Having grown up in both the city and the suburbs, before recently moving to a rural area, burning firewood in a woodstove is a skill I only recently acquired. But in the process, I've discovered that it's a very satisfying practice, knowing that I'm cutting my heating bills and participating in the local economy, while using a renewable energy source. It's my second year in this ongoing learning process, so I was glad to come across the book Wood Heat: A Practical Guide to Heating Your Home with Wood by Canadian author Andrew Jones, which provides many fundamental insights into the art of preparing, storing and burning wood for heat, in addition to explaining the variables involved with choosing the right wood-burning appliance.
Wood Heat is a great introduction into this venerable tradition that has recently experienced a renaissance, thanks to increasing energy costs associated with other forms of heating. Jones points out in his book that there are a number of factors to choosing which type of fuel will suit your home -- with firewood being typically more suited to rural areas than urban ones. That said, Jones outlines the comparative advantages of heating with wood versus other energy sources like oil, electricity and propane in terms of cost and overall efficiency, giving tools on how to calculate and compare your annual heating costs should you choose to make the switch.
Jones also addresses the complex question of whether burning wood is sustainable. Granted, though woodstoves have improved in efficiency in the last few decades, wood-burning still isn't as efficient as other methods, but there are distinct advantages that wood-burning offers over other methods. First off, dollar-for-dollar it's much cheaper, plus it can be a complete off-grid option, and there is a hands-on allure with using wood for heat, appealing to our sense of self-reliance.
The book is packed full of information and tips for the greenhorn, such as explaining what is a full cord versus a face cord; how to cut, store and season wood; how to select the best tree species for burning; how to choose, size and install a certified wood-burning appliance and how to install and maintain a chimney. There is also an enlightening section on different ways to stack your wood in your stove so that it burns cleanly, and a decent product guide and appendix for identifying trees should you harvest them yourself.
Overall, it's an excellent overview of the ins and outs, and various techniques behind burning wood for heat, offering the novice a treasure trove of tools and tips on how to burn it right. To learn more or purchase, head on over to Firefly Books.