood has always been a heat source for some people, but with wider knowledge of environmental issues surrounding the burning of fossil fuels and a desire for energy independence, burning wood is gaining popularity. Wood is a renewable natural resource and is less costly than fossil fuels if you cut it yourself. If properly air-dried and burned in an efficient, modern wood burning stove, the heat from a cord of native hardwood is nearly equal to that of burning 130 gallons of No. 2 fuel oil.

There are two types of wood burning stoves: catalytic combustor and noncatalytic.​

Catalytic Combustor Stoves (cats)

  • Catalytic Combustor Stoves burn wood with a slower, longer, and more controlled combustion temperature of 600 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cats should havea main body thickness of a minimum of 1/4-inch plate steel or cast iron. Its bypass plate should be at least 5/16-inch thick and grip a piece of thin paper tightly when closed.
  • Cats need little upkeep; any ash that collects on the combustor may be cleaned gently with a soft brush.
  • Some signs of needed combustor replacement are creosote build-up, excessive chimneysmoke, and a general sluggish stove operation.

Noncatalytic Combustor Stoves ("noncats")

  • Noncats burn wood within a heavily insulated firebox that ensures a more thorough combustion.
  • Noncatalytic stoves do not require the level of care as catalytic stoves.
  • Noncats should be constructed with a minimum of 1/4-inch cast iron or plate steel. The baffles, located in the interior roof, should be a minimum of 5/16-inch plate steel and have v-shaped support beams.

Helpful Tips

  • When choosing a wood stove, it is important to know your specific heating space needs. It is crucial to place the wood stove with safe clearances. Each model will have its own precise requirements, as well as instructions regarding installation. As a wise safety precaution, have your stove installed professionally.
  • Purchasing thevery best stove you can afford is economical over the long haul, higher efficiency levels will help to pay back your initial investment.
  • Be aware of thefuel limitations of your stove. Most wood stoves are meant to burn wood only.
  • Avoid burning green (unseasoned) wood which may contain up to 50% of its weight in moisture and needs to be burned off before the heat can reach your house.
  • Build small, hot fires for maximum burning of volatile gases and for fewer air quality and safety problems.
  • Keep the stove's air-intake vents clear by removing excess ashes.
  • Observe the amount of smoke coming from your chimney. The less smoke, the cleaner the burning process.
  • Wood stoves and chimneys should be inspected at least once each year by a stove dealer or chimney sweep.

Selecting and Purchasing Wood

  • Wood is generally characterized as "soft" or "hard" with the denser(hard) woods giving off more heat when burned.
  • Softer woods canbe used as kindling or for heating on warm days.
  • Most wood dealers do not separate wood by grade or species.
  • Knowing the general characteristics of the various species will allow you to determine the general value of the load.
  • Hard or high density woods: Live, White, and Red oak, Black locust, Dogwood, Apple, Honey locust, Black and Yellow birch, Rock elm, Sugar maple, American beech, White and Oregon ash, Yew, and Black walnut.
  • Mediumdensity woods: Holly, Tamarack, Western larch, Juniper, Red maple, Cherry, American elm, Black gum, Sycamore, Gray birch, Sassafras, Magnolia, Red cedar, Bald cypress, Chestnut, and several pines--Pond, Nut, Loblolly, Shortleaf, Pitch, and Norway.
  • Softer low density woods: Butternut, Cottonwood, Black willow,Hemlock, Redwood, Tulip and Balsam poplars, Black, White, and Sitkaspruce, Red, Noble, and Balsam fir, and Ponderosa, Sugar and White pine.

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