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Posted by on in Wood Burning Advice
El Niño

With temperatures on the rise in the Pacific Ocean, it is helpful to know what El Niño is. The El Niño weather pattern last had an impact here in the winter of 2009, when considerable snowfall and sub-zero temperatures were unprecedented. With El Niño occurring every two to seven years, we are long overdue to see the severe weather this system can cause.

El Niño means ‘boy child’, or ‘Christ child’ in Spanish, due to the fact that this weather phenomenon occurs around the Christmas season. The name originates from the 1600s, when fishermen off the coast of Peru noticed unusual warming of surface waters in the Pacific Ocean in December. Since these vital observations, improved ability to observe and track weather patterns has taught us more about what is essentially a relationship between the atmosphere and the ocean.

El Niño is the warm phase of the Southern Oscillation (ENSO), referring to the cycle of warm and cold temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, as measured by Sea Surface Temperature. Trade winds off the coast of South America weaken (and at times reverse), allowing warm water to flow east, which in turn displaces cooler water usually found in the eastern Pacific Ocean. This, combined with variations in air pressure, disrupts local and global weather patterns. Events such as sudden dumps of rain to usually dry areas, and extended periods of dry weather where it would normally be wet, are typical. La Niña, sister of El Niño, is the cool phase of the Southern Oscillation, and the opposite of her brother in every way. Between them, they can create weather phenomena that are unusual and extreme.

Every El Niño event is unique, but it is generally thought that for the UK the effect can be seen as increased rainfall in warmer months, followed by increased snowfall in the colder months. Other effects for us include a rise in prices of coffee, sugar, cocoa and rice, as affected foreign crops suffer. Perhaps the most frightening prospect is the possibility of creating a long, bitterly cold, snowy winter for the British Isles, one that we are poorly equipped to deal with. Some believe that the recent Storm Frank, which devasted the UK with flooding following a record-breaking warm December, was linked to El Niño and that this is a precursor to very cold conditions for early 2016.

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Posted by on in Wood Burning Advice
Smokeless Coal – What is it?

Smokeless coals are an option for both people living in smoke control regions and also for those who live in areas regulated as ‘smoke controlled’ by DEFRA. Smokeless coals have an anthracite base which is the type of coal formation that has aged longer than almost any other. The very high proportion of carbon (usually over 97%) and absence of volatile materials in smokeless anthracite fuels means that they do not give off thick smoke when burnt.

Anthracite-based coals give off an immense heat in terms of ‘Kilowatt-Hours‘ (KWh). If you are going to use solid fuels then the ‘kilowatt hour’ is something worthwhile understanding. 1 KWh is basically the energy needed to deliver 1000 (kilo) watts of power continuously for a full hour. For example, the energy needed to power ten lightbulbs, all of 100w rating for one hour, is a total consumption of 1 KWh.

Compared with other solid fuels, coal represents a very high energy rating per kilogram of fuel: 

Fuel Type

Calorific Value (CV)
kWh/kg

Wood Chips

3.5

Wood (Air Dried)

4.1

Wood (Kiln Dried)

5.3

Wood Pellets

4.8

House Coal

8.0

Anthracite

9.2

 

Our own smokeless fuel, ‘Hot Rocks’ is like many others which consist of ground down anthracite which has several natural additives such as starch for binding agents, and then compressed into a round briquette. The result is a nice clean oval which does not crumble.

Because of their low emissions, smokeless fuels have been created with the health of the atmosphere as a priority, and became vital after the creation of the 1956 Clean Air Act  (a result of the ‘Great Smog’ of London in the early 50’s which is well worth a google if you have time).

People who are suited to using smokeless coal include:
  • Anyone living in a Smoke Control Area
  • People with very small stoves which are suited to burning coal
  • People who want to add to their usual solid fuel (kiln dried logs or heat logs) in order to increase heat output and have a suitable appliance.

If you would like to discuss the use of smokeless fuels or have any questions about our own Hot Rocks brand of smokeless coal, feel free to contact us

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Posted by on in Wood Burning Advice
Moisture Meters Make Sense!

There’s nothing more despairing than the sound of firewood ‘sizzling’ on a fire. If you hear that, it is a sign that the wood you are trying to burn could have excessive moisture content. Above 30% water content, water bubbles can be noticed escaping from the end grain when the firewood is on the fire, and it may not even burn at all. So even if you have managed to get this wood to ignite, the heat output maybe so poor that it was probably more effort than it was worth.

Building a good fire should not be so hard. Before you begin, a moisture meter can tell you the exact amount of water in your wood. Our kiln dried logs have a very low moisture content (under 20%), but if you also buy from other sources remember that naturally seasoned wood can take at least a year to dry properly. The moisture band that your firewood should fall within is 15-20%.  With one of our new digital moisture meters, you have the ability to make sure your wood is perfect for burning.

These small devices are operated by inserting two metal pins (probes) into the end of the log (some models, including our own, come with four pins for greater precision). Simply insert the probes into the end of the logs. Your meter will give you an instant measurement of the level of moisture content. If you are concerned about the dryness of the logs, it is wise to split the log down the centre and take a reading from the ‘centre’ of the log.    

Be sure to add one of these clever little units to your next order so that ‘roaring’, not ‘sizzling’, is the sound of your next fire!

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Cooking with wood - using your stove to the maximum.

It has probably crossed your mind that the heat emanating from your wood burning stove could be used for other things, along with heating your home. Cooking on top of your burner is a definite possibility if the appliance is suitable. Going even further, you may find yourself exploring the wide variety of range cookers available. The difference between the two approaches really comes down to how serious you are about cooking with solid fuels.

How can I cook on top of my wood burning stove?

Many models have a flat surface or circular plate on the top that allows for a kettle or pot to sit and absorb heat from the fire below. This can be a satisfying way to utilise the heat that is available for an additional purpose. Stove top users say that each stove is different and therefore it will take some time to learn how your particular model heats items placed on top of it. Regular users often find that they eventually progress from just boiling water to heating a pot of soup, and gradually worked their way up to more complicated cuisine, such as slow-cooked meat dishes.

What do I need to know about cooking on a wood stove?

Many recommend cast iron pots for use on top of the stove, with the traditional Dutch oven being highly regarded as a great way to hold heat for long periods of time. Methods to control the heat include the use of cast iron or metal trivets between the pot and the stove top. These will range in thickness, to diminish harsher burning heat and allow for air flow. The area closest to the flue, in the centre, will usually be the hottest. Temperatures will decrease as you move the pot outwards. It is suggested that you experiment with water to see which part of the stove is hotter, and go from there.

Should I buy a solid-fuel range cooker?

Range cookers can be powered by electricity, gas, coal, oil, pellets, wood, or a multi-fuel combination of the above. If you are using wood we recommend kiln dried logs for the best heat output. There are models that also include boilers for supplying hot water to the household. This is a far bigger commitment in terms of initial cost and set up. However, given the life of these built-to-last ovens, it could be an investment that pays off over the many years to follow.

Converts swear by their range cookers for consistently producing delicious food that retains its moisture, and most importantly, flavour. The well-known Aga cookers are perennial favourites – the quality of these cookers is what sets them apart, along with their unique design and iconic hot plate lids. Like all range cookers, they work by gently radiating heat throughout the oven. Then, once the oven is up to the desired temperature, the heat is steadily and consistently transferred to the food, which makes for great results.

The downside to having a solid fuel powered cooker is that in summer, they can overheat the room unwantedly. New technology has assisted with temperature control somewhat but for many, cooking on a wood stove way is reserved for the winter months, and you may need a standard electric cooker for the remaining parts of the year.

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‘So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep…’ (William Blake, Songs of Innocence, 1789)

The days of using small boys to clean chimneys reads as a sad part of 18th century history. Because chimneys were very narrow back then and the tools were extremely basic, small children were taken in by Master Sweeps, forced to climb up the chimneys, cleaning as they went. As one can imagine, this was a dangerous and dirty occupation. Sadly, the list of job-related illnesses that affected these boys was long. Skin and eye disease, respiratory illnesses and twisted spines ranked highly, and, if those weren’t bad enough there was a skin cancer (known as chimney sweep’s cancer) caused by constant irritation by the soot. Sometimes, the children simply got stuck in the small spaces or burned from the fires lit under them by cruel masters, who wanted to make them move a little faster.  It was not until 1864 that an act was finally brought before parliament by Lord Shaftesbury. It was named the “Act for the Regulation of Chimney Sweepers”, and it banned anyone under the age of 21 from working as a sweep. Although it was largely ignored at the time, it marked the beginning of rights for all people involved in cleaning chimneys.

Why choose a Master Chimney Sweep?

Moving on many decades, we can take heart that the techniques for cleaning chimneys now are safe for those who perform this important task. Furthermore, we recognise that with every maintenance job around the home, it never pays to cut corners. Hence, the best way to ensure your chimney is cleaned correctly is to make sure you engage a member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps. Unlike some European countries, anyone in the UK can claim they are a chimney sweep. They do not need any particular training or qualifications to take up the profession. For a sweep to be accepted as a member of the Guild, individuals would need to satisfy the stringent criteria set down by the organisation.  Furthermore, on becoming a member, they are supported with ongoing training and the experience of senior colleagues. And, if the sweep you have contacted can’t help you, another member of the Guild usually can. Ultimately, the standards set by the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps are there to safeguard your home and leave you satisfied that the job has been done properly.

What will a Master Chimney Sweep do?

First and foremost, a Master Sweep will check the functioning of your chimney, to make sure it is venting correctly. They will check for blockages of the flue (such as birds’ nests), and most importantly of all, clean the inside of the chimney of soot and creosote build-up. They can also check flues for risk of gas or oil fires and advise on any situations that might cause carbon monoxide leaks.  They will also be able to provide you with basic information on how to correctly use your appliance, and which fuels will best suit your heating system. Finally, a Master Sweep will issue you with a Certificate of Sweeping every time a chimney is cleaned. You should check your household insurance terms as this document can be a requirement by some insurers, but crucially, the document certifies that the job has been done to the exacting standards of the Guild.

How often should I get my appliance cleaned?

Always refer to the manufacturers instructions, if that information is available to you. Depending on your appliance and the type of fuel you choose to use, your chimney may need to be cleaned more regularly than others. Remember, the cost of a certified chimney sweep is a lot less than the cost of refurbishing a fire-damaged home. As they say in the Guild, “If your chimney is clean, it will not catch fire, as there is nothing to burn”.

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Posted by on in Wood Burning Advice
Fire and Early Humans

As we enjoy summer, it is easy to forget how reliant we have been, and still are as a species, on this most important natural element.

There is some evidence that suggests humans were using fire some 1.9 million years ago. Stronger scientific evidence supports that at least 400,000 years ago, early humans had learned to control fire to their advantage.

The control of fire by early man showed a big change in cognitive thinking. Instead of fearing fire, they attempted to use it to their advantage.  Fire would have occurred naturally, although randomly, through volcanic activity, lightning strikes and possibly other means. Yet these random blazes would have been more likely to make life difficult rather than easier for early human species.  Wildfire would have destroyed their environment and food sources, in an unpredictable and deadly manner.  Once humans were in control of this element, they were able to bring about great changes in the course of humankind. 

In a controlled manner, fire would have been useful in many ways.  First, it would have helped to preserve freshly-killed meat, prolonging its useable life.  Cooked complex carbohydrates like potatoes, previously inedible, could now be consumed, where previously they may have been tough and possibly even poisonous.  Scientists have hypothesized that this change in diet contributed to the increase in human brain size, and the decrease in tooth and jaw size.

Of course the biggest impact was that fire would have provided warmth, and allowed human activity to occur after dusk.  Furthermore, controlled fire would have been incredibly useful for warding off predators, as well as bugs and biting insects. 

It is thought that through this tending of fires, the need for various roles within the community came about.  Much like today, there would be roles for those who knew the best types of fuel, those who gathered the fuel, and those who maintained the fires.  

All of this would have called for a natural sharing of such crucial information from one group to another.  Thus, communication in an organised forum must have taken place. This was socialisation and knowledge-sharing in its earliest form.  We can, in short, deduce that the collection and control of fire from naturally occurring sources would have taken some planning and organisation, teaching us much about the developing cultures of early man. 

Once humans had learned to create their own sparks, they were once again free to roam the globe, continuing their worldly expansion. There is thinking that this allowed them to migrate across Africa and into glacial Eurasia, meaning they could survive extremely harsh conditions, such as the Ice Age.  Indeed, because of our ability to create fire, and the traces this left (such as stones, bones, ovens, and other burning tools and implements), scientists are to this day, able to more closely study our habits and migration patterns.  

There is much we can learn about our history when we study human interaction with this great element!

 

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Wood pellets – a convenient and clean way to heat your home

The wood pellet industry is exploding in North America and Europe, due to an increasing number of customers seeking a clean-burning and sustainable form of energy. Due to their density and quality, wood pellets can provide the cleanest burn with the lowest ash of all wood fuels. Cleverly designed pellet burners are available on both domestic and industrial levels. Having very low net carbon emissions makes them extremely eco-friendly and deserving of the title ‘super fire of the future’. With most wood pellet units controllable by remote, thermostat, and timers, this method of heating has found itself at the top of the list in terms of convenience and comfort.

How are wood pellets made?

Quite simply, wood pellets are made from either wood residue (meaning waste material), such as sawdust, shavings and offcuts, which are by-products of saw mills and other wood processing plants, or from virgin cut timber especially felled for wood pellet production All wood used for wood pellet production is untreated and sustainably grown, so the making of wood pellets is actually very eco-friendly. The material is dried under very high temperatures, and then compacted in a pelletizer, in a process that utilises the naturally occurring organic binders (known as ‘lignin’) in the wood, so no artificial additives are necessary.

The result is a uniform pellet, usually 6mm in diameter for residential burners. This standardised size makes the product easy to handle, easy to transport and easy to store.  It also means that the moisture content is a controlled amount - for pellets this is usually less than 8% for a premium product. As such, there is no guessing or measuring of moisture content with wood pellets (as there is with seasoned firewood, for example). Purchasers of approved wood pellets can relax knowing that each little pellet has an absolute minimal amount of water inside it, and produced to a very high standard. 

All of the above makes for a very compelling argument to use wood pellets. While the cost may at times be similar per weight to kiln dried wood, for example, you can rest assured that wood pellets in combination with an efficient burner have the highest calorific output of all woodfuels. And they can be conveniently delivered to your door in bagged form. The Luxury Wood Company stocks both Verdo and Woodlets brands which are both EN+A1 approved standard and RHI compensation eligible. 

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Kiln dried firewood is the best option

 

Green wood (that is, wood that has been freshly cut) can take one to two years in the open air to season well enough for burning as fuel.  Because we want our customers to be able to order wood that is ready to use all year round, we ONLY sell kiln dried wood.  But what, exactly, is the process that this wood goes through, and why is it a good choice for consumers?

The Kiln Drying Process explained

At the beginning of the process, the pre-cut green wood is stacked into metal cages, and placed inside the kiln. The kiln, if you can imagine, is much like an oversized oven. Kilns vary in size and shape; however most of them will dry large quantities of wood (as much as 80 pallets) at a time, forcing the water out through sustained air flow and sophisticated systems which allow the water in the timber to escape. How long this takes largely depends on the type of wood being dried, and the type of heat being used.  Typically the process takes a few days, with the temperature reaching 70° C (or about 158° F). All kilns are encompass a digital management system and monitoring sensors, designed to achieve precision in the measurement of humidity and temperature control.

Kilns can be powered by various methods, however most of them utilise a boiler system, heated with wood chips or low quality wood, such as offcuts and brash. This makes valuable use of waste wood and cast offs which would otherwise be disposed of in landfills. There are other types of kilns available that produce the same result, such as dehumidification, solar-powered, vacuum-extraction, and so on.

Why is kiln dried firewood the best choice?

Aside from the obvious speed at which wood can be dried, there are a number of other compelling reasons as to why kiln dried firewood is the best choice for the consumer.

  1. Your kiln dried logs will burn efficiently. Green wood can have a moisture content of 50 percent or more, and will not burn efficiently. Consumers who try to burn wet wood can damage the flu of their burners, create a lot of smoke, and pollute the air. This is damaging to the environment and to be avoided at all costs.
  2.  
  3. Your kiln dried logs will be consistently dry. Kiln dried firewood will be dried throughout, whereas naturally air-dried firewood can have inconsistent moisture levels.  Wood placed at the centre of a wood stack can still be high in moisture, while wood on the outside of the stack appears is ready to burn.
  4.  
  5. Your kiln dried logs are guaranteed to burn. While the cost will be slightly higher than green wood that has been naturally seasoned, you can be sure that your logs will light quickly and easily. With a low moisture content (less than 20 percent), your kiln dried wood will produce more heat per kilogram, ultimately making the benefits economical.
  6.  
  7. Your kiln dried logs will be free of insects and mould.  Wood that has been left outside for some time will naturally attract insects, which you will most certainly notice when preparing your fire. Kiln dried firewood is cleaner and healthier for your home.
  8.  
  9. Your kiln dried logs are ready whenever you are. If you have left it late in the season to purchase your firewood you need not worry – the kiln dried logs are instantly ready and require no seasoning. When customers run out of firewood in the middle of winter they are at risk of being sold firewood that has not been properly seasoned.  With our high quality kiln dried product, customers can rest easy even when they get caught short at peak times.

The Luxury Wood Company prides itself on selling premium kiln-dried logs that meet a high the standard.  Click here to see our range of kiln dried firewood products.

 

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Posted by on in Wood Burning Advice
Safety a top priority in 2015!

 

Firstly, we would like to start the year by thanking our valued customers, and wish everyone a very Happy New Year. 2014 was exciting; we continue to watch our company grow, while our customers continue to receive the best quality kiln dried logs.

It is now that time of the year when people reflect on the things they did well in 2014, and make resolutions to do things just a little better.  One area where we could all improve, is safety.  We have heard of a few accidents from people this season that could have been avoided with the right equipment. The worst incidences in this fire-related business are, of course, burns to the skin.

Skin is the body’s biggest and heaviest organ and we need to be reminded of its many important functions. Protection, water retention, and insulation are just a few. As we use our hands for multiple tasks over the course of the day, the skin on our hands, in particular, is prone to injury.  It is not until we can’t use our hands that we fully appreciate the plethora of functions they help us to perform.  Burns rank highly in terms of the types of hand injuries most often reported.  To add to this, hands have many sensory receptors, so any burns will hurt. A LOT.

To avoid such injury when using your stove or open fire, we highly recommend the use of proper protective gloves. It is easy to forget to cover your hands when passing kiln dried logs, heat logs, coal or other fuels into your appliance. With full gauntlet gloves (this means they cover your upper forearm as well), you will be protected from contact burns or sparks. Your sleeves will also be contained – worth remembering, as modern materials can ignite quickly without the wearer even being aware that their clothing is on fire. 

As splinters and general scrapes to the hands can also be debilitating, we also highly recommend our customers use the same protective gloves for moving, stacking, or loading wood. Furthermore, it is easy to forget that common fireplace tools, such as pokers, will gain heat and if they are not insulated, can give a nasty burn to the palms when handled.

While that imagery is far from pleasant, this can easily be avoided by making a resolution to get into the habit of protecting ourselves and making safety a top priority.

If a burn from a fire does happen, here is some good advice adapted from netdoctor.co.uk:

In case of a burn to the skin, the first thing to do is to limit the extent of the damage, and prevent the burn from becoming worse.

  • Taking care that you do not put yourself at risk from the cause of the burns, move the person away from the danger area. Smother flames with a blanket or douse the person with water.
  • Remove clothing or jewellery from the burned area but don’t try to peel back any clothing that is stuck to the skin.
  • The burnt area must be cooled by being placed under tepid running water. The water should not be unpleasantly cold.
  • Keep the damaged area under running water for at least one hour, or longer if the pain has not stopped. Up to four hours of this treatment can be beneficial. However, in severe burns it is more important to get the person to hospital for treatment, so don’t let this delay calling the ambulance.
  • Meanwhile keep the person warm, as a lot of heat can be lost from large burns so put a blanket or clothing around the non-injured areas.
  • Put cling film or a plastic bag over the burn before moving the person to hospital, but don’t wrap the cling film tightly round a limb.
  • Do not put any creams on the burn at this stage, but you can give the person simple pain relief such as paracetamol.

Our Big Red Gloves are industrial standard and for use in welding applications and other places where protection is necessary. They can be purchased with any solid fuel order.

 

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Why Santa Claus comes down the chimney….

It is that time of year again when children begin peering up the chimney, wondering how Santa fits down, and more to the point, why?  Like many traditions, the origins are hard to pinpoint exactly, however, there are a few things we do know as to why this jolly fellow enters houses in this way to deliver his gifts, year after year.

For more than 400,000 years, humans have controlled fire.  They would gather around the hearth as a centre, or ‘heart’ of their homes.  It was a Celtic tradition to place the fire in the middle of the roundhouse, where people could warm themselves, eat and drink, talk, and listen to stories. In even earlier times, the chimney was held as a sacred place in the house, where good spirits could enter. Fast forward to these modern times and it’s easy to see that, while our world has evolved dramatically, these traditions around the fireplace have not changed much at all. The fireplace is still the centre of our homes where people gather, and it is still the place, in particular at Christmas, where good things enter.

While this may explain some of the tradition of why Santa is thought to come down the chimney, it is probably more to do with the fact that during extreme cold periods, every opening to the house was closed and this was actually the only way in.  Saint Nicholas used to throw coins into the windows for the young ones. When the windows were locked, however, he had no choice but to use the chimney.  Therefore, it still stands today that most children expect Santa will enter their homes in this way to deliver presents.  As to how this rotund red-suit actually squeezes down, well, we will leave that to the kids to imagine!  Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas from Luxury Wood Company, and remember to keep your chimneys clear for Christmas Eve!

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Posted by on in Wood Burning Advice
The Big Freeze

 

Glance at the weather section of any newspaper in Britain right now, or flick past any weather report on TV, and you will notice they are all trumpeting the same thing.  ‘Arctic blast’, ‘big freeze’, ‘bitter conditions to cripple the country’, and - to finish us off - ‘misery on its way!’   Their message is clear. This winter will be the coldest for a century. 

While the tabloids will always engage in sensationalism (even naming the cold wind from Russia as the Beast from the East), there appears to be some truth to the predictions.  When the British Weather Services tweets ‘De-icer’ as a watch word, we know that cold temperatures are very, very likely.  

For the trouble is, we may have been lulled into a false sense of security by our soon-to-be-over autumn.  Some fear this unusually mild weather is a sign of extreme cold to come. Indeed, the infamous European winter of 1947 was also preceded by a warm autumnal season.  In a time when Britain was still struggling to its feet, it was suddenly stopped in its tracks.  Due to huge snow drifts, roads and railways were closed and as a result, power stations could not get the fuel they needed.  A period of extreme hardship and true misery followed.

With less than a week to go before the official start of winter, we at Luxury Wood Company believe it is better to be safe, warm, and ready for the cold...so check out our Christmas sale now!

 

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Your Chimney – Exterior or Interior?

A chimney in the centre of a house is kept warm on all four sides by the warmth of the house. This situation generally enables a very good and constant draught in the chimney. An exterior chimney, one on an outside wall, has at least one surface that is exposed to the cold outside air. This has the effect of cooling the chimney, and making it harder for the chimney structure to stay warm enough to provide consistent draught inside the chimney. A good proportion of outside chimneys are actually physically placed outside the wall of the house (to take up less floor space in the house) which causes three sides of the chimney to be exposed to the cold outside air. Interior chimneys draw somewhat better than exterior ones.

SO, which do YOU have?

This blog is an adapted piece section of the ebook 'Tricks of the Trade: The truth about open fires, multi-fuel stoves and log-burners' by Britain's leading Chimney Sweep, Jethro Vivian. Sign up to The Luxury Wood Company’s newsletter and you can download the full eBook FREE!

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Posted by on in Wood Burning Advice
Chemical Logs

Chemical logs are a wonderful! While these logs reduce and loosen some of the creosote build-up, they do not clean the chimney as thoroughly as a professional chimney sweep can. However, they it’s always a good idea to burn one of these prior to the chimney sweep arriving.

The chemicals in the log loosen and defuse the tar, giving the chimney sweep a better chance of removing any tar in the chimney. You may even notice some debris and build up fall from the chimney into your stove or fireplace. This is why it is ideal to use these before the chimney sweep arrives, so he can make sure that any debris loosened by the chemical log, is removed.

The Luxury Wood Company now has a chemical log which can be bought with any solid fuel order.

This blog is an adapted piece section of the ebook 'Tricks of the Trade: The truth about open fires, multi-fuel stoves and log-burners' by Britain's leading Chimney Sweep, Jethro Vivian. Sign up to The Luxury Wood Company’s newsletter and you can download the full eBook FREE!

 

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Posted by on in Wood Burning Advice
Bird Guards and Cowls

You should always have a cowl fitted on any working chimney. There are some very modern cowls on the market today and a large selection. Remember, you have a chimney pot on top of your chimney stack the size of a small bucket, and every time it rains, water can penetrate your chimney. Even if you are burning the best kiln dried logs available, cold, damp & wet chimneys will have a negative impact on the way those kiln dried logs provide heat. A chimney which is wet inside will cause a heavy damp air pressure inside your flue, which ultimately reduces the heat storage capacity from the chimney bricks. A cowl will prevent this. But most importantly, a good quality cowl can reduce the chance of snow blockage, bird infestation, and unwanted down draught. We recommend an Ultimate Flue Outlet (UFO) cowl. These work well and cover every type of appliance on the market.

This blog is an adapted piece section of the ebook 'Tricks of the Trade: The truth about open fires, multi-fuel stoves and log-burners' by Britain's leading Chimney Sweep, Jethro Vivian. Sign up to The Luxury Wood Company’s newsletter and you can download the full eBook FREE!

 

Tagged in: bird cowls bird guards
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Wood Pellet and Biomass Supplier List Certificate Numbers

Attention all wood pellet users! We are pleased to announce the The Luxury Wood Company is now on the Biomass Suppliers List (BSL) for all wood pellet products. For all people enrolled in the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme you can find our official BSL certificate numbers below:

BSL0032912-0002 – Verdo Pellets (Verdo Renewables Ltd)

BSL0032912-0001 – Woodlets Pellets (LandEnergy Girvan)

Don’t forget, we are continuing our summer sale of wood pellets until stocks run out. Once these supplies are exhausted, winter stock will arrive and be priced according to the annual price increases set by our suppliers. So if you want premium wood pellets now, at the best price, place your order!

The UK’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a world first for a government-supported financial scheme encouraging heating from renewable energy sources.  The plan will pay eligible parties for energy generated to heat their buildings with renewables such as wood pellets. The scheme is intended to reduce carbon emissions which aims to assist in reducing climate change.

Biomass boilers which use wood pellets and wood pellet stoves with integrated boilers are eligible for up to 12.2 pence per KWh in paybacks. More information on how you can apply for the benefits of the RHI can be read here. Once you have the required information you can apply directly on the Ofgem site here.

 

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Posted by on in Wood Burning Advice
Drying Your Own Firewood

Often our customers ask us if it is ok to mix kiln dried logs with firewood that has been cut locally or sourced from their own property.  The answer we always give is ‘Yes, as long as you have dried it properly!”.

Home-grown firewood can be a great penny saver, but if it contains too much moisture you will not get the best heat output from your wood burning appliance. Now, it is worth stating here that ‘air-drying’ or ‘seasoning’ your logs is unlikely to get your moisture content down to 10-20%, which is the common range for kiln dried logs. However, by following a few common-sense steps, you should be able to achieve moisture content readings of 20-25% through natural drying. A method we often hear about involves starting the fire with very dry kiln dried wood or heat logs, and once the flames are well established and the room is properly heated, switching to seasoned logs. 

First, a little bit of lumber science. It is important to know that the water in wood consists of two types. The first is known as bound water. Bound water is the water that is trapped inside the material that makes up the fibres or ‘veins’ of the log. The second type is referred to as free water. Free water is the sappy water running between and alongside the fibres of the logs.

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It is this free water that is easiest to remove from timber and it will also be the first to evaporate during the air-drying process (note - it is the stubborn bound water which is best removed with kiln drying, but this is another story). The point to all of this is that when you cut and stack your logs, you can expect faster drying with short logs and a stacking pattern that exposes the ends of the wood fibres, where the free water can easily escape. The picture below shows a typical well-formed air-drying stack, with logs ‘ends out’:

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A detailed explanation of water evaporation processes includes a description of the role of humidity variations and changing weather patterns, and is beyond the scope of our discussion here. Two basic rules, however, will keep you in good stead for effective air-drying of firewood at home:

  1. Maximise Air Flow: Water is carried away from wood by saturating the surrounding air, so if you can stack your logs in some place where there is a consistent breeze, you wood will dry much faster.
  2. Avoid Direct Contact with Water: Ensuring some overhead shelter, by stacking against a wall or using a makeshift roof, will prevent rain directly hitting your firewood. Likewise, elevating your logs off wet ground or grass, by placing bearers underneath your log stack, will ensure your firewood does not absorb ground moisture.

A simple but effective way of meeting the above requirements is to buy a dedicated log store. A purpose-built log store will provide protection from rain as well as ground clearance for your firewood. Best of all, a log store has a huge benefit in that it can be moved to where the air-flow or breeze is sufficient.

 

 

 

 

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All Across the UK Heat Logs Burn Away!

Whether you have been burning solid fuels for some time or have just installed a new wood burning stove, it is highly likely that you will be seeing more of a type of fuel called ‘briquettes’ or ‘heat logs’ for sale. Offered as an alternative to kiln dried logs, here in the UK heat logs come in many shapes and sizes! So let’s take a look at them in detail. 

Unlike kiln dried logs, which are created through tree stem and branch growth, cutting and kiln drying, briquettes are made through the compression of smaller particles of burnable matter. Briquettes can be made into almost any shape and made from virtually any combustible material. The process of making a briquette requires the use of highly specialised machinery, known as a ‘briquette press’. Some of the common types of material used for making heat logs include:

  • Wood shavings
  • Tree bark
  • Miscanthus crop 
  • Rice Husk
  • Straw
  • Cardboard and paper
  •  

    So what are heat logs?

    This is somewhat confusing. ‘Heat log’ is a term which has caught on in the UK and is not widely used in Europe. It most commonly refers to briquettes that are made of wood shavings, and usually, but not always, in the shape of a log (i.e., cylindrical). Generally though, most people use the term ‘wood briquette’ interchangeably with ‘heat log’.

    Of the materials listed above, briquettes made from wood shavings will behave most like traditional firewood, which is not surprising because the ingredients used to make them are also derived from trees! Simply put, a briquette made from wood shavings will give off a nice flame and a woody aroma very similar to kiln dried logs or seasoned firewood.                                             

    So why would someone burn heat logs or wood briquettes instead of kiln dried logs?

    Now we are getting to the heart of the matter. The most common reason cited amongst Luxury Wood customers for buying heat logs instead of kiln dried logs is cost efficiency. The key issue here is energy output. Most kiln dried logs are somewhere between 10% and 20% moisture content, and seasoned logs will read from 20% and above. Heat logs and wood briquettes, however, are usually well below 10% moisture, and therefore only a very small proportion of their energy content will be wasted burning off water. It has been estimated that one needs two or even three times the amount of firewood to get the same heat output from the same weight in wood briquettes. And you will notice this when you burn them – the heat they give off is incredible! A well-insulated medium-sized home using a modern stove may need as little as one 10kg of briquettes per day to stay warm. 

    A quick summary of the pros and cons of wood briquettes and heat logs is given below:

    PROS 

  • High energy output, usually between 5 and 6 kwh/kg
  • Economical – never pay more than £300 for a full pallet which should weigh 900-1000kg (and that includes VAT and delivery!)
  • Nice compact bags or boxes make them easy to store and handle
  • Exceptionally clean burning, which means minimal flue build-up 
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    CONS

  • Not as authentic as real wood logs
  • Expect some ‘crumbling’ when handling briquettes
  • Can expand in the stove – to protect your appliance larger heat logs can be broken into smaller pieces
  •  

    Are briquettes and heat logs kind on the environment?

    Yes! Wood is a renewable resource, but briquette manufacturers are able to use material that would otherwise go to waste. This includes smaller pieces that cannot be sold as firewood or kindling, timber mill offcuts, and chips arising from tree debarking. Here in the UK heat logs are almost always free from chemicals and binding agents – but always check - as the presence of some additives can cause unwanted odours and fumes.      

    Why not try out our new BioBlazeTM  heat log? We have tried many briquettes but this is the best, at the best price! 

     

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    Peat - The Fuel You’ve Been Looking For

    Have you considered using peat as a solid fuel source for your fire? The use of peat is more widespread than you think; it is the preferred house fuel in many parts of Europe and has many wonderful benefits.  

    What is Peat?

    Peatlands are areas of land with a naturally accumulated layer of decayed plant material under water logged conditions. Mosses, mainly Sphagnum species, are the main peat formers in the UK.  

    Today, the majority of peat harvested in the EU comes from Finland, Ireland and Sweden, as well as the Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. It is estimated that there is over half a million square kilometers of peatlands in Europe, and some 3% of the world’s entire land area is peatland.

    Harvesting peat is the first part of the process. As you can imagine, it’s not easy to turn a wet clay-like matter into a dry solid fuel. To be used for burning, peat needs to be milled, which means it’s broken up and pulled from the peat bog and naturally air dried. Although not essential, dried peat is usually pressed into briquettes before being sold as domestic fuel.

    Peat For Your Fire 

    peat for your fire

    The first thing people normally ask is, “how does burning peat smell?” It’s a fair question, especially considering peat briquettes are made from decomposed plant material. The truth is that peat has a smokey, earthy scent which many people adore. Believe it or not, some whiskey connoisseurs desire notes of peat in highly prized aged whiskey, so peat smoke is used to dry and flavor malt barley! You will also notice that peat is very slow burning and will ‘glow’ somewhat like coal. For this reason, it is an ideal fuel for night burning. Three or four blocks of peat placed in your fire at night will usually mean some glowing embers remain in the morning, ready for rekindling into the daytime fire. When you consider that a tonne of peat is equal in energy release to over three cubic meters of dried firewood, you can see why peat is considered to be very economical.

     

    Is Peat a Renewable Fuel?

     

    The question of whether peat is a renewable fuel is a topic which has been debated frequently in recent years. Peat does regenerate as new plant matter decomposes further among existing peat bogs, but the regeneration is usually not much more than 1mm a year. This has lead to some agencies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to label peat as a "slow-renewable".

     

    How do I Make a Peat Fire?

     

    You will notice when you first handle peat briquettes that they are of a hardened wood-like consistency. Peat needs a good heat to get going, so start with a ball of paper or some firelighters and cover them with plenty of kindling. Now find some very dry logs, kiln dried logs are best, and put two kiln dried logs on top of the kindling. Finally, place one or two peat blocks on top of the kiln dried logs before lighting the paper or firelighters at the bottom. Leave the main air vent open for a good while so the kindling and kiln dried logs burn well. Soon the kindling and kiln dried logs will be flaming intensely and the peat will start acquiring the necessary heat to begin combustion. When the fire dies down a little you can add more peat to the fire, or a combination of kiln dried logs and peat throughout the day.

     

    Where can I find Peat for Sale?

    Isle of OlandTM is a premium peat fuel and available from the Luxury Wood Company.  

     

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    Posted by on in Wood Burning Advice
    Chimney Fires

    Chimney fires are dangerous and can be extremely damaging to your home. We all hope that a chimney fire is something we never have to experience, yet anyone who burns solid fuels to heat their home needs to understand what they are and how to avoid them. Fear not. Along with regular cleaning of your chimney, and the use of good quality fuels, a chimney fire is entirely preventable.

    How common are chimney fires?   

    According to government statistics, incidences of chimney fires have actually dropped in recent years. It is suspected that better safety awareness and wider use of smoke alarms have contributed to the reduced number of reported occurrences. Nevertheless, there are still around 8,000 chimney fires in the UK each year, which means the risk is real, and worth understanding.    

    What causes a chimney fire?

    A chimney fire is the ignition of a residues known as ‘creosote’ which accumulate along the inside of the chimney liner and stove pipes. These residues are more prevalent when there is poor combustion in the stove. If a stove is operating at an inadequate temperature or without sufficient air flow, gases and vapors escape before they are fully burnt off. Then, when they come into contact with cooler surfaces, they condense and harden. Over time, numerous layers accumulate until the chimney contains enough creosote for the deposits to ignite. Although small chimney fires are common and often unnoticeable, the immense temperature of a larger burn can warp the flue and even destroy ceramic structures. In a worst-case scenario, the chimney can fail to contain the fire and it can spread to the building itself.  

    How do I recognize a chimney fire?

    Smaller chimney fires can be almost unnoticeable, but a larger one will cause the Chimney top to emit excessive smoke, sparks, or flames. You may notice the chimney breast and walls seem overly hot and an unusual smell is about, as though plasterboard or paint is burning. A severe chimney fire will often create a deep ‘rumble’ or ‘roar’ which the sound of the flames and draft is shooting up the flue.   

    What fuel should I use?

    Fuel type is not the only factor which can lead to poor chimney condition, but in general, the dryer the fuel the more likely it will burn properly and the less likely it will cause residues from poor combustion. Kiln dried logs or heat logs will almost always have lower moisture content than seasoned or semi-seasoned logs. Because of their low water content, kiln dried logs and heat logs will burn more ‘cleanly’ and reach a higher temperature more quickly. Providing the stove itself is not faulty and allows sufficient air supply, adequate burning temperature will ensure complete combustion of the wood and its various resins and gases. In the long run, this will make for a cleaner chimney. Firewood that is too high in moisture will produce water-laden fumes and steam which will inhibit combustion, lower flue temperature, and increase creosote formation.  

    How do I know if my stove is burning at the right temperature?

    Measurements of the operating temperature of your stove may differ depending on whether your thermometer has an internal probe or is magnetically attached to the exterior of the stove or flue itself. A simple magnetic thermometer will approach a reading of around 200 degrees Celsius as the optimal burn zone is reached. If you can find a source of kiln dried logs for sale, try and buy what you need early in the season so you are not faced with the only option of wet firewood later in the season. Use of dry premium kiln dried logs heat logs will ensure your fire burns hot and efficiently.   

    How often should I clean my chimney?

    According to the Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service, frequency of cleaning depends on the type of fuel you burn:

    Oil                               Yearly

    Gas                             Yearly

    Smokeless Coal            Yearly

    Bituminous Coal           Twice a year

    Wood                          Up to four times yearly

    This is just a rough guide and you should always exercise judgment based on your own circumstances. If you have been burning low quality fuels you may need to have your chimney checked or cleaned more often than usual.

    Finding a Chimney Sweep

    You can usually find local chimney sweeps in the phonebook or by searching online. We recommend using only HETAS approved chimney sweeps, and you can find one near to you by using their nationwide search tool.

    Further Information

    Official website of the National Association of Chimney Sweeps

    2012 Government report on national fire statistics can be downloaded here

    Detailed White Paper written by The Chimney Institute of America can be downloaded here

     

     

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    Posted by on in Wood Burning Advice
    The Open Fire Pros & Cons

    The attraction of an open fire is a strong one and many believe that a home just isn’t complete without this iconic feature. A pile of perfect kiln dried logs at the side of the hearth, the sweet aromas and subtle crackle of the flames, the gentle warmth on your tired feet - all very much welcome during the long British winter. So why do so many people turn down the idea of an open fire and instead go for a closed appliance?  

    To understand the open fire properly we must go back in time. The open fire as a feature of an internal dwelling has been evident as far back as 3600BC. Sites in Malta have been excavated to reveal remnants of caves which appear to have had a central area for burning wood and a passage burrowed through the roof of the cave to let smoke and gases escape. Historical writings tell us that no castle or cathedral in medieval times was without several roaring open fires, and that hundreds of variations on the concept were developed through the centuries. In 1735, however, everything changed. A French architect by the name of Cuvilliés designed a concrete box with perforated iron plates on the side, which came to be known as a stew stove. The benefit was obvious - an enclosed fire connected to a chimney created a powerful draught which would feed the hungry flames, meaning that higher temperatures and more efficient combustion could be achieved. Jump forward another 200 years by which time fully airtight stoves were being manufactured on an industrial scale. Many if not all stoves included a simple mechanism to control airflow, and for many this was the defining feature of modern solid fuel heating.

    Today, however, we still see many open fires in various homes and houses of character, and most specialist installers will construct an open fireplace for you if you wish. So exactly why would someone choose to have an open fire in this day and age? The most common reason is financial. If you have an open fire already in your home, the added cost of switching to a stove might mean that any real cost savings from fuel efficiency will take years to realise. This is especially true if the existing flue is not suited to a modern stove and also needs replacing, thereby adding to the install bill.

     

    The Pros of Open Fires

    • Open fires offer a unique focal point to a room
    • They offer a more ‘intimate’ connection with the fire itself – the smell, sight and heat is not shielded by glass or steel, as with a stove.
    • They can be cheaper to install
    • Cleaning a stove is a little more involved than with an open fire, and can require specific solutions (e.g., stove glass cleaner)
    • Stoves must be serviced periodically, whereas an open fire is usually inspected as part of the annual chimney clean

    The Cons of Open Fires

    • Open fires are thought to be less energy efficient than closed fires, so you may burn more wood for the same heat output
    • Open fires carry a greater risk of house fire, as stray sparks can be emitted
    • Open fires often release small amounts of debris into a room’s atmosphere, which can create the need for additional house cleaning 

     

    Of all of these points, however, energy efficiency is most commonly the deciding factor, and as a consequence many homeowners opt for the more efficient wood-burning appliance. For those who plan to always have an open fire, we recommend using the slower-burning kiln dried logs. These fuels will burn evenly and consistently, even without the types of air control mechanisms you might find on a stove, and are ideally suited to open fires.   

     

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