Six years ago I left the city for a house in cottage country surrounded by acres of woodland. The house included a big but simple woodstove and we began using it. As I was new to this method of heating, I began searching the net for advice. Woodheat.org is the best site for all your questions about the matter. This nonprofit, nongovernmental agency, dedicated to the responsible use of wood as a home heating fuel, is full of informative material about all aspect of using wood to heat your home. The site is huge and has sections about firewood, chimneys, fireplaces, safety, water heating, boilers, etc.
I used free plans provided on the site to build two inexpensive woodsheds to shelter my firewood. We also upgraded our stove to a non-catalytic EPA certified one. On average, advanced EPA-certified stoves are about one-third more efficient than the old box. This I learned from the site. Woodheat.org is packed with techniques and valuable tips. Also worth mentioning, and rare today: you will not find any advertisement anywhere on the site.
The hardest lesson: firewood takes a very long time to season Most folks who split their wood and stack it in well-spaced rows find that they can dry their wood in about six months. If you have your wood stacked in early spring it should be ready to put away for winter’s use by October. However, it may need longer than that if you live in a damp maritime climate or use very dense wood like oak, which is notorious for taking a long time to dry. If you burn very hardwood, it is wise to process or buy it in the fall for use the following fall. That way you’ll be sure of having properly seasoned wood.
The biggest single efficiency booster: upgrade to an EPA certified stove
1. Although the EPA wood heater certification program was created to reduce air pollution, it resulted in added benefits like higher efficiency and increased safety. On average, EPA certified stoves, fireplace inserts and fireplaces are one-third more efficient than older conventional models. That’s one-third less cost if you buy your wood and a lot less work if you process your own.
2. Because advanced technology EPA certified heaters burn the smoke before it leaves the firebox, they extract more of the energy in the wood. This results in higher efficiency and less air pollution in your neighborhood.
3. Less smoke in the flue gas means less creosote (which is condensed smoke) in your chimney. Using an advanced technology wood heater reduces maintenance costs because your chimney will need sweeping less often.
4. The chimney deposits that do accumulate are much less combustible, which greatly reduces the chance of having a dangerous chimney fire.
5. EPA certified heaters are easier to use because their fires ignite and burn more reliably.