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I decided to give the 'Compressed Sawdust' wood brick technology a try. In this case, RedStone products available from our local Tractor Supply.
This stuff has been around for years, and I've run a few through the stove before this. My experience then was not stellar, but hey.... leave room for things to get better... Ya Know?
Our main heat is oil. The woodstove is secondary, but that's a close match. If I'm home to run the stove, it becomes primary for a while. Not home? Let the oil heat cover the need. Only lately has Herself begun firing and feeding the wood stove, so it's use is gaining ground.
Normally I order up firewood a few cords at a time from local suppliers, and have it delivered. That leaves 'Someone' to move it, stack it, move it again, carry it in, and work the stove. Guess who someone usually is?
Yeah, ME, except about a year ago I tore a knee up fairly bad. Bad enough the doc said internal components were... missing. Ugh. That led to a replacement 6 months ago, and also made moving firewood the last two winters into a significant chore.
My boys picked up some of that load, with much appreciation from us.
As a result, the wood stove took a back burner for a while (See what I did there? Hur Hur Hur). Now it's back on line and cranking the heat out, but the experience has made me open to trying other sources of fuel than split wood.
I considered a pellet stove, but for some good reasons I just won't go there. I also considered a pellet basket for this wood stove, but that seemed expensive ($175) and reviews are too borderline.
The other day, these compressed wood blocks popped up on my radar again, and I recalled the local Tractor Supply seems to keep them in stock now. Hmm...... it was time to pick up a sample and try them. So, I did.
Thoughts: In my large wood stove, they throw an excellent amount of heat. In fact, they are a bit difficult to throttle back in my drafty old stove. In 30 degree weather, we ran the stove with windows open. In today's 40 degrees, I'm kinda sorry I lit the stove. Still, we are plenty warm, and not burning heating oil.
The downside? The wood blocks seem to be good for only about two to three hours in my stove. In a smaller, more draft controlled stove, I suspect they would do better. Also, they are not really all that pretty to look at when I leave the stove doors open to watch the fire on a chilly morning.
The upsides? Lot's a clean heat. No dirt, leaves, spiders, or pesky wood elves being carried in with the firewood. A stack of packs just sit there near the stove, acting as a cat pedestal til I want to burn them. Also, given their clean nature and very low moisture content, chimney issues are non existent. There's almost no smoke signature as well, and that could be important at times.
Money-wise, these packs of three large compressed blocks are suggested retail at $3.99. I can get that down a fair amount if I buy a ton at a time. I've used four packs to provide maybe 75% of our homes heat over the last three days. That would make them roughly on par with split wood, and cheaper than running the furnace.
Best of all? No backbreaking effort handling tons of wood at a time. No..... pain.
Conclusions so far: These have a place in my home. I can see a stack piled back in the laundry room, waiting on needful weather. Anytime I'm hurting, overly lazy, or simply don't want to carry in wood, these will fill in nicely. I'll keep doing stacks of split oak, but it will be nice knowing I don't HAVE to deal with the pain if I don't want to.