Woodburning for Energy Independence

Woodburning, a traditional home heating option, can help you gain energy independence and personal satisfaction.

  • The annual cost of heating a home with wood is about half the cost of using oil.
    Illustration by Corning, Inc.
  • "The New Woodburner’s Handbook" by Stephen Bushway explores the significance of fire and the economic benefits of woodburning to heat your home.
    Cover courtesy Storey Publishing
  • Woodburning can be an intelligent and environmentally sound home heating option, whether it is used as a primary or supplemental source of heat.
    Photo by Fotolia/Voyagerix

The New Woodburner’s Handbook (Storey Publishing, 1992) is the essential layman’s guide to the age-old wisdom of heating with wood. Author Stephen Bushway presents first-time and long-time woodburners with all the information necessary to heat a home economically and safely, while safeguarding the environment. In the following excerpt, from Chapter 1, Bushway explains why woodburning can be an intelligent and environmentally sound way to heat your home.

Have you ever noticed how people gather around a fireplace in a ski lodge or common room? It's a lot like being with people at the seashore. No one owns the ocean but it's an elemental part of our world, and we gather around it. And so it is with fire. Fire is nature's way of giving us the sun's warmth. Burning wood isn't only about energy independence, resourcefulness, or economics. It's about the hearth and its rightful place in our homes.

Woodburning can be an intelligent and environmentally sound home heating option, whether it is used as a primary or supplemental source of heat. Among the other home heating fuels, wood is the one renewable fuel that can be harvested with one's own labor and a modest investment in equipment. Forested land provides us with storm-damaged trees; trees cleared for development, or roadway and utility maintenance; and standing dead and deadfall timber. Sound woodlot management yields significant firewood from the process of thinning out crooked, non-lumber-grade trees and less desirable species. The byproduct of logging operations leaves firewood from unusable limbs and trees cut for access roads.

In any wooded environment, there is both oxygen production from growing trees and the release of carbon dioxide — the "greenhouse" gas — as dead wood decays. Since these gases are products of a natural cycle, we may as well use them to heat our homes, as long as our woodburning is done responsibly and in harmony with the environment.

From a geopolitical perspective, the woodburner can also derive some satisfaction from the thought that Btus created from burning wood implicitly reduce the risks associated with our society's insatiable thirst for oil and other fossil fuels — risks as far-reaching and dangerous as "Operation Desert Storm'' or the Exxon Valdez incident.

A Historical Perspective

Even a thousand years ago, woodburning Europeans were concerned about fuel efficiency. Urban populations made fire safety a social concern, and a ready supply of firewood was a valued commodity. With wood, the material almost exclusively used for cooking, heating, and building, the per capita consumption was significant. Aside from these domestic uses, the demand for wood by industry for foundries, bakeries, glassworks, and the like, also took its toll on the forests.

12/5/2018 7:33:47 AM

I’ve heated and cooked with wood or sun ( depending on the season) for 40 years now, and what I love about having a wood heater as well as a wood cook stove is that most of the year ( besides the depth of winter) starting a small fire in the cook stove is plenty to take the chill off in the morning or evening. In the cold of winter I just cook on my heater and the summer a solar oven.

10/1/2014 10:23:44 AM

Choosing a stove that you can live with is hard enough without worrying about breaking the bank. I have always lived in a home with a wood stove from my grandparents house to my parents house. There is something about wood heat that is so much better than gas or propane heat. Or at least in my opinion. My boyfriend recently purchased an outdoor wood stove and it is amazing. It heats the house, the garage, and once you stack it up good you can leave it from a good 7 hours. However, I wanted something a little different so I decided to do some research and ended up purchasing a Kitchen Queen Wood Cook Stove. I am in love! I decided to go through antiquestoves.us and not only did I get a great price but they had great customer service. I love the Kitchen Queen because it not only heats my home but I can cook on it and heat my water. I recommend anyone looking to purchase a wood stove takes a look at this link: http://antiquestoves.us/shop/kitchen-queen-wood-cook-stove/11-kitchen-queen-wood-cook-stove-480.html. For anyone who is considering switching to a wood cook stove or strictly a wood stove please check out antiquestoves.us their friendly and always ready to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

9/10/2014 6:49:34 AM

You should have updated the prices of wood, oil and NG, plus included LPG in the analysis. Prices from 1992 aren't relevant in a September 2014 re-print.

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