Seriously thinking about giving up on burning wood

Am I expecting too much from kiln dried logs?

  • Yes

    Votes: 4 25.0%
  • No

    Votes: 12 75.0%

  • Total voters
    16

FionaD

Feeling the Heat
Dec 20, 2013
363
Scotland
This will be my third winter since I got my first wood stove. I still love my stove and really want to love burning wood.

I am unable to CSS enough wood for myself, partly due to lack of space and partly because it's pretty tough to do anyway in a country that rains horizontally as much as Scotland! So I need to buy most of my wood. Kiln dried is very popular over here... probably partly because it's possible to get wood dry that way. It's expensive, (you guys would freak at the price!) but still way cheaper than heating oil. But what I have discovered, much to my disappointment, is that I have been unable to find a supplier of kiln dried logs whose product is a decently low MC.

I have tried well over 10 different suppliers in the last two years and the very best of them sell logs that average between 25 -27% on a freshly split face... Often much higher - I've measured some 'kiln dried' splits up to 45% at their core!

Our government body that monitors the quality of fire wood and pellets - HETAS - allow suppliers to indicate on their websites If their product has attained their standard and is accredited by them. So I decided to study their info on their website and also call them and ask exactly how they monitor firewood... and here!s what I discovered when I spoke to them - what they consider to be acceptable firewood is wood that has an 'average MC of 25%'.

By 'average' they mean, for instance, if the outside of a split is, say, 18%, it's quite fine for the inside of the same split to be 32%, because the 'average' MC would indeed be 25%. So I guess I have discovered why all the wood Suppliers I've complained to say I'm too fussy - because HETAS would back them up.

The only wood I have been able to buy that is 20% or less right through is kiln dried birch exported from the Baltic States. It was a joy to burn, and I was grateful to have the chance to see what my stove can do when it's given a decent chance, but I have never bought it again because a great part of my reason for burning wood is about reducing my carbon footprint.

So I am probably going to be saying goodbye to logs and moving over to Eco bricks, as they check all the boxes, including the environmental ones, as some great ones are made pretty locally.

I'm sad though, becuase there's just something about actual logs that Eco bricks don't do for me. But heck, they're waaaay cheaper than logs over here and they burn great.

So in sharing all of this here partly because I'd need some sympathy :( - but mostly because I'd welcome some feedback about HETAS's official view of good fire wood!

I will probably never stop looking for decent firewood though... But it's starting to feel like searching for the Holy Grail or the Lost Chord...

Sorry this post is so long.. Just getting it off my chest.
 
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BIGDADDY

Feeling the Heat
May 17, 2012
416
Is coal an option where you live?
 

FionaD

Feeling the Heat
Dec 20, 2013
363
Scotland
Yes it is. I had an open fire before I got the wood stove and burned mostly coal in it. But now I have a wood stove.
 

Jake86

Burning Hunk
Oct 8, 2015
158
Plymouth, Massachusetts
Is a pellet stove an option? So easy and so much warmth! I went from wood, to eco logs, and now a pellet stove. I just wish I had got a PS 10 years ago.

Cheers !
 

FionaD

Feeling the Heat
Dec 20, 2013
363
Scotland
It may be an option somewhere down the line, but having paid so much for the stove that's what I'll using for a few years now.
 

branchburner

Minister of Fire
Sep 27, 2008
2,755
southern NH
The cure for suppliers with wet wood is to buy a year (or two, in lands of sideways rain) in advance. The cure for having no space to store that wood is to lease some... or to move.

As for HETAS, their standard of 25%, rather than the 20% suggested by stove makers and other regulatory bodies, is unacceptable to my mind... and I think I'll take a minute to contact them and tell them so.
 

electrathon

Minister of Fire
Sep 17, 2015
523
Gresham, OR
If you have the wood stove and coal why don't you burn coal in the stove?
 

spirilis

Minister of Fire
Sep 8, 2009
907
New Market, MD
That's crazy, and I don't blame you for switching away from the logs. Something about burning wood briquettes seems off, like you're using a very primitive form of heat but with high tech fuel, yet I have used them for 6 years now and swear by them. Keep some of those half-dried kiln dry stuff around though to "temper" the extreme overfire-prone nature of the bricks. Having fuel that's "too dry" comes with its own set of challenges.
 

7acres

Minister of Fire
Dec 5, 2013
647
South East USA
Yes it is. I had an open fire before I got the wood stove and burned mostly coal in it. But now I have a wood stove.
Was there anything about burning coal that was not in line with your eco-sensibilities?
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
78,714
South Puget Sound, WA
That is a bummer. I would burn the Eco bricks. The fire is still nice and the bone warming heat is hard to replace.
Oil is much less expensive over here this season. Not so in Scotland?
 
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branchburner

Minister of Fire
Sep 27, 2008
2,755
southern NH
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begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
78,714
South Puget Sound, WA
Brent crude dropped a lot during November. It's down to about $44/barrel.
 
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Benchwrench

Feeling the Heat
Sep 1, 2011
259
State of Confusion
cheaper heating gets my vote. I don't care what it is just as long as the BTU's are readily available in the fuel supply. Eco Bricks or Oak.
I wish there was a way to barge out all the wood you could ever need.
 
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drz1050

Minister of Fire
Sep 11, 2014
791
Ballston Lake, NY
If eco bricks were cheaper than firewood here, I'd burn the bricks no questions asked. I bought a ton to supplement my marginal wood, and a load of those burns real nice.
 
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rdust

Minister of Fire
Feb 9, 2009
4,526
Michigan
As for HETAS, their standard of 25%, rather than the 20% suggested by stove makers and other regulatory bodies, is unacceptable to my mind... and I think I'll take a minute to contact them and tell them so.
Stove makers test fuel is Doug fir at 16-20% wet basis IIRC. If the wood is reading 25% on a meter that is meeting the high side of the test fuel since the meter reads dry basis. 25% on a meter converts to 20% wet basis.
 
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rdust

Minister of Fire
Feb 9, 2009
4,526
Michigan
Our government body that monitors the quality of fire wood and pellets - HETAS - allow suppliers to indicate on their websites If their product has attained their standard and is accredited by them. So I decided to study their info on their website and also call them and ask exactly how they monitor firewood... and here!s what I discovered when I spoke to them - what they consider to be acceptable firewood is wood that has an 'average MC of 25%'.

By 'average' they mean, for instance, if the outside of a split is, say, 18%, it's quite fine for the inside of the same split to be 32%, because the 'average' MC would indeed be 25%. So I guess I have discovered why all the wood Suppliers I've complained to say I'm too fussy - because HETAS would back them up..
Are they looking for 25% wet or dry basis?
 

electrathon

Minister of Fire
Sep 17, 2015
523
Gresham, OR
Stove makers test fuel is Doug fir at 16-20% wet basis IIRC. If the wood is reading 25% on a meter that is meeting the high side of the test fuel since the meter reads dry basis. 25% on a meter converts to 20% wet basis.
I don't understand this, can you explain more?
 
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Poindexter

Minister of Fire
Jun 28, 2014
2,063
Fairbanks, Alaska
Fiona, I too am real estate limited and water challenged. I am going to be running some "hoop greenhouses" as passive solar kilns in my back garden summer 2016. Usually my wood gets plenty dry in the first part of summer, my challenge is keeping it dry while we get rain every day in the latter part of summer.

Link to images: https://www.google.com/search?q=hoop+greenhouse+diy&espv=2&biw=1280&bih=923&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0CBwQsARqFQoTCMqdmOWrkckCFdZciAoddSoLvA

My individual sheds are going to be 42 x 96 inches, about 1x2.5 meters. They should hold about 1 cord each with the wood inside stacked 7 feet tall, close to 2meters.

I'll drop you a PM with a link to my experimental thread coming soon to the wood shed section on this site.
 
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electrathon

Minister of Fire
Sep 17, 2015
523
Gresham, OR
Sorry for the hijack, but I think this is very relivant to the OP topic. If I just read correctly, when using a moisture meter and it reads 25%, that is the same as everyone here saying that you need to be less that 20% moisture. This is a huge difference than what I have been reading about dry wood for the last few months. Seems that there is a huge omission going on when someone says to buy a moisture meter and make sure your wood is less than 20% moisture.
 
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FionaD

Feeling the Heat
Dec 20, 2013
363
Scotland
Hi all, thanks for all your thoughts and suggestions. Many of which I have considered over the past year or two and had to add to the 'not really feasible' list and some of which I haven't completely thrown out, yet.

Yes... Heating oil dropped by almost 50% here in the UK - it's now down to around 40 pence per litre, which I think translates roughly into $2.77 per gallon.

...And Yes, heating cost is a factor, but it's less about money for me and more about preferring not to go back to burning oil or coal because I want to do my bit for the planet in as many ways as possible. It goes without saying how important that is.

I think my main complaint is 'the con' that's taking place over here. Burning wood is sold mightily in the UK as the best way to heat, for dozens of really good reasons I heartily agree with... And that's why I spent almost £5000 (approx $6500.. a typical cost here) on the stove and installation. But the reality is that the modern stove industry is in its relative infancy over here, so few wood sellers here know, or care enough about properly dry wood and few burners question the wood they buy because they don't know how to burn in stoves.

Branchburner... I'd LOVE you to ask HETAS about the discrepancy between their recommended MC for firewood and what stove manufacturers recommend and let us know what they say. I plan to ask them again too. And You know what? I am starting to feel to strongly about this that I might even think about starting a website.. My 'inner activist' is stirring.

In the meantime, it's decent eco bricks, which I can buy at almost wholesale price from a co-operative here in Scotland that was probably started by others who feel the same as me.

But I will keep up the hunt for that elusive dry wood that is just a small carbon footprint away. In fact, I've just discovered that a family just over the hill have set up a kiln and plan to start selling kiln dried wood.. I see they already have been accredited by HETAS, guess I may as well have a chat with them - and take my moisture meter. And so it goes on. Rinse and repeat.
 
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FionaD

Feeling the Heat
Dec 20, 2013
363
Scotland
I don't really understand this either ...
Sorry for the hijack, but I think this is very relivant to the OP topic. If I just read correctly, when using a moisture meter and it reads 25%, that is the same as everyone here saying that you need to be less that 20% moisture. This is a huge difference than what I have been reading about dry wood for the last few months. Seems that there is a huge omission going on when someone says to buy a moisture meter and make sure your loud is less than 20% moisture.
... But either way, I'm pretty sure it would remain the case that an MC reading of 30% or more on the face of a freshly split kiln dried log is not good, even if the surface MC reads under 20%.

I have yet to discover if HETAS have any view about when the gap between inner and out MCs in an 'Average reading' might become untenable.
 

spirilis

Minister of Fire
Sep 8, 2009
907
New Market, MD
Well shoot! I forgot all about that wet vs dry basis business too. So my 19% poplar is more like 16%... not that I had any doubts as it takes off like a racecar :D
 

Toomb

Member
Oct 27, 2015
99
Rochester, ny
How much wood do you burn a year? How space limited are you? You really only need to be able to store two years worth of wood.....you are already storing one year worth. If you could somehow find the space to store next years wood.....problem solved.