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By Dan Rudy 

Local environmental office talks about wood

 


The environmental arm of Wrangell Cooperative Association wants to know which issues with wood fire heating have been getting

residents hot under the collar.

Its Indian Environmental General Assistance Program (IGAP) office held an

open house discussion Tuesday to identify and discuss challenges related to household heating.

“Essentially the goal is to gather information from people who burn wood,” summarized Chris Hatton, IGAP coordinator for Wrangell.

Items she looked for include costs, efficiency, whether a household has dependable access to wood sources, or are able to transport and properly store their cordwood. The discussions were also an opportunity to share tips and talk about health and safety issues.

For instance, a person can maximize the heat gained from their fuel by burning thoroughly dried wood. Seasoned wood ought to be dried from six months to a year before use, stacked off from the ground and covered up. Dry wood is up to 30 percent more efficient, which can cut down on costs in the long run.

At the meeting Hatton demonstrated how to use a

penetrating moisture meter, what to look for in moisture levels in wood, and how

properly seasoned pieces handle differently from semi-dry ones.

Cleaning out one’s chimney once a year or more and emptying out the ashes that collect at the stove’s bottom increases air flow, producing more heat while also reducing the chance of a chimney fire starting. Brushes can be borrowed from the local fire department, which is also willing to assist if needed.

As well as identifying problems, the office hopes to devise some solutions to common problems and present potential alternatives. Part of IGAP’s focus is improving quality of life through sustainable programming, such as the village elder yard cleanup undertaken last year. Air quality was among the environmental issues ranked highly on WCA members’ list of quality of life concerns, and Tuesday’s meeting follows up on an air quality survey conducted the winter of 2014-15.

The study was one of four conducted in Southeast Alaska sponsored by the Tulalip Foundation, and measured the moisture content in cordwood burned at local homes. These were then compared to pressed wood briquettes, such as those produced in Craig by Viking Lumber. Conclusions from the study are expected within the next couple of weeks.

Compared to cordwood, briquettes are shown to burn hotter and more cleanly, and are easier to start. A ton of wood briquettes takes up 35 percent of the space and weighs 71 percent as much as a cord of dry Hemlock, while producing as many BTUs.

But wood has the benefit of being relatively inexpensive, at times costing only the effort. Knowing where to get suitable wood can be an issue however, particularly with finding legal sources from which to harvest.

 

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