The reports are in — the last six months have been the coldest for much of the country in the last 100 years. That’s quite a statistic, extending from mid-fall in October all the way through this record-breaking winter that continues to whiteout snowfall totals, in addition to low temps.
Is there still a chance to save a little money on heating costs this year, or save up for next? Perhaps… if you have a fireplace, an insert or wood-burning stove, and a lot of fallen wood in your yard from all those winter storms.
During typical stormy weather, howling wind will knock dead tree branches to the ground, wood that could already be seasoned and used for fuel. Here’s how to tell if wood is ready to burn:
- Dry wood is lighter in weight
- Bark is dark or gray or missing, wood is whitish on the inside
- Appears dry when freshly cut; cracked if already split
- When tapped together, dry wood makes a hollow sound; wet wood makes a thud sound
Fallen limbs and tree debris can come in large pieces, so you’ll need to cut it down to size. Once you’ve gathered the stash, use a chainsaw to chop up long slender branches and medium-sized chunks to a size that fits easily into your fireplace or wood stove. If an entire tree has fallen, remove smaller branches right at the site, then use a log splitter to cut up the bigger trunk. You’ll probably work up a bit of sweat doing this kind of yard work – and make a bit of a mess, too – but nothing needs to go to waste. Rent a wood chipper and make mulch from all the little pieces. Your garden will thank you later this spring!
If the fallen debris is wet wood, cut it up anyway and stack it for use next winter. Proper seasoning takes at least a year, more if the stack is covered with a tarp, slowing moisture evaporation. The best-burning wood has been seasoned for two to three years.
Tips for Fireplace Efficiency
An open fireplace is no more than 15 percent efficient, because a huge amount of heat is lost up the chimney. When you use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox or open the nearest window slightly and close the doors leading into the room. Lower the thermostat setting to between 50° and 55°F. Here are a few more tips for increasing heating efficiency:
- If a fireplace is never used, plug and seal the chimney flue
- Keep fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning
- Check the seal on the fireplace flue damper and make it as snug as possible
- Install tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room
- Purchase grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the room
- Add caulking around the fireplace hearth
- Install a fireplace insert or a wood-burning stove
- Placed partly into the fireplace, using the existing chimney to vent exhaust gases
- Placed in front of the fireplace (self-contained, free-standing units vented into the fireplace chimney)
Although it is finally warming up, and building a fire may not be as necessary anymore, why not use your yard debris for firewood and tinder next year? Stock pile it and then you have one less thing to worry about come October. If you have additional questions, contact us here. And, any other ideas for how to use yard debris? Share your ideas in the comment section below.
About the Author
Jack Runyon is the president of Runyon Equipment Rental. He has 21 years of rental experience, as the 3rd generation son to carry on the family tradition and his grandfather’s vision. He prides the company for its devotion to ethics, quality products and customer service. Jack is known for his passion and vast expertise.