… my wood pile. That’s 6 face cords of hardwoods stacked 3 deep.
Fireplace season is slowly drawing to a close, alas. But those roaring logs look, see, feel, and smell pretty good on this sunny 35-degree Hash Bash Day morning. My wood dealer Ken, whom I found randomly on Craig’s List, has kept me well supplied all season. He even gave me that gray barrel you see on the right, keeping it filled with kindling, on demand, for free. I do pay him for the logs, but Ken gives me a good price, pretty seriously undercutting the market. Unlike most big wood dealers, Ken doesn’t have his own barn to store the wood and let it season. So, his logs are a little tough to light, but once going they burn just fine. And we burn ‘em daily.
When Harry Baldwin built these 13 houses that make up the Fair Acres development on an old apple orchard perched atop the Defiance moraine in the late 50s, he put fireplaces in all of ‘em. He knew what people liked back then. The one house that may not have a hearth to warm is the box erected 2 doors west designed by the eventual Dean of the Architecture School Robert Metcalf, who didn’t like fireplaces, even in his own home (1). But our chimney is the only one on Harbal that belches regularly these days. The global warming is bad enough – each cord of wood when burned emits 2.5 tons of CO2, about 1/50th of what John Kerry’s Gulfstream puts out in a typical year. Not only are we killing the planet, we may be killing ourselves! Those itty-bitty soot particles, which now have the fancy name of “PM2.5” – indicating they are 2.5 microns or less – burrow deep into our lungs and enter our circulation, causing lung disease, heart attacks, and premature death (2). And we’re not just endangering ourselves, the whole neighborhood is at risk. California regulates fireplace use. Can Ann Arbor be far behind? So it’s not hard to see why, for many, fireplaces are just out of style (3).
Well, neither Kathy nor I were ever a dedicated follower of fashion. We love our fireplaces (Harry Baldwin put one downstairs, too) (4). Plus, they occasionally can be put to practical use (5). Mixed hardwoods generate roughly 20 million BTUs per face cord (6). So, I’ve got 120 million potential BTUs stacked out front. That’s equivalent to 866 gallons of heating oil, 985 gallons of gas, 35,170 kilowatt-hours of electricity, 1,312 gallons of propane, 115,718 cubic feet of natural gas, or 21 barrels of crude oil (7). That’s our energy, and we intend to liberate each and every last blessed British Thermal Unit, in the comfort of our living room.
If you’re looking for some of this natural, renewable, sustainable (!), source of your own, give Ken a call: (248) 437-2229.
1. Slagter L. A look inside architect Robert Metcalf’s midcentury modern home, listed for $749,900. MLive.com 5/4/17. https://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/2017/05/mid-century_modern_home_of_arc.html
2. Scauzillo S. Why your fireplace is ruining the environment. San Gabriel Valley Tribune 1/30/15. https://www.sgvtribune.com/2015/01/30/why-your-fireplace-is-ruining-the-environment/
3. nessie. Have brick fireplaces gone out of style? Houzz 2009. https://www.houzz.com/discussions/2374581/have-brick-fireplaces-gone-out-of-style
4. Ike B. burn on. WordPress 12/14/21. https://theviewfromharbal.com/2021/12/14/burn-on/
5. Ike B. burn on II. WordPress 3/11/22. https://theviewfromharbal.com/2022/03/11/burn-on-ii/
6. Firewood BTU. Firewood-for-life.com. https://www.firewood-for-life.com/firewood-btu.html.
7. U.S. Energy Information Administration. Units and calculators explained. British thermal units (Btu). https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/units-and-calculators/british-thermal-units.php