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How many cords do you think I need

Post in 'The Wood Shed' started by fabsroman, Aug 4, 2011.

  1. fabsroman

    fabsroman Minister of Fire

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    Don't know if this is the right forum, but here goes.

    I am getting ready to install a wood burning furnace. The house is 2,100 sf upstairs and 2,400 sf downstairs. Not too worried about heating the basement, but will put a nominal amount of heat down there for when I am working down there. I live in Maryland and the average temps are the following:

    January 31 degrees
    February 34 degrees
    March 43 degrees
    April 52 degrees
    November 45 degrees
    December 36 degrees

    My dad and I were talking about this today. I have about 2 cords cut, split, and stacked and have been telling him that I need around 4 cords. He is telling me that I am out of my mind and 2 should be plenty with 3 being overkill. Of course, I will be ecstatic if it turns out that I only need about 2 cords a year. Heck, I will be dancing a jig.

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  2. soupy1957

    soupy1957 Minister of Fire

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    You "need" as much wood as you can store comfortably, without imposing on your lifestyle, or ticking off your neighbors (lol).

    Seriously, having too much wood is not what I hear complained about in here, as much as not having enough.

    I've always believed that (and you've got a good size home to heat) the wood "furnaces" that are sold, must require a tad more wood than a stove inside a home. Don't know how to justify that, .......just know I believe that. The pictures I see of how much wood gets tossed into one of those, (filling up the box) seems to imply some serious consumption.

    Even burning efficiently, it seems like a bit more work than keeping a fire going indooors. Are you sure you want to be outside tending this thing in a winter like we just went thru last year, here in New England????

    Thread after thread has reports of wood consumption...........some as little as a cord and a half per season, to 4 or five cords a season. It's all relative to the style stove, the winter conditions of a given year, the committment to the burn (24/7 or not).

    -Soupy1957
  3. CTYank

    CTYank Minister of Fire

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    How much you will need also depends on how much water is in the stack- how dry the wood is.
    Getting that water to go up the flue takes a lot of energy input.

    Planning ahead helps. You want the wood to be processed and in the best drying conditions you can manage, ASAP. Then you want it to stay dry (covered on top.)

    Not simply quantity; quality counts for a lot. Then learning how to make the best use of it.
  4. shawneyboy

    shawneyboy New Member

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    Whatever figure you come up with, since there is no right answer, triple it if you have storage space.

    Even though the common thought is with an OWB you can burn green wood (which I suppose you can) you really don't want to, since that moisture can and will lower your overall efficent burn. Get and store, and SEASON as much as you can.

    Oh and again I say, whatever figure you come up with, TRIPLE it.

    Shawn
  5. fabsroman

    fabsroman Minister of Fire

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    Now you sound like my wife. She used to take time estimates I would give her for car repairs and home improvements/repairs and triple it. She said it was the Roman effect because it always took me 3 times longer than I estimated. After being with her for 8 years, I am getting better with my time estimates and am a lot more pessimistic on them.

    So, I was shooting for 4 cords. Don't know how I will be able to cut, split, and stack 12 cords by the time winter is here, but I guess I am going to try.

    The furnace manufacturer recommends 20% moisture in the wood or less. Don't know how I am going to get that done by November/December either, but I currently have 2 cords stacked and drying. Hoping they get to that level in 3 months, but I doubt it. I am going to have to find some deadfall to burn come November/December or I am just going to have to suck it up and use the natural gas backup to heat the house.
  6. fabsroman

    fabsroman Minister of Fire

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    The furnace/stove is actually inside the house and it replaces the current heating oil furnace that is located in the basement. The new wood burning furnace will act as the air handler for the AC too. To answer your question, no I would not want to go outside to maintain a furnace even though I do not live in New England. I am planning on stacking the seasoned wood for burning right underneath the deck about 15 feet from where the furnace is going to be located and right next to one of the basement doors. I'll bring in enough wood for a couple of days at a time.

    Figuring all this out is going to take some time.
  7. zzr7ky

    zzr7ky Minister of Fire

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    Hi - I am guessing I'd need 7-8 cords of nice dry Ash. I have good insulation, wind breaks. You're in a milder climate. So I'm going to guess 6 cords. More if the wood isn't a year plus old or the house is old/drafty.
  8. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    With an indoor stove the answer would be somewhere between 4 and 8 cords. 4 is typical for an average-sized, well insulated house, but some people say they burn up to 8 (I am not sure my stove could burn 8 even at full tilt all winter). I don't know how a furnace compares to a stove in terms of wood burnt.

    I think you should start cutting as much as you can and keep going until you are so far ahead people make fun of you. I don't really know a lot about burning wood, but I do know it is a lot more relaxing to be way ahead, know you'll have good firewood when you need it, and cut when it is convenient rather than worrying all summer if you'll have enough semi-dry wood for the winter.
  9. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    You are asking a pretty tough question, but if you really want to know, here's the place to start:

    Degree Day Calculator

    Plug in the closest weather station to you and click the button at the bottom. I see that at the KBWI station at the Baltimore airport, there are an estimated 4300 heating degree days for the months you mention at a base temp of 65ºF.

    Next, you can break your home into "heating components" (walls, roof, floor) based on size, shape, number of windows, type and amount of insulation, etc. Any good engineering website should help with all of this. Here is my favorite:

    http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/heating-systems-t_38.html

    Explore the site for what you need, there are many good tables and calculators that you can either use or drive yourself nuts with.

    That site also has a very good table of BTU combustion output for various woods.

    Good luck. In my area the heating degree days are more than 50% higher than in your area. I used about 5 1/2 cord from October through April in an older stove that was very efficient when it was designed but not compared to today's stoves. My place is smaller than yours and total heating degree days over that time period were 7000. I'd say you will need about 4 cord if your furnace is reasonable efficient, but get 8 stowed away and you should be fine.

    Burn that sucker hot and you will get good energy out of that wood and very little actual loss from that much ballyhooed water evaporation. As long as the wood is dry enough to ignite well and burn freely, most of the heat loss from burning less than desirable wood will come from the extra air you have to push through the system to get it to burn hot. No matter, you are where you are right now, no turning back the clock a year to season that wood. To paraphrase the great (?) Donald Rumsfeld, "You heat your home with the wood you've got, not with the wood you wish you had." Get a jump on next year now (another reason to stow away 8 cord) and you will be a much happier camper using the proper fuel.
  10. KarlP

    KarlP Feeling the Heat

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    Very important consideration. If you run out of wood you can't just call up for an extra oil delivery. If you call up for a wood delivery, it will probably fairly wet wood and will take a lot of fussing to keep the house warm. Is your AC also a heat pump or would you have to resort to very expensive resistive electric heat 24/7 without wood?

    I would advise getting SIX cords. If you only burn three you have enough for next year. No big deal. However I think you'll use at least five...
  11. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    Depends on what furnace and your house.....7-12 cords is the range you should expect. I run dhw and 2700 sqft 24/7 from Mid oct-mid May I use 10 cords of pretty well seased hardwood.
  12. fabsroman

    fabsroman Minister of Fire

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    The furnace is a Yukon Polar with natural gas backup. So, if I run out of wood I can heat the house with natural gas. If it ends up taking more than 4 cords of wood to heat the house for the season, I might have to seriously think about using natural gas instead of wood. That way I won't have to spend a week out of the year cutting and stacking wood for heat. I guess I'll have this all figured out after this winter. Then again, I am thinking about going with natural gas this winter to see what it will cost, letting 8 cords of wood properly season, and then trying to wood for the winter of 2012/2013. That way, I can get a really good idea of what it will cost natural gas wise and wood wise.

    We just moved into the house in February and all I know is that we went through 100 gallons of heating oil from February 14th to March 8th with the thermostat set at 68 degrees. That ran us about $450. After that, we used space heaters in the rooms we were using because I wanted to keep the oil tank as dry as possible. I think Yukon's website and literature have the BTU conversion for heating oil versus wood. I guess I need to look at the conversion, see how much 100 gallons of heating oil is in cords of wood, and then figure out how many weeks are in our heating season. That should give me a good idea. I am alright with 4 cords. Anything more than that and I will have to seriously think about this. A cord of wood goes for around $200 here.
  13. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    4 cords on a wood furnace (and thats a good furnace) is a very low number 7 you would be doing very well!...If you dont want to spend a week in the woods you sure are not going to like loading that furnace...This is work hard work! Run Forest Run.......... :cheese:

    Some have done it with 6 cords on a furnace, but know everything there is to know about there wood supply and furnace! The combo gas and wood units dont seem to be the best at either job just a nice balance.
  14. fabsroman

    fabsroman Minister of Fire

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    I spend way more than a week in the woods, marsh, and field, but usually with a bow, shotgun, or rifle, not a chainsaw and splitter. Loading the furnace will be a joke as far as "hard work" is concerned. Plus, once my two kids get a little older they can start hauling wood around. Ultimately, it comes down to the cost benefit of this. My time is worth something. If it takes more than 4 cords of wood to heat the house, then it will not cost very much more to heat it with natural gas if I have to pay for wood. Right now, I have a couple of places to get wood from, so it isn't too terrible. Ran into a local developer the other day and am going to ask him if he can drop truckloads of wood off at my place when his company clears land for a development. He develops areas all around me.

    A week in the woods cutting wood I can handle, and that will probably get me around 5 cords, maybe a little more. Two weeks to a month cutting, splitting, and stacking wood will be insane. If I can have trees delivered to my place, everything gets a lot easier.
  15. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    Thats good to here. Now if you know your not going to use no more than 4 cords hold out till late Dec. Run 4 cords till its done in the coldest part of the winter. You will need to become a great scrounger of wood or use the the furnace for its Strong points. This will give you Maxim effect on your 4 cords! ;-)
  16. fabsroman

    fabsroman Minister of Fire

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    I am a pretty good scrounger. The 2 cords I just got were scrounged. I know a farm owner with 180 acres that he is trying to sell. He has a pretty heavily wooded area on it, so I can probably cut whatever I want since he is looking to sell to a developer. I know another farm owner down the road from me with 120 acres, with about 30 acres of it wooded. I have a friend asking another farm owner with 500 acres if I can cut some wood out of his farm. I have a client that has 3 locust trees down and a bunch of dead stuff that has been sitting for 3 years. He has a backhoe and has volunteered to move the trees around for me if need be. I have a client that knows the owner of a tree service by my parents and he is going to ask if the guy would be willing to drop off logs at my parents. And, as mentioned above, I just met the owners (i.e., husband and wife) of a development company and I am going to see if I can work something out there. I am pretty good at making connections. My issue is with the time it takes to cut, split, and stack the wood. If I can get the trees to my place of my parents' place, life becomes a lot easier.

    On top of all that, now that we have a single family home, my next goal is a farm in the 100 to 200 acre range.
  17. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

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    I burn a good 6-7 cords a year in my woodstove, which is my primary winter heat, but we still use about 300 or so gallons of heating oil in the winter between small zoned heat (back bedrooms where the wood stove doesn't hett too efficiently) and hot water. Accoring to the link from battenkiller I'm at around 7600 heating degee days a year on average, so while I'm in a colder climate I'm still burning oil for heat.

    I wouldn't settle for less than 6 cords in your situation in your first year, shoot for 8-10 as a target. If you have too much wood, its just that much less that you have to buy next year.
  18. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    Your on track....If you dont want to use any gas at all 7-9 cords on that set-up...4 cords would make a big dent if use in the very cold months and let it go out if you get some ok warmer days. I like to see a 30.00 gas bill at the first of Feb. Shoulder season and warm days gas and anything under 25 at nights use wood, should be pretty fair bill. I wished I had a small stove for the shoulder season and warmer days. Biggest thing save your wood for the heavy heat load days and nights.
  19. fabsroman

    fabsroman Minister of Fire

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    What am I missing. 100 gallons of #2 heating oil produces 138,500,000 BTUs of heat.

    Meanwhile, a cord of hardwood produces 32,000,000 BTUs of heat.

    So, just to heat my house for 3 weeks is going to take 4 cords. Essentially, 4 cords of hardwood equals 100 gallons of heating oil. I must really be screwing something up here, or the websites giving me the BTU equivalents are screwing something up.
  20. ewdudley

    ewdudley Minister of Fire

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    Here you go:

    http://www.hearth.com/econtent/index.php/articles/fuel_cost_comparison_calculator/
  21. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    Big question how much is a gallon worth?
  22. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    fabsroman, it sounds like you are a good outdoors man with the hunting and all. Good for you and the furnace sounds good too so long as you have a good way of getting the wood down there to the furnace. I'd hate to have to carry it down the stairway as that would get old very fast.

    How much wood will you need? Too many variables to come up with a good SWAG. However, I'd plan on 4 cords as a very minimum. Please realize though that if the wood is not dry enough, most of the heat is going to go up the chimney because you will need extra draft to make the fire burn. It also depends greatly upon the type of wood you will burn and I've not seen a mention of what type of wood you have or will be getting. Your first year, I'd aim for something like white ash for sure as it dries rather quickly because it starts out with less moisture than most trees.

    I'd also beware of thinking that a standing dead tree is ready to burn. It may be on the top of the tree but that bottom part can be just as full of moisture as a live tree. A good case in point is an oak we cut last spring. This thing was so dead that I threw 1/3 of it away because it was it was punky. Yet, that tree was really full of moisture; especially the bottom 20' or so.


    I'm also sure you've seen that I recommend having a 2-3 year wood supply on hand all the time. I am a big believer of that and if you do get there, your moisture problem will no longer be a problem as the wood will have the proper time to dry.


    I also would caution you on where you are planning on stacking that wood. Yes, it might be the most convenient place but not the best place for the wood to dry. Better to stack it right out in the open air where it gets lots of wind and in this case some sunshine will help greatly too. Mother Nature can be your friend if you let her and this time you need to let her blow on that wood to dry it.


    Cutting wood for a week every year to me is not a good way to go. I cut wood off and on all winter long. Rather than trying to tackle the entire job in a week I'd much rather spread it out. To do it all in a week will really be hard on your body. So I'd consider doing some weekends to get the wood. Myself, and I also like to hunt, I do not cut wood until after our rifle deer season has ended on November 30. So, our cutting season normally begins come December 1. Of course then we are more at the mercy of weather but I don't mind because I love to spend time in the woods in the winter months and it is great exercise that is needed at that time of the year.
  23. smokinj

    smokinj Minister of Fire

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    Its a furnace Dennis 4 cords can be shot up in four weeks if your not careful.... ;-) Be a nice tosty 4 weeks though! :cheese:
  24. GordonShumway

    GordonShumway Member

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    Last winter I was forced to install a wood stove. I don't know much about the btu's of oil vs various wood, but I will say I saved a lot of money last winter burning wood. We used our oil furnace up to the end of the year. Our house isn't insulated and the whole upstairs was gutted (the house is at least 125yrs). We were going through just shy of a full 300 gallon tank per month of oil for Nov. and Dec. Oil at that time was approx. 3.80/gal. We installed a wood stove at beginning of Jan. and went through approx 1 cord of wood/mo. Tho nights below 10 deg we had to use the furnace bc we couldn't get enough heat to our boys room. We were buying cords of not so seasoned wood for $175. Big difference in heating bill. I am sure I should understand the btu chart but to me it just didn't add up. I know this is an extreme case just bc the cond. of our house but our wood stove install paid for itself in just a little over 2 mos. afterwards.In short, in our uninsulated house I try to have a cord per month plus 2 extras just in case. It's ultimately going to come down to how much is your time worth to you, and having the wood delivered to your door needing nothing more then splitting and stacking is going to make woodburning a lot more appealing.
  25. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Right Jay, it is a furnace.....and he doesn't have much time for the wood to dry. Wood dries best after it is split.....no matter what container it burns in. And for sure it is easy to put up 4 cords in 4 weeks, no matter what container you will use.

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