Wood is humankind’s oldest source of energy. It contains biomass and oxygen that the tree processes from sunlight and carbon dioxide. According to Australia’s Sustainable Energy Development Office (SEDO), the energy content of wood is 4.5kwH/kg – equivalent to 45% of a person’s electricity consumption in a day (in Sydney). Thus, Australians continue to use wood as a popular source of heat and fuel, and woodfire heaters are the most reliable appliances available for doing so. Increase their efficiency by following these tips:
Type of Wood:
The wood you use for a heater can be hardwood or softwood, depending on the number of water cells it contains. Softwood burns rather quickly and gives rise to leaping flames. On the other hand, hardwood is slow to burn and gives warmth for a longer duration.
Most wood heaters are hardwood type and work very well with Jarrah, White Gum, Sugar Gum, River Red Gum, and Ironbark logs. While Jarrah and Wandoo are native to and thus popular in Western Australia, Ironbark and Box are prevalent in Queensland. River Red Gum is easily available in Southern Australia, Victoria, and Southern NSW. Finally, Brown Peppermint is a great choice if you live in Tasmania. As the case may be, check your local laws on sourcing firewood responsibly. In Queensland, for example, you’re not allowed to collect firewood from roadsides.
Firewood Moisture Content:
Fresh wood contains 50% moisture and takes much longer to reach its burning point than dry wood. On average, 1kg of fresh wood can have an energy equivalence of 2.16 kWh whereas, upon drying for 8-10 weeks, it has 3.3 kWh. If you season it for a year or more, its moisture content reduces to 15%, and it contains 4.15 kWh of energy!
Lighting the wood:
- Open up the air-vent controls to allow maximum airflow into the heating chamber. First, place the kindling on the floor of the heating chamber, spacing them evenly apart.
- Next, arrange a latticework of softwood fire-starters over the kindling and light them up. Do not use any additional fuel, which could lead to a fire hazard. Ensure the latch of the heating chamber door is open to allow sufficient air to feed the fire inside.
- After about 10 minutes, once the fire is ablaze, place brick-sized pieces of hardwood fuel on top of the fire-starter latticework. Shut the chamber and wait for about 30 minutes for the fire to burn steadily.
- Now, you can feed larger pieces of firewood into the fire and close the latch of the heating chamber. Once the fire burns steadily, you can adjust the air vent valves to control the pace of the burning and the flow of warm air into the room.
- Some woodfire heaters have a fan to regulate airflow in and out of the chamber. If yours is equipped with a fan, you may turn it on now. Doing so in any of the previous stages pushes cold air into the chamber, thus reducing the heater’s efficiency.
- Make sure that you do not leave the stove unattended for long, especially when the kindling and fire starter blocks are still burning.
Wood heaters are an elegant, cost-effective, and sustainable way to heat your surroundings. They are 80% more efficient than traditional fireplaces and provide heat for longer. Australian firewood is sold under strict laws that prevent overexploitation of the forests. Thus wood fires are considered a more environmentally friendly form of heating than burning natural gas. So, go ahead and bring the warmth of the forests into your homes this winter!
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