Now that we are into winter with both feet, I have become fully acclimated, although I do find myself about places that are warm and dry.
Last June I bought a box of compressed wood. It is used in lieu of stick wood, and I have been saving it for winter. Since it is winter and a new year to boot, it seemed like a great time to try it out.
The box has 10 bricks of wood that weigh 2½ pounds each. They are made from compressed wood shavings that probably came from someplace like a window or cabinet manufacturer. They are very dry, and they burn fairly well. I had tried one in a wood stove at some point, and was not too impressed with the fact that they did not look like firewood when they burned, but in the wood boiler looks are not important. The bricks threw a lot of heat into the storage system quickly and cleanly.
I checked in with some hearth professionals to get their views on this fuel alternative.
The folks at Evergreen Home Solutions in Ellsworth offer a compressed wood brick. The cost is more than for stick wood, but they feel that the estimated 20 percent premium you pay for this fuel over cordwood is of value to some folks.
When someone is having trouble dealing with a new stove and finding proper firewood in, say, January, they suggest trying this material.
There is no snow to knock off and there is no drying to wait for. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder wood fuel!
Compressed wood bricks are more expensive than wood pellets, and you have to manually feed them into a stove, but if you are hard up for fuel in the winter, this fuel can be used in conventional wood stoves.
I dropped the box of bricks the other day when I was bringing them into the house. A small amount of snow hit a couple bricks. I brushed it off and put them in the basement. A couple hours later when I went to burn them, they had become fuzzy and flaky where the snow had touched them. This happens with wood pellets when they get wet. Wet wood pellets revert to their original state — sawdust. At that point they are no longer usable as fuel in a pellet stove. Fortunately, compressed wood bricks are just thrown into a stove or boiler and still will burn. It is cool to see a small wet spot turn into a wood tumor. In the winter, it is simple things that keep me entertained.
If you do not like messing with firewood, this material has some possibilities. You can put a full year’s wood heat in the basement and not have to deal with bugs, a lot of moisture or much smell. This material does not burn in the same way stick wood does, but it is worth checking out if for no other reason than curiosity. You can pick up a 25-pound box for five or six dollars. And it is cheap entertainment that might be fun.
Questions for Tom Gocze should be mailed to The Home Page, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329. A library of reference material and a home-project blog are at www.bangordailynews.com/thehomepage.html.