By George Harvey
There was a time in my life when I cut, hauled, split, stacked, and burned my own firewood to heat a house in which I lived with four children. That was not easy.
I loved cooking with a wood stove, but it required constant attention; there was no such thing as setting the oven thermostat to 325ºF and walking away for an hour. There was always a risk of bringing in insects and a certainty of dropping bits of bark on the floor. The chimneys needed to be cleaned. Even with the low cost, heating with wood had its down sides.
Pellet stoves, which have few of those problems, came along a little later. In a way, they are based on wood chemistry. The three main chemical components of wood, cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin are naturally formed polymers, and of these, the lignin is actually a thermoplastic and can act as a glue-like binder. Because of this, sawdust can be heated and pressed through extruders to form wood pellets.
There are a number of advantages of wood pellets, not the least of which is that you can feed them into a fire box with an augur, so a pellet stove can be left to run automatically for hours. Nevertheless, pellet stoves are not all they could be. They may not be as pretty as open fireplaces, people do not generally toast marshmallows with them, and it seems no one is making pellet kitchen ranges. Nevertheless, they have a list of undeniable advantages.
Mark Jannini, who runs EZ Firelogs in Loudon, New Hampshire, explained a third alternative for wood-based heating to us, the Firelogs his company sells. In exactly the same way that wood pellets are pressed from sawdust and chips, it is possible to press fire logs of much larger dimensions than wood pellets, making them as long as they may be needed. While they cannot be fed into pellet stoves, they are conveniently sized for fireplaces, Franklin stoves, and kitchen ranges.
The EZ Firelogs have nearly all the advantages of wood pellets except automatic feeding. Since they are pressed at high temperature, they are very dry. This means that much less weight is needed to produce the same amount of heat, and less space is needed to store the same weight. The result is that the EZ Firelogs needed for a season take up about a third of the space needed for a season’s cord wood. Also, because of the heat and pressure used to make them, insects do not survive the process. Because they have low water content, they burn cleanly, producing little ash or creosote; according to Jannini, they can acutally dry out old creosote in chimneys, causing it to fall loose. Their cost is similar to that of wood pellets.
While it is true that pellets can be fed automatically into a pellet stove, the EZ Firelogs have their own advantage that they can be used in stoves and fireplaces that are unaltered, matching the aesthetic qualities of cord wood but with a cleaner product. Since they are made entirely of wood, there are no chemicals that can cause problems in these stoves.
EZ Firelogs are made in New Hampshire, entirely from wood waste materials, such as sawdust. No trees are harmed to make them. More information can be found at http://www.ezfirelogs.com/.