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"Seasoned wood not so seasoned"

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by lawandorder, Dec 13, 2008.

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  1. lawandorder

    lawandorder Member

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    Well I really thought all my wood was in good shape. Ends split and checked, dark greying of the ends, nice sound when hit together etc.... But my new moisture meter says different. I split half pieces into 6 inch or so quarters and moisture 25-30 on most. Some 20-25 %. I am guessing this has something to do with my burn problems. Now that my wood isnt as good as I thought what do I do for the rest of the year. A lot of my wood is too big for the Tarm. So I have been resplitting to the 4-6 inch range and restacking it. Will this get the numbers down to the 20% range soon?? Or am I going to have a long winter? I dont think Ill find any wood that will be 20% now. Any help or ideas would be great. ALso buying the moisture meter was a great investment. At least now I know my issues Its just fixing it now that I have to figure out. I will definitely bring my meter next time I am looking for "seasoned" wood...

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  2. Dave T

    Dave T New Member

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    Keep the wood warm and dry you should be fine with the smaller splits..Dave
  3. Bad Wolf

    Bad Wolf Minister of Fire

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    Which meter did you get? Mine crapped out after 3 weeks. Was usefull while it lasted, I sorted my wood as dry, near dry and stack and burn later. I think it helped in getting a good burn. I find that the TARM does better with the smaller splits.
  4. lawandorder

    lawandorder Member

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    my meter is a two pin small unit i paid 29 with shipping through a supplier from amazon. Looked like the same one a lot of users here have. Not a great one but I think its fine for firewood. Only had a few minutes to use it because I had to drive downstate to Albany for the first of several "Christmas" Dinners for the year. And Boy did Albany and the area get slammed with ice. Lots of houses without power. Reminded me of the ice storm in Clinton County. Also all of my wood is outside in a covered shed. THe sides are open so it gets good air. Anyone have any idea how long to get the wood down to 20 percent. Most is hard maple, beech and oak. I am guessing the oak will take the longest. Just hoping to salvage the remainder of the winter.
  5. barnartist

    barnartist Minister of Fire

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    For what it is worth, Nofossil did a test last season and was surprised to find not much difference in efficiancy with some of the wood with higher moisture content. Now he has a different boiler, but try and find this thread before you blame all of your problems on the wood.
  6. verne

    verne Member

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    I am running my stove on wood that was split and stacked july- Aug. I know next year will be much better but I'm not really having problems . I mix wood that should have lower moisture and put the wetter at the top( oak/hard maple). Another big help is I have a friend with a pallet business , so I start my fires with small splits of hardwood . I found you can mix pieces in but not to much , way to explosive. Where in NY are you? they give the pallet loads of the old stringers and slats for free. His place is just off exit 16 on the northway ,wilton/corinth .
  7. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    You might be OK with MC 20-25%, if that is actually what it is. A lot of outside, air dried wood, will be close to 20%. Try it and see. But MC 25-30% can be deceptive. Some meters only read to 30%, and actual may be higher; a pin meter reads only where the pins are inserted, and MC can vary quite a bit in a single split; and as 30% is approached, depending on the wood and the drying conditions, water retained in the wood can be more bound into the cellular structure and take more energy to release.

    I certainly would recommend staying away from the 25% and above wood; let the sun do its work; burn the wood next year; and save the energy for heating - not removing moisture.
  8. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    I unfortunately have way more experience than I'd like in burning wood with higher than desirable moisture content. Here's what I've learned, for what it's worth:

    1) Use the driest wood you have for starting fires. You don't need a lot, but it has to be dry - under 20% (by my meter - YYMV) is ideal.

    2) Once the fire is going and secondary combustion is well established, you can burn a mixture with an average MC of 30% as long as you have a few drier pieces mixed in. Maintaining a good coal layer helps a lot.

    3) As long as secondary combustion is healthy, you don't take much of a hit in efficiency.
  9. sinclair

    sinclair Member

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    Using a dehumidifier will help a LOT. I recently brought in some wood that was cut this year, and placed a dehumidifier near the wood. It would take out about a gal. and a half a day. In about ten days it's down to about a quart a day and the wood is ok to burn. I still try mix it with other dry wood.
  10. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Dehumidifier is OK. Best would be to have the wood in a closed area/room with the dehumidifier. But it can be expensive. During the summer when we run our dehumidifier in the basement, it costs abaout $0.80/day at $0.10/kwh rate.
  11. in hot water

    in hot water New Member

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    keep some stacked in the room with the boiler to dry it quickly.

    1 ton of hardwood at 35% water content= 3085 kWh =81 gallons of heating oil

    at 18% = 4069 kWh, =107 gallons of oil
  12. rcollman

    rcollman Member

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    Only a month of experience with the Solo40. Definitely like to have some of the 3-4 inches pieces ready at any time. I have one of those rolling bicycle tired wood carries for by-the-boiler storage. I have a rack of wood on an enclosed porch 10 feet away. I try to put the 3-4 inch pieces on one side of the rack. The wetter the wood, the "finer" the pieces. More surface area to make it easier for your wood drying kiln (aka fire box) to boil out the water, prior to burning it.

    I have noticed the larger pieces (6-10 inches) tend to "hang", creating a large air "pocket" over the slit to the gasification chamber. Ditto those "odd" pieces that tend to get put on the stack last. With my old Sunray, with the coal grates, I would give my wood fire a shake. With the Solo, I use one of the supplied pokers to "settle" the logs closer (not blocking the slit). The effect in the gasifiction chamber is immediate. If I am doing an all night burn, the odd pieces go in last, not first or in the middle someplace.

    I am also sort of worried about the wood I got in Sept, when April rolls around. I think I will have to make sure it is pretty much all 3-4" and hopefully get 8 cords in by the end of April. Breaking up beat up pallets is not my idea of fun. Hope always springs eternal.

    My question is, what does that meter really do for somebody? I don't have wood option B ready, so is it going to increase or decrease my worry level. My spouse sounds like Gil in CSI, data is data and will allow you to quantify your opinions. Yeah.
  13. lawandorder

    lawandorder Member

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    As always thanks for the replies I am very glad I purchased the meter It was well worth the 25 dollars as it will now let me at least be able to sort through the wood I have to give me a better idea of whats what. I have some older wood which so far is the 18 - 20 range and some other thats 20-25. Ill try using that first and mixing like everyone has suggested. This hopefully will by me some time so that I can split the wetter stuff down to 4-6 inch splits and get it drying. Hopefully in a month or so it will at least be down to the low 20's. Ill probably bring a couple of days in at a time and maybe that will help it along a bit.
  14. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    I've spent many a sleepless night working up a justification for having a moisture meter. Here's the best I could do:

    1) To do any real efficiency calculations, I have to know how much actual wood I'm burning. I weigh the wood, measure moisture content, and then I know how much heat I could theoretically get.

    2) It helps me evaluate how well different stacking / drying schemes work.

    3) It has helped me determine which species need two years to be dry enough and which ones can be burned after a year.

    4) It lets me provide official-sounding advice to others.

    Don't know if this helps...
  15. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    The best strategy is to not even need a moisture meter. Split and stack your wood, allow for plenty of air circulation, keep it covered by a roof (not a tarp or any other close contact cover), let it dry at least two full summers, and you never should have a worry. You pay good money for your wood; why waste that money burning wet wood and buying moisture meters when the sun and wind will dry it for free?

    For all those who seem to be unable to get enough heat out of their boiler, stove, wood furnace, etc., the most likely cause is wet wood, but I suspect that the dryness quality of the wood is usually the last thing to be considered.
  16. Nofossil

    Nofossil Moderator Emeritus

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    I agree wholeheartedly, but that won't stop me from arguing ;-)

    IF you have the physical space AND the structure available in a location with reasonable access AND you had all of that in place two years ago, then this is definitely the way to go. Wood that's been properly stacked and covered and seasoned for two years is the gold standard.

    Personally, I'm working my way up to that goal. However, I have many friends for whom this is a real issue. Physical space to store 15 cords of wood (this year's plus the next two years worth) is a challenge to many, especially since it can't be tightly packed and still get good air circulation. WAF is a concern in some cases as well, especially in less rural settings.

    Even in my case, I'm not meeting the gold standard. I have my seasoning piles laid out 8' apart to allow sunlight and air to reach each pile, and to make it possible to stack or remove interior piles easily. The piles are 5' high and 36' long. It takes four piles to make two years of wood. That's a 30' by 36' seasoning area not counting access space. That doesn't include the 5 cord storage area that I need for this year's wood. I'm using narrow tarps because 150' of roof and supporting structure is a daunting challenge. I'm thinking that my long-term 'roof' will be plywood sheets a bit wider than the length of the logs and EPDM sheets to cover the plywood.

    When you have to make real-world compromises, a moisture meter can help you figure out whether you have a problem or not.
  17. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Your point is well taken, which relates to the feasibility of wood heat for a great many people, regardless of its economics and "green" factor, and also relates to lifestyle factors. A couple of solutions are distributed power systems or combined heat power (CHP) systems, using round wood as the fuel source. This would alleviate the need for many people to have space to store wood. Maybe sometime soon a developer will move this forward on a new subdivision, and everyone will be a winner.
  18. rcollman

    rcollman Member

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    Thanks for the opinion about the meter. Geeze Louise, a whole nother level of data to consider:)

    I am really enjoying my spreadsheet which divides the daily running total of HHD by the running total of the volume of wood I put in. After about 2 weeks, it is starting to look consistent. I posted the link before to degreeday.com . For me and the KHIE station, looks like my Solo40 is doing .00031 to .00035 of a cord for each HHD.

    Two days ago switched from the last of my previous year's wood to the stuff dropped and stacked in June. Different mix and weather got to 4 degrees last night. The new stuff that is not ash feels like it has more water and I made a point of following advice here. Split lots of pieces to fit inside a 5 inch circle. Noticed more creosote in the fire box but we had a warm spell last week and my boiler idled in the night quite a bit.

    Got good fire going now with a visible flame on the logs in the firebox Opened the damper with fan on, tossed in about 10 sheets of newspaper individually crumpled up at once and left the door open 1/4 inch. When paper was burned, much of the creosote had blistered/charred. Wonder it it is now coating my stack or if some powder might have helped the process.

    Still learning. OK, I will add the moisture meter next year to my data collection.
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