Oil prices driving people to wood stoves

Hey all – back again from a week in the woods around Flagstaff AZ. We didn’t have any Internet access to speak of, and now that I’m back home, and the shakes have stopped, I’m just starting to get caught up again.

I saw this note about a transition to wood based heating as a response to the cost of oil heat this morning:

“People who have been used to heating with fuel oil are facing severe wallet shock, it has gotten to the point they just can’t afford it and it looks to not get any better soon. Wood has been used forever, but older styled woodstoves are not an option for many. One solution that is appealing is the modern wood pellet furnace, that can be used with boilers and hot water or steam delivery around the house. Sales are booming, and one new company is investing in the whole heating stack, delivering and installing the pellet furnaces, along with having a fleet of trucks to deliver pellets.”

Read the full article here.

There’s a concern here. First, it’s useful to remember that most of Pennsylvania was deforested in the last 1800’s both to provide fuel prior to the switch to coal and to support agriculture. Most of the trees in the northeast are less than a hundred years old as a result and there’s only a small patch of primeval forest left in the state. (Cook’s forest if I recall correctly.) If we make a significant switch to wood stoves, given the significant population increase in the U.S., how long can we realistically expect the wood supply to last?

Secondly, wood has to be harvested and transported. I’ve not seen the calculation done, but I’m suspicious that wood stoves will end up using a large amount of oil to provide a btu – and that there won’t be the big savings in oil consumption that people are hoping for. Especially if the movement to wood spreads.

On the other hand, as a transitional stop-gap measure, perhaps this is one of our best tools.

Author: Nick Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...