Question on burning old wood

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eshwars

New Member
May 22, 2021
19
seattle
Hi All,

This summer, I got a Pacific Energy Summit LE insert put into my fireplace. I've just started using it and am very happy with it!

I still have some stacks of wood from a tree that was taken down about 15 years ago. Some 5 years ago I noticed that the insides of the logs were crumbling (the inside almost looks like sawdust if I split one of these logs). I couldn't really burn this in my fireplace because I found that it didn't have enough structural integrity so it would fall apart and not burn if I tried. It was too much wood to try to get rid of in my Yard Waste bin, so I deferred making a decision on what to do with this wood. Until now!

Now with my PE insert, I noticed that if I placed one of these logs once there is a good bed of coals, they burn great! So I have a question: will it harm my insert to burn these old crumbling logs?
 

Sawset

Minister of Fire
Feb 14, 2015
1,200
Palmyra, WI
I recently acquired a stash of apple wood cut during the 70s. It was under cover the whole time. Some is solid and heavy, but to my surprise, some has white mold throughout and is now light and crumbling. All is destined for the stove. If it's dry, there would be no harm on consuming it in the firebox. Creosote forms due to moisture and condenses from reduced temperatures, both of which will not be a problem.
 
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stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
1,501
Eastern Long Island NY
I agree about creosote, and that it will burn fine. I do wonder whether crumbling wood gives rise to more (fine) particulates exiting the stove through the flue. (i.e. burn sawdust, and it's hard to not exhaust particulates?)
No experience here, just wondering.
 
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clancey

Minister of Fire
Feb 26, 2021
1,396
Colorado
I wonder about those dry paper type logs that they sell and wonder if they would put more dry stuff out the chimney but personally I do not think that I would worry about old wood especially if the people here shared with you about the cresote...Just burn it all up and keep an eye on things and save a little bit of money from the wood as well--in this time we need money savings..old mrs clancey
 
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,518
South Puget Sound, WA
The age of the wood is not as big an issue as is the condition of the wood and how it has been stored. If it is punky it can smolder and smoke more. The other concern is bringing insect colonies into the house if they have moved into the core of the wood.
 

eshwars

New Member
May 22, 2021
19
seattle
The age of the wood is not as big an issue as is the condition of the wood and how it has been stored. If it is punky it can smolder and smoke more. The other concern is bringing insect colonies into the house if they have moved into the core of the wood.
@begreen Thanks raising that point! Yes, that thought about insects did occur to me as well. So I've been putting the log into the fire the moment I bring it into the house. In other words, I don't store the compromised wood inside the house for any length of time.

And you're right about the smoldering as well. That's the reason I hadn't been able to use any of this wood in my pre-insert fireplace. But now when I do this, the smoke-reburn really kicks in and on the PE, which is really cool to watch. I'm continually awestruck by the technology that enables this! How can a series of air channels inside the unit do this? Without even requiring any power? Wow!
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,518
South Puget Sound, WA
But now when I do this, the smoke-reburn really kicks in and on the PE, which is really cool to watch. I'm continually awestruck by the technology that enables this! How can a series of air channels inside the unit do this? Without even requiring any power? Wow!
Assuming the draft is good, once the firebox is up to temperature and the primary air is closed down, the vacuum created by the draft pulls air through the secondary. This helps burn unburnt gases and provides a nice light show too.
 

RockyMtnGriz

Burning Hunk
Apr 19, 2019
122
SW Montana
One more vote for burn it! If it's good and dry, your stove can burn it without smoke from the chimney, and you can control it, BURN IT! After all, these newer stoves are built to burn smoke. What would be a smoky, smouldery, nightmare in an older stove, or a fireplace, is just more fuel to the newer stoves.

I make a point of burning up as much of that kind of stuff as I can in the fall before real winter sets in. A couple of half decent pieces of wood to keep everything going, plus a number of pretty rotten things, a couple of ugly things, a hunk of fir bark, and a scoop of chips and bark bits is cooking away in my furnace right now. It's 2/3 of a firebox load to do what could be done with 1/4, but it doesn't matter this time of the year. I want it to be done before I get up in the morning anyway.

It gets burned with no smoke in my furnace, unlike a pile, which is the other option, and I get a warm house in the morning despite the 30 degree temps, and a fresh 80 gallons of hot water, and I have less burn pile tending duty, plus less real woodcutting to do, in exchange for the hassle of dealing with what I call the "crap wood." That the stuff is, "gotten rid of," is also not overrated!

I think the main issue, besides making sure the junk is actually dry, is that you are adding a fuel that has vastly more surface area than sound wood. You need to make sure that you're not producing more fuel (smoke), than your secondary combustion system can contend with at any point. If you can feed and control to stay within that limit (no chimney smoke, and not melting anything), the stove shouldn't notice the difference. You will notice a lot more heat than if you had fed it to the waste bin, however.

Bikedennis - welcome! Nice to see someone from my hometown! My Vibram tracks are all over that place.
 

xman23

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2008
2,332
Lackawaxen PA
If it's dry it will burn. It will burn up quickly. And any heat is better than no heat. But it does sound like suff I put on the fire pit pile.
 

MissMac

Minister of Fire
Dec 4, 2017
866
NW Ontario
My neighbour dropped a bunch of old punky poplar this summer and asked me if i wanted it. I couldn't help myself and said sure! So easy, free and close not to. It's all bucked up, and I'm slowly working on splitting it. Some logs were better than others, but certainly this wood isn't great, and some of it definitely is punky. However, i'm still gonna run it through my stove once I dry it out. The price/effort involved were right, and in general, I put way too much effort into doing my firewood not to squeeze every last bit I can out of it. The only stuff that went to my outdoor burn pile was the stuff that literally disintegrated on the splitter. If it's sound enough to hold together when I split it, it's going in my wood stove. :)