Rik is a passionate wood stove owner and loves collecting and preparing his own fuel from the woodland behind his house.
The long term price of energy continues to increase and companies are either going bust or shedding jobs.
So here is some good news, a simple solution to save money on energy. Start burning wood. Preferably in a modern wood burning stove.
We had a wood burning stove installed recently. It's a Morso Squirrel (manufactured in Denmark). Before that we had an open fire that was highly inefficient and messy.
We had a large stone fireplace with an open hearth with a log basket and, depending on the weather, the smoke and ash sometimes invaded our kitchen/dining room. Now the old stone fireplace is gone and the new stove sits inside the enlarged opening.
Advantages of Owning a Wood Burning Stove
Wood Burners have a number of advantages when compared to an open fire. The fire is enclosed so you can leave the stove without worrying about embers on the carpet.
They are much more efficient in terms of converting fuel to heat energy. An open fire is typically 20% efficient whereas a modern wood burner is 70-80% efficient.
You don't have to burn wood. The stove we bought is a multi-fuel. I burn wood because it is free. We have a wooded golf course behind our house and there is always plenty of timber lying on the ground ready to harvest. I drag what I need back to my garden.
How to Cut Wood for Fuel
Before you can burn wood you need a few accessories. With the hungry wood burning stove to feed, I originally purchased an electric, plug-in chain saw. More recently, I've bought a small battery model.
It's very light to carry and cuts much more efficiently than the mains original. The battery fully recharges in an hour and its ideal for cutting up big branches, where they are lying, rather than having to drag the whole branch home.
In order to make cutting logs as safe as possible I've also bought a metal sawhorse. This is very sturdy and supports large sections of branch for sawing at waist height. It also has a couple of chains that can optionally be used to secure the branch during cutting.
What Size Should the Logs be Cut?
Your stove should have a maximum recommended length and diameter of logs suitable for burning so make sure your logs will fit into the stove. My stove is quite small and the recommended maximum diameter is 4 inches (10 cm) and the maximum length 12" (30cm).
Tip: I recently found my log pile difficult to stack because I've been cutting my logs random lengths. It may sound a bit daft but I've got a log of the right length and have wrapped tape around it and i use it as a template. Now all my logs are the same length and so they stack together well!
But what do you do if the diameter of some logs exceeds the diameter recommended for your stove? Simple. You can split the logs, along the grain, into smaller sections.
The simplest solution is to use a splitting axe, sometimes known as a maul. Unlike a normal, cutting axe, this has a much broader cross-section behind the blade.
The principle is simple. If you hit the log with sufficient force, the blade penetrates the log and the wedge-shaped head splits the log along the blade edge. The disadvantage is you do need to be reasonably strong and fit to do this successfully.
Other options include the use of a simple wedge which you drive into the log with a sledgehammer. If you want something less labour intensive and are prepared to pay far more than around $20 for the splitting axe, then go for a log splitting machine.
The more basic ones are pneumatic and typically involve a foot pump which provides sufficient pressure to split the log. More sophisticated, industrial models typically have a motor or can be attached to tractors or diggers.
To get the best from your newly harvested timber you need to store it for at least six months in order to dry out fully and be properly seasoned. If you burn 'green' or damp wood then it burns less efficiently and produces more tar in the smoke. Signs of burning unseasoned wood include the inside of the glass door of the stove becoming darkened by tar and soot.
We have a large garage with doors at front and back which allows plenty of air past the wood pile. If you store it outside then it should be covered to keep the rain off.
24 Hour Operation?
It is possible to keep a stove operating continually during winter. You can close it down when you go to bed and then open up the air vents again and put fresh wood on first thing in the morning.
However, my stove supplier told me you need to add coal or other solid fuel to keep the heat going all night. Also this isn't recommended, for environmental reasons as the stove is not burning efficiently when left unattended and will therefore emit relatively harmful smoke.
Wood Burning Makes Sense!
With uncertainties over fossil fuel supplies, there has never been a better time to consider wood burning and the purchase of a wood burning stove. Even if you pay for your wood it is still far cheaper than conventional fuels such as natural gas, oil or electricity.
A wood burning stove is far more efficient than an open fire and burning wood is carbon neutral and therefore good for the environment.
But the most compelling reason to buy a wood stove is the joy of having a real fire coupled with the convenience and safety of having the fire safely enclosed.
Rik Ravado (author) from England on February 03, 2015:
Caitlin - have added manufacturer and model number to the picture above. Piazzetta are an Italian company but I believe the stove is available overseas.
Caitlin on February 01, 2015:
Do you have a source for the red wood burning stove? I want one. :)
Woodburning Stove on February 17, 2012:
I also have a wood burning stove at my place, and i always becomes a little bit confused in managing it in a proper way..... thanks for giving such nice information, will be very useful for all like me...
di on February 09, 2012:
how can i keep my multi fuel burner by using coal
astove on September 08, 2011:
.I am so glad this internet thing works and your article really helped me. Might take you up on that home advice you. it is good to have a wood stove in the winter
Rik Ravado (author) from England on February 21, 2010:
Art 4 Life - We've had ours now for well over a year - still really love it!
Art 4 Life from in the middle of nowhere.... on February 21, 2010:
I enjoyed your hub on woodstoves. I moved from central heat and air, to a home with only wood heat...it was an experience to say the least, but now, I am hooked on woodstove heat. It is so cheap, and heats wonderfully...thanks for the hub, will be back to read more!
Rik Ravado (author) from England on November 27, 2009:
Whichburner - an intriguing answer re Santa and glad you enjoyed!
Whichburner on April 25, 2009:
Santa gets down the flue the same way he knows what you want for Xmas. But that would be telling. Really good article
Rik Ravado (author) from England on March 28, 2009:
CGull - Hope you manage a woodstove in your next home.
LondonGirl - I'd like to try the paper crushing log maker but never got around to it - Another Hub may be?
JG - Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that 'free wood' may not be literally free and it is important to consider energy costs in getting it delivered.
Santa and woodstoves is an interesting puzzle for small children - how does this big cuddly man squeeze down such a thin pipe?
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on March 15, 2009:
If you have access to free wood that's close by, a wood burner makes perfect sense. If not, you need to calc how much it'll cost in terms of gasoline, a vehicle to haul it, etc, to bring that "free" wood home (or else the cost of having a cord or two delivered) before going au natural. Other than that I love WBs. This hub also reminded me there was a pot-bellied stove in my parents basement in which they'd deposit paper trash, boxes, etc. Then on laundry day in the winter, my mother would light it to make the basement warm enough to dry the laundry when it was too cold to hang it outside. She continued doing this for years after getting an electric dryer! Habit, I guess. Apparently there was also a wood burner in the living room at one time. There was a round hole covered by a metal plate high up on the same chimney to which the stove in the basement was connected. For years I thought Santa got into the house on Chrismas Eve through that hole!
LondonGirl from London on March 15, 2009:
My parents have two of these, and have had for years. As well as the fuel you mentioned, you can also make paper logs with a machine thingy, which is useful.
cgull8m from North Carolina on January 04, 2009:
Great hub and great comment from Catala. I wish everyone use this, I live in a wooded area would love to have this. I used electric heater but this one is much better. Hopefully I have this wood burner in my new home. Thanks.
Rik Ravado (author) from England on December 08, 2008:
Yes I know what you mean - the best green solutions are often so expensive only the really wealthy can afford them ...
catala on December 07, 2008:
Good idea ..if you've got the space and a house, its a bit more complicated in an urban area or in a house with limited storage space.
I"ve been looking into wood pellet stoves up to 90% efficiency and easier storage but what a rip off 5,000 euros seems to be the average price, just so you don't have to load the fuel too often and can pretend your eco as the pellets don't look like a log!
At present I have a cast iron pine nut burner costing 300 euros burning the pine nut husks, its low tech and industrially ugly but it packs out the heat with the fuel costing less than 2 euros a sack, no fancy glass window but it leaves practically no ash.
It strikes me that this newly awakened enthusiasm for alternative energy or fuels is a potential nightmare, as the suppliers appear to be highway robbers cashing in on consumers who can afford (just) the well packaged uberfires
sounds a bit of a rant on reading this, but i´ve been disapointed at the price of high efficiency fires and water boilers moan moan moan and as for solar panels...
Rik Ravado (author) from England on November 22, 2008:
You are so right Vivenda.
PS: You can light my fire any time!
Vivenda from UK (South Coast) on November 22, 2008:
I think the main thing is not having to worry about the fire when you go out. It's a real blessing to be able to decide on the spur of the moment, without worrying about the fact that you've just 'lit up', so to speak!