We want to buy local woodfuel


Ian Harker of Yarnell’s Hill, Oxford receives a delivery of woodfuel

“If you buy something from a woodland you are helping to fund the wood’s management, and hopefully encouraging its sustainable future. Woodlands that pay their way are more likely to be retained, rather than being left to decay and potentially be lost.  By buying locally produced timber you are supporting the local economy, and reducing imports of hardwoods which are potentially illegally logged”  (Small Woods Association)

Click here for local woodfuel suppliers

News flash – 14 March 2013  The woodfuel programme is developing an Oxfordshire quality standard for woodfuel, which will include moisture content, quantity, length and type of fuel.  Ask your woodfuel provider about whether they are signed up to the OxLogs standard.

The Forestry Commission has prepared two nice little calculators:

Broadly, 6 – 12 tonnes of logs or 3 – 5 tonnes of wood pellets are needed to heat a typical home for a year.  How much volume this takes up will depend on the type of wood and its moisture content, but very roughly 1 tonne = 1m3 of tightly stacked logs or 2m3 of tossed logs.  A builder’s bag is roughly 0.6m3.

The environmental advantages of using local woodfuel decrease the further the wood has to travel.  So aim to get your wood locally: from your community woodland or local woodland owners.  Unless noted otherwise, wood from garage forecourts or supermarkets is unlikely to be local.

If you buy ‘kiln-dried’ wood, ask about how it has been dried.  In some cases excess heat from other processes, and in other cases the wood is dried in polytunnels: both of those are sustainable.  However if fuel has been used to dry the wood, then this makes the wood less sustainable.

Consider ‘joint purchasing’: buying woodfuel in a group.  It is easier and cheaper for a supplier to serve one large customer than many small customers, so community woodfuel buying scheme can often get a better price because of these economies of scale.  It is also easier to confirm the quality of the wood purchased, for instance by training a group member in how to assess water content and wood quantity.  Examples of group fuel purchasing are:

Logs are generally sold by the load, but there is no specification of what a ‘load’ is.  Rules of thumb for purchasing logs include:

Dry wood: grey, radial lines of splitting

  • Buy logs that have been dried for at least one year, and preferably two years, under cover (see storing and drying wood).  Dry logs typically have ends that look ‘old’ and are greying, with radial lines of splitting.  Alternatively buy freshly cut logs, which will be cheaper, and dry them yourselves under cover.

    Freshly cut wood: no radial cracks, golden rather than grey (and no spiderwebs!)

  • Hardwood (e.g. ash, hazel, fruit tree) logs will provide more heat than softwood (pine) logs for the same-sized log.  A hardwood log weighs more than a same -sized softwood log.  Hardwood and softwood provides roughly the same amount of energy per weight.  So be clear about whether you are ordering by volume or by weight, and whether you are getting hardwood or softwood.
  • Make sure that the logs are cut short enough to fit into the stove/boiler.
  • Any logs that have a diameter of more than 10cm (4 inches) should be split.

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