Wood Stoves Part 2

You ever notice that if you lite a candle in a cold room that candle isn’t enough to heat up the entire room? I know that sounds kinda obvious, but it is something to remember when buying a wood stove. A single small wood stove with only a 40,000 BTU EPA rating is not going to be enough to heat your entire house in Whitehorse, Yukon. However, it might be enough to heat up your bedroom. (*BTU = British Thermal Units, EPA = Environmental Protection Agency)

If the cost of an outdoor based wood furnace is higher then two wood stoves inside the house that can produce the same amount of heat, and the energy required to fuel it is also less, then your better off getting two wood stoves then some fancy new outdoor wood pellet thing advertised in the back a magazine. By the same token, if the figures are reversed, it might be worth while to look into it more.

The question is how can you tell what you should do?

Believe it or not, this gets really complex when you take into account what you are really dealing with. There are different types of wood stoves, fire places, and wood fired furnaces out there. In addition, they are made with different materials which effect not only their efficiency, but how they are used as well. For example, having a fireplace in a home located in the desert is a good idea. Not only does it provide heat during the cold nights, but can actually help reduce the temperature of the house during the day depending on the type of fire place that is installed.

A antique wood stove which has little in the way of fire brick included in it’s make up, but is made of cast iron instead of steal, has a thermal conductivity rate of approximately 28 Btu/hr^{sq/ft/F/ft} (28 BTU per hour per square foot of Fahrenheit for each foot of distance). Now for an example of this wood stove, let’s load this wood stove with Sugar Maple heartwood (heartwood means the denser inner core of the trunk), which has a moisture content of about 65%, has a MMBtu of about 29.7 per cord. That’s a stack of wood, four feet high, four feet wide and eight feet long. Now you’d have to figure out the fire box size, the physical area you are heating, and perhaps the air flow around the thing in the first place. Fortunately someone has already done all the math for us, maybe you’d also like to make your own.

Even if you manage to figure out the perfect wood stove for your home there are thing you should be aware of before you start. Sometimes there are differences between what the local by-laws/regulations/clearances are and what your insurance requires for your home. Even the manufactures might be short on the size and types of vents that are recommended for regular use, so be sure to contact not only your local authorities and ire departments, but also your insurance broker.

Generally speaking the larger the fire box, the longer the fire itself will last, and there will be more types of wood to burn. Air tights are more efficient, and safer. Installation can be done by you if your handy, but has to be inspected and approved. You will need a ‘slab’ to put it on since heat will be generated even on it bottom. As with any fuel burning stove, you should have a carbon monoxide detector in the room.

Most Preppers have a list of lists, thing they feel they need to gather for just encase SHTF scenarios, if you have a wood stove or fire place, you should add a chimney cleaning kit to this list. You will need to know the diameter of the flu in order to purchase the correct sized wire brush, a flexible handle should also be included in the kit. A flashlight, bed sheets, and duct-tape should also be available if you can to greatly help reduce the clean-up after the clean-up… (Think Mary Poppins folks). A basic screw driver with matching heads for removing any inside pipes so that they can be cleaned outside would also be a plus. One side note… sometimes fire department will offer inspections for free, take advantage of this service.

In between major cleaning you might want to reduce the creosote in the flu, you can toss in a few tablespoons of ‘rock salt’ on to a hot fire. It is the same stuff used in those fire logs to remove the creosote.

Always use dry wood, and never light a fire with flammable liquids. Never burn plastics in your wood stove, first off it’s just dangerous, second it’s illegal. Colored paper, treated wood, painted wood, and even Oleander tree wood or any other poisonous plants. Old industrial palettes are also a bad idea, since they can be a lot older then you think, and been used by any number of chemical companies.

Finally hard woods are the best to burn, they last longer and are cleaner burning with larger BTU ratios.

– Wolfe

Wood Stoves Part 1

I look outside and all I see is snow. I know that for most of you this is not an odd sight to see this time of year, nor does it sound like something that should be an odd thing for a Canadian like myself to suddenly notice. But believe me, it’s odd. We are only a couple of weeks till the first day of spring and this is the first real snow we have seen all year here in the greater Vancouver area. Fourteen years ago we had a similar downfall of snow that ended up caving in our roof while we were just getting ready for the spring run as Caravaners, and although this year there is no risk of that, as a prepper I look out and think about the worse case scenario we could find ourselves in.

For the last six months we have managed to collect over $500 by simply not turning on the furnace, we have used our alternatives instead as a test for what we might need in our preps, and found that it was actually cheaper to use electric heaters rather then the natural gas furnace. Part of that has to do with only heating the room we were in rather then the whole house, we even went to the extent of putting up a curtain across the living room door frame to keep the heat in the room we were using during the day.

I always have loved a good fireplace, but we do not have one in this house. So one of the requirements for being self-reliant on the farm is going to the need for fireplaces and wood stoves. I have been researching wood stoves more the fireplaces because they are more efficient, and would like to pass on some of those things I have learned so far onto you.

One of the first wood stoves was invented by Benjamin Franklin, it’s main advantage over a regular fireplace was a hollow baffle which transferred more heat into the room. It was also not a great seller because it needed to hot enough to create a draft to draw up the gases and smoke through the flu. Improvements over the Pennsylvania fireplace eventually lead to the modern wood stove. Today’s designs are so efficient at burning wood fuel that they often surpass EPA rules.

“The internal design of wood stoves has changed entirely since the EPA issued standards of performance for new wood stoves in 1988. EPA’s mandatory smoke emission limit for wood stoves is 7.5 grams of smoke per hour (g/h) for non-catalytic stoves and 4.1 g/h for catalytic stoves. (Wood stoves offered for sale in the state of Washington must meet a limit of 4.5 g/h for non-catalytic stoves and 2.5 g/h for catalytic stoves.)” – www.epa.gov

Non-catalytic Stoves:

Non-catalytic wood stoves have three main parts a firebox insulation, a large baffle, and pre-heated combustion air introduced through small holes above the fuel in the firebox. The baffle and some other parts of the wood stove will need to be replaced from time to time as they deteriorate with the high heat of efficient combustion. They have less heat output then Catalytic wood stove, but provide better atmosphere.

Catalytic Stoves:

Catalytic wood stoves exhaust their smoke and fumes through a coated ceramic honeycomb inside the stove where they ignite and burn. All of these types of stoves have a lever-operated bypass damper which is opened for starting and reloading. The ceramic honeycomb breaks down over time and needs to be replaced, it should last the average prepper six seasons (10,000 to 12,000 operating hours )as long as the stove is not over fired by burning waste. The ceramics honeycomb is usually coated with the metal palladium. The ceramic is often round, 5¾ inches in diameter, and 2 inches thick. One of the advantages of the Catalytic wood stove is an increase in overall efficiency by 10%, as well as a reduction in creosote production by 20 to 90% and a decrease in air pollution up to 75%. Items that will cause the catalyst reduction in life span to as little as two years include burning trash, coal, paper logs, treated wood, painted wood, and lighter fluid.

My experiment this year has taught me one thing about heating a home in the winter that I wasn’t expecting. This house is old, and is not insulated in any way, no fibreglass in the walls, and very little value to avoid heat loss with what walls we do have. With all the commercials on television about drafts from windows, the lack of draft barriers around our doors, single pane glass in our house, and a host of other things that allow this house to leak heat like a sieve, I thought our my experiment would last a week or two, not pay for Christmas. If we had wood stoves, I believe that the furance would rust in the basement and never be used. And the size of that wood stove, does not have to be the large ones we all dream about in the old fashion kitchen, in fact, I think it would be more efficient to have a few small, even tiny, wood stoves rather then one large one in only one part of the house.

I’m still looking into this idea and learning more. There are different grades of wood that burn more or less efficient the others, I even have charts that I am still going through. So one aspect i have to look for is the amount needed to heat an area, how long a supply will last, and how long it takes to grow. Then there is the whole area in wood stoves that I don’t think can really be learned by books, but has to be actually felt and lived with.

The farm my wife grew up on had a wood furance in the basement of the house, it was not a more modern version of the forced air ones you can find today, but it did the job it was intended. It did lack one thing however, ambiance. There was a farm my family used to visit when I was young, had a classic iron wood stove in the kitchen that I still think about today, it gave the whole farm house a feeling of warmth that had more to do with a feeling then actual heat, that is a major part of why I want a wood stove on the farm, nothing is better then warming your feet by the stove while your mittens dry.

More to come…

– Wolfe