My wood heat story

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gfirob

Member
Dec 7, 2014
27
Rochester, Vt
Seven years ago we retired to Vermont, in a 2,000 sf, 100 year old wooden house with a small Jotul wood stove and good air circulation on the first floor, and a converted carriage barn as an office with an electric heater. The house had been recently renovated with new windows and is generally pretty tight.

So this is what we did and learned over those seven years of wood heat. We had heated a house with one wood stove when we lived in the blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, but it had been many years ago. And then, when I was young, I cut and split the wood myself, but those days are behind me.

The first year in Vermont we tried to heat the house with the little wood stove averaging something like 55 degrees living temperature. It was pretty miserable. The next year we got a bigger Jotul (a used F-3) for the house and put the little stove in the barn. We foamed the stone basement walls and got rid of a radon system in the basement which was sucking in cold air from the outside directly into the house.

As people from away, we were initially overcharged for wood and and stacking, but when it was understood in the village that we were full-time tax payers, staying year round, that practice ceased. It is actually a very friendly place.

We found a more reliable wood source, with better wood, since these stoves wouldn’t accept splits longer than 16 inches so we needed consistently sized splits. We rebuilt the back porch with concrete pillars for support to convert it into a wood porch capable of holding about 3 cords. Firewood here is majority maple with some birch. We stacked about half the wood ourselves and hired a neighborhood kid to stack the rest (he did a better job).

During the heating season (6 months or so) we burn the wood stove in the house all day, filling it at night and letting it burn out by morning and then starting a new fire to warm the house up, which it does in about an hour. Oil heat supplements when needed. We burn the small wood stove in the barn during the day, with an electric space heater supplementing it when needed.

We have the chimneys cleaned and inspected every year. The chimney guy says the hot fire in the Jotul every morning really helps to keep the chimney clean. We generate enough ash over the winter to fill one 25 gallon metal trash can. In the spring we haul the ash can down to the edge of the property to an ash pile. We burn 4 to 6 cords of wood a year, buying it green in the early spring for burning in the fall, though some people here season the wood for a year before burning. I don’t think we have room to store that much wood for that long.

I have to say, all other considerations aside, it is hard to overstate the psychological importance of the presence of a live wood stove in the living room during these long Vermont winters. Starting with a cold house of 55 or 60 degrees in the morning, the living room warms up quickly and the rest of the first floor warms up in about an hour. The second floor is for sleeping cold…

Finally, it is really kind of astonishing how much general dirt wood heat generates in the house between bark fragments, dirt and wood sprinters brought in with the wood, and ash and dust from the fire itself. Cleaning is continuous. We live in a small village in the Green Mountains, so most people here have either wood or pellet stoves in the house and there are a number of local folks cutting and selling firewood.

We are helped by the design of the old house, which has air circulating from living room to dining room to kitchen to hall to living room, with a ceiling fan to help push the heat down from the ceiling. Overall it's a great system, but it requires a fair amount of work stacking, hauling and cleaning.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
94,669
South Puget Sound, WA
Bark and wood debris is an issue with each time wood is set on the hearth while loading. We have a good dustbuster by the hearth for picking this up. Dust has not been an issue since we switched to burning doug fir. This is probably because I need to clean out the ash so infrequently, about once a cord. The deep belly of the T6 and doug fir make a good combo for reduced ash dust.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
5,354
Long Island NY
I think with any stove, good draft (chimney height) is ideal for (ash-) dust.

I bought a metal cat poo scooper and take out the ashes when there are still some glowing coals. The heat from those produce draft. I scoop the coals to one side, then use a shovel to shovel ashes in my bucket. Yes, that always makes some dust cloud - but it gets sucked right into the door opening of the stove and up the flue.
Then the coals to to the other side and repeat. (Then coals go to the front, a small split of softwood on top, reload to the gills and off to the races.)

I do have a fan blowing air from upstairs into the basement. I do switch that off before opening the stove or doing ashes. I surmise a ceiling fan in the stove room should better be off too when doing ashes; don't want eddy's pulling out ash clouds that otherwise would have gone up the flue.

The bark, splinters, etc is a real thing. Luckily my stove is in the basement with walking access to the garage where I store about a 2 wks worth of wood. That keeps the living room floor free. Except for chain saw chips in my socks - my socks seem to form inseparable bonds with chain saw chips...

We bought a cordless (and bagless) vacuum too for near the stove. Every reload, 3 minutes of vacuuming, and all is done. Anything bigger than the vacuum can handle gets in a little pile to be dumped into the stove next time the door opens.

Glad you got accepted as a resident there - important to be on good terms with, and have trusted neighbors.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
3,039
SE North Carolina
I’m going to give you a challenge. Set aside a day or two’s worth of wood you have leftover from this season. Don’t burn it right away next winter. But once you are into your regular heating season burn up the the 2 year dry wood and see if it makes a difference. 3-5 cords is a lot. I understand not having space to stack it all. That problem is solvable. I can tell the difference between 20% and below and wood above 23-24%. It doesn’t bubble when it’s that high but I sure can tell by how the stove is running that it could be drier. We got one of those cheap round robot vacuums. We like it. Wake up every morning to no mess.
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
7,494
Northern NH
I agree, I made do with one year wood for several years. I burnt hot so didnt have creosote issues but when I went to wood seasoned two years, I cut my usage by a third.
 

NoGoodAtScreenNames

Feeling the Heat
Sep 16, 2015
452
Massachusetts
Seven years ago we retired to Vermont, in a 2,000 sf, 100 year old wooden house with a small Jotul wood stove and good air circulation on the first floor, and a converted carriage barn as an office with an electric heater. The house had been recently renovated with new windows and is generally pretty tight.

So this is what we did and learned over those seven years of wood heat. We had heated a house with one wood stove when we lived in the blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, but it had been many years ago. And then, when I was young, I cut and split the wood myself, but those days are behind me.

The first year in Vermont we tried to heat the house with the little wood stove averaging something like 55 degrees living temperature. It was pretty miserable. The next year we got a bigger Jotul (a used F-3) for the house and put the little stove in the barn. We foamed the stone basement walls and got rid of a radon system in the basement which was sucking in cold air from the outside directly into the house.

As people from away, we were initially overcharged for wood and and stacking, but when it was understood in the village that we were full-time tax payers, staying year round, that practice ceased. It is actually a very friendly place.

We found a more reliable wood source, with better wood, since these stoves wouldn’t accept splits longer than 16 inches so we needed consistently sized splits. We rebuilt the back porch with concrete pillars for support to convert it into a wood porch capable of holding about 3 cords. Firewood here is majority maple with some birch. We stacked about half the wood ourselves and hired a neighborhood kid to stack the rest (he did a better job).

During the heating season (6 months or so) we burn the wood stove in the house all day, filling it at night and letting it burn out by morning and then starting a new fire to warm the house up, which it does in about an hour. Oil heat supplements when needed. We burn the small wood stove in the barn during the day, with an electric space heater supplementing it when needed.

We have the chimneys cleaned and inspected every year. The chimney guy says the hot fire in the Jotul every morning really helps to keep the chimney clean. We generate enough ash over the winter to fill one 25 gallon metal trash can. In the spring we haul the ash can down to the edge of the property to an ash pile. We burn 4 to 6 cords of wood a year, buying it green in the early spring for burning in the fall, though some people here season the wood for a year before burning. I don’t think we have room to store that much wood for that long.

I have to say, all other considerations aside, it is hard to overstate the psychological importance of the presence of a live wood stove in the living room during these long Vermont winters. Starting with a cold house of 55 or 60 degrees in the morning, the living room warms up quickly and the rest of the first floor warms up in about an hour. The second floor is for sleeping cold…

Finally, it is really kind of astonishing how much general dirt wood heat generates in the house between bark fragments, dirt and wood sprinters brought in with the wood, and ash and dust from the fire itself. Cleaning is continuous. We live in a small village in the Green Mountains, so most people here have either wood or pellet stoves in the house and there are a number of local folks cutting and selling firewood.

We are helped by the design of the old house, which has air circulating from living room to dining room to kitchen to hall to living room, with a ceiling fan to help push the heat down from the ceiling. Overall it's a great system, but it requires a fair amount of work stacking, hauling and cleaning.
Are you periodically testing for radon since removing the system?
 

Woodsplitter67

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2017
2,285
Woolwich nj
I agree that wood heat is a little messy. I have been able to keep it down over the years. We bring in roughy 3 days worh of wood, We use a large canvas tote which keeps the debris down from the door to the stove. Having an ash pan and only cleaning out once every 2 to 3 weeks and raking the ash fron the top loading stove helps on dust/ash. I don't really get bothered by the extra cleaning as the heat the stove puts out is well worth any additional work as well as any cleaning.
 
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xman23

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2008
2,447
Lackawaxen PA
Well written, nice story for other to learn by. Yes it can be a bit messy. I keep a week or so of wood on the covered side deck. I bring in a few splits. If they all don't go into the stove, there's large metal container next to the stove. It can hold 2-3 splits. A dust pan and brush cleans up anything that fall off. I'm going to look at one of those battery run upright vacuums. It should be perfect for a little touch up around the stove. The ash pan system on the Oslo keeps the ash contained. Only issue is it's not that big. If it's more than 3 days of burning I need to empty it more than once.