Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Firewood and Woodstove Update

This week I received an email from Nathan in northern Minnesota who had recently installed a Jotul Oslo wood stove in green majolica enamel, just like ours. So, it seemed like a good time to post an update on our stove, after 11 weeks of winter use. The stove is awesome. Easy to load wood and build a fire through the side door and easy to clean the ash tray and front door window as needed. The wood fire heats our entire house--the oil furnace now runs only to heat hot water. Our house is quieter and warmer, and we are using far less oil.
Sitting in a rocker in front of the wood stove watching the fire, Kodi at my feet, is peaceful and calming. I could spend a lot of time just staring at the fire. Apparently I am not alone. Sarah Lydall at the New York Times writes about Norway's love of firewood in Oslo Journal: Bark Up or Down? Firewood Splits Norwegians. Norwegians spend Friday nights watching a 12-hour show about firewood, which includes a few shots of people chopping wood and 8 hours of watching a fire burn in a fireplace. One viewer apparently said, "I couldn't go to bed because I was so excited...When will they add new logs? Just before I managed to tear myself away, they must have opened the flue a little, because just then the flames shot a little higher." The show is inspired by Lars Mytting's book, Solid Wood: All About Chopping, Drying and Stacking Wood--and the Soul of Wood-Burning.
So, about the firewood part. Lydall writes in her piece that 50 percent of the viewers of "National Firewood Night" called in to complain that the wood was stacked with the bark facing up and others complained that the bark was facing down. When we bought our first cord of wood last fall, I read oodles of Internet posts about bark up or bark down. It is apparently a global concern. The best advice I read was by Carl Debow at Northern Woodlands. He recommends: bark side up (on top) if the wood stack is open to the weather and bark side down if covered. Although looking at our wood stacks, I think the bark up or down is random.

Nathan from Minnesota wrote to me about two different problems. His Oslo was installed in a corner. In those set-ups, Jotul recommends (perhaps code requires?) that you not use the side door, only the front door. Nathan said, as others have complained, that ash flies out when the front door is used. This is a problem that our friends have with the Jotul Castine, which only comes with a front door. I suggested to Nathan that he consider a heat shield on the wall and floor along the side door if feasible and allowed by code, to allow use of the side door. For others thinking about these stoves -- go for one, like the Oslo, with a side door, and install it to allow safe and routine use of the side door.

Nathan's second concern: potential small cracks in the enamel on the stove top. He thought he overheated the stove, which can cause cracking. The other potential cause is dropping water on a hot enamel stove. We avoid the use of those fancy enamel pots for water, just for this reason. The chance of spillage is too great. So, one downside of buying the enamel stove is the need to be careful with liquids if you plan to cook on the stove. But for us, the trade-off is worth it, as the green enamel adds beauty to our living space.

We have used about two cords of wood so far, since December 4th. This week we started drawing down on the third cord. The fire burns hot as I watch the flames flicker. Perhaps I have a bit of Norwegian in me.

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