The effectiveness of wood heating is impacted by a host of factors. Quality of fireplace or stove and quality of fuel are both important to consider when working to reduce your energy expenditures during the arduous winter months.
REDUCE COSTS LONG TERM BY INVESTING IN QUALITY
Installing any new heating system incurs a significant initial cost. Traditional fossil fuel heating systems (natural gas, electric, propane or heating oil) can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $7,500, while wood stoves or pellet stoves start around $1,000 and extend to $6,000 (some systems go beyond).
IS A MORE EXPENSIVE STOVE ALWAYS BETTER QUALITY?
Talking about a quality stove quality is really talking about two things:
- Heat transfer
Certification bodies like the Canadian Standards Association(CSA) look at these factors and certify stoves based on stringent criteria. Generally, heat transfer and combustion on CSA or United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified stoves are uniformly high.
Ultimately, the quality of wood stoves sold by reputable dealers is very high, and the choice consumers must make is for a unit that is aesthetically pleasing and suitable for household size and needs.
LOOK FOR QUALITY LOCAL FUEL
Firewood with high British Thermal Unit (BTU) content is best for a wood burning stove. High BTU content means fuel will burn for a long period of time. The highest BTU-rated woods that are available in Sudbury are:
While the lowest BTU rated are:
- White cedar
- White Pine
Even the lowest rated woods contain BTU and will burn well if they are dry. The only kind of wood that you will want to always avoid is wet wood- regardless of the type.
Opting for a local fuel makes the most sense in many ways. A local fuel will be significantly less expensive. In addition, choosing local also means that you won’t be at risk of bringing an insect infestation back with your out-of-territory firewood- as in the case with the Emerald Ash Borer.
GET THE MOST FROM YOUR FIREWOOD
Freshly harvested wood (or green wood) contains a lot of moisture. Wood recently cut from a living tree, or that has been left out in the elements, can produce one quarter the BTUs as “seasoned” or sufficiently dry wood, or less.
How to Season Firewood
If you’re using wood that you’ve harvested, season it by splitting, stacking on a slightly elevated surface (such as a skid) with enough space for airflow throughout, and leaving it to dry for at least 1 full year.
The beginning of summer is the most ideal time to split and stack your wood- with the hottest air and large amount of wind. It will dehydrate the fastest at this time. It should be left uncovered as long as possible; when rainy season arrives, cover only on the top leave the sides open.
The true test for determining if your firewood has been dried sufficiently is to use a moisture meter- available at all fireplace supply stores. If you measure anything less than 15%, this is ideal.
If you can’t get a moisture meter, listen carefully to your stove or fireplace while you’re burning. If you hear sizzling- that’s a sign that it’s too wet.
CALCULATE YOUR ENERGY SAVINGS
Natural Resources Canada released a substantial guide to residential wood heating in 2002, which includes a valuable formula homeowners can use to calculate potential wood heating savings.
Click on the link above and navigate to pages 54-56 (56-58 if your web browser has a .pdf navigator installed, as most do). Use tables 1-3 to complete the formula outlined under the heading “Step 4: Using the Formula.”
The numbers used in this guide are reflective of prices from a decade ago, so we have updated the equation below to more accurately reflect the costs of today.
The Laurin family lives in an old, detached, relatively open-plan house in Sudbury. They heat their house with electric baseboards at a cost of 15 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). What would it cost them to heat with a high-efficiency advanced combustion wood stove with an efficiency of 70 per cent?
The cost of a full cord of hardwood is $300. From Table 3, their annual heating load is 120gj. Taken from Table 1, the energy content of electricity is 3.6 MJ/kWh and the energy content of hardwood is 30,600 MJ/cord. The seasonal efficiency of electricity is equal to 100 percent and the seasonal efficiency of wood sits at about 70 percent.
The annual cost of electric heating would be (0.15 ÷ 3.6) x (120 ÷ 100) x 100 000 = $5000.
The annual cost of wood heating would be (300 ÷ 30 600) x (120 ÷ 70) x 100 000 = $1666.67
In this example, if the high-efficiency wood stove displaced all of the electricity previously used for heating, the Laurins would save $3333 every year.
If you’re interested in using a form of wood heating in your home, come visit our showroom for expert advice on how to get started.