To speed the process, construct a simple solar kiln in an open, sunny location. To build a cheap, efficient solar kiln to dry 1 1/2 cords at a time, obtain four old 3-by-4-foot pallets. Arrange the pallets end to end, measuring 3 feet wide by 16 feet long. A couple heavy T-posts on each end will make a place to stack wood against. Crisscrossing the stacked ends Lincoln log fashion also works. Stack two rows of split firewood with a gap between them down the 16-foot length and about 4 feet high.
By Glen Holt
Using dry firewood that is seasoned below 20 percent moisture content will save money that can be used elsewhere and will help facilitate cleaner air.
Burning wood with a moisture content greater than 20 percent means having to cook off excess water to get useful heat from that wood. A good question is, How do we get the driest firewood in the shortest time?
You can buy dry, fire-killed spruce from vendors in areas that had previous wildfires. This can be purchased by the log truck load or cut and split. It is ready to burn as soon as received and will combust as well as your wood burning will allow.
Green cut firewood dries best in the summer above freezing temperatures. It should be seasoned to below 20 percent moisture content so that it combusts properly and yields the most heat using the least wood. Seasoning begins after wood is cut, split and stacked to dry. Cut it into stove-sized blocks and split it, then stack it up off the ground a few inches on poles or pallets so it won’t absorb ground moisture.
Keep stacks of firewood an inch or two apart, allowing airflow to facilitate drying. Cover the entire top of woodpile to shed water and keep snow off. Keep the sides of the pile open to air for drying. In a rainy, windy location, an enclosed woodshed would be important. When stacking firewood in a woodshed, continue to maintain this clearance between stacks so air-drying is most effective.
Build a 2-by-2 or spruce pole frame around the pile of two stacks that is an inch or two from the outside edge all the way around. Wrap the frame with 2-mil clear plastic attaching it with T-50 type staples above the pallets keeping them open to the air. Construct a small peaked roof on top running the length of the pile and make sure it is open on the ends to breathe.
Firewood arranged this way will heat up under the plastic. Cool air will flow in from the bottom, rise as it heats and exit at the open end top. When dry, remove it, stack in a storage pile and refill the solar kiln. Try this and see if it doesn’t save you money while providing the best possible dry firewood for your woodstove.
Glen Holt is the Eastern Alaska forester for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service. Contact him at 907-474-5271 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org