Friday, 11 November 2011

Chopping Wood

We are approaching our second winter in Cyprus and our main source of heating for the living room and kitchen is a wood burning stove which we used for about 6-8 weeks last winter. The heat generated was remarkable. We even boiled a kettle every evening for a hot drink.


We bought a wood stove for a number of reasons. Living rurally there is lots of wood to collect locally, especially when the olive trees are being trimmed, and this is a sustainable heat source.  We have also been busy collecting wood which has resulted from the Council knocking down some of the derelict houses in the village and we have managed to get home, using our wheelbarrow, some really large roof beams. Collecting wood becomes an obsession and whenever we go for a walk we return with some wood. We probably have enough wood for the few next winters. 


Using a wood burning stove, and probably most importantly, is largely carbon neutral, as growing trees takes in carbon dioxide which is then released when the wood rots or is burnt.
Cleaning the stove daily is a bit of a chore but it soon becomes part of your daily routine, as is reloading it with paper and kindling ready for lighting. The ash generated is not wasted as it is useful in the garden. It comprises of about 10% potash, 1% phosphate and has traces of iron, copper and zinc but the largest component is at 25% calcium carbonate which is a common liming material. Adding ash to acidic soil, like ours, is of great benefit and raises it alkalinity.
Stove technology has really moved on and modern stoves burn very efficiency and our model burns at 72% efficiency. Modern stoves get the most out of your fuel by burning the smoke. To achieve this efficiency and best smokeless performance go for a stove with a turbo baffle or similar mechanism which creates a process called tertiary burning. The baffle directs the smoke through the fire again and again, creating an internal circular gas flow that continually mixes the exhaust gases with fresh oxygen. This mix is drawn through the base of the fire allowing the gases to reach temperatures that would not normally be reached, and then they re-burn further adding to the heat of the stove. You get remarkable bright blue, green, red and orange flames as this process occurs which is better than watching TV on most nights and very relaxing.
We purchased a Horse Flame HF-717 Elessar cast iron stove with a glass front which produces 18.5kW or 63,000 BTU and weighs 196kg. It's a large unit but it means we can use quite large logs with no problem. The suppliers installed it and it took four men to remove it from the trailer van and move it to it's location. We had the flue pipe outlet installed high up on the wall directly into the chimney breast which means two metres of piping are in the room but this provides added heat as the pipe gets very hot. 


The stove we bought, although efficient, gets through a lot of wood and a constant supply is required. When you have to cut and chop this amount you really know about it and it warms you up on a cold winters day. We needed about three full wheel barrows of wood a week to run the stove. Sawing this much wood by hand was hard work and some of the larger logs were too difficult so I purchased  a small petrol chainsaw. Spent all day today using the chainsaw to cut the large logs we have accumulated and we have plenty of chopped wood. It's still warm enough at the moment and although we have a lot we will only start using it when absolutely necessary. I'm sure we will collect plenty more on our travels and walks to keep the pile topped up.

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