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Old 05-10-2008, 10:48 AM
Location: Not far from Fairbanks, AK
16,610 posts, read 28,803,431 times
Reputation: 12380


Originally Posted by Bruce 01 View Post
Can you AK guys explain something to me? I've been lurking here for a few months and the subject of wood heat comes up now and then.

I've been using wood since 1975 when I bought my first house. Oil was probably 50 cents a gallon (?) then, but I've always been cheap so I prefer using wood. In recent years I use coal during the coldest months, but still burn maybe 8-10 facecords of wood in fall and spring.

I am surrounded by thousands of acres of hardwoods. It is mostly privately owned but you can always cut for free if you know a few people. The vast majority of people here use at least some wood.

Considering the situation, wood heat around here is a no-brainer. But considering AK, where the winter temps are 50 degrees colder than here, and you have zillions of acres of wood, it seems odd that people are "wondering" or "trying to decide" if they should use wood heat.

Why don't most people already heat with wood? I suppose you don't have much (or any) of the good hickories, oak, ash, maple etc., available but even the less denser woods are better than $4-5 gallon oil.

What am I missing?
Lots of people do heat with wood, natural gas, propane, etc. For example, there is natural gas service in Anchorage, and since it's much cheaper than heating fuel, folks there do not spend as much to heat their homes. That's not the case in the interior of Alaska where natural gas is not available to most people. Trees grow very slowly in the interior because of the permafrost and extreme cold, so birch and spruce could take 30 or more years to grow depending of the location. In some areas you can have 3" diameter trees that are over 20 years old.

However, most homes in this area use furnaces and boilers for heat, and these run on heating fuel, which was not a problem when it was cheap. Now that fuel is so expensive, lots of us are installing additional wood stoves to assist with heating, but the hot domestic water is heated by the electric water heater, or by the boiler. Electricity is also getting expensive. People are starting to install tankless water heaters in their homes, since local and federal governments give low-cost loans or refunds for installing low energy-use appliances.

To heat a 2,000 square-foot (well insulated home) around here takes approximately 175,000 BTU/HR unit. The average wood stove produces around 60,000, so you would need a couple of wood stoves going in the middle of the winter.

The folks who saw what was to come have built homes with cathedral ceilings and fans to move the warm air from the stove around the house, but the rest of us bought houses from the market which at the time were designed to be heated by boilers and furnaces.
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Old 05-10-2008, 10:50 AM
Location: Not far from Fairbanks, AK
16,610 posts, read 28,803,431 times
Reputation: 12380
Originally Posted by Rance View Post
I for one grew up on wood heat. I spent many a summer helping Dad cut split and stack wood for winter. Then I spent all winter carrying wood in before and after school. Not to mention cleaning the stove and dumping ash buckets on the hill we had for a driveway. And for a year or two I sold wood.
By the time I was 20 I was so sick of heating with wood I could scream! I built my house fairly close to the main gas line running to Anchorage...so it was easy to get to the house.
I would resort to wood heat if I had to...I just don't want to.
Can't blame you. Just imagine going outside to fetch wood in the middle of the night at -50 degrees
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