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How to Heat Your House with Wood

No matter if you want to save on bills to use that money to prep or if you are working on your retreat, you will need to heat your home with wood. Within this, you will learn how to do that, along with learning what common mistakes to avoid.

Where you live will change the level of access you have to trees. Some preppers who have purchased property that has a lot of wooded areas so as to retrieve firewood, while there are others that will need to store wood. You may find that you will have to purchase firewood if you don’t have access to any wooded areas. Otherwise, you can be arrested for trespassing. After storms pass through certain towns or communities will have some people who will pay for you to come clear off the fallen branches or trees. This is a great opportunity to earn a little extra cash and get free firewood for your home.

How to Start a Fire in Your Wood Stove

It may seem like a small task; however, starting a fire the proper way needs practice. Here are the steps that you should follow:

  1. Ensure that the draft in the chimney is going upwards. If you feel air coming downward, follow step 4.
  2. Prepare your kindling. There are different ways to do this. Here is the best way you can use. Put the fire starters, crumpled paper, or fatwood on the bottom of the stove. Put the kindling on the paper, which is tinder. The drier the kindling and the smaller, the easier it will be to start your fire. You will need to cross the kindling in a crisscross pattern so that there is airflow in between the pieces.
  3. Put more wood on the top of your kindling. You will build from small to large when putting the wood in your stove. The stove should be a bit over two-thirds full. If it is a fireplace that is open, then you will have one to two layers of the wood on the top of your kindling.
  4. If you are sure that the stove had the upward airflow, then light your fire. If you believe that the chimney has since reversed, then you can put a small balled up piece of paper in there and set it on fire. Watch for the smoke to go up the chimney. If the smoke goes up, light your kindling quickly.
  5. Stand away from your burning kindling for a minute and ensure that the fire is getting bigger. If you have a closed stove, keep your draft under control, and your damper opens complete at first. You may even need to keep the door cracked open a little bit to offer air.
  6. The fire should spread pretty fast over the wood. Do not close the air control or your damper as soon as the fire starts. Allow the stove to warm a little bit and establish a bed of coals first.
  7. You can keep your fire going by adding one up to three pieces of wood at a time before the fire is too low.

Other Types of Heating Systems

There are other ways to heat your home or bug out location if you do not want to use a wood-burning stove.

Gasification Boiler: This type of boiler is one that uses wood gasification to heat the home. It happens when your timber or your charcoal is converted into gas. Once the charcoal or wood has been burned, it pushes out the heat to your home. It is extremely energy efficient, and it offers very little ash.

You need to install duct work to pipe it throughout your house.

Fireplace: If you do not want to have a wood stove, then having a fireplace would be another good choice.  A fireplace with a blower to force the warm air out is an added feature that will help warm a greater area. Make sure to open all the doors to the rooms in your house to allow the warm air to enter.

Using a fireplace heat exchanger will decrease the amount of wood you need to use while heating your home. This can be connected to your solar power system so the fan runs off the stored energy in your batteries.

How Much and Types of Woods

If you are really not sure of how to measure your wood storage, we are going to go over it. How often have you heard this term a “cord of wood”? Cord is a measurement used to define a certain amount of wood. Another measurement is a fireplace cord. It is typically one-third of the cord. The measurement of one piece of fireplace wood is normally about 16 inches long. It can measure from 12 up to 24 inches at times. A cord measures to be 4X4 when the wood is stacked. It is best to ensure that you have ten cords. One cord of firewood will provide the same amount of heat as about 200 to 250 gallons of oil. But it depends on the type of wood you are burning.

Here is a list of wood, along with how long it will last when burning. Included is also a rating from 1 (being the worst) up to 5 (being the best).

  • Alder: 1 – This wood will produce very poor heat, and it doesn’t last very long.
  • Apple: 4 – This is a great wood, and it will burn slowly when it is dry. It will produce small flames, and it doesn’t give off any spitting or sparking.
  • Ash: 5 – This is deemed one of the best burning woods by many preppers. It offers a steady burn and has great heat output. It can be burned when it is green, but it is best when it is dry.
  • Beech: 5 – This burns great, but it will not burn when it is green.
  • Birch: 4 – It will offer good heat, but it will burn pretty fast. It can be burned when it is green. The sap does cause some deposits in the flue if you use this wood too much.
  • Cedar: 4 – It is a good burning wood. It offers a consistent heat. It has a long burning time. However, it will spit and crackle. It will cause some deposits.
  • Cherry: 4 – It will offer great heat and burns slow. It will need to be seasoned very well.
  • Chestnut: 1 – This offers very small flames and does not offer much heat.
  • Firs: 2 – This type of wood offers small flames and will only give a small amount of heat. The sap inside will cause deposits.
  • Elm: 3 – This wood will burn in different patterns due to the moisture content. It will need to be tried for at least two years before burning for it to burn well. The logs should be split very early in time before it is stored. When thinking a long-term supply for your BOL, this can be a good wood to have.
  • Eucalyptus: 2 – This wood burns pretty fast. The sap will make deposits and will increase the risks of a fire in the chimney.
  • Hawthorn: 5 – This is wood deemed a traditional type of firewood. It has a great heat output.
  • Hazel: 4 – This is another traditional type of wood for fires in stoves. It will offer a good amount of heat.
  • Holly: 1 – This wood burns very fast, but offers a good flame. The heat the wood gives off is not ideal for heating a BOL.
  • Hornbeam: 4 – This is very similar to the beech. It will burn slow and offers a decent amount of heat.
  • Horse Chestnut: 5 – This is a great wood to burn in stoves; however, it is not a good one for the open type of fires. It does tend to spit. It does offer a great flame and amazing heat output.
  • Laburnum: 1 – Do not use this wood. This is the worst wood to use. It is extremely smoky and does not burn well at all.
  • Larch: 3 – This wood offers a decent amount of heat; however, it will need to be very well seasoned before burning it. The sap from this wood will cause deposits.
  • Laurel: 3 – This wood will burn decent, but only has a small amount of heat output.
  • Lilac: 4 – This is a wood that should be used as kindling. It does offer a good flame.
  • Maple: 4 – This wood is ideal for flame, as well as heat.
  • Oak: 4 – Due to the density of this wood, it offers a small flame and burns slowly. It is better to season this wood for at least two years.
  • Pear: 4 – This has great heat. It does need extra seasoning time to ensure that it is ready to burn.
  • Pine: 4 – You will need to use caution when burning this type of wood. You will have an increased risk of having a chimney fire. It is used mainly for starting the fire and not used much afterward due to the high heat it puts out.
  • Plum: 4 – This is a great wood for stoves. It offers heat and a long burn time.
  • Poplar: 1 – This wood is extremely smoky.
  • Rowan: 5 – This is a great wood. It will burn slow and offer the perfect amount of heat.
  • Robinia (Acacia): 4 – This wood is perfect for stoves. It will offer a long burn time due to burning slowly. It also offers decent heat.
  • Spruce: 2 – This is not recommended to burn. It does not last and burns quickly.
  • Sycamore: 3 – It offers a decent flame; however, it will only offer a moderate amount of heat. It should only be used when it is extremely dry.
  • Sweet Chestnut: 3 – This wood should only be burned using a stove. It spits a lot.
  • Thorn: 5 – This wood is one of the best. It offers a consistent heat and will produce little amounts of smoke.
  • Willow: 1 – Do not use this wood. It will not even produce enough heat even after being seasoned well.
  • Yew: 5 – This wood offers a very slow burn and will give you great heat.

Common Mistakes

Common mistakes are made that even the most seasoned prepper makes when it comes to heating their homes using wood. In this section, we will cover them to ensure that you do not make the same mistakes.

CO Intoxications

Don’t forget to get a CO sensor so you and your family will be safe. When you do not have a fresh supply of air and you are burning fossil fuels CO is created. CO is very dangerous. This gas will bind to the hemoglobin faster than oxygen will, so when you or your family inhaling CO you are starving the vital organs of your body causing them to stop working properly and could result in death.

If you are experiencing really terrible headaches, check you CO levels. Many people become unconscious if the levels of CO are to high and can die in just a few minutes.

Look for the signs of carbon monoxide emission; Black Soot Marks on the walls around the boilers, stoves, fireplaces or smoke that is accumulating in certain rooms that have faulty flues. Make sure your home is equipped with an audible style carbon monoxide alarm and well as your fire alarm to keep you and your family safe.

Not Cleaning or Inspecting the Stove

Prior to burning in the stove, you will need to make sure that the stove and the chimney are actually clean and ready for the wood-burning season. Part of the inspection should be the firebrick lining. You’ll need to make sure that it is in good repair and does not need to be replaced. The brick will reflect the heat. This will keep the body of your stove from becoming overheated.

You will also need to ensure that the chimney is completely clean. You can do it yourself or if you want to, you can hire a professional. Depending on your location, you may want to do it yourself. You do not want to alert others that are not ready if TSHTF to where your retreat is located. This will also keep any chimney fires at bay, and it will aid in the fire burning more efficiently.

If any of the piping leads to the chimney has a sharp turn, you will need to give this part of the piping some attention. When you clean the piping, make sure that you spend extra time on this spot to ensure that it is cleaned properly.

Once you have done the previously mentioned maintenance, then you will need to check the seal on the stove’s door. The seal should be tight to keep any smoke from getting into the home. At times, the seal will need to be replaced. It is a good idea to purchase many seals as back ups in case they are needed once you are using your retreat for the purpose that it is intended.

Not Enough Wood

Running out of wood is definitely a bad misfortune, especially when it is in the middle of winter. It is always better to have way too much than not enough in other circumstances as well, like TEOTWAWKI. Some aspects should be factored into how much wood you will need.

  • Will your family be home the entire day?
  • How big is the retreat or home?
  • How well does the stove work?
  • Is there much insulation in the walls?
  • What kind of wood are you burning in the stove?
  • How hot would you like to have the fires?
  • How many days of the years are you going to be burning fires?

Using a home without proper insulation one of the biggest examples that can be given. It is best to have ten cords of wood by the beginning of winter. This will vary depending on how often you burn the wood. If you believe you will be burning more than just a few months out of the year, then you should aim much higher when collecting the wood. Keep in mind the more wood, the better.

Storing the Wood Improperly

This is a mistake that a lot of new stove owners end up doing. They do not store their wood properly. Once the wood is cut down to size, you will need to split it, and then you will stack it. You will need to ensure that the wood is stored in a dry place. Rain and snow should not touch your wood, as wet wood is never a good thing when trying to heat your retreat. It is best to stack your wood on a pallet. This will allow some airflow to keep your wood dry from moisture. You will also need to keep tarps over it to keep the rain and snow from it.

Not Having Backups

Think about if your wood was taken. What would happen? How would you keep your friends and family warm if TSHTF? Or what if you didn’t have enough wood? You need a backup plan to keep warm. It is a good idea to have old pairs of jeans on hand just in case of an emergency. Here is a list that you can have in reserve just in case your wood supplies is compromised.

  • Old Clothes: As you go through life, your kids and you will out grow or even wear out pairs of jeans and other items of clothing. Keep these. You can roll them into logs and tie them with string to burn them for heat. Keep in mind that if you want them to burn longer, you must roll them tighter. If you would like to get a good collection of them going, hit yard sales, resale shops, and other places that offer old clothes for a small price.
  • Green Wood: If you can get some green wood, you can cut it and burn it. You need to remember that the green wood and bushes will burn much differently than the firewood. It is much harder to get burning as it still contains water. You will need to use a torch and not just a small kindling or a lighter. You also need to know that green wood will put more creosote into the chimney. You need to make sure you are cleaning the chimney often to ensure that you do not have a block in it.
  • Emergency Marked Trees: More than likely your bug out location is in or near a wooded area. Walk this area to pinpoint a few dead trees. These trees need to remain standing so that no one can just freely take them. If you need to have an emergency stash of wood, you will cut down these “marked” trees.
  • Wood Scraps and Furniture: If you have any old or unusable furniture or wood scraping lying around, store it. Both items can be burned in place of traditional firewood.

When it comes to things that burn, just know that you must protect your friends and family from the elements, not just the outside world.

Clutter Around the Stove or Fireplace

Another extremely important safety issue to consider is the space around your wood-burning source. Whether it is a wood stove, fireplace, or Gasification Boiler the area surrounding it should always be keep clean and tidy. Do not allow anything within 3-4 feet of the fire especially anything flamable.

This is imperative to keep the area sweep and free of dust and dirt too. Dust can ignite very easily and float to other areas causing extreme damage.

Screens or Doors

Screens are not just for decoration. They actually have a purpose.  Screens placed on top of the wood stove or fireplace chimney help to keep birds, leaves, and other debris from getting inside your chimney. Fireplace screens block any pieces of glowing embers that might pop out of the fireplace.

The Fireplace screens with doors type will help in case the logs fall forward and start to roll out of the fireplace.

Bonus Tips

In this section, you are given different tips on how to heat, add heat, and other great tips for your retreat or home.

  • Tin Foil: Placing tin foil behind your radiator will keep heat loss down to a minimum. You do not need special foil; an off brand kitchen foil will do the trick.
  • Thick Curtains: Hanging thick curtains over the windows will help protect any heat from escaping.
  • Day Light: Allow the sun to come in through the windows during the daylight hours. The sunlight will heat up the air inside. Shut your curtains during the night.
  • Glaze the Windows: If you have single pane windows, then glazing them will add the double pane effect by keeping the heated air inside.
  • Shut Unused Rooms: If there are rooms that are not used, then you should close those off from the ventilation system. Spreading heat through rooms that are unused will cost you more heat.

Finals Words

Make sure that you know what wood you have before you go to burn it. There are some that should not be used, which are listed above. Ensure that you have kindling stored along with your firewood to make sure that you can start it. Preppers normally keep fire starters in their BOB. Keep in mind there are various ways to build your fire, but using the method described here will offer you a strong start to an even stronger fire.

Remember safety is important too. Stay safe and warm!

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About Teresa Fikes

Teresa Fikes

My name is Teresa Fikes. I am a Homesteader, survivalist, prepper, historian, and writer plus much more all in one package deal. I was raised on a small family farm were I was taught at an early age to survive off the land without the help of modern conveniences. I am a writer by profession and a Homesteader by Blood, Sweat, and Tears.

3 comments

  1. A cord of wood is 4X4X10. That is 4 feet high by 4 feet wide by 10 feet long.

    • Where did you get your info. All real wood users know a cord of wood is 4′ x 4′ x 8′ = 128 cubic foot of space or in reality, about 85 cubic feet of solid wood.

  2. Most users who buy firewood get screwed because a delivered cord today is 2’x4’x16′ and even if you build or buy a rack that is 4’x16′ the wood you get is not 2′ long. As stated above 16″ and varies from 12″ to 24″ which at 16″ screws you out of 8″ on every log. Which works out to losing plus or minus 1/3 of a cord if the average log length is 16″. So if you buy wood pay close attention and buy from local people with a good reputation. Another place where people who buy firewood get screwed is when buying a rick or face cord most people think it is a half a cord. However a 16″x4’x8′ is less than a 1/3 of a cord and that is if it averages 16″. Another favorite of the firewood sellers is if you do not have a firewood rack they cross stack both ends which will screw you out of 16 cubic feet plus or minus if the wood is 2′ long. If the wood you are buying averages 16″in length then if stacked in a rack 16′ long it would have to be stacked 6.15′ high to get a full cord. If you have any doubt do the math.

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