LACONIA — Wood, the original heat source dating back to pre-history, continues to remain a viable source for heating homes in New Hampshire, where one of every 13 homes in the state (7.7 percent) burn wood to stay warm.
Bob Gardner of Fireside Living, a hearth and patio store on Union Avenue which sells, designs and installs wood, gas and pellet stoves, fireplaces, inserts and hearth accessories as well as patio furniture and gas grills, says that wood stove sales are up this year.
''Pellet stoves account for 60 percent of our sales but we've seen more people wanting wood stoves this year than we've seen in a long time.'' says Gardner.
A veteran of the wood stove resurgence dating back to the late 1970s when oil embargoes sparked a revival of wood heating and it was seen as a patriotic duty to have a pile of stacked wood next to your home, Gardner got his start in the business assembling the Comforter line of wood stoves marketed by Abundant Life from its Lochmere location.
''Today's wood stoves are a lot more efficient than they were back then,'' says Gardner, who says that efficiency ratings for modern stoves reach the low 70 percent range while improvements in design have drastically reduced the amount of emissions from burning wood.
He says that the newer wood stoves, especially those with catalytic combusters, require dry wood and that using green wood in a catalytic-combustor stove may damage the stove and that owners have to be knowledgeable about how to operate them. He says that non-catalytic stoves, thanks to the many changes in design, now approach the efficiency level of catalytic stoves.
Gardner says that educating first-time buyers of wood stoves about what size stove they need is important. ''Some people say they want something which will heat an entire 2,000 square foot home. But unless you're putting it in the basement you don't want a stove that large. You'll end up keeping the draft so low in order to keep the house comfortable that you'll have incomplete combustion and a creosote buildup in the chimney which can lead to chimney fires.'' Creosote is a black sooty liquid which deposits and hardens on the inside of chimneys.
He says that there are basically three kinds of wood stoves, steel, cast iron and soapstone, all of which have their own advantages. He says that steel stoves give out virtually instant heat but cool more rapidly while cast iron stoves are more decorative and soapstone stoves provide the best heat retention due to their ceramic surfaces.
He says that steel stoves require less maintenance than cast iron stoves while soapstones are slow to provide heat to an entire room.
Fireside Living sells stoves from Vermont Castings, Morso, a Scandinavian style, as well Harman stoves made in Pennsylvania and Pacific Energy stoves made in Canada. ''There's a wide variety which will fit he need of each home,'' says Gardner.
Getting the firewood needed to heat a home is also an important consideration. The UNH Cooperative Extension Service says the amount of wood required to heat a house depends on a number of factors: the size and interior layout of the house, how weather-tight the house is and the type and efficiency of the wood stove. A 1,500-square-foot, fairly weather-tight New Hampshire house will burn between four and five cords of seasoned wood during an average New Hampshire heating season.
The Associated Press recently reported that the demand for firewood sized logs for fracking operations in Pennsylvania, where they are used to make corduroy log roads for heavy equipment, have pushed up prices in parts of New England to $325 a cord, anywhere from $50 to $75 more a cord than last year.
It also quoted Jasen Stock, executive director of the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association, as saying that the cost of cordwood on the stump (that is, live trees) went from $10 in 2012 in northern New Hampshire to $15 this year.
Ruth Mooney, who sells kiln-dried firewood on Province Road in Belmont, says that her prices for delivered wood in the local area are are remaining at the same level as last year, $320 a cord, and that she has had no problems getting enough hardwood processor logs from her suppliers.
''It's a wild time of year with the logs coming in the deliveries going out.''
Currently all of the wood being processed is committed through January 29 of next year and because kiln-dried wood is insect free is also sold in small firewood bundles which can be shipped anywhere.
She says that she has seen many people switching from wood pellets to firewood because they like the comfort factor of having the hotter fire produced by burning dry wood.