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Heating With Wood

Back in the 70’s when the Energy Crisis started and we had to stay in line waiting for $10 worth of gasoline for hours, one of the solutions suggested other than wind or solar, was to start growing hybrid poplars for heat. Guess what? The energy crunch is back, but this time it will be much worse, oil prices, gas prices, all will go way up. Even food is up about 30% higher. It is time we start preparing for a new energy crisis. Heating oil and propane have gone up in the last year and will continue increasing in price but wood, if you grow it, will stay the same, and since it is renewable, you can have as much as you need… free.

In the 70s there was a wealth of information on hybrid poplars all over the newspapers, magazines, Radio and TV. I remember having a pamphlet of 20 or so pages with complete information on it. Some companies sold trees, others only cuttings. By this time is when I purchased my first 100 cuttings from a place in Lancaster PA.

The information I had clearly indicated that if you owned 1 acre of land you could heat your house with wood produced in that one acre and you would be self-sufficient in 5 years.

In theory that works OK, they don’t tell you that you cannot put a house in that acre, I guess that is only a minor detail, but in the long run, yes, I believe it is achievable.

This is what you should do as I remember: Plant 600 trees in a grid 8ft. by 8ft. After 2 years you cut the 120 trees closest to the East. This wood will be about 2″ in diameter, good for kindling. Doing this will give extra sun light to the trees behind them. Next year (year 3) you cut the next 120 trees behind them. Year 4 you continue cutting your way back. By now you are cutting trees that are about 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Year 5 you have only 120 original trees left. They are 6 inches in diameter which means, no splitting. Cut them down and use them. You should get enough wood from those 120 trees to heat your house that winter.

Up to this point, you have been increasing the amount of wood you cut every year. You would say, now what?

Year 6 you will be cutting down the first lot of 120 trees you cut 5 years ago. They regenerate! Those trees you cut on year 6 will also be 6 inches in diameter. Year after year you will be cutting 120 trees that are 6 inches in diameter. Life expectancy of a poplar is 40 years.
Do you think your trees are getting old? Use some of the cuttings you get every year (you get thousands) to plant new trees.

You have heard that poplars do not give you the BTU that other woods do. That is correct, hybrid poplars will give you about .6 of the energy you can get from hard woods, such as hickory or maple but this shortcoming is offset by the amount of wood these trees generate.

I used poplars for many years to heat my house. I also ran two kerosene heaters and the oil burner was set at just below 65 degrees just in case. I no longer use wood for heat, my wife said it was too much work… (she never did any of the work) We are now on Propane, about $5000 a year!

Why do I bring this up at this time? Gas prices as well as heating oil prices are  increasing  rapidly the same way it happened in the 70’s. History repeats itself. Some of you will find it more convenient to heat with wood than with oil,  propane or natural gas, besides, it will be much cheaper!