Season's Greetings - Increasing wood stove humidity

Season’s Greetings By Martin L. Klein

Hello again! It’s the Christmas season and 2010 will make way for 2011 before we can even think about it. I don’t really want to think about it. But doesn’t wood-burning take on a special charm during the Christmas season? At least fireplaces and woodstoves with windows do. But, if you are among those whose stove offers no view of the dancing flames within, you can always get charmed by going outside a little ways from the house to get a glimpse of the wood smoke rising from the chimney-top and curling gracefully into the frosty winter air. And while doing so, imagine your house in a wintry forest scene with strains of beautiful music from a Christmas choir echoing about. That’ll do it.

However, on a more practical note, I just remembered that this letter was to include my method of increasing indoor humidity during the wood-burning months. Dry air can be a serious issue for many. That painful spark that snaps you every time you touch the latch of the stove door, try to pet the cat, or even kiss your wife…is very annoying. Besides that, it also causes problems such as painful cracks on the finger tips if you do a lot of work with your hands, waking up in the night with a very dry throat, etc. One way to end the problem is to go buy an air humidifier but, personally, I don’t really want to run another appliance when I’m burning wood to keep utility bills manageable in the first place.

Using a kettle of water atop the stove is a great help, but oftentimes an additional source of moisture is needed. And, it occurred to me, since I have access to good, clean hardwood year round, I always have green unseasoned wood stacked up at the woodlot for next year. Taking from this an arm load of clean freshly split pieces (8 to 10), I bring them inside and stack them neatly by the woodstove. In most cases, there is an ample amount of room around the woodstove where green firewood can be placed at a safe distance from the stove, and not get in the way. I keep mine at least 18 inches from the heat source.

Putting up some green wood in this fashion puts a substantial amount of moisture into the air, and when the wood is finally “kiln dried” and shows a good amount of checking, I feed it to the stove and go get some more. It usually takes about a week or so to thoroughly dry. I place some of mine in a metal wood caddy where it gets good exposure to the heat. If you happen to have a hygrometer (measures air humidity) on the wall, as some do, you might do an experiment by observing whether this method makes a tangible difference for you.

In a rather large house it may not be sufficient to solve the dry air problem, but in the more confined quarters of a smaller house or a cabin it can make quite a difference. It works for me. Heck, if you live in a really big house, you could stack up a whole half cord of next year’s wood along the wall and really be rustic. That would dazzle you friends, wouldn’t it? Maybe not, but just be sure that whatever amount you bring inside is freshly split and bug-free. And, as with any combustible material, keep it at a reasonably safe distance from the woodstove. So, being the do-it-yourselfer, and finding innovative ways to help deal with everyday problems can be fun!

I will leave off here, and wish you all a very happy and safe Christmas thru New Year. Remember to count the blessings. Take time to hold your children close. Happy Wood-burning!

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