As stock indices worldwide declined this fall, prices for firewood and wood pellets climbed. So too is the number of reported incidents of stolen wood in central Maine. In 2008, according to the Kennebec Journal, there have been seven reported thefts of wood, up from two in 2006. The thieves take trees awaiting shipment to mills and cut it into firewood for eventual sale to consumers.
Throughout the Northeast, skyrocketing fuel costs have lit a fire under the firewood business. The demand is sparking severe shortages ahead of the home-heating season, says Sarah Smith, forest-industry specialist at the University of New Hampshire cooperative extension. "If I called up 10 folks in the firewood business and asked them for a cord of dry wood, they'd all laugh," she says.
The firewood shortage started this summer, when soaring oil prices motivated more people to consider heating their homes—or supplementing their oil, natural-gas, electric, or propane heat—with wood. "The loggers and firewood producers who were predicting and processing wood based on their usual demand couldn't accommodate all these people, many of whom hadn't burned wood in the past," says Smith.
Dwindling supplies have led to higher prices. Customers are paying up to $250 for a cord of green wood, material that hasn't been sufficiently dried for burning. Two years ago, the same cords were going for as little as $100. Those lucky enough to find seasoned dry wood can expect to pay at least $350 for a cord, says Smith.
A similar trend is affecting the cost of wood pellets used in pellet-burning stoves. "Prices are definitely higher," says Leslie Wheeler, director of communications for the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. Although actual costs vary by region, she says the average is $250 to $260 per ton of pellets. An October 1 article in the Bangor News put the average price per ton at $300. Two years ago, the United States Department of Energy listed the average price as $190.
There are ways to try to save on wood and pellets. Buy wood pellets in bulk, for instance. For cordwood, Smith advises checking the local papers and sites like Craigslist for deals. But, remember, the short supply of firewood provides an opportunity for shifty suppliers. To keep yourself from getting burned, follow these tips:
• Request the right wood. Maple, oak, cherry, and other hardwoods burn longer and cleaner than softwoods like pine, aspen, and poplar. Softwoods tend to create more creosote in the chimney; if you don't eliminate the creosote regularly, it can become a fire hazard. The Wood Heat Organization's Web site includes a list of the best-burning species and helpful tips for building and maintaining wood fires. Tip: Don't get ripped off by a scamming chimney sweep.
• Get what you pay for. A full cord measures 128 cubic feet, or a stack roughly 4 feet high x 8 feet long x 4 feet deep. A face cord is 4 feet high x 8 feet long and as deep as the individual logs—typically 16, 20, or 24 inches, depending on the dimensions of the fireplace or stove. Be home when the wood is delivered and have the vendor identify in writing the type of wood you're getting. Wood species can be difficult to identify. Hardwoods tend to be denser than softwoods, so a simple heft test can provide a helpful clue. Also, many softwoods have a telltale piney scent. Well-cured wood is grayish on the end, with radial cracks.
• Have the vendor stack the logs. You'll pay more for the service, but you will be able verify how much wood got delivered before the delivery guy drives away. Be on the lookout for loose stacking, which is a trick crooked vendors use to short-change unsuspecting customers. If you've ordered a face cord, check that the logs have been cut to the specified length. To prevent termites and other insects from invading your home, stack firewood away from the structure, preferably in a sunny, exposed spot; you can use a plastic tarp to keep the top layer dry.
• Obtain a receipt. The bill of sale should include the vendor's contact information, the sale date, the type and quantity of wood, and the purchase price. A reputable vendor won't object to the request.—Daniel DiClerico
Are fire starter logs, e.g. "DuraFlame, better or worse for your chimney, or does it really just matter how fast and hot you get the fire going?
Has anyone used the BRADLEYBURNER. Converts wood stoves into pellet stoves.
Any ratings on gas logs vented and vent free coming soon?
i have cut firewood for six years and have begged folks to buy it for 40.00 a face cord, it makes me laugh when i hear folks say average 200.00 to 300.00 a face cord, where is this place where i can get rich doing a job cutting firewood where i think the average iq of wood cutters is low like mine heck i used to cut my own firewood for free and it was still cheaper to burn nat gas please inform me
dura flame logs burn clean and do help clean creasote from chimnys
Definitely bring a tape measure and check the dimensions yourself, and don't buy over the phone. Getting green wood can also be a problem. You should also bring a moisture meter and make sure the wood is no more than 15% to 20% moisture. If you don't have a meter, you can try banging two pieces together. Dry wood gives a hollow sound.
what about the possibility of using algae?
can i pelletize algae or dry it in to bricks and burn that?
any idea on the amount of ash that would be produced?
is there any data on burning algae bricks?