Firewood is an excellent fuel source that can be used for cooking and keeping your family warm. 2.5 million American homes are heated this way. The most common type of firewood used for home use is hardwood which includes oak, ash, and birch. It is used in nearly all indoor and outdoor fireplaces and for wood heating uses. Hardwood is dense, burns hotter and longer and emits far less smoke than softwood which is not ideal for indoor fires.
If you purchase wood from a supplier, then it already has been seasoned, a process of drying out the wood which can take from 6 months up to 2 years depending on the wood type. If you are cutting your own, then you will need to season the wood yourself.
When using inside, proper ventilation is required.
Uses of Firewood
Warming your home
You can use firewood in your fireplace as long as you have the required class A chimney flue enstalled. See other safety regulations listed below.
A typical home will need about 5 to 8 cords of wood to adequately be heated during the winter months. A cord of firewood is 128 cubic feet that is four feet high, four feet wide and eight feet long. Variation factors include home size, insulation, how the wood is to be used (fireplace or oven), and wood quality. The better seasoned the wood is, the more heat it will give off.
If you plan on using wood as an alternative heating fuel, you will need a wood splitting maul (a type of ax) and wedge.
This includes indoor wood-burning stoves, and outdoor open pits, and the many available types of wood burning portable camping stoves. These camping stoves are a good option for those who don't have an indoor wood burning fireplace or an outdoor open pit.
Cooking with a wood burning camping stove
Some of the more popular portable camping stove are the solo stove and rocket stove. They come in different sizes, are extremely efficient, and take only a small amount of firewood or other biomass to work.
Cooking with your indoor fireplace
If you are already fortunate enough to have a wood burning fireplace then much of what is written here you already know. But did you know you can use your fireplace to cook with? Cooking in a well-maintained wood-burning fireplace is perfectly safe as long as you follow the safety and usage requirements (see below).
Skewer method - Using a skewer, simply pierce your food and hold it over the fire below, rotating until your food is cooked to your liking. Two bonus tips for this method: don’t use high-fat foods or a lot of smoke will be produced, and always leave a drip tray below.
Dutch oven method - Cast iron Dutch ovens can easily cook great recipes like soups and stews in your fireplace. Before the pot goes in, the embers need to be extremely hot. At that point, you can simply place the pot on top of the embers. An occasional rotation of your Dutch oven will distribute the heat more evenly. Remember to include heat-proof gloves and a small shovel for moving hot embers around.
Before you use your fireplace for cooking, make sure to do the following. Schedule a CSIA-Certified inspection. This will identify any damage or safety concerns. Maintain the fireplace and chimney thereafter by scheduling regular chimney inspections. Cooking in an uncleaned fireplace or chimney can introduce you to fire or smoke risks. Make sure the flue is open during use. Failure to do this could result in a buildup of carbon monoxide. Move all flammables away from the fireplace before use.
If you are serious about using firewood as a main fuel source, here are other supplies, besides a wood-splitting maul and wedge, that you may consider having on hand: fireplace tool set (ash shovel, poker, etc.), fireplace bellows, ash bucket, hearth wood rack, firewood carrier, outdoor wood rack, wood saw, chainsaw, and heat reclaimer.
Home Improvement Stores
- Firewood is the most basic and inexpensive of all fuel sources.
- In many locations, you can often find firewood for free.
- If kept dry, it can store for years.
- In some areas, it is not as plentiful. Take this into consideration when choosing your fuel sources for storage.
- It can easily become wet and unusable.
- Special care must be taken, especially if this is one of your main chosen emergency fuel sources.
See if you can buy scraps of unused wood from cabinets or other woodworking shops. Then cut them into smaller, more unified pieces and store them in 5-gallon containers. These smaller pieces of wood will light easier and burn faster than a wood log.
Proper ventilation must be available when burning firewood inside.
Firewood should be:
- dried out (seasoned/cured) for at least 6-12 months before use, depending on how wet the wood is and how much moisture you wish to remove.
- stored at least 30 feet from your house.
- placed on a rack to keep it off the ground.
- covered and kept dry.
Remember, wood can also be painted, stained, or finished for aesthetics with substances that when burned give off hazardous fumes and gasses. Use only bare, unfinished, or unprocessed wood in your fires.