The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Monday, January 31, 2011

Species Matters!

Well, I'm in bad shape on firewood. Just one and a half cords left, out of my original six, and we're not even to Groundhog Day! Past two years I only used one cord a month, so I figured six cords this year would get it.

Now before you go and blame Global Warming for this unusually cold winter we're having, there may be another reason why I'm going through wood faster this year.

My woodpile this year was about 90% cherry (you should see some of the beautiful pieces of firewood that have gone into my stoves, it would make you cry), whereas the past two years it was all oak and black locust. Now according to the Chimney Sweep's Library oak and locust both generate more than 23 million BTUs per cord, whereas black cherry only produces about 19.5 million BTUs.

So, let's see, a little math is in order. 23 divided by 19.5 = 1.18, which means that I would need to burn about 18% more of the cherry to get the same amount of heat generated by the oak and locust. And a some of my cherry had dry-rot (which is why it is on the wood pile this year), so let's round that up to 20%. That means that the four and a half cords I've burned this year has only put off about as much heat as 3.6 cords of the oak/locust did the last two years (4.5 * 0.8).

So if my wood this year had been the same mix as the last two years, I would still have about 2 and a half cords left, instead of the one and a half, and I would be in good shape. Instead, I'm facing either buying more wood, starting up the boiler in March, or facing a cold month in _ell with a complaining wife.

Well, the cherry was free, and sometimes you get what you pay for. This spring I'll look for some free oak, hickory, black birch, or locust.

But let's test the "colder winter induced by Global Warming" theory. Take the poll on the left panel, and if enough people say that they too are burning more wood, then we'll know something bigger is afoot, right? :-)


Anonymous said...

Hmm. I BTU = 252 calories. That is a lot of calories. :)


Anonymous said...

When I lived in West Virginia, I used 12 full cord of hardwood firewood each year. And I had a fuel oil furnace.


Chuck said...

Dave...well, at least you were warm.