Seriously thinking about giving up on burning wood

FionaD Posted By FionaD, Nov 14, 2015 at 6:37 PM

?

Am I expecting too much from kiln dried logs?

  1. Yes

    4 vote(s)
    25.0%
  2. No

    12 vote(s)
    75.0%
  1. FionaD

    FionaD
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    Dec 20, 2013
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    Branchburner - Yep.. I'm on it! I have the bit between my teeth now with this one and I hope to really work with and encourage our new kiln-kids on the block. They're really wanting to be green about how they burn, using only off-cuts from their own wood to heat the kiln etc. They admit they have a learning curve, which I think is a good thing to be honest about with one of their first customers. I hope to build a good working relationship with them. I'm not surprised you didn't hear back from HETAS, I see them increasingly as one of those token Gov Depts, who look on paper as if they have a purpose...

    Electrathon - I agree. I think another part of that saving grace may be the fact that only a tiny, tiny number of burners over here have anything resembling a 'smoke dragon'. Wood stoves arrived here recently enough for 99% of burners to have efficient burners.. And on top of that many of them are what I call 'cosmetic burners'.

    Austroflamm - I dont have the space to be able to CSS all the wood I need, I wish I did, but I enjoy doing as much as I can and have to buy the rest... See earlier on in this thread all about that. With regard to your other interesting question.. There is no monitoring of the emissions from individual rural homes - we don't suffer from poor air quality in rural areas.. they're probably just too sparesely populated in Scotland. Large towns however are smoke-free zones, which means the only solid fuels you're allowed to burn are smokeless coal or wood/pellets in a 'DEFRA-exempt stove'. Whilst HETAS (allegedly) accredit proper stove installers and proper wood and pellet producers, it is DEFRA (Dept of Environment and Rural Affairs) who are responsible for monitoring air quality in specific areas and so part of their work is to make sure people can only buy and install wood stoves whose very low emission rates exempt them from being banned on burning solid fuels in towns (hence the ones you're allowed to use are called 'DEFRA exempt'. I'm not at all sure, but it may be that DEFRA- exemption criteria are actually stricter than the equivalent EPA-approved ones in the US.. Most towns have been smoke free zones since the 1950s and this is enforced by officials who follow through on complaints made by members of the public when they become aware that someone is burning bitumous coal rather than smokeless fuel, or sending out plumes of woodsmoke etc.

    The 'bad wood in a modern wood stove' scenario I'm highlighting is predominately a rural phenomenon and so I think it's falling between all sorts of cracks that will only be closed tight when customers get wiser and start to complain to wood producers.

    In short - we need more Brits joining the Hearth.com community and getting a stove-burning 101 :)

    As a point of interest, the emissions rate of my Jotul F3 do not meet the specs for DEFRA exemption... In other words, I wouldn't be able to install it if i lived in a smoke free zone.
     
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  2. ddahlgren

    ddahlgren
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    I have a couple of thoughts following this thread and hope everyone finds them logical as I do.
    First the wet vs. dry reading makes no sense. The 5 pound log as the example, you only have 5 lbs. total with all water and wood. I see no other way to look at it as there is only 5 lbs. total. If you subtract all the water you have a 4 lb. log. There is no other way to do it. The so called wet method says you have 5 lbs. of wood that is wet and 1 lb. of water that adds up to 6 lbs. every time total weight. Get a measuring cup and put in 4 oz. of Scotch and 1 oz. of water so the so called dry example with a total of 5 oz. add another oz. of water to have the wet example with 5 oz. Scotch and water and 1 oz. of water you have 6 oz. The bottom line is all the components have to add up to the total starting amount no more no less.

    The eco part next. There is no fossil fuel you can burn that does not have carbon and pollute in one way or another. Wood is the largest or close to it short of soft coal. The reason I take this position is I look at the bigger picture. There is a lot of talk about CO2 pollution and will leave that argument alone here. When you cut down a tree to burn it you add CO2 and remove a plant that is a CO2 scrubber so lose 2 ways. Yes you can replant a tree but does that 12 inch sapling really scrub what the 40 foot tree did? If you burn oil gas or anthracite coal they will all put out emissions like the wood but do nothing to scrub it so only pollute once. They have all decomposed to being just a biomass and dead. If worried about eco friendly scrap wood bio bricks old pallets and even old furniture from a land fill. Scrap has no future use and can do nothing other than make heat of add to landfill. Coal has no future use and requires little to process at least anthracite does not. Enough of the eco stuff but I see more to it than meets the eye.
     
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  3. CT Burner

    CT Burner
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    The problem with your logic is that oil/fossil fuel is in a "sink" whereas wood is more part of atmospheric carbon load. No, the sapling does not take up the same co2 as the full tree, but if you met it out the trees that die and the growing trees are basically recycling the same carbon over and over. From a global warming perspective, when you burn fossil fuel you are adding more carbon to this cycle. That's the problem.

    Which makes me curious, how are all these wood kilns over in Scotland being fired? What's the fuel? If it's fossil fuels, then seems all the "goodness" of burning the wood is being undone by burning something else to dry it first.
     
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  4. branchburner

    branchburner
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    That makes it especially ironic that there is a dearth of well-dried wood available to wood burners over there. Where I live, the opposite is true: many people burn in older stoves, so they are less concerned with getting dry wood, even though it is normally available (at a significant premium).
     
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  5. FionaD

    FionaD
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    This was a concern of mine when I first looked into burning wood, but I discovered, asI think I mentioned above, that almost all our kilns are fired with wood off-cuts. The local one I mentioned above even has a Clydesdale horse to pull the newly felled trees to where they get cut. But even when kilns are heated electrically, bear in mind that most of Scotland's electricity is wind or water generated... we have plenty of both! :)
    Aye.... There's a significant premium on kiln dried wood here too, compared to unseasoned or seasoned wood.. But it still works out cheaper than oil or electric heating, that's for sure.
     
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  6. ddahlgren

    ddahlgren
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    No problem with the logic. Wood coal oil or gas all carbon based fuels. All make CO2 only the tree can also remove it.
     
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  7. FionaD

    FionaD
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    ...But if it falls and rots on the ground it will release pretty much the same amount of co2 as if it gets burned... So may as well burn it, no?
     
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  8. Bill C

    Bill C
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    Fiona D, I read your post and can't believe how you can get any heat out of your wood with that much moisture content !!
    I never thought about it being so difficult to obtain wood in Scotland . I sure hope you are able to find an alternative to the supply problem and the mc.
    I suppose we in the U.S. Are fortunate to have a lot of hardwood available to us. It's hard to replace wood heat... Nothing else really compare. Best of luck to you !!
     
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  9. CT Burner

    CT Burner
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    You don't look at it on the individual tree level. Trees being renewables, there's a cycle of tree grows, tree burns/dies, new tree grows. The carbon goes round and round in this cycle, but the total co2 in the air at any one time would be essentially the same.

    When you burn oil/fossils you're taking carbon out of a sink and releasing it into the air. You're changing the amount of carbon in circulation. If you added a lot more land growing trees, then the amount of carbon "fixed" in the trees would adjust. People have suggested fertilizing the oceans to re sink the carbon liberated from fossil fuels for this reason.

    I don't think this is a controversial assessment of the carbon cycle.
     
  10. NHcpa

    NHcpa
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    Thought you folks burned peat...?
     
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  11. venator260

    venator260
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    Every study I've read says the same thing.

    Even if you get your wood trucked in from a logging operation, cut it with a chainsaw, and split it up with a gas-powered splitter, you've still released less carbon than burning oil or natural gas or using electricity for heat. The act of burning the wood, in and of itself, is carbon neutral. The advantage of wood gets even better the more carbon fueled steps above that you eliminate (split by hand, get wood close to your home, drag it out with horses, etc...) That tree took up carbon for 60,80, 100 years from woodburners past. Currently alive trees will do the same with the carbon from the wood that we're all burning today. The only issue is the conversion of forested land to unforested land, but little of the firewood, in the United States at least, is coming from that sort of project. And the U.S. has more forested land than it did in 1900, so again, no issues with increasing atmospheric carbon.

    The issue with fossil fuels is that their burning releases carbon that hasn't been part of the earth's carbon cycle for millions of years. The steady diet of dead ash that my stove will get for the next few years is releasing carbon that has been captured for a maximum of 60-70 years. In addition, that amount of carbon will be reabsorbed as new trees grow where those ash trees once were (here's hoping the smaller oaks and hickories fill in the gaps, I may need to supplement my retirement with timber sales someday). And as another person pointed out, the ash trees that I've been cutting for the last year or two would have fell down fairly soon anyway (they were already dead thanks to the emerald ash borer), releasing carbon as they decomposed.
     
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  12. ddahlgren

    ddahlgren
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    I have zero knowledge of the decomposition of wood so ill informed to say anything. I do know cutting down the rain forest a bad plan as is cutting timber in the northwest. We have fewer and fewer places to have the scrubbers live.
     
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  13. venator260

    venator260
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    Livi g things break it down, expelling carbon dioxide just like you do. I don't think most firewood comes from the forest destruction you describe. I'm certainly not cutting down the rainforest to feed my fire, just ash trees that are already dead. All of the firewood that I can ever remember getting with my dad was from places where new forest growth would occour, and now that I have a wood burner of my own, we continue the same process. This is anecdotal evidence, however, I would assume that most here are getting their firewood from plots of land that will continue to be forested, and where new growth will occour.
     
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  14. Poindexter

    Poindexter
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    Right, you could start with an oven dried piece of wood that weighs 4.00# at oven dried 0.00% moisture, absolutely bone dry, then put it in a ziploc bag with one pound of water and leave it sealed up until the wood absorbs all the water...

    Then you would have a five pound piece of wet wood composed of 1# water and 4# of wood that you just made yourself. What is the moisture content of that 5# piece of wood you just made?
     
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  15. ddahlgren

    ddahlgren
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    Ok for the third grade math lesson. A 5lb log and 1 lb. is water so 1/5 water and 1 divided by 5 = .20 or 20%
     
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  16. FionaD

    FionaD
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    There seem to be a few interesting conversations going on here, but I just wanted to let you see the reply I got today from the HETAS/Woodsure people who offer accreditation to firewood producers over here.

    The most salient part is at the very top and I have marked it bold.

    Hi Fiona,

    Thanks for your email.

    With regards to moisture content on the Woodsure Certification scheme, we
    specify that naturally seasoned firewood must be below 25% and that kiln
    dried must be less than 20%
    . Any producer who is certified on our scheme is
    tested to those requirements.
    It does surprise me that your stove manufacturer is
    recommending 20% moisture, as 25% is the industry standard for seasoned
    firewood, although 20% is perfectly achievable.


    The requirements of the scheme are all based on European standards and the
    testing we conduct is also derived from those standards. As such, the
    methodology for testing firewood means that the entire log is tested in an
    oven and the overall moisture content is the result.

    That said, it is bad practice to have the centre of the log at a high
    moisture because of the exact reason you have stated. This normally happens
    when the producer has quickly kiln dried the batch and not allowed
    sufficient time for the centre to dry. This is something we would look for
    in our audit and assessment of the producer. We would ensure the producer is
    conducting tests before, during and after the kilning period to check the
    moisture is correct and that the methodology they use is in line with the
    standards.

    If you have had a bad experience with a Woodsure certified producer and you
    have been unable to resolve it with the producer, we are more than happy to
    assist. As part of the scheme, we have a dispute resolution service whereby
    we can test fuel samples, advise on issues and if necessary, enforce
    requirements on the producer to improve. If you did want to discuss a
    particular fuel supply, please feel free to get in touch. We don’t put it
    down as a black mark against anyone; as a growing industry we need to listen
    to the consumer and create trust.

    Baltic timber – the reason this product is very dry, is that all the
    elements of Kiln Dried fuel production (land, timber, labour, gas/coal) are
    all significantly cheaper. Also, due to phytosanitary reasons, all imported
    timber must be below 20% moisture by law to stop the spread of any plant
    diseases. As a result, the material is normally dried down to 10 - 15%. This
    ensures compliance with the law, reduces shipping costs (as they are often
    based on weight) and even with a slight increase due to air absorption,
    means the product is still very dry by the time it is used in the UK.

    There are producers in the UK who make good quality firewood, but as you
    have identified, the woodfuel production industry is not a regulated
    industry. Anyone can set up a firewood business and sell logs without having
    any requirements on responsible sourcing, size, moisture content or delivery
    quantity. This is the reason the Woodsure was set up, to try and create
    consumer confidence in the industry and differentiate those who are serious
    about woodfuel production.

    Again, if you have an unresolved issue with a Woodsure producer or want to
    comment, we welcome feedback. If you would like to discuss any of the items
    further, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
    All reassuring, I have of course replied in order to take things further with the 'circa-45%MC-at-the-core' Kiln-dried sellers I have encountered! I have also explained to Woodsure that it would be helpful if they stated very clearly on their information that the standard they set for kiln dried logs is 20% because some of their accredited sellers are (mis)quoting Woodsure's standard as 'approx 25%' and it is hard to dispute their claims without anything quotable from Woodsure's website.

    The bottom line is we need regular re-testing from Woodsure - and we need more accredited wood sellers here in Scotland; there are currently two.o_O
     
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  17. ddahlgren

    ddahlgren
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    Sure wish we had those people in the USA as the reason I quite burning wood for the most part. I pay them what little they charge to stack it when burning wood as the money well spent when I measured the pile and they needed to get the rest of the cord before being paid. I also grabbed 3 or 4 random pieces from the truck and split them and if not close to seasoned sent them away. If the wood too long than specified or very large splits that would take years to season sent them away as well.
     
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  18. renewablejohn

    renewablejohn
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    Yes we do exist commercial wood suppliers who guarantee that all the timber they sell is below 20% MC. The problem we have is that anyone can sell wood no matter whether it is wet or dry as there is no regulated standard. Unfortunately the customer is there own worst enemy because rather than buy a quality product guaranteed to be less than 20% MC for £100 per cubic metre they will go to a "cowboy" wood supplier and pick up a couple of "builders" bags at £60 a bag then moan because the timber wont burn because its 35-40% MC. What I would suggest to FionaD is to go onto the UK forum Arbtalk where she will be able to find other genuine wood suppliers rather than the cowboys she has already encountered. As for reforming the UK market there is no chance of that whilst consumers believe cheap is best although I cannot complain as a competitors wet wood is the best advert for selling my dry wood.
     
  19. branchburner

    branchburner
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    That is pretty much the case here, as many wood burners still use pre-EPA stoves and many who have newer stoves remain ignorant of the need for drier wood. I imagine in the UK as here, many stove owners blame the stove rather than the wood, or else, having no prior burning experience, are altogether unaware that they even have a problem or that their burning experience and efficiency can be greatly improved with drier wood.

    I am surprised that HETAS says " 25% is the industry standard for seasoned firewood " because most of us US burners on this forum and US stove manufacturers normally specify 20% as far as I know. But nobody mentions if this is wet-basis or dry-basis in their publications. Any thoughts on this?
     
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  20. branchburner

    branchburner
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    I'm surprise that they are surprised.

    California/EPA:
    "Firewood should dry, or "season" a minimum of 6 to 12
    months after splitting. Hardwoods dry more slowly than
    softwoods and may take over a year to dry. Seasoned
    firewood by definition contains 20 percent moisture or
    less by weight."​

    Maybe you can inquire how they come to feel 25% rather than 20% is the standard, and share some stove manual excerpts with them, these among many others:

    "Seasoned firewood is nothing more than wood that is
    cut to size, split and air dried to a moisture content of
    around 20%. The time it takes to season wood varies
    from around nine months for soft woods to as long as
    eighteen months for hardwoods."

    "
    "Wet wood can create excessive smoke which is wasted fuel. Burning dry, seasoned firewood with a moisture content
    of 20% or less can save money and help reduce harmful air pollution."

    "Good firewood has been cut to the correct length for the stove, split to a range of sizes and
    stacked in the open until its moisture content is reduced to 15 to 20 per cent"

    "firewood that is ready to burn has a moisture content between15 and 20% by weight
    and will allow your stove to produce its highest possible efficieny"

    "Properly seasoned firewood is wood which has been cut and split to convenient sizes and stacked
    neatly outdoors (but under cover) with ample air circulation provided and left to dry until it has a moisture
    content of approximately 20%"

    "Use dry seasoned wood, split and stacked and protected from rain for at least 24 months with a moisture content of 20% or lower."
     
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  21. FionaD

    FionaD
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    Dec 20, 2013
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    Thanks for posting here. I understand the situation here in the UK completely, as I have been at the receiving end of it for several years now and would be delighted to sympathise with dry firewood suppliers, once I find them. I had a look at Arbtalk and was delighted to see so many firewood suppliers listed there, some of whom I have been in contact with, indeed one of them told me I should throw my moisture meter away and not worry about MC at all.

    So my question is.. how to I know, without calling every number on this list and asking for a sample or delivery, who is selling wood that is around 20% right to the core? My own answer would be to say that experience so far tells me that if firewood is a low MC people will shout it from the rooftops (but of course any also shout that it is low MC even if it is for only the first half-inch into the split) ....and if they are honest that it is not around 20 % MC, they will call it 'firewood' or 'seasoned firewood' which communicates nothing hopeful to me about it's MC and would not encourage me to call them. A quick glance at the suppliers in Scotland on the list seems to suggest that they all sell 'firewood' with no mention at all of MC. If their wood is good they need to be more specific about its standard.

    My point in starting this thread was to announce my tiredness at having tried for so long without success (at least I need a wee rest for a while). So seeing a great big list of other suppliers I could try leaves me feeling, "oh, here we go again.. more phone calls to suppliers who promise the wood wth be 20% or below and it turns out not to be the case". I appreciate that there may be real 20 % wood out there somewhere, but for now I'm tired of looking and getting disappointed every single time.

    On the other hand, if you happen to know of someone who could deliver 14" or 16" hardwood logs with a guaranteed MC of 20% at the core of the split, to Central Scotland (FK8) then by all means PM me their details and I will be all over them like off-gassing on 4 yr CSS oak splits :). I have always paid around £100 per cubic Metre builders bag, so would not balk at that price.. I usually buy two bags at a time.

    One final question, is there a reason why so few of the suppliers on the list (none of the ones a read) are accredited by Woodsure? Is it prohibitively expensive to get accreditation, for instance? Just trying to understand how the whole HETAS/Woodsure system works and if it means anything useful at all to the consumer at the end of the day.
     
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  22. renewablejohn

    renewablejohn
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    You can forget all about HETAS its a cosy club run by the large wood merchants and the biomass installers. It has very little respect from genuine log producers precisely because of the contentious issue of recommending 25% MC which is easier for the large producers to maintain rather than the 20% MC which quality wood merchants work to as it is the recommended MC that most woodstove manufacturers recommend as there maximum MC for there stoves. Hopefully the UK government is starting to weed out the poor suppliers by use of the Biomass Suppliers List but unfortunately at the moment it only applies to supplies for the government supported RHI scheme. Needless to say I am registered on the BSL list.
     
  23. nola mike

    nola mike
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    ... Or about $550/cord for you 'muricans
    I'm in the wrong field, and apparently need to move to Richmond, uk
     
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  24. renewablejohn

    renewablejohn
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    Cost of hardwood timber now suitable for logs is approx £60 per tonne delivered and thats before you start processing it into logs.
     
  25. renewablejohn

    renewablejohn
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    FionaD

    You will probably struggle finding hardwood supplies in Central Scotland as it is a traditional softwood area. I only supply hardwood but thats because my wife pinches all the softwood we get for our own fires so I have to sell the hardwood to daft customers who are prepared to pay a higher price for hardwood. I dont really understand this UK premium for hardwood as all the Scandinavian countries use softwood and turn their noses up in respect of hardwood.
     

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