Firewood 2009-2010


2009 – 2010 Winter Firewood Usage

In the past I had measured our firewood usage in log units because in the old house that was the easy way to do it. In the cottage we have a neat 1/24th cord measure which is the space under the wood stove. By recording on the calendar when we fill this, primarily Ben’s job, we are able to monitor our wood usage.

This winter we have burned about 0.70 cord, almost the same as last winter which was 0.75 cord. The total number in the chart above is 0.74 because Ben filled the woodbox backup. Given that today’s was the first fire since March 2nd we may well not burn the rest of that wood until next fall. Still, maybe we’ll enjoy a few more fires this spring.

This has been a short heating season. The end of December and early January were brutal but we didn’t actually have to start burning wood until the end of November. By the beginning of March we had essentially stopped heating the house because it was so warm. The cottage’s passive solar gain coupled with its high thermal mass keep it warm and even keeled. We’ve actually been leaving the front door and windows open for much of the day over the last couple of weeks.

Will cut most of the wood we currently have in stock. He has gotten quite skilled with both the chainsaw and the chain sharpener. We have a few cord left that is already to burn next year and the year after plus logs that are drying. There are also several dead trees I have my eye on which I’ll cut and drag up here for blocking up. Their tops will make kindling and what is termed kitchen wood – small diameter logs.

I like heating with wood. It doesn’t explode or support terrorist organizations. It is locally available and sustainable. It comes from our land and is something we can sell. It is a secure source of fuel we can manage ourselves. Wood smells good when it burns and we enjoy the crackling fire. It is heartening knowing that our supply is set for the next few years.

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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11 Responses to Firewood 2009-2010

  1. Mellifera says:

    …and I'm guessing by your overall level of DIY competence and the ridiculously small amount of wood you use that y'all know how to burn all the wood all of the way and keep the heat inside the house instead of going up the chimney. Ja?

    (If you sat down and tried to invent a machine to waste wood and gum up the air, you couldn't do much better than the suburban wood fireplace– low, squat firebox with a masonry chimney on an outside wall. Alas, there is no firewood industry to blame for this abomination! Just everyday ignorance suffices for this one. ; )

  2. MMP says:

    I have been having similar thoughts. Last year I was worried I was late getting our wood in and it wouldn't be dry enough. But I was pleasently surprised that the wood burned well and it has been a short season. We have about on third of our wood left from the current year and I think we have burned our last fire for the year.

    And I scored for next year. The power company's tree service came by the other day to cut several large trees along the road. Since I was home I was able to drag away a large birch and a bigger ash. I think we have enough wood now for next year. I still have a few dead trees I want to take down, but for the coming year, all I have to do is cut and split what I already have.

  3. Anonymous says:

    We live in a very old but well maintained house in the Northeast with about 2000 sf of living space – this year we went through about two cords of wood. We heat with a soapstone insert in our main fireplace (only fired on days lower than 20 degrees F – our house is sited low on a hill with southern exposure and lots of south facing windows – our ancestors knew what they were doing when they built our house:) and an antique "Home Comfort" cookstove from 1937 in our kitchen. That cookstove heats our house, water and cooks all of our food. Our electric bill has been cut over half this winter. This stove has been the best investment ever. We installed it this year and I will hate to go back to my electric range this summer.

  4. Some asked about 0.05 cord getting put in a 0.04 cord space on 12/26/09. The answer is simple, round off. My chart is only showing accuracy to 1/100th of a cord. The variance depending on packing density (e.g., how much kindling does Ben stuff in?) could be more than 1/100th of a cord so I left it at that. Fortunately this isn't rocket science, this time. :)

  5. Gail in Montana says:

    Wow, that's amazing, Walter. You have quite a system there and make good use of your wood. Unfortunately, we have a bigger home, an old fireplace insert that's not very efficient, and we have a geothermal(heat pump)furnace. We are all electric here. We use more then two cords of wood per winter, probably closer to 3. We have found the heat pump very efficient and a great savings, even though some would dispute this. But at our huge log home we had built when we first moved out here, we had the geothermal system, an all electric house, a new efficient wood stove, and our electric bill never ran over $1000 a year. We miss our log home, but we weren't thinking ahead when we had it built, 3 levels in all. So we sold it and moved to a single level home near the town where we were going all the time anyway. Anyway, we aren't as energy efficient as you all are. We wish we had the money to replace the fireplace and insert, and put in a good pellet stove, but atlas, that is not to be. And I won't miss that mess!!!! Thanks for your information about how efficient you are in your operation there. Nice to hear!!!!!

  6. Edward says:

    I'm sure you have done a lot to make your house efficient but I also bet that you think all about how to make it even better. I would love to hear some of your ideas on this now that you have been living in your tiny cottage for a few years……

  7. Anonymous says:

    Okay, 2,000+ ft of living space in an open floor plan with cathedral ceilings, all North facing sliders and skylights and plenty of Eastern exposure on Cape Cod has relieved us of about 4 cords since the beginning of the home heating season last fall. I love heating with wood, I just need a different house to heat, I guess! I should really spend some time sewing some very heavy curtains and sliding glass door covers for next year.
    You all are a great inspiration!

  8. CapeCodAnony, the curtains make a difference. I have experimented with them but never gotten around to making a real set of curtains. I also want to make shutters on the outside for the worst two months or so of the winter. One tricky detail with curtains and shutters is that the glass cools – open them slowly to gently warm them in the morning. I've never broken a window that way but I've read about it.

    Mellifera & Edward, our wood burning setup is pretty efficient with a small firebox that we burn hot inside of a shroud of masonry that soaks up the heat. The chimney goes up next to a hollow masonry wall that soaks up more heat and churns the air from floor to ceiling. From there the chimney goes across the ceiling to exit at the north wall. The exiting flue gasses are just barely hot enough to keep the flow of the chimney which makes it pretty efficient.

    Ideas for improving it which I plan to implement are:
    1) A thermosiphon water heating tube so we can pre-heat our hot water with the wood in addition to the solar pre-heating.

    2) More masonry around the chimney which helps to temper thermal swings and keep the loft from over heating.

    3) Insulation in the roof – our roof is still just 1.5" of ferro-cement – it is amazing we stay as warm as we do. There is a sheet of foil-bubble-bubble-foil on top but that is pretty nominal.

    4) Berm the house into the hill which will help to lift the wind off the house even more.

    5) Floor heating perhaps although it has turned out quite nice probably due to the high thermal mass of the house.

    6) Super windows like those I had built for the old farm house. Essentially two out layers of glass sandwiching several layers of Tedlar or similar film.

    7) Integrated passive refrigeration – the flip side of the coin.

    8) Improved air intake through the earth air tubes.

    9) Curtains and shutters as mentioned above.

    10) Finished parge of the interior walls. Beige and white. Think of stucco or plaster. I've threatened to paint clouds on the barrel vault ceiling and embed glowing spots for stars… :)

    All in its time. Each year we make improvements and we continue to revel in how wonderful it is living here rather than the old drafty farm house down the hill where we used to be for so long. Winter is much more pleasant in our snug cottage.

  9. Teresa says:

    My father always said burning wood warmed you three times–when you cut it, when you cord it, and finally when you burn it.

  10. Nadine says:

    Walter one f the things I love about your blog is your attention to details like this. You are one of the old fashion gentlemen scientists, a Renaissance man. You are so generous with sharing, with publishing your research instead of hording it under patents and secrecy. It is refreshing. Someday I hope to build a house like yours to retire in. You make it clear that small is doable and I firmly believe that if people would live smaller we could make a difference that would save the planet. Thank you.

  11. Love your log of logs Walter. We, too, heat solely with wood. However, we can barely get our two woodstoves filled, much less write it down. You put us all to shame. ;)

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