Heat Your House For Free - With Wood!

The brutal winter of 2013 that most of the United States faced caused a deep gouge in the finances of most people just trying to stay warm. Whether your house is heated with oil, gas, or electric - heating bills can be significant! One way to save a lot of money while using a renewable resource is to consider heating your home with wood.

Wood heat has been the primary way human civilization sought respite from the cold until very recently. Nothing can compare to the warmth of wood. It is the very energy from the sun that is being released back to you. The most common and easiest way to heat your home with wood is to use a free standing wood stove or fireplace insert. If you have a fireplace, you can likely use the existing chimney by adding a chimney liner. If you do not have an existing chimney, you will need to find a place in your home where you can install a chimney. Modern stainless steel chimneys require little clearance and can save you the cost and intrusion of a masonry chimney. Check your local building codes however as some municipalities require masonry.

Wood stoves and inserts are either made of plate steel, cast iron, or soapstone. Each has their respective advantages but it will probably come down to preference over appearance and cost as each can perform well. New units can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000. Things to consider are where the unit will be and how big of a firebox is desired depending on the size of the space you are trying to heat.

Now for the free part. Please note that by free, I mean no financial cost for the fuel. There will be work and time involved! You can often acquire wood for free from a tree service looking to get rid of wood or a neighbor who had a tree cut down. I have had success calling around to landscapers and tree companies and letting friends know I heat with wood. When I hear the buzz of a chainsaw in the neighborhood I try to track it down and ask those cutting the tree what they plan to do with the wood. However, wood that is acquired for free almost always needs to be split and seasoned. Splitting wood is great exercise and all that is needed is a wood maul, sledge hammer, and splitting wedge. A chainsaw may also be required to cut wood to length to fit in your stove. Occasionally pieces may be very difficult to split by hand and a splitter may be needed. In these cases I put that wood aside and when I have enough I look to borrow a splitter or when it is a lot I justify the cost of renting a wood splitter. Wood splitters can be a good investment and ease the process of splitting but do not necessarily take away the physical effort. You will find yourself lifting heavy wood rounds onto the splitter or moving rounds to be under a splitter that can split vertically. New splitters can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500.

Freshly cut wood, unless from a tree that has been standing dead for some time, has a lot of water in it. In order for it to burn well it should be dried or seasoned. In order for this process to take place, it must be split and stacked. Wood that has a diameter of over 4 inches generally needs to be split in order to season properly. The length of time required for wood to season depends on the species of the wood, as some contain more moisture content than others. Also, where the wood is stacked to dry has an impact whether it is placed in direct sun or constant shade. Generally 9-12 months is adequate for most wood. Seasoned wood ignites quickly and can provide a nice sustainable warmth. Unseasoned wood can be hard to start and while it may burn, it often produces little heat.

Possessing a lot of split and seasoned wood is like having money in the bank as it keeps you from paying the utility company or oil man. Depending on your climate and amount of use, you may be okay with 1 cord (4’x4’x8’) of wood or you may need several cords. If you can make an initial investment and are willing to do some satisfying work, you can face the cold and feel the freedom to keep yourself and your family warm without worrying about your budget by burning with wood!

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