The heat of the summer will soon give rise to the cold of winter and the promise of high heating bills. If you are currently using wood for heat, now is the time to stock up with firewood, and more importantly, split any wood you have so it can dry—wood does not really dry until it is split.
Wood should be 20% moisture, which can take 6‐12 months after it is split. Consider buying a simple moisture meter at a home improvement store and then split some pieces of wood and test the moisture in the middle. If you use pellets, ordering in the summer will usually get you a better price. Also, clean your chimney and make sure your stove is in good repair.
If you are new to burning wood as firewood or pellets, now is the time check out some online resources and visit a reputable wood stove dealer to educate yourself about what you would need to meet your needs. In the discussion about renewable energy, many people think of solar, wind, and geothermal energy, forgetting about the oldest and largest source of renewable energy—wood.
Wood heat is the fastest growing residential heat fuel with an increase of 34% from 2000 to 2010. About 20% of Illinois homes have at least one wood combustion appliance. Whether you are considering the use of firewood or wood pellets, wood heat is the one renewable natural resource that can help middle and lower income families save a significant portion on their heat bill.
The technology of burning wood has increased dramatically in the last few decades, leading to lower emissions and higher efficiency, which means that your wood lasts longer and you have to buy or cut less of it. The EPA requires all wood stoves produced after 1988 to emit less than 7.5 grams of particulate per hour, and most stoves now are more in the 4 gram area, and improving. Pellet stoves are not rated by the EPA, but their emissions are very low because of the fuel, usually less than 2 grams per hour.
Some people wonder if cutting wood to produce heat is sustainable – Will we run out of trees? A valid question, but not to worry! In Illinois, data from 2010 shows we grow 3.8 times more wood than is removed by tree mortality or harvesting.
Should I Start Burning Wood?
If you are new to burning wood or an existing user seeking more information, consider the following resources:
· The Alliance for Green Heat is a nonprofit organization that promotes high efficiency wood heat for the residential applications. (www.forgreenheat.org)
· The University of Illinois Extension has fact sheets and webinars:
Heating with Wood Needs Care and Consideration fact sheet provides a good background on what you need to know (urbanext.illinois.edu/hortihints/0110b.html).
· Visit a reputable wood stove store in your area. Buying a wood stove is one thing, but having a good dealer in the area is important. Store showrooms can be invaluable to the new buyer to demonstrate how the stoves work, their pros and cons, prices for the stove, and any chimney work that is needed. You can search the internet for "wood stove dealer" in your area or go to the Hearth, Patio, & Barbecue Association website (www.hpba.org) and use their dealer location function.
· The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (http://www.ildceo.net/dceo/Bureaus/Energy_Recycling/Energy/Energy+Efficiency/) may have specific programs that apply to residential users. Always worth a check.
Remember – Wood is Good!