The trials of a wood burner.....
A few years ago now my family and I moved into an old cottage with "central heating" provided by old, inefficient storage heaters. The first winter we lived with it but the cost of the electricity required and the difficulty in controlling the heat made us want to look for an alternative for the next winter. We had few choices, living "off-gas" the usual options were:
- New Storage Heaters
None of these were suitable for us because of the expense of the fuel and/or the lack of space to store it (a large oil or LPG tank was not an option). Therefore the natural choice was a solid fuel heating system. Installing this had its difficulties too, not least figuring out where to put a flue as we had no fire place!
In the end we chose a multi-fuel stove and thermal store combination fed by gravity with a standard wet central heating system. The system has worked excellently and overall we have been very happy with it. The main issue was fuel.
We wanted to be as "green" as possible so decided to take delivery of logs from local suppliers. The idea was that we would burn these and have a renewable system, in reality this wasn't possible and we had to burn coal with the logs to provide enough heat. I had no idea about moisture content of wood at the time and just assumed this was normal.
After attending a wood fuel course I learnt that the moisture content of the wood fuel was key to how it burnt. It's quite obvious when you think about it - freshly felled wood can have a moisture content of 65-90%! When wet wood is burnt most of the energy goes into removing the water and not giving heat, it also causes lots of soot and can damage your chimney. If you have the space and time wood can be successfully "seasoned" and the moisture content brought down to an acceptable level for burning but this can take 2 years. As we didn't have space for this it was not an option open to us.
What were our options?? In the end it was a simple choice - burn wood fuel with a low moisture content so that the coal could be cut out of our system. We chose two fuel options - kiln dried logs and briquettes.
This choice has made a massive difference to our system, the benefits include:
- It is easier to light (it can be done with just one fire lighter if burning briquettes)
- We don't have storage issues, it can be bought by the bag or in small numbers when needed
- It is easily controllable
- It gives a uniform, predictable amount of heat
- We have removed our reliance on fossil fuels for our heating