If you’re using firewood to keep warm, it’s important to burn it in the most efficient way possible. In a laboratory, it is possible to get approximately 8660 BTUs per pound from wood fuel by burning perfectly dry wood (0% moisture content) in an atmosphere of pure oxygen. While this ideal is impossible to obtain in the “real world,” Scandinavian people have been using wood-burning soapstone masonry heaters to efficiently stay warm for hundreds of years. The key is the ability of soapstone to store and gradually radiate heat energy from a rapid, efficient burn. Here are some tips to burn wood most efficiently in your heater.
Use Dry Firewood
For the most efficient heating, the wood should contain about 20% or less moisture. This means the wood needs to dry out for at least a year. The wood should always be split before stacking. Splitting it allows the moisture to evaporate more completely. Any type of wood can be used, as long as it’s split and dry. Soft woods make the best kindling because they ignite quickly. Hard woods contain more energy per volume of wood and tend to burn hotter and cleaner.
Store Firewood Correctly
Firewood should be stored in a well-ventilated area such as an open shed or a covered stack. The wood needs to be arranged in a way that air can circulate around it, allowing it to dry out. Round logs that are tightly packed length-wise will not have enough space to dry out properly and may even rot before they dry.
Build the Fire
The highest burn efficiency is achieved with a “top-down burn.” Arrange the firewood in a criss-cross pattern inside your fireplace, like building a little log cabin. Add a few pieces of newspaper and kindling to the top of the stack. Light one of the topmost pieces of paper, and enjoy the warmth as it spreads downwards toward the combustion air supply coming up through the grate.
Keep the Fire Going Hot & Fast
When the fire begins, resist the temptation to poke the firewood. Once the fire is burning bright and hot, it’s safe to close the bypass damper channel and the ashbox door, but leave the combustion air intake fully open. You do not want to limit the air entering the masonry heater as it can lead to inefficient burning and creosote buildup. Remember, the secret to obtaining the most energy possible from burning firewood is to burn finely split dry wood as hot and fast as possible, without restricting the combustion air available.
If you have other questions about soapstone masonry heaters, Wood Heat Fire Stone in Soldotna, AK, can help. They have many designs of Tulikivi Soapstone Masonry Heaters from Finland. Their helpful staff can explain the differences between various models and the radiant heating process in greater detail. To speak with a member of their team about heating options, call (907) 262-3106. For more information about their soapstone heaters and fireplaces, visit them online.