Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Cost of Heating a Rural Home in Scotland - Part 2

Burning Logs

Today is log day, so it won't be the easiest thing to try and calculate. The photo shows what was left of the trailer-load of logs bought exactly 4 weeks ago - enough there for another week, I would reckon. We had another load delivered yesterday, which should last us through the festive season. Until we get around to building a proper, walk-in log store, we don't have suitable space for storing much more than a trailer-load at a time. (The photo isn't blurry, it was snowing quite heavily yesterday and we've had another flurry today.)

I realise that many people advise against burning a combination of fuels, even although it has been done for centuries but, for the purposes of lighting the fire, I use one firelighter (7p) and kindling sticks. This morning, about a kilo of coal (23p) was added to get the fire blazing, then logs added. By this point, the water in the backboiler could be heard beginning to boil, so the pump was switched on to feed it through to the hot water tank and radiators.

During cold, wet, winter months, we need the coal in order to get enough heat generated to quickly dry off any dampness from the logs. We aren't yet equipped with a large, undercover log store and it didn't help that the latest load was delivered during a heavy downpour. Surplus logs are stacked (off the ground) and covered in a loose tarpaulin. (The frogs, toads and lizards love it in there!)

It takes 8 large wheelbarrow loads to shift a £40 load of logs, so I'm estimating £5 per barrowload. At a complete guess, I would think half a barrowload would last us a full day, but I'll start my trial today using what's already stacked by the fire and then continue tomorrow with a full barrowload.

I've had to hang a curtain over the doorway between kitchen and main hallway to try and cut down the through draught. Right now, owing to the horrible weather - high winds, rain and snow - the curtains are billowing, but this side of the house does feel warm.

Great excitement! An articulated lorry pulled up outside just minutes ago and my extravagant, environmentally friendly, Black Mountain sheep wool insulation has been delivered!

1) It arrived on a pallet, so that will provide more free kindling for the fire!

2) It was all wrapped up inside a massive, heavy-duty, polythene bag. This will be ideal for securing over the huge hole in the kitchen wall when they come to replace the kitchen window. In fact, I may pin it over the entire window, to help cut down on heat loss until then! I care not what it looks like when it's at the back of the house and only us to see it!

All we need now is to hear news of when the new window has been made and when the new back door and frame can be fitted, then we can plan on getting the new ceiling put up in the kitchen, along with the sheep wool insulation.

Back later with an update on log consumption by my hungry fire.

Edit: This experiment was temporarily halted as I'd to damp the fire right down when we had a power cut. This is the downside to relying on an electric pump to circulate all that hot water that's generated in the back boiler - it has no place to go other than to spurt out the overflow.

Estimating now continues, but with the addition of another kilo (23p) of coal to get the fire back up and running sufficiently to reheat the radiators; these cool down much more quickly than I'd like! In this sense, storage-type heaters are superior in their ability to retain their heat during power cuts. (Assuming they were fully charged prior to the outage, of course.)

This is the second power cut we've had over the past month, so a stand alone log burning stove, in addition to the heating system, is looking more and more of a possibility. One similar to what we installed in the previous house would serve us well, as that allowed us to cook on it, too. But that involves getting in the builders to fully check the second chimney. I feel another savings challenge coming along soon.

NYK Media


  1. You can buy a moisture meter to insert into your logs. A good 'burning' log should have a water content of 20 per cent. Most 'wet' logs are 70 per cent. Logs need time to season and dry out.

  2. Thanks for that, Dave, I do know about seasoning logs and the meters. I also know how near impossible it is to keep logs dry when there's no dry storage available.

    My logs were all cut last year, the ones cut this year are still in trunk sized pieces, lying at the bottom of the garden until we can get them split and stacked undercover, probably for using in 2013, at this rate.

    A reliable supply of dry, seasoned timber is something we can't easily acquire when we don't have a large log store.

  3. Hey up a good link for wood calorific value
    half way down page - wood type - how long to dry and heat value ......

    Alot of wood aproximately 50-60% wet when growing - can dry quickly over a period when being turned into log material - have a look at

    An quick rough way to find out how much water in wood you've had delivered - (roughly) involved wieghing wood when wet (or when it arrived) and drying it out - and take the difference of dry from wet - do a quick % and you'll know roughly what MC you've got and therefore a calorie guide (you can do one log - either by chopping into kindling and then putting indoor leave a week or two to dry by the fire - and weigh again.

    WHen we did the willow work - had to do it alot (baking in our big oven) to get an idea of the wet:dry ratio to work out our MC in our wood to work out the calorific value - quite quick but a pain in the butt. And it honked - never dry willow!

    Good luck with the natural fibre - lovely looking!


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