Save On Your Heating Bill: Chop Wood Chapter 14
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Save On Your Heating Bill: Chop Wood Chapter 14

Avoid pine and wet woods if possible. If you can't, burn small pieces and inspect and clean your chimney frequently.

By the teachings of Karl Marx, the consumer is always at the mercy of the means of production. This concept is especially apparent with utilities, where users usually only have one or two choices of supply. Astute observers will notice that electricity and natural gas costs rise in the winter when their usage increases for the purpose of providing heat (basic supply and demand). Although, conceptually, the individual will always be at the mercy of the market, using your fireplace can drastically reduce your utility bill during the winter.

Often, for your initial stocks of wood, you can’t be too picky. This is especially true if winter is approaching, because you need plenty of time to season wood if it is wet. The above situation happened to me during the first winter in which I attempted to stock up wood. Plenty of pine was available for the taking, but it was all wet, fresh, and pine is generally not recommended for burning in fireplaces. Since this was all I could find, though, I stocked up on large quantities and seasoned it as well as I could.

A few notes here. Trying to start a fire with freshly cut wood is about 5 times as hard as starting it with dry wood that has recently been soaked with rain. The reason? Rain doesn’t penetrate any deeper than the outer centimeter of wood, leaving the inside dry. Therefore, you can easily split it into kindling and start a fire quickly. The residual outside water will also evaporate off of large logs quickly, making them just as easy to burn after you have started your fire.

Wet logs create poorly burning, smoky fires. No matter how tiny you make the pieces, fresh, new, wet wood will be nearly impossible to start a fire with. This is because new wood is completely saturated with water. I have split new wood open and seen a stream of water come running out. Try to burn it, and it will sputter and foam like a rabid dog (literally). From personal experience, even four months of seasoning split pieces in an enclosed shed improves combustibility remarkably.

Once you get your initial stock of wood, you can sit back and peruse your local craigslist looking for good deals. Avoid the pine if you have a choice and go for the hard woods (maple, oak, ash, and elm are some good ones). Hard woods are always tougher to split, but they provide better heat and burn much longer. They are also a good antidote against the dreaded chimney fire.


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