Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Free Heat

In the Middle of the Right posted yesterday on the same topic.
Was talking with a dude about what we did this weekend.Mentioned that I had split a rick (8' X 4') and half of wood. Got my exercise."Oh, you heat with wood? Cool!"...."Must be nice to have all that free heat...wish I could do that".
I drive a full size pickup. The primary reason for the truck instead of something like a Mazda Miata is firewood. But ya' gotta drive something, so ignore that.

The chainsaw is a Stihl 044. I have 4 bars. Two 20", one 24", and one 30" bar. I have eight or so chains for the 20", and two each for the larger bars. Call that a grand. The maul, wedges, and sledge are small change, maybe a couple of hundred.

You have to store the wood to season it. Racks, old railroad ties, landscape timbers, and the space it all takes up. Again, if you scavenge most of that, small change.

You need a stove, along the heat shields, the triple wall chimney, and the brick platform it sits on. Let's call that two grand.

Most of that is one time costs and in the end insignificant to the cost of heating with wood. That cost is not measured in dollars.

Wood. I have figured out that I need about 17 or so full truckloads every winter. That's 17 half-days. Leave the house after lunch, drive to the land owned by a very generous friend who lets me cut on his property, cut, split, load the truck, drive home, unload and stack. If a Saturday appears where I think, "Wow, I'm pretty well free today," my next thought is to go sharpen the spare chains and load up the saw.

The cold weather comes. Maybe in October you start having a fire in the evening. The first one is a pleasure, the room warms, and your summer efforts pay off. By mid-November, the stove is running all the time. Might not be stoked up, but there's a little fire going to keep the chill off. The wood pile begins to shrink.

December to March, you are bringing wood to the porch every day, adding wood to the stove every few hours, hauling ashes out. The woodpile disappears and you start to wonder if you gathered enough.

There's a reason people put in gas furnaces. You have to want to heat with wood. You have to be willing to work hard to do it. You are going to sweat. You need to be in reasonable shape. You need the skills to wield that saw, cut down good sized trees and make stove sized pieces, and not kill or maim yourself.

There is nothing free about it.


Michael Brahier said...

Have you ever heard of a rocket mass heater? They are supposed to be extremely efficient and if you are some what handy, something you can build yourself. If I lived some where with an actual winter, I would probably be building one.

Anonymous said...

As much work as it is, I miss the wood stove and the pile of firewood it demands. Not the primary source of heat, we still went through 2-3 cords/winter. I had it easy, though - a relative who owned a sawmill within driving distance. Oak slabwood was free to me, plenty of which on the back of the huge pile was dry enough to burn immediately, as were the culls - trees not straight enough to produce decent lumber, or with barbed wire or bullets in the wood. Free (to me) to load and haul, but still had to be cut, split and stacked, and as always, this fall and winter's effort (only the desperate sweat that many calories in the summer) was for next winter's heat.

I remember sitting in my chair very late at night, sock feet on the hearth, dogs asleep alongside my chair, the cat asleep in my lap, watching it snow through the sliding doors, sipping single malt. A few nights like that tend to make one forget the personal abuse involved in keeping the stove fed.

B said...


Your rocket stove is a nice burner....for a single room, or as shown, a seat.

They don't work well for houses. Nor do they burn that much more efficiently, really. It takes heat to make the stoves convect. Taking all that heat out makes the exhaust denser...and harder to move.

They do *appear* to burn hotter for the same amount of wood, but produce no more usable BTU's per ton of wood than a decent conventional wood stove does.

Rocket stoves are GREAT for heating food or boiling water when camping. They bur small sticks very quickly. But that doesn't work for heating a home.

Old NFO said...

Yep, they ARE worth the effort when you're young (or relatively so) and in shape. When you're old and broke down, they are a CHORE!

B said...

BTW, where are you that you need 17 truck loads?

THat is about 9 CORDS. Lot of wood.

I do my home (1800 sq ft in NW Indiana ) with 3 cords...November thru March. Maybe 3 1/2.

matism said...

I don't use ANY cords of wood to heat my home in Cocoa, Florida. What the heck are y'all talkin' about???

ASM826 said...


Where do you get the big blocks of ice for May through October?

doubletrouble said...

Yep, it IS work, but your commenter described the advantages well. I'm just about NFO's age, & I still twitch out 5 or so cord a year- takes longer though!
'Free' isn't the right word, but for me, 'freely available' fits; my fuel grows all around me.

Anonymous said...


Brought to you by the same MAROONS who think their electric car is non-polluting.


matism said...

My refrigerator, ASM826. Where do you get yours in that timeframe? I grew up in Bradford, Pennsylvania, which was usually the coldest spot in the country at least three times each winter, and while I do remember snow on the 4th of July, I do not remember usable blocks of ice, large or otherwise, outside during those months...