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Inefficiency of burning wet wood

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by M1sterM, Aug 29, 2008.

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  1. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    The key point is that the phenomenal number of new wood burners showing up this year need to understand a couple of things. Yes, given the presence of enough heat and air any wood will burn. Well, part of it will. But don't ignore the fact that a EPA stove needs wood in the twenty percent moisture range to burn efficiently. Efficiently meaning create good heat, not smolder and not crap up the chimney. Don't ignore that advice and then turn right around and accept the advice that says clean your chimney once a year. That only applies when burning good dry wood.

    Ignore the first then you better ignore the second and keep an eye on that pipe because it will fill up with crap. Chimney fires are a rate occurrence with a new stove and a properly sized pipe or liner. Plugged up chimneys puffing smoke and CO back into your house are a frequent occurrence burning wet wood and every year here lots of people show up saying "Why isn't my stove burning right and why is it smoking up the house?"

    Followed by them posting pictures like this:

    Attached Files:

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  2. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

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    This thread is like being at a cocktail party where the music's too loud, and the room's too small, so all the people in there keep raising their voices because they want to carry on their multiple conversations and get their points across and they all keep moving around trying to get to the munchies and the bar and I can't even hardly see the person I thought I was talking to and even though I know my lips are moving I can't even hear my own voice and I'm going outside for some air now. Rick
  3. Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle

    Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle Minister of Fire

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    Wow, we've been at the same parties[​IMG]
  4. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Good. I want to eat all of the little sausage biscuits while you are outside.
  5. Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle

    Doing The Dixie Eyed Hustle Minister of Fire

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    Those things taste horrible when they are cold .

    :smirk:
  6. Rockey

    Rockey Minister of Fire

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    The only chance of seeing me at that party is if I'm upside down on top of the keg doing a kegstand. At 5'3 I'm easy to miss in a crowded room. What can I say - I'm short for my height.
  7. RedRanger

    RedRanger New Member

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    It is not okay to burn unseasoned wood, never said it was. but ya gotta do what you have to do to get thru the first winter. And burning the unseasoned wood is the worst thing you can do, if you have other financial alternitives, but some members do not. and I will reiterate, check and clean the chimney at least every 6 weeks. and don`t expect a lot of heat. if you must burn that unseasoned stuff. :wow:


    And for your info--I have a 2 year supply of my own.
  8. Rockey

    Rockey Minister of Fire

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    Sorry Sonny I was actually responding to JPapiPE. I forgot to quote him.
  9. Apprentice_GM

    Apprentice_GM Member

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    Yeah, I didn't know what OCD was, but as you can see from my next post after that when it was spelled out, I was quick to admit I suffered it :) A lot! Well I don't know about suffer, I quite enjoy it on the whole :)

    One thing that will make a difference though, is I bet there is a dramatic increase in burning efficiency with todays secondary burn (EPA) fireplaces/woodstoves at some point in the MC level. For example, just a guess, you might get 15% more heat out of 30% MC wood vs 40% MC wood, but then you might get 30% more heat out of 20% MC wood compared to 30% MC wood, due to gain in efficiency of a 2nd gen stove with "low" (<=20%) MC wood. Again, just a SWAG on my part.

    What I'd love is someone like Eric Johnson, who appears to keep a few years worth of supply on hand, and burns a massive amount constantly, to do some tests. It would be simple to do as well - I'm guessing he has a furnace going at a fairly constant rate for central heating (just a guess). What he could do is measure MC of a 1 year seasoned 1/4 cord of wood and burn it, then do a MC measurement on a 2 year 1/4 cord and burn it, then on a 4 year seasoned 1/4 cord and burn it. Recording either temps with constant feed, or feed rates with constant temps, would give useful percentages of usable heat output based on MC.

    Actually I am surprised it hasn't been fairly scientifically measured and reported already. All those tables with BTU outputs of species based on various MC levels, surprised those guys haven't done the tests with different MC levels and reported it somewhere. If they are willing to measure solar kiln effectiveness, withering effectiveness etc I would have thought MC impact was something worthwhile too. In fact, measured and reported properly it coud raise awareness enough to change wood selling and buying yardsticks. Instead of so many cords of whatever species, if they include the MC level then we can sell/buy so many usable (millions of) BTU's. I know this last thought is a pipedream, but it's how I think of it in my head, and it is qualitatively how many here think about it also. I just want it quantitately! hehe.

    (I know, I know, it's not an exact science . . . I'm off to continue my HH experiment : )
  10. Apprentice_GM

    Apprentice_GM Member

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    BB, that is an awesome pic of a messed up chimney / flu / roof cap!!!! Did you take it or did someone actually post here asking what their wood burning problem was? Our webmaster was looking for come creosote pics earlier, that's the best I've ever seen IMHO.
  11. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    It was posted here. Several variations of it show up here every year. The best one of my chimney was when I had a cracked weld in my old stove right next to the flue collar and it was letting cool air in along with the exhaust gases.

    Attached Files:

  12. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

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    Bits and pieces of it have been, but since the age of oil began nearly two hundred years ago (by no means the original discovery or exploitation of it, but in the "modern" sense), nobody's paid much attention to burning wood, or the science associated with it, save a very few on the fringe of sanity (like you ;-P ). Only now, in the age of dwindling and consequently nearly unaffordable traditional energy sources, are the bright, inquisitive, forward-thinking, self-reliant, (and the desperate) turning to wood, or other alternatives, for answers. In oil and gas, the answers were studied to death, readily quantifiable and consistent and available for study. Wood's not nearly so student-friendly...but I think maybe wood's time has arrived, or is at least approaching. I'm too old, I'll just burn it. You're young and full of spirit and curiosity and a hunger for answers. Keep on with your questioning, and by all means with your posting here. Rick
  13. JPapiPE

    JPapiPE New Member

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    OK Bart you have convinced me. And I think you scared all us NEWBIES half to death with those great pictures, worth at least a thousand words. I guess I have been a constant pain trying to convince all us new wood burners that our less than seasoned wood is not the end of the world. I only speak from the experience of having burned 2 different Jotul wood stoves for a total of 10 years and never had a problem, but the Jotuls were not the new generation of E.P.A. type stoves with burn tubes...etc.. I have absolutely NO experience with these new critters. If I had seen your photos and know what I know now from this forum about the need for absolutely dry wood, I think I would have bought an old pre-E.P.A. wood stove. Or at least been more vigilant about the wood I received. Can you imagine how many procrastinaters have new EPA stoves and can't get seasoned wood so late in the season. It's scary, huh?

    I was wrong and I freely admit it as I have no experience with these new fickle EPA stoves. I bought a stove out of desperation when K-1 hit $4.99 in my neck of the woods and fuel contracts with Oil Dealers were selling for $4.99/ gallon, plus an additional $0.25 sur-charge/ gallon to buy insurance to pay the going rate should the price of oil fall below this bench mark price. I thought I had done my homework purchasing the stove in June and getting in an order for 4 cord of seasoned wood at $250/cord around the same time. I will say I wasn't remiss in my attempts to secure the right stuff early on, I got 4 cord of unseasoned wood for a seasoned wood price.

    So I did spend all my golden buttons on a hearth, wood stove, the right stove pipe and chimney componets, plus $1000 for 4 cord of wood and another $1000 for attic insulation. Where does that leave me? Broke. At least on my budget for heat this coming year. So I guess my only weapon this first season of burning an EPA stove with less than seasoned wood is chimney vigilance.

    The second photo you posted shows a chimney with a glass like coating on it which I know is creosote. I know this stuff will not come off with a chimney sweepers brush. What do you recommend for the removal of that glass-like coating? I have talked to several hearth com members and they have indicated that they plan on removing the spark arrestor screen during heating season. Woundn't the removal of the chimney cap in your first photo have helped alleviate the mass build up of creosote? Many chimneys dont have caps...So besides keeping birds and rain out of your chimney wouldn't removal of the spark arrestor screen allow for a longer interim from having to clear away debris, at least at the chimney top?
    Most Respectfully, Joe
  14. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Older non EPA stoves were generally WORSE WRT creosote from unseasoned wood. Of course- some were better than others, and how one burns them has a great effect.
  15. ScottF

    ScottF New Member

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    That is an excellent question and one I often wondered myself. How do you get this stuff off? It attaches like a ceramic glaze and you can' t even scrape it from accessible surfaces
  16. JPapiPE

    JPapiPE New Member

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    Ok A.P. would you elucidate on your statement that old pre EPA wood stoves were worse than the new generation of EPA stoves? I have talked to some southerners (thru interpreters of coarse)...as I cannot discern their message/language). It's like talking too much to MUM at the junkyard, as she once sicked her henchmen on me.... I did escape and am examining ways to throw MAMA off the train or boat...or pack her off in a rocket to Mars....
  17. firefighterjake

    firefighterjake Minister of Fire

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    OK, I'm a natural born fretter (according to my wife) which is probably good in one way (i.e. I'm working like a madman cutting, splitting and stacking wood for this year/next year), but in another way it's quite bad.

    All this talk about burning green wood is starting to get me a bit worried . . . and I was doing so well before.

    So, based on the following information . . . am I OK (well I should say is my plan to burn wood this winter sound . . . as for me being OK . . . well that's debatable.)

    I've got about 2 1/2 cord of mixed hardwood/softwood. A good amount of this wood is from standing dead elms that I cut on my property. I don't have a moisture meter, but most of the elm is cracked and it cracks nicely when I knock them together. The rest of the wood is mostly a mix of slabs, pallets and very dead wood which I expect will burn hot and quick . . . which is why I'm planning on mixing them with the elm or using them for burning in the Fall/Spring.

    The remaining 1+ cord of wood that I have is maple (cut in February or March) and ash (cut last month) . . . this is wood that I am planning on not using until as late as possible . . . planning on January or February, but realizing that it could be as early as December.

    Realizing that green wood doesn't produce as much heat and will produce more creosote and as a result I may burn more wood (not to mention not being familiar with the new EPA stove) and will no doubt have to check/clean the chimney more often . . . does this sound reasonable . . . I am still incidentally cutting ash to beat the band . . . figuring it may season up enough for me to burn this winter . . . and if not I should have a good supply for next year.
  18. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Tirebiterjack- check your chimney every month or 2 and don't worry about it. Sounds like most of that wood will be close if not dry anyway.
  19. JPapiPE

    JPapiPE New Member

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    Oh Ho, so it is A.P.... answring a question,,,,, I think one should be paying attention to A.P. as a silent observer...but no mind ...some of us will.
  20. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    Sheesh- I miss a post of yours and get that? I'll make sure that from now on you are my everything. I shant breathe but to think of you first - LOL

    I should start saving threads where you've been offended. They may come useful if you ever have a caffein interdiction :gulp:
  21. Ken45

    Ken45 Minister of Fire

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    Nobody is going to ask "where's the beef?"

    Pretty overo there :)

    Ken
  22. Ken45

    Ken45 Minister of Fire

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    Was that northern red oak, or southern red oak? Blackjack or pin oak or scarlet oak (all of which are "red oak")? Seriously, I point this out because "wood" is not all the same, even in the same species. A tree grown on a southern exposure hillside will have different heat value than one grown on a northern hillside. Precise measurement doesn't work in this business.



    As for those worried about getting your wood seasoned well enough, cut it shorter and split it smaller. Stack it with more ventilation airspace. That will help it season faster.

    Gosh, WE went camping and it was TOO hot for a fire. Brought the firewood (well seasoned oak) back home. This coming weekend doesn't look any more promising for a campfire.

    Ken
  23. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    I'll be burning a LOT of wood this weekend. Probably approaching 2 cord. Will post pics when I recover next week :)
  24. fossil

    fossil Accidental Moderator Staff Member

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    Sounds like you might be fixin' to fire some pottery, eh? Lookin' forward to pics of that fiery furnace belching...as well as some of the finished product. Be careful & have fun all at the same time, if that's possible. Rick
  25. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Ya, ya....lots of pics.
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