REGION – Following the two-week arctic blast from late December into early January, the 38 percent of Vermonters who heat in full or in part with wood may be looking with dismay at their dwindling woodpiles. The unseasonably cold and persistent sub-zero temperatures put early significant dents in woodpiles, with months of heating left to go.
It can be nearly impossible to track down dry or seasoned wood this time of year, so what is a home-owner to do if they’re reluctant to fall back on their oil or propane backup? Here is a collection of suggestions to help stretch what’s left of your woodpile through spring.
Do you have an old, inefficient wood stove? Consider replacing it with a new, efficient model. New EPA certified stoves can be up to 70 percent more efficient than older versions. Not only will you use less wood to heat your home, you will also improve your indoor and outdoor air quality. Not sure if your stove is EPA certified? If it’s pre-1990, it’s worth looking up the model and serial number. Your local stove dealer can help. You may also consider switching to a pellet stove. Pellet stoves look and function much like wood stoves, but burn wood pellets instead of cordwood. Pellets are readily available in bag and in bulk and are ready to burn when you get them.
Consider purchasing a cord or two of kiln-dried wood. While most firewood is dried outdoors for 6-12 months, kiln dried wood is dried in just two days and thus continually available throughout the season. It is dried much more thoroughly and evenly than outdoor drying can achieve. Kiln dried wood can also be heat treated, making it bug free and safe to store indoors. It is more expensive than wood dried outside, but it can be well worth the investment if your woodpile is looking a little slim.
Plug up drafts around your home. It’s not too late to consider making basic efficiency improvements around your home such as caulking, insulating outlets, investing in heavy curtains, and sealing drafty windows with plastic sheeting. The same tactics you use to keep the oil and propane bills down can be used to help stretch your wood fuel too. Check out www.ButtonUpVermont.org and www.EfficiencyVermont.com for ideas.
Low-income Vermonters can apply for assistance. Cordwood and wood pellets are both eligible fuels in the Vermont Low Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP). For more information on how to apply, contact the Department of Children and Families Benefit Center at 1-800-479-6151 or visit www.dcf.vermont.gov/benefits/fuel-assistance.
Do not burn green wood. It may be tempting as your dry woodpiles start to dwindle, but never burn green wood in your stove or fireplace. Green wood burns less efficiently. Energy is wasted evaporating moisture out of the green wood before it can combust. That same piece of firewood will give you more bang for your buck if you hold onto it until next year.
Green wood also puts you at risk for a chimney fire. Green wood produces creosote, which can line your chimney and catch fire. It’s bad for both indoor and outdoor air quality. The smoldering fire produced by green wood produces excessive amounts of particulate matter, which is harmful to your health. Learn more at www.healthvermont.gov/environment/climate/winter-weather.
Most importantly, make sure that you are keeping your home at a temperature warm enough for your own health and that of your home’s – even if that means turning up the thermostat on the furnace.