For the next few weeks, we will be releasing previous posts from the old website.

Using Wood for Heat On Legacy Farm

by Tyler J. Akin, 10-30-09

In the winter we heat our house using two wood stoves. By using this type of natural heat we save money and enjoy the pleasant atmosphere that is created by seeing the glow of the dancing flames and feeling the heat! However, it is a lot more work to heat a home using wood, than it is to press the “on” button on a thermostat. Although heating with wood has enjoyed a recent surge in popularity, wood has in fact been used for centuries, for heat and for enjoyment. This is our second year using wood stoves for heat. Although it is has turned out to be an educational project, we find it enjoyable and worthwhile.

When we moved to our current home, it already had a wood burning stove in one room. However, that stove is not large enough to heat the whole house. When my parents realized that they could save money by heating our home with wood, they began shopping for an additional stove. Buying a stove is something you need to take your time on. There are many things you have to think about, such as:

1) Will you need to heat a room or a whole house? Or,is it hardly ever going to be used, and just sit there for decoration?

2) What brand should you buy? Should your stove be new or used?

3) What color, size, and style?

These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself if you plan to buy a wood burning stove. The stove that came with our house is a Resolute Acclaim. 

The one we bought a year ago is a Jotul.

 Once our stoves were ready to use, we got wood! (We have a small timber of our own, but we do not have enough of our own wood to supply all of our wood-burning needs.) Once or twice a month, starting in the late summer, we went out to other people’s timbers to harvest wood for about two hours at a time. We continue to do this as needed to maintain our supply. Dad chain saws to fell trees and divide the wood into splittable logs. While he works the saw, the rest of us pick up the wood and carry it to the truck. We take turns staying in the bed(back) of the truck to organize the wood as it is thrown in. When we get a truck load, we drive home and that night, or sometime later, toss all the wood into a pile, or put it directly onto the “stacks” (if it is already split).

My Dad is an avid chopper, and many evenings while animal chores are being done, you can hear him swinging away on a piece of wood. We have just about finished splitting a huge stack of wood, that we had been collecting for about one year!

At night, we fill the stove with wood and let it slowly burn down throughout the night. In the morning, we stir up the coals and let all of the ashes fall through the grate into the ash pan to be emptied. Once the stove is “cleaned out,” we add more “fuel” (such as small sticks, paper, and medium-sized pieces of wood, depending on how hot the stove is at that time) to get the fire going again. We run one or two stoves all day during the fall, winter, and early spring, and, wow, do they put out a lot of heat! You can’t stay close to the fire for long, or you will “burn up”. Our dachshund, Lucy, does not apparently know that.

Lucy’s normal winter day includes sleeping in, and not waking up until about ten in the morning. Much to her dismay, she is forced outside to go to the bathroom. Once she is done, she cries at the door until someone lets her in. She then runs to her “spot” directly in front of the fire, laying down on her side, and stays there for a hour or so (she only moves when she gets too hot, and when that happens she goes ten feet behind her and crawls under her chair). A few times we have been watching a movie or doing something in the living room when all of a sudden we hear a rhythmic panting. We look over and, sure enough, there is Lucy, laying there panting up a storm, refusing to move. She usually is smarter than that.

Stacking wood is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. You try to stack it evenly up and down to prevent toppling. You look to see where the pieces of wood fit and do not. You might put something behind it to support it, and/or put stakes on the ends of the pile so that you can stack the wood longer and higher.

If it is where it can get wet you cover it. When we stack wood, we load wood from the wood pile (which dad has chopped) into the truck, then drive it over, back up, and unload it onto our “stacks”.

Wood has had many uses over the time that we have lived on Earth. Wood has been used to build fires for heat, light, and cooking. The Native Americans used to build signal fires to communicate with other tribes. Wood is also used to build boats, make tool handles, for carving statues, making chairs, beds, and tables. In Bible times wood was used to offer burnt offering sacrifices to the Lord.

What wood gives off the most heat? I did some research on the best heat producing wood and found a chart on the subject. As you see, Oak is near the top of the chart and Cedar is near the bottom. Therefore, Cedar is not as heat efficient as Oak. We burn a combination of wood, such as ( in order of heat production): Oak, Walnut, Cherry, Pine, Locust, Maple, and others, including cedar at times. The reason we sometimes burn cedar is because we have many cedar trees on our own property that we are trying to clear out. We will usually mix the cedar in with the other types of wood.

I recently asked my Dad a couple of questions on the whole wood burning subject. One: How much did our wood stove cost? JA: Three thousand dollars including installation, Two thousand five hundred without. Two: How much do we approximately save on heating over a season? JA: One thousand five hundred dollars. Three: Do you know what the high and low prices on wood stoves are? JA: Five hundred to around four thousand. Four: Do you have any idea how much wood we use in the winter? JA: Not yet, but I sure hope we have enough!

Having a wood stove and doing this essay has been a good learning experience on the different heating possibilities. I hope you enjoyed it!

Have a great, warm winter.