How much firewood should you store?

Good Size Log Store

Good Size Log Store

Huge numbers of people are putting in Wood Burning Stoves, Boilers and Ranges at the moment. They’re doing this for a number of reasons: to beat rising gas and electricity prices, to reduce their carbon footprint,  or to improve the resilience of their heating system in the face of peak-oil based supply issues.  The first challenge appears to be actually getting hold of a stove – apparently Dunsley have a 6-month backlog on orders for some of their stoves, And Stovax reported a 50% increas in orders in the last quarter of 2008. Once you have your stove though, how resilient is it likely to be? Unless you have your own woodland you are dependant on a supplier – so will there be enough wood for everyone who is currently putting in a stove or range?

The Guardian recently discussed the problems there are with firewood supply, and there are some of the facts:

  • Current UK consumption is about 1,180,000 tonnes a year.  Only 1m of those are produced in the UK, so we’re currently importing 15% of our firewood needs.
  • However, if you’re not fussy about what you burn, then there are 2.5m tonnes of burnable wood going to landfill every year – so if you see a skip full of random timber or broken pallets take it home and burn it – you’ll be helping the UK become firewood-independant.
  • Demand is increasing at around 25-30% a year, and resulting shortages resulted in price increases of up to 30% at the end of 2008.
  • The increase in demand is particularly resulting in an increasing supply of green, un-seasoned logs that will need to be stored for at least a year before being burnt.
  • There are wide price variations across the UK firewood is most expensive in the North and West, and cheapest in the South East.
  • The Government is working to bring another 2m tonnes of firewood to market by 2020. They say this will be enough to heat 250,000 homes (an average consumption of 8 tonnes/yr/house).

With the current supply chain under significant stress, the easiest way to ensure that your wood-fired stove or boiler continues to provide heat is to make sure that you have stored enough wood yourself. The general guidance is that wood should be stored for a year to reduce its moisture content from the 70-50% it is when felled down to an ideal <25% for burning. If you haven’t been through a full season with your wood-burner yet the general guidance is that an average house will consume 8 tonnes a year – around 12 m³, depending on your level of insulation, how hot you keep the house, whether it’s also heating your hot water etc. So – how much wood have you got stored? Two months supply? Less?

If your wood-burning stove is essential to your heating/cooking/hot water then you need to take wood storage seriously. Build a wood store – a shelter with a roof (clear if possible), open sides, and use pallets for the base and to divide sections to maximise airflow. Preferably split it into at least two sections so that you can have one section “seasoning” (drying) and one section that you are burning. Store the wood end-on to the airflow after chopping it to the right size for your stove. Make the stack as tall, long and thin as possible to maximise airflow.

Do that, and your wood-burning range can provide a really resilient solution to your heating, hot water and cooking needs.

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Matthew on January 20, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    And don’t forget to ask your neighbours and any passer-bys if they are ok with breathing in the toxic pollution.

    Reply

    • Posted by lepotager on January 21, 2010 at 7:54 am

      That is an issue Matthew, although current woodburners, approved for smokeless zones, are significant;y cleaner than a basic wood fire.

      What pollution-free method do you suggest we use when the temp outside is -17c?

      Reply

  2. Posted by Matthew on January 21, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Warm socks.

    And I lived next door to a wood burner that was a so-called “clean” one (to the Australian/New Zealand standard) and it was an absolute nightmare. I had to move away at my own cost. How was that fair?

    I am for a 100% ban on them, and consider the users of them to be 100% selfish.

    Reply

    • Posted by lepotager on January 21, 2010 at 6:56 pm

      I understand your passion on this Matthew, but there are times when warm socks just don’t cut it – how do you heat your house?

      Reply

  3. Posted by Matthew on January 21, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    I really do think you shouldn’t be advocating for the use of such a dirty technology, and then pretend you are doing the right thing. You simply are not.

    Here’s my take on it:
    http://cleanairkapiti.wordpress.com/

    Reply

    • Posted by lepotager on January 21, 2010 at 7:13 pm

      Unfortunately there is no ideal solution to this. What are the options?

      – Electric heating from coal/gas/nuclear/hydro/solar/wind
      – Direct-burnt gas/coal/wood/peat
      – Solar space/water heating

      Of these, the only ones that can lay claim to being “clean” would be solar/wind/hydro. All of these have their own environmental challenges, with wind and hydro destroying the beauty of many wild areas, and solar not being incredibly practical during the overcast heavy snow & -17c we’ve had recently.

      I haven’t checked the au/nz standard for wood-burners that you mention, but in the UK many areas are constrained by the Clean Air Act – http://www.uksmokecontrolareas.co.uk/ – therefore the wood burners that are authorised to operate in these areas do burn very cleanly, typically using double combustion to burn any smoke before it can be emitted.

      We are trying to super-insulate our house to minimise our use of any heating, but even that brings problems with the emissions produced from the manufacture of the insulation.

      If you have a better solution I’d love to hear it.

      Reply

      • Posted by Matthew on January 21, 2010 at 8:09 pm

        My home is insulated, and I have what in New Zealand is called a Heat Pump, a split system airconditioner in Australia. I hardly ever use it. It doesn’t get that cold where I am, and rarely is it under 2 or 3 C. Energy here is mainly hydro and solar, with coal for backup. That list of exempt appliances is quite long, and to me distressing. If I had some of those next to my house, pumping out filth (and yes they do, despite what the manufacturers will say) for eight months of the year, I would have to move again. Solar hot water with electric backup, Split system heat pumps, and the electricity generated by wind, hydro and solar is the way to go, and even in the depths of a Scottish Winter would be enough. No toxic wood smoke pollution, no dioxins. No upset neighbours. No increased rates of respiratory disease. Clean and green. The technological solutions already exist. It is only the slovenly thinking of the ignorant stopping us from living better.

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