If you’re living off the grid, home heating is a vital part of your preparation for winter. With a high enough efficiency rating, a wood burning stove can outperform oil heat when comparing BTU’s and cost. A cord of wood, averaged at 22 million BTU’s per cord, is second only to coal for heat per unit. Wood burning is not just a viable option, it’s also good financial sense when looking for home heating.
Any wood burning stove used for heat will have an efficiency rating. So does your oil heater or other commercial heat source. Take the rating of your stove and multiply it by the BTU’s in a cord of wood. Take the total and divide it by the cost of a cord to find the amount of BTU’s per dollar. Do the same for your commercial heater. Compare the two and you will likely find that wood burning is sometimes more efficient than industrialized heat supply.
Whatever wood you will use for your wood burning stove or fireplace, it should be seasoned and stored dry. Seasoned wood is at least a year old and will reduce the creosote in the chimney. In storing firewood, the goal is to allow air circulation, but keep off rain and snow.
Seasoned wood has been cut at least six months ago, so stock your wood bins with this year’s wood to use for next winter. As long as it’s seasoned, the best wood for heating is going to produce the most BTU’s or heat value for the weight. That means the denser or heavier the wood, the better heat producing quality. Hardwoods have less water so are heavier when cut and corded. Hardwoods are the densest woods available and include oak, walnut, maple, apple and beech.
Oak is readily available as cut wood cords. It’s more expensive than others like fir, but a cord of oak will produce lasting heat and die down to embers. Fir will burn with a hot and cheerful flame and also produce less creosote because it doesn’t cool in the chimney but it will not last. White oak can generate close to 30 million BTU’s
Apple is actually a very hard wood. It has a low smoke production and smells nicely in the fireplace. It generates about 27 million BTU’s per cord, similar to beech which has been rated about the same. Black walnut is approximately 22 million, and silver maple is 19 million per cord.
Choose a good hardwood that is easily available either for purchase or in your own wood lots. Store it properly and make sure to use a high efficiency rated wood burning stove. Taking these into consideration can both make your lifestyle more self sufficient but also save money.