Following the recent announcement by the government, there continues to be a lot of discussion and debate about the new legislation to ban the sale of wet wood. After last week’s blog answering questions about how much energy we use to kiln dry logs, I would like to follow this and answer the repeated question via our Facebook page on why the need for kiln dried.
It’s a fair question of course, so why do we need kiln dried firewood? It would be the perfect world if there were sufficient properly dried logs to meet the demand of all the stoves and open fires in the UK. It is thought, according to the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA) that there are 1.5-2 million appliances in the UK, burning wood or solid fuel. Whilst it is difficult to pinpoint the actual volume of firewood burnt each year, further research by the SIA in a recent survey with over 10,000 respondents suggests the figure is approx. 2 million tonnes per annum, a figure which Defra now feel is far more likely than their initial estimate of 6 million tonnes!!
If we firstly look at UK households with a stove or open fire, most don’t have sufficient covered storage to air dry and store enough firewood for the average annual usage of 3-4m3. When you consider that it takes approx. 2-3 years to properly air-dry logs down to the required 20% moisture content, this means you need enough storage space for 6-12m3 of logs. That is a very large area to manage a rotation of annual log drying and there are not many households that not only have this space, but who have the appetite to do all the work needed. We are a nation of homes with limited space, but also more and more of a nation of ‘just in time’ delivery. We live in an age, where with a click of button you can order what you want, to be delivered to your door the next day! You really do need to be dedicated to stack, store and dry all your own logs.
If we now consider the hundreds, if not thousands of firewood suppliers across the UK, seasoning and drying firewood takes time and space. When we started producing firewood 20 years ago it was dried in barns on the farm in small cages made from pallets and sheep netting. These pallets were stacked in the barns and sold as ‘barn dried firewood’. We just dried ash in those days as it dries quickly, but as demand increased, we needed to find a way of drying more logs. We needed more space, more cages and more wood to increase from 500 tonnes per annum. Most importantly we needed to increase the speed of drying.
We had already developed a way of drying poplar kindling using a dehumidifier initially and then an oil-fired kiln – a 20ft container with fans to circulate the hot air. We tested it for logs too and it worked and we were able to start drying firewood in kilns and with no one else seemingly ever done the same we started to sell our unique ‘kiln dried firewood’. It all started back in 2005. Whilst we developed the kilns, we tried poly tunnels but with height restrictions, storing sufficient volume was difficult and then we had a winter gale and the tunnel was gone!
We were told at the time by a local stove distributor that 80% of wood burning stove problems were caused by burning wet wood – were we onto something?So, consumers must be able to buy ‘Ready to Burn’ logs if they don’t have enough space to dry their own. Firewood suppliers need to be able to dry more of their firewood to below 20% moisture content, otherwise we will see more and more kiln dried firewood imported from Eastern Europe. It is vital that consumers support ‘local’ British firewood and the broader forestry industry which can provide us all with so many benefits. As a business we strongly support ‘Grown in Britain’ who work hard to promote home grown timber.