In order to save money this winter, some residents of East Tennessee are switching to firewood for their heating
by Michael Smith
One resident of the State who decided last year to switch solely to firewood instead of using propane gas to heat his home says that it cost him about $350 for the wood to warm his three-bedroom, two-bath house and with energy prices even higher this year, it is something he certainly will continue. He reckons that with the rate then it has saved him $600 and with the ever increasing prices it will be even more so. Others are looking into the old-world energy source as well.
Aside from the fact that it is, more than likely and especially if one has access to a cheap source of wood, a cheaper way to heat a home (and whatever else) than using gas or oil and even coal, it is also much more environmentally friendly. Burning wood is, basically, carbon neutral for the only carbon released is that that the wood used in order to grow and mature.
Many, like the Tennessee resident mentioned, in that State and elsewhere, and not in the USA alone, made and are making the switch to heating and even cooking with wood because of the
skyrocketing prices for gas and other sources of heat and cooking source.
Having said before that the saving that was made by this particular resident was $600 and that with the increasing costs of gas and oil it may be even more in the future we can, though, of that I am sure, be certain that the price of firewood is going to go us as well as demand increases.
Soaring energy costs and threatened scarcity of some fuels like home heating oil this year have led more homeowners to seek alternative sources for heat, and as a result, both seasoned firewood and some supplies of wood-burning stoves are expected to be in short supply.
The demand for wood-and-pellet burning stoves has caused local sales to increase this year, and already firewood sales have taken off about a month early.
The owner of Ben's Firewood in Knoxville said that while they normally start the winter season around October this year it has already started. People are apparently so worried that things are going to get worse, so they are lining up before it gets too bad.
The push for alternative home heat has largely been driven by the Northeast, where the price of heating oil, still the primary method for home heating, has soared. The average household is projected to spend more than $2,500 this winter, according to the Energy Information Administration, a 30 percent increase from last year. And even with crude oil prices - which factor largely into the price of heating oil - falling to a six-month low recently, the price of heating oil was still just under $3 a gallon, its lowest price since early March. Prices once were projected to hit as high as $4 a gallon.
The Knoxville wood- and coal-burning cook stove company already is backlogged on its most popular item, the Torridaire coal heater, a stove that requires no electricity. Stove sales are typically higher after natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, and when economic times are a little rough.
Sales also are up for many firewood dealers - business is up 40 percent in many cases - and the true firewood season has not even begun yet.
But the seasoned wood, or wood that has been dried naturally for about eight or nine months, is quickly becoming in short supply, since it has to be cut around March in order to be ready for winter months.
Kiln wood, or wood that is accelerated through the drying process by sitting four or five days in a 190-degree oven, also is limited based on how much that kiln can produce.
There are, on the other hand, woods that can also be burned green and some burn better and hotter green than seasoned and those are beech and birch. Where they are in ample supply things should not be too bad.
A full cord of seasoned wood will replace about 300 gallons of diesel fuel for heating a home while green wood would only replace about 225 gallons. The difference is water content - the more water that's in the wood, the more water you have to burn off before you get any heat. But even burning green wood is still cheaper than any other energy source.
The most important part in all of this is, however, and this must be observed, that the wood comes from well managed and renewable sources and that it is replanted.
In the UK, if would go back to firewood, and in many places we certainly could and even should, nay, let me rephrase that, must, the coppice woodlands could, once again, come into their own and new ones can and must be planted.
Coppicing, I am certain, could also be done in other countries and environments, such as in the United States.
Wood shortages will, no doubt, occur, especially in the places where it is more used such as in the rural areas of the USA and elsewhere, especially shortages of seasoned wood. Another source of firewood that should not and must not be overlooked for those that need to watch pennies is waste lumber from building sites. The only worrying aspect here could be the release of certain chemicals that were used in the wood, as some building lumber, even if only used for shoring up, is treated.
There is a lot to consider when deciding to switch to alternative heating, such as buying a wood- or coal-burning stove, but many of them do burn more efficiently and cleanly than they did in the 1980s. While there will be more cost up front for a stove, most mid- to lower-level priced stoves should pay for themselves in about two or two and a half years.
As for firewood, it is recommended buyers check references of dealers and be sure to have their chimneys swept at least once a year.
If you have got any amount of land or access to land, and a chain saw, you have basically an inexpensive fuel. A lot less expensive than fuel or gas or electricity.
© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008