Firewood Is The New Hotness. Literally.

Heating oil prices got you down? Thinking of burning some wood to stay warm this winter? You’re not the only one. In fact, Consumer Reports says that firewood prices are through the roof this fall. It’s gotten so bad that people are actually stealing wood.

From Consumer Reports:

Throughout the Northeast, skyrocketing fuel costs have lit a fire under the firewood business. The demand is sparking severe shortages ahead of the home-heating season, says Sarah Smith, forest-industry specialist at the University of New Hampshire cooperative extension. “If I called up 10 folks in the firewood business and asked them for a cord of dry wood, they’d all laugh,” she says.

The firewood shortage started this summer, when soaring oil prices motivated more people to consider heating their homesâ??or supplementing their oil, natural-gas, electric, or propane heat ??with wood. “The loggers and firewood producers who were predicting and processing wood based on their usual demand couldn’t accommodate all these people, many of whom hadn’t burned wood in the past,” says Smith.

CR has some tips for those of you who are wood shopping this fall. Most important? Make sure your chimney is in good condition, but don’t get scammed by disreputable chimney liars.

Firewood and wood pellets become a hot commodity [Consumer Reports]
(Photo: saramarie )

Comments

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  1. mazda3jdm says:

    we got a heatalator it works realy well and pushes all the heat from the fire then a normal fireplace insert

    • wattznext says:

      @mazda3jdm: I’m going to take the liberty of finishing your sentence for you

      “then a normal fireplace insert comes to life, runs around my house, makes me tea, lays out my PJ’s for me, and tucks me in before lighting the cat’s tail on fire while i sleep.”

      How was that?

    • shepd says:

      @mazda3jdm:
      I learned a new word today! Heatilator… what we in Ontario call a gas fireplace /w blower. :-) Thanks!

  2. wattznext says:

    “Footage of a burning log” is definitely the line of the day.
    Also, it’s good to see that it is on demand. I used to rush home all the time, only to miss the burning log show by 5 minutes.

  3. IC18 says:

    We got a heat stove with a blow fan. Burns wood slowly and pushes the heat out into the room. We use it in conjunction with our furnace, sure cuts the bill some what. Get ready for another cold winter.

  4. psuchad says:

    Burn coal here.

  5. Clobberella says:

    I totally watched that same yule log broadcast last Christmas, right alongside the real fire.

  6. AshleyKeen says:

    Heh. Not in the midwest. With the windstorms here a couple weeks ago folks are tossing out trees for free…

    • caederus says:

      @AshleyKeen:
      The Key is “dry wood”. A fresh cut tree can be used for heat, but it is not the most efficient. The wood should be seasoned (allowed to dry) before it is used for firewood. You get a much cleaner more efficient heat source.

    • chickenfeathers says:

      @AshleyKeen: That’s the way it is here in Texas. It seems like every two houses has a pile of dry wood outside with a sign that says “free”. I don’t think we’ll ever run out of trees.

  7. Git Em SteveDave loves this guy--> says:

    Also, learn what a cord is. Thanks to Carey for this expose: [consumerist.com]

    I wish someone would steal my wood pile. It’s so rotted, I can’t even burn it in my firepit. I have been trying to convince my Father to let us put a wood stove in the corner of my dining room to heat it and the kitchen, but so far, no budge.

  8. Spaceman Bill Leah has the Crazy Eyes says:

    This summer my parents had a huge oak tree in their yard cut down because it was threatening to fall over on their house. In exchange for the wood from that tree, they got a cord or two of already dried and cured wood for their winter heating needs.

    I bet they didn’t realize what a great deal they were getting at the time.

    • WaywardSoul says:

      @Spaceman Bill Leah has the Crazy Eyes: We took down a big oak tree in our yard this year after a windstorm snapped some of its top. First tree guy wanted to charge us $3800. Second guy offered a deal at $1200. Third offered to do it for the wood. An friend’s dad, a logger by trade, took a look at the straightness and size of the trunk and the distance to the lowest branch and paid us $4500 for the chance to take it down.

      • snidelywhiplash says:

        @WaywardSoul: He apparently wanted it for woodworking lumber, then? Musta been one helluva tree for $4500.

        • jusooho says:

          @snidelywhiplash: They’re almost certainly making at least that bit up.

          • Elvisisdead says:

            @jusooho: Most certainly not. White oak sells for about $12/board foot for dimensional clear boards. If it was 20′ to the lowest limb, you could easily get 16′ boards out of it, and depending on girth, 15 boards. That’s around $3K right there. If he’s a furniture maker, as well, it’s worth the extra to be able to mill lumber to the project, rather than make the project fit the lumber.

  9. Ms. Pants says:

    Here in Houston, we’re inundated with firewood. It’s all Ike debris. Which would be handy if it ever dips below 70. *sigh* I miss seasons.

  10. astroglide says:

    Burn the gym!

  11. Dacker says:

    Growing-up in Vermont during the energy crisis’ in the 70’s, we heated our modern houses exclusively with wood. At the time, more than 50% of Vermont houses used wood to at least supplement their existing heating source.

    The City of Burlington even converted one of the three boilers at the power plant to burn wood chips made from the branches, leaves, and other wood scrap from logging and sawmills.

    I suspect the difference now is that 30 years ago, we cut down the trees, hauled the logs, and split the wood ourselves — and usually a year ahead so the wood would season. I suspect this shortage is because people are too busy and/or lazy to do this hard work themselves. It’s been said many time, “Wood warms you twice — once when you cut it, and again in the stove.”

    • ILoveVermont says:

      @Dacker: Actually, the shortage is due to at least two things: Unanticipated demand (as stated in the post), and a very warm, wet winter and spring – the ground hadn’t thoroughly frozen in the winter and was thus too soft and muddy for the loggers to get their equipment into the woods.

  12. TakingItSeriously is a Technopile says:

    Just got done splitting, and stacking my 2 cord of wood for the winter. My wife, and I put in one of those Hearthstone wood stoves when we moved into our new place. We’re very pleased.

  13. hankrearden says:

    I recommend Java-Logs…

    Cleaner than wood and easier to light. Not as cheap but easily heats the small condo or apartment for a couple of hours.

    Y’know, you can always go to the local parks and get your own wood. A lot of the local parks/county/state leave firewood after cleaning up trails etc. All you have to do is call the offices or ask a ranger.

    That’s what I do….free heat.

  14. intellivised says:

    Steal wood? People here just go up to the mountain and take what they need with a permit. My whole town (WY) smells like woodsmoke starting around October.

  15. TouchMyMonkey says:

    Got our pellet stove this past August. The leftover wood from the wood stove it replaced was easy to get rid of. The old wood stove, not so much. Something about zoning, permits, and the EPA.

  16. rachaeljean says:

    I live in timber-rich Oregon, and growing up I remember we always had to make sure the woodpile was “secure” so that people wouldn’t take it. Maybe cuz we lived in more of an urban, poor/working-class neighborhood. But “stealing wood” is not a new thing!

  17. BlondeGrlz says:

    Our first year in New England we rented a former summer cottage that we were told was now year-round – but had no insulation. Even with oil prices at half of what they are now we could barely afford real heat. Thank God we lived in the woods and had a fireplace. Half way through November we actually bought a half-cord just to make sure we’d make it through the season, and that wood kept me from losing a toe or two to frostbite.

  18. HIV 2 Elway says:

    I recently traded some firewood for a Lowery Organ.

  19. chrisdag says:

    Stay away from my stash, heh.

    Stacked the final bits of my 4 cords last week:
    [flickr.com]

    Nobody has raided the pile but we did have our kerosene tank drained a bit last winter by someone (we think) who needed it far more than we did. Nortern/western Maine is always hit hard by heating costs.

  20. zentec says:

    In SE Michigan, we’re swimming in firewood courtesy of the emerald ash borer. This green menace is an invasive species that has killed millions of ash trees.

    Ash wood is free for the taking. The bad news is, you can’t take it out of the quarantine area because you’ll take the little beasts with you.

  21. m4ximusprim3 says:

    I would worry about the high cost of heating, except I live in a costal desert area. Right now my two main concerns are wildfires and a funny swell that’s nuking the surf at San Onofre.

  22. opsomath says:

    Awesome. I wonder if I could make a little cash this way – I was a pretty good hand at splitting firewood back in the day.

    Need a bucksaw or a chainsaw though. Dang.

  23. PriceIsWrong says:

    I’ve recently started rolling, soaking and drying newspaper rolls for my fire pit. It takes some time for them to dry out, and I certainly wouldn’t cook over it without a dutch oven, but it’s basically free fire wood and burns at close to the same rate.

    Plus, I can color it for Halloween.

  24. Goatweed says:

    if there’s a surplus of natural gas, why would prices shoot through the roof this winter? I distinctly recall reading somewhere that when oil was going crazy, they said that “people who use natural gas will be ok since prices should remain low due to an abundance”. Now with oil below 80 (last I saw), while not $50/barrel it’s still much lower than it was at the height of the Oil Debacle so why would heating costs be out of control?

    Or am I just missing something obvious?

  25. scottpee says:

    tell them to come to oklahoma.

    we still have trees laying everywhere from last winter’s huge ice storm.

  26. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    Wood is freakishly expensive out here, een though we’re surrounded by forested land. Nobody will let you go out and even clear out dead-fall, and those who have contracts/know people and who CAN get wood are charging over $200 a cord. We used to have a wood lot where people could dump wood they didn’t need for a small fee, and many of the clearing companies would dump logs there as well – it was “free for the taking” with the understanding that you had to do all the hauling yourself. New company bought them out and they discovered they can get more money by chipping everything and selling it as hog fuel. My parents had been getting the firewood they needed from the woodlot for the last 10 years, and now have no idea where to get wood as they can’t afford $100 for the 4 cords needed for the winter. Sucks.

    • DrakeCheeky says:

      @Neecy:
      @Neecy: Yeah, we’ve seen it at $300 in the mid-Vermont/NH border area. My mother-in-law is still at $175/cord. She does over 300 cords a year, but it really backed up from so many new orders this year. Crazy.

  27. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

    Oops that should be “nearly $1000 for the 4 cords they needed” wish we had an edit button.

  28. NotYou007 says:

    Good luck trying to find wood up in here in Maine. I live in an apartment, heat is paid for in my rent. I’ll be toasty this winter but if you need firewood in Maine you are pretty much screwed and if you can find a cord you will pay out the ass for it and go ahead and try to steal someones wood pile. You most likely will end up dead and I doubt a jury will convict anyone at the moment for stealing their firewood. Last winter was brutal and this winter is supposed to be a lot worst.

  29. SarcasticDwarf says:

    I think this has more to do in the differing fuel types commonly used. My sister lives in VA and uses propane for heating and pays 5x as much as I do in Montana (where it is colder) using gas. The same applied when I lived in NY and used heating oil.

  30. no.no.notorious says:

    1. i love the smell of firewood burning
    2. can’t you just chop it down? here in “upstate” ny, it’s everywhere

  31. factotum says:

    Three words: soapstone masonry heater.

    Sure, they weigh a ton but an armload full of wood will heat a large room or small home for hours.

  32. TalKeaton: Every Puzzle Has an Answer! says:

    With my family in upstate (WAY upstate) NY, it’s going to go a little bit like this.

    We cut our OWN wood!

    We have like 90 acres of land. About 40 of that is forest. There are dead trees like every ten feet back there.

  33. JohnAllison says:

    Not doubt people are out to steal fire wood. My folks are chaining up parts of their property after finding fell trees and missing firewood. I’m know they would have sold it for cheap if someone want to cut up grounded trees. Now it will come down to more strict enforcement of their property.

  34. FLConsumer says:

    Heating with 100% heat pump here. :) It’s not romantic, requires no involvement whatsoever, but it’s very cheap to run. At $0.08/hr, I can’t complain too much about it.

    I do miss a real fire, but they’re just impractical for Florida.

    As an aside, with the rising prices of copper ACs and heat pumps are being stolen around here.

  35. adaminc says:

    I always see free firewood on Craigslist and Kijiji.

  36. darkryd says:

    Due to the energy crisis, the first thing I do every morning is wake up and get wood to keep myself warm.

  37. Pinget says:

    While burning wood makes sense compared to the price of oil, it’s too bad it adds to carbon emissions. Spare a thought for global warming people.

  38. stillkarenann says:

    I wish they offered the Yule Log show without music. I like the crackling noise alone.