Tuesday 27 July 2010

Wood or Coal.

We have a wood burning stove on board Rosie that has never been used from new (6 years) We also have a wood burning stove at home that we only use throughout the winter months. I can usually obtain enough wood for free to keep the system going through the winter. However, we discovered that there is wood and there is wood for burning. Not all wood is suitable for burning in a stove. All wood will burn if it is dry or "seasoned". Some wood will burn if it is still wet or "green". However, the heat given out bt the wood will vary quite a bit.

Wood is a carbon neutral fuel, as it is part of a natural cycle of trapping carbon and then releasing it when the tree dies and rots. In theory it is an ecologically sound and sustainable energy source if the same, or preferably more, trees are planted for the ones cut down.

Note: All kinds of wood will burn better when seasoned and some burn better when split rather than used on the burner as whole logs. If you try to burn green wood, the heat produced by combustion must dry the wood before it will burn, using up a large percentage of the available energy in the process. This results in less heat delivered to your home, and gallons of acidic water in the form of creosote deposited in your chimney.

Often just lighting a fire can be a problem.

Tip: Two sheets of newspaper twisted into a taper and a little bit of cooking oil will light a stove. I have a plastic box with paper that has been used to mop up cooking oil after use in the kitchen. Oily paper works much better than firelighters. The key to starting the fire is to use small pieces of wood as kindling to get the fire going. Small dry branches, log bark or wood cut into small pieces can easily be used for kindling.

Tip: About once a month, I light a fire just using just coal briquettes for a day or so. The stove pipe gets much hotter than normal. This helps to flush out any tar buildup in the stovepipe.

Tip: I have been experimenting by using a mixture of wood and coal on a log burning stove. I start the fire in the normal way. (as highlighted above) Then when there is a good bed of burning wood and the stove is hot. I then place a single layer of coal briquettes on top followed by another layer of wood. I can easily keep a fire in all night on a slow burn using this technique. This then keeps a decent level of background heat available in the cabin throughout the night.

Rule of thumb: - If it grows naturally at the waterside it will not burn well. Wood like Willow, Poplar and Alder who like to grow in meadow conditions are typically very poor providers of heat when burned as logs. However, Willow is grown and harvested as a biomass production of coppicing. This works well when turned into small pellet form. Alder, Willow and Poplar all rank as poor firewood owing to their high water content, unless well seasoned.

Apple and Pear – burning slowly and steadily with little flame but good heat. The scent is also pleasing.
Ash – the best burning wood providing plenty of heat.
Beech and Hornbeam – good when well seasoned.
Birch – good heat and a bright flame – burns quickly.
Blackthorn and Hawthorn – very good – burn slowly but with good heat
Cherry – also burns slowly with good heat and a pleasant scent.
Cypress – burns well but fast when seasoned, and may spit
Hazel – good, but hazel has so many other uses hopefully you won’t have to burn it!
Holly – good when well seasoned
Horse Chestnut – good flame and heating power but spits a lot.
Larch – fairly good for heat but crackles and spits
Oak – very old dry seasoned oak is excellent, burning slowly with a good heat
Pine – burns well with a bright flame but crackles and spits.

As can be seen from these old English poems below, the best wood to burn is Ash, beech, birch, sycamore, oak, holly, apple and cherry. Nearly all the coniferous woods burn freely when really dry. Sweet chestnut, elm, oak, and larch are less poplar on open fires, as they throw out sparks and splutter as they burn.

Wood for Burning. (Poem)

Logs to burn! Logs to burn, Logs to save the coal a turn!
Here’s a word to make you wise. When you hear the woodsman’s cries.
Beech wood fires burn bright and clear, Hornbeam blazes too’
If the logs are kept a year To season through and through.

Oak logs will warm you well, If they are old and dry.
Larch logs of the pine smell. But the sparks will fly.
Pine is good and so is Yew. For warmth through winter days,
But poplar and the willow too, Take long to dry or blaze.

Birch logs will burn to fast, Alder scarce at all,
Chestnut logs are good to last If cut in the fall.
Holly logs will burn like wax, You should burn them green.
Elm logs like a smouldering flax, No flames to be seen.

Pear logs and Apple logs. They will scent a room,
Cheery logs across the dogs, Smell like flowers in bloom.
But Ash logs all smooth and grey, Burn them green or old,
Buy up all that come your way, They’re worth their weight in Gold!


Beech-wood fires burn bright and clear, If the logs are kept a year;
Store your beech for Christmastide, With new-cut holly laid beside;
Chestnut's only good, they say, If for years 'tis stored away;
Birch and fir-wood burn too fast, Blaze too bright and do not last;
Flames from larch will shoot up high, Dangerously the sparks will fly;
But ash-wood green and ash-wood brown, Are fit for a Queen with a golden crown.
Oaken logs, if dry and old, Keep away the winter's cold;
Poplar gives a bitter smoke, Fills your eyes and makes you choke;
Elm-wood burns like churchyard mould, E'en the very flames are cold;
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread - So it is in Ireland said;
Apple-wood will scent the room, Pear-wood smells like flowers in bloom;
But ash-wood wet and ash-wood dry, A King may warm his slippers by.



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