How will you heat your house when the power goes out? Do you have access to cheap or free firewood? Have you thought about installing a wood stove and you don’t have a lot of money?
First of all, what does it take to heat with wood? Well, to start you need a good certified wood stove. Why certified? Because they use less than half the wood used by the previous generation of wood stoves, they do not remove clouds of unburned soot while smoldering, and they also have clearances close to fuels, some up to 4 ″. Practically all have a ceramic window that looks like glass but impervious to heat, through which you can enjoy the fire and keep up with the need to adjust the wood or feed more. I do not recommend buying a stove with a catalytic combustor as they are more expensive and have decreasing efficiency. The efficiency of a stove without combustor never changes and the newest standards have been met without combustors since 1992, when current EPA standards were established. The fire chamber in certified stoves is designed to burn wood efficiently without smoldering, even when completely extinguished. This gives each piece of wood more heat as it depletes the cleaner and gets hotter, thus almost completely removing creosote buildup in the flue. By the way, never plug a 6 ″ exhaust certified range into an 8 ″ pipe. Due to engineered combustion, all certified stoves are designed for a 6 “chimney, which has a stronger draft than an 8” one. Be sure to use the listed range piping and respect piping and range clearances for safe installation. Your insurance company may deny a claim caused by a stove that is improperly installed or does not meet all clearances. Also, I recommend a wind directional swivel cap on all wood stove installations. They are the solution to the drafts caused by a strong wind that comes down the chimney and fills the house with smoke.
Once installed, a wood stove can provide you with a lifetime of trouble free service. So why aren’t more people heating with wood? Probably because it is not convenient, it is somewhat messy, it takes up space, etc. While this is true, I would like to say how comforting it is to have my three ropes of firewood winterized, knowing that if a storm or blizzard happens or the power goes out (sometimes for days), my family and I will be warm and we will be able to cook our food on our reliable stove. Our children remember those moments as special, all of us in the same room, not far from the stove, while outside the snow piles up and the wind blows.
If you can’t afford a new wood stove, keep your eyes peeled on Craigslist or eBay for a good deal on a used stove. Last week I called a newer Lopi for $ 400 but someone offered them $ 450 and they took it. That was an $ 1800 stove when it was sold new 4 years ago and hardly used. I am always looking for used stoves for friends and sometimes hand one over for profit. If you buy a used stove manufactured after July 1, 1992, it will meet the new Phase II standards. Washington is the only state that has its own standards, which are now 4.5 grams per hour (gph) of particulate matter. Most new and some used stoves will meet this standard. Check “EPA Certified Stoves” online if you find a used stove you are considering.
It is true that firewood takes up a lot of space. There’s no way to avoid it. If you live in the city, you may have to get creative to create the space. Perhaps the wood can be stored under the second floor deck, against a garage wall, or even in the basement. If you live in the country, a shed roof can be attached to a barn to make a stylish wooden shed. In my house, I installed metal roofing under a top deck and left a whole cordon of oak just outside the door. In the cold of winter I don’t have to go far to find more firewood. The other two cables are kept under a ledge on the far side of the barn and pulled up with a wheelbarrow when necessary. By the way, I have never burned 3 whole cables. That’s my extra margin of safety!
Inside the house, I keep a week’s worth of firewood near the stove in purpose-built brick containers. The raised hearth is 3 1/2 ″ thick concrete and is filled with rebar, allowing me to split firewood directly at the hearth. Under the fireplace there is a large wood drawer where I also keep paper. Implements hang from nearby hooks. I use a charcoal pod to remove the ashes and to carry more firewood.
Lighting the fire in the morning is a special ritual for me. After heating with wood for more than 25 years, one thing I have clear is to light a fire. I always start by using at least two pieces of wood, one of them large and the other smaller and facing each other. I split the firewood into chips for the initial start-up and add larger pieces until ignition is achieved. The smallest logs start first and the largest one ignites shortly after. My favorite wood to burn is oak. It burns longer and smells better than anything else in these parts. My favorite wood stove is Brass Flame. They’re certified, of course, they’re built like a Sherman tank, they have a double air vent to get a fire started quickly, they look good, and they burn efficiently. I have found used ones for various friends and family. I have a bit of prejudice in this department; my brother developed Brass Flame and it was the first stove to pass emission standards without a catalytic combustion chamber. All certified stoves on the market now copy their combustion process, the big secret is a lot of secondary and tertiary air. He made 10,000 of them before selling them to Earth Stove, who made them for a few years and then sold them to a larger company, which dropped the line. They come in 2 models, the 805 (smaller) and the 1005. If you can find one, you won’t be disappointed! Expect to pay between $ 150 and $ 500.
When heating with wood, it is a good idea to keep a pot of water on the stove to replace the moisture removed by the dry heat. An old cast iron kettle serves this purpose. Another very useful addition is a ceiling fan, placed near the stove and used to draw heat away from the stove. Without a fan, the heat takes much longer to fill the house. Since heat seeks cold, it eventually heats up the place, but in the dead of winter, who wants to wait? This little addition makes a big difference!
One more thing that makes a big difference in helping to heat your home more efficiently is bringing outside air directly to the stove. This is necessary in mobile homes and all new homes, but it is a good idea in any home. If you have a crawl space under your house, a 3 ″ -4 ″ pipe in the crawl space is suitable for this purpose. In my case, I put a 4 ″ pipe in the open air before pouring the slab. Pedestal stoves are designed for outside air, but leg stoves will need to accommodate. Special outside air adapters can be ordered or manufactured for any range.
To clean ceramic glass in the morning when the stove is cold, I simply wet a piece of newspaper with water and emulsify the creosote, scraping it off with a razor. Even the best stoves pile up on the window.
I hope these tips are helpful to you. I can’t help but share the ultimate satisfaction I feel from heating with wood. This is how our ancestors heated and cooked their food until the last century and many in the world still do. To me, it seems like the way God intended it to be!