The Woodburner's Companion


Burning wood for heat can benefit your household in many ways, especially if you live outside the city. When petroleum and natural gas prices climb, the economic benefit of woodburning is clear. Add to that independence from outside forces, and heating with wood can bring you genuine stress relief. If the electricity goes off, you stay warm. And you have that feeling of security as you look out the window at a neatly stacked pile of firewood, your "savings account," ready for a ...
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Burning wood for heat can benefit your household in many ways, especially if you live outside the city. When petroleum and natural gas prices climb, the economic benefit of woodburning is clear. Add to that independence from outside forces, and heating with wood can bring you genuine stress relief. If the electricity goes off, you stay warm. And you have that feeling of security as you look out the window at a neatly stacked pile of firewood, your "savings account," ready for a cold winter's night.

Dirk Thomas, experienced woodburner and chimney sweep, is the perfect guide to the ins and outs of the many ways available to burn wood for heat. He discusses the fuel value of various woods, how to buy firewood and get the most heat from it, the environmental impact of woodburning and a variety of chimney and flue arrangements. Throughout, the emphasis is on woodburning safety. Even knowledgeable woodburners will gain from his detailed descriptions of woodburning installations, which are based on the latest codes and recommendations from the U.S. and Canada.

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Editorial Reviews

Castle Freeman
You will be helped by this book to burn wood economically, efficiently and -most important-safely
Russell S. Reay
..a thoroughly enjoyable read. Dirk Thomas has tackled the technical and psychological aspects of wood heat with a writer's flair without masking his expertise and years of experience.
State Land Forester Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
From The Critics
Already, news reports are quoting woodstove dealers as seeing a surge of new consumers due to skyrocketing prices of home heating oil and natural gas. This book arrives just in time to help these new users of an ancient heat source learn how to use it safely. Long-time wood-burners will likely find some good tips as well.

Thomas, a professional chimney sweep who has written articles for The Chicago Tribune, Country Journal, Vermont Magazine, and American Woodlands, has heated with wood himself for thirty-five years. As a chimney sweep, he's also seen plenty of poorly installed stoves and chimneys and ill-informed wood burning practices that can lead to creosote build-up and other fire hazards.

His experience doesn't end there. He's also been a logger, tree surgeon, and commercial firewood cutter. He provides tips not only on safe ways to heat with wood in stoves, fireplaces, and furnaces, but on the comparative heating potential of different kinds of wood, how to tell if you're truly getting seasoned wood, and even how to stack it so it stays at just the right moisture content to burn clean and warm.

In 1992, Thomas wrote the Harrowsmith Country Life Guide to Wood Heat, and this latest book includes that material as well. He includes, for example, information about new kinds of woodstoves that dramatically reduce pollution over those built prior to Environmental Protection Agency regulations. They also burn wood more efficiently, so less wood is needed to heat a home.

"Wood heating equipment has improved drastically since the 1970s," he writes. "Wood may not be the fuel of the future, but it is certainly a fuel of the future for millions of people weary of high-priced fossil fuels, power outages and power shortages."

It is also a cozy, radiant heat that many people-Thomas included - enjoy. Thomas, however, is clear-headed in his assessment of who should heat with wood and who should not. Those who shouldn't range from people who live in populated valleys where the wood smoke is trapped as pollution in cold air that can't rise above the valleys' steep walls to the neat-nik who can't stand a bit of ash, dust, and wood chips in the house. "True neat freaks will find themselves dreading the heating season if they have a wood stove," he writes.

Thomas gives tips on how to reduce the mess, along with pros and cons of different kinds of woodburners and clear instructions on different techniques to burn wood safely, efficiently, and comfortably. He also offers advice on planning for a woodburner installation in an about-to-be-built new home as well as in an older home. Thomas provides some revealing incidents that show why the homeowner is the one who should get educated on wood heating. His book is a valuable tool for doing just that. (January)

From The Critics
In an age of rapidly rising energy costs for the homeowner, fresh attention is being given to heating alternatives to electricity and natural gas. Foremost among them is the woodburning stove and/or fireplace. Dirk Thomas is a Vermont chimney sweep how drew upon his many years of experience and expertise to write The Woodburner's Companion, a definitive "how to" manual and guide on the proper ways to utilize wood and fireplace stoves, boilers, furnaces, masonry heaters, and more. Thomas comprehensively covers such pertinent issues as the fuel value of various woods, how to purchase firewood, getting the most heat from what you buy, the environmental impact of woodburning, and a variety of chimney and flue arrangements for best efficiency. Curry provides specific emphasis on the safety issues involved with burning wood for fuel and heat. "Must" reading for the novice wood burner, The Woodburner's Companion will also offer considerable value for experienced woodburners with detailed discussions of woodstove installation, and American and Canadian building and fire codes.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780911469288
  • Publisher: Hood, Alan C. Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/15/2006
  • Edition description: 3rd Edition
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 1,155,989
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword vii
Introduction ix
1. Fuel of the Future? 1
Is wood heat economically viable? 3
Is wood heat environmentally defensible? 4
Who should burn wood? 6
2. The Heating Value of Wood? 11
Heat from different kinds of wood 13
Wood compared to other fuels 13
Efficiencies of different kinds of fuel systems 16
3. Strategies for Using Wood 17
Wood as the sole source of heat 18
Wood as the primary source of heat 18
Wood as supplementary heat 18
Wood as an emergency back-up heat source 19
4. Equipment and Techniques 21
Airtight woodstoves 22
Catalytic woodstoves 23
High-tech woodstoves 23
Fireplace stoves 25
Wood furnaces and boilers 27
Outdoor boilers 29
Fireplaces 30
Masonry heaters 33
Pellet stoves 35
Stove installation 37
Stove operation 44
5. Chimneys 53
New construction 53
Modern chimneys 58
Old chimneys 59
Lining Chimneys 61
6. Chimney Cleaning 67
What is creosote? 67
Chimney fires 68
When to clean your chimney 69
Chimney cleaning options 73
How to clean your own chimney 76
Hiring a chimney sweep 87
7. Troubleshooting Chimney Problems 91
How a chimney works 91
Diagnosing chimney problems 92
Mechanical problems of stoves 97
What to do in a chimney Fire 99
Water problems 100
8. The Woodpile 103
Firewood economics 104
Getting your wood 105
Buying firewood 108
Storing and seasoning firewood 114
Appendix Safety Checklist 121
Bibliography and Sources 123
Index 125
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