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View Full Version : OT: Wood Brick Fuel - Recycled firewood alternative



PStechPaul
01-26-2015, 10:28 PM
In December I got a cord of red oak firewood delivered for $250, but it was (and still is) not very well seasoned, so I had a heck of a smoky time getting it to burn in my old woodstove. I split it into smaller pieces, and mixed it with some better wood from last year, and some old lumber, but it was still problematic. Other places I called for firewood said they only had rather green stuff, and they still wanted more than they did last year. I had tried a sample of compressed wood chip blocks a couple years ago, and it seemed OK, but at $9 for a 40 pound pack it was rather expensive. But I was somewhat desperate as major cold was coming through, so I found that it was available from my local SACO lumber supply place about 2 miles away, for $329/pallet. The pallet is 24 packs and so just about 1 ton, so I went over there with my 1989 1/2 ton Toyota P/U and bought a pallet (no tax), and hand loaded half of it.

More info:
http://www.woodpellets.com/firewood/wood-bricks.aspx
The manufacturer is in Leola, PA, but their website seems to be down ATM: www.usrecycledwoodproducts.com

When I got home, I unloaded some of it and hauled it to my house, where I found that it lit pretty easily, burned nice and hot, and even helped burn the poorly seasoned stuff. Next day, I unloaded the truck and stored some of the packs in a plastic shed, many more on some concrete blocks under a tarp, and the rest I hauled up to my house. Whew! Manhandling a half-ton of dense compressed wood chips, even only 40 pounds at a time, is tough work for a 65 year old with a bad back, bad knees, and an artificial hip. But I got 'er done, and then drove back to SACO to get the rest of it. Here it is in the back of my truck:

http://pauleschoen.com/pix/Wood_Brick_Fuel_1695.jpg

That was about three weeks ago. I've been using about half and half wood bricks and firewood with good results. A couple days ago I was taking Muttley for a walk, and I saw this:

http://pauleschoen.com/pix/Wood_Brick_Fuel_1696.jpg

I thought that perhaps some rain had leaked into the pile and through the plastic covering (which is not watertight), but looking closer, it seems that some animal must have been clawing at it. I know there are coyotes, raccoons, foxes, ground hogs, and deer, and there might be a bear or bobcat or some such in the area. It gets creepy at night and sometimes if I am walking Muttley my flashlight will catch a pair of eyes that move around and stop and stare at us, and there are some weird sounds. Maybe it's a Chupacabra?

Well, tonight I put some more bricks and firewood in the stove and got it started, then went out in the light snow about 9 PM and split four 5-gallon buckets of firewood, and hauled three more packs of wood bricks into the house. I should be set for the big snow, if it comes, but I think the worst will be northeast of MD. Here's what I had when I finished my chores:

http://pauleschoen.com/pix/Woodstove_Fire_1704.jpg

The stack is running at a nice 300F:

http://pauleschoen.com/pix/Woodstove_Temperature_1705.jpg

Stay warm and safe during this mega-storm, friends!

lost_cause
01-26-2015, 11:17 PM
i've only seen that stuff for sale in one place around here - i assume because access to standard firewood is so common. i'd be interested to know how it compares to regular firewood on a length of burn and cost per heat unit basis. i have to fill the stove every 6-8 hours to keep a reasonable temperature and i burn about 3-4 cord per year which covers probably 85-90% of my heating needs for the year.

one thing it definitely has going for it is that it's cleaner. i always have a trail of bark & sawdust from the basement to the upstairs woodbox, but i do have to haul it up every day, so it's a never ending battle. around here a lot of people have gone to wood pellets instead of standard wood stoves. they are cleaner because they use bagged processed wood products, and they can also be thermostatically controlled so the heat is more even. the downside is that they do require electricity to use, so they aren't a good backup alternative like a wood stove is.

when i have to buy firewood i buy in bulk so it is slightly better in price and one purchase lasts a few years. a few years ago i paid $85 per cord, the load after that was $125, and most recently, $115. those prices are for full tree length and full truckloads, but this year i heard of people who had trouble getting it, and prices up to $150/cord. i guess the mills were paying as much to buy and chip it as firewood was worth, so a lot of loggers just sold it to the mills.

PStechPaul
01-27-2015, 12:28 AM
The one ton of bricks is supposedly equivalent in heating value as a cord of firewood, which typically weighs 4000 pounds. The poorly seasoned firewood I got most recently has a lot of moisture in it, so much that it sizzles and I see liquid oozing out of the cut ends which turns to steam. It takes a lot of energy to turn water into steam, and the temperature of 212F is below what is needed for good burning and draft. It also seems that the dried-out chunks of wood I have pulled out of the stove when it has not burned well, seem to be smaller and lighter than the original pieces. So a full cord of green firewood may be more like 3/4 cord of well-dried and seasoned. A cord of firewood is legally defined as 4' x 4' x 8', or 128 cubic feet. The compressed wood bricks are on a pallet measuring 4' x 4' x 4', or half a cord. But it is solidly packed, with little space between pieces, certainly less than even well-stacked rough firewood.

There are actually a lot of long-dead trees and fallen logs on the upper part of my 2.5 acre property, but it is difficult to access, especially with my orthopedic problems. It would probably cost more for me to hire somebody with a chainsaw and truck to cut the wood and haul it down to where I can get it, and I probably can't split whole sawn logs with my splitting maul. So it looks like one cord of not-quite-seasoned firewood for $250 and one pallet of wood bricks for $329 will meet my needs for a normal season, augmented by some baseboard electric in my bedroom which probably costs $150/month during the cold spells.

[edit] You can order a pack of 20 bricks (40 lb) from Amazon for only $10, but shipping is $41!
http://www.amazon.com/BRICK-Premium-Firewood-Alternative-Bricks/dp/B009YZR31G

Greg_B
01-27-2015, 08:40 AM
Paul,

I also burn a combination of wood fuel bricks and firewood. I used to use the bricks you bought, but this year they changed the pricing policy. In the past there was a pallet/ton price and the single pack price. Last year it was $275 per ton, this year around what you paid. I did find another supplier call ECO bricks. Slightly larger bricks, I like them better. Best of all $250/ton.

Greg

MrFluffy
01-27-2015, 09:53 AM
Around here the farmers invite people on to coppice and clear felled trees for the wood, but the person coming on gives a certain percentage of the yield to the farmer as payment.
I've got next years wood aging in a barn at the moment, but will dip into it if we have a harsh winter of whats left of it. I ended up buying in late sept before and the only wood around was wet green and early stocks for the next year and a pain to burn so lesson learned on that front & get a warm feeling when I see a wall of firewood stacked and dry and ready.

davidh
01-27-2015, 10:42 AM
a fellow machinist could always build a small woodblock compactor and make his own. now that would be totally satisfying in my book. of course you wold need the product, most likely from a area sawmill, and haul and handle it into your garage. . . or an area where swhmo would not object to the mess you'd make. . . eh crap, might as well just buy the bricks and be over it.
still, like a can crusher, interesting challenge. to be sure. . .

Rosco-P
01-27-2015, 03:25 PM
Burn throwaway pallets, not the "standard" 40x48 four way style. Most small businesses have a problem getting rid of their scrap pallets. Check with small manufacturers and businesses, tile shop, etc. No need to disassemble, just chainsaw off the planks and cut the stringers to firebox length. Burn nails and all, screen the nails out of the ashes before you dump them. I know several people heating they're homes exclusively with them.

Before the safety nannies say anything: ask if you can take them, don't burn wood with obvious chemical, paint or tar stains.

Willy
01-27-2015, 04:18 PM
.....
Before the safety nannies say anything: ask if you can take them, don't burn wood with obvious chemical, paint or tar stains.

You forgot endangered wood species and lumber from countries with dwindling rain forests that are home to short, gay, near-sighted forest dwellers.:)

lost_cause
01-27-2015, 05:27 PM
You forgot endangered wood species and lumber from countries with dwindling rain forests that are home to short, gay, near-sighted forest dwellers.:)

but if you burn those endangered spcies of wood you also might burn whatever insects are residing in them before they take up residence and ruin our forests.

i've seen a few people who burn pallets, but burning enough of them to fill the entire year of heating would be a massive amount. i burn about 3-4 cord of hardwood a year and if you converted that to pallets it would be a pile the size of a small house. the other downside is that with newer wood burning stoves like mine you have smaller fireboxes and doors. you would not be able to fit a lot of cut up pallet pieces in at once and would be constantly filling it.

Rosco-P
01-27-2015, 05:44 PM
but if you burn those endangered spcies of wood you also might burn whatever insects are residing in them before they take up residence and ruin our forests.

i've seen a few people who burn pallets, but burning enough of them to fill the entire year of heating would be a massive amount. i burn about 3-4 cord of hardwood a year and if you converted that to pallets it would be a pile the size of a small house. the other downside is that with newer wood burning stoves like mine you have smaller fireboxes and doors. you would not be able to fit a lot of cut up pallet pieces in at once and would be constantly filling it.

Aside from size issues, no need to stockpile pallets the size of small house. Pallets don't need to be cut, split and stacked to dry or "season". The people I know that burn pallets, one of being a tropical fish hatchery, pick them up as needed or have made an arrangement to get them dropped off.

Free wood for heating, like anything "free", always has some hidden cost.

Lu47Dan
01-27-2015, 08:36 PM
I built a pallet dismantling machine for a friend from parts him and his dad machined after hours at their shop. It can break down a pallet in under two minutes. They both have home built OWB to heat there homes. Place a pallet in the machine close the door push start and the door locks closed than the rams extend and pop the boards off the runners. When the rams are extended all the way they automatically retract and the door unlocks. As the ram retracts the boards fall down into the bottom and are than removed and piled up, once the door unlocks the runners are removed and another pallet is inserted and the process repeats. It takes two people to run it effiecently.
I did the welding and final assembly, another guy did the controls. They said it is way over built, it has been in use for the last ten or eleven years.
They cut everything down to under 24" to fit into their OWB.
Dan.

PStechPaul
01-27-2015, 09:51 PM
I used to work next to a HVAC shop that often had piles of pallets next to the dumpster, so I was able to get free firewood, but mostly i used it more for kindling, especially the thin slats. Now I'd rather just get wood delivered, and it looks like a cord of wood plus a ton of wood bricks should last the season. I just went for an MRI of cervical and lumbar spine in preparation for probable surgery this Spring, so hopefully by next year I'll be in shape to get back in the woods and harvest my own firewood.

flylo
01-27-2015, 09:57 PM
I had 8 cord (not face cords) of oak & maple half inside a woodshed & half outside from when I broke my back. I sold it in December for $400 for all. Great deal for them but now I have the shed clear & the woodpile gone.

PStechPaul
12-18-2015, 04:52 PM
I was going to get another load of these compressed wood bricks at my local SACO store, but they no longer have the product. I paid about $350 per ton last year, and I had to make two trips in my 1/2 ton pickup. I just now am burning the last package, and several of the packages had gotten wet and turned into sawdust and mulch. So, I searched for other suppliers.

I found a manufacturer in Apple Creek, OH (http://www.eco-blockfirewood.com/), and the closest distributor is about 100 miles from me. But I found that Tractor Supply Company has them, and they are only about 30 miles. They said they have packs of three for $5.49, and that seemed very expensive based on the 40 pound packs of 20 I had from last year. But I asked for the price of 1/2 ton, and they said that would be 44 packs and $143. So these packs are about 20 pounds each, and the cost is less than what I paid last year. The price from the factory is $3/pack and about $100 for a half ton. TSC only had a few in stock, but I placed a rain check on their next shipment, which should arrive in 2-3 weeks. :)

PStechPaul
12-23-2015, 11:59 PM
Well, TSC called on Monday and said the compressed wood bricks were in, so yesterday I went there and got a load of 50 packs. They were on sale for $2.99 per pack so $149.50. I was able to get one of the bricks started by breaking it into a few pieces and positioning them over a combination of paper, corrugated cardboard, and dry twigs and bark:

http://enginuitysystems.com/pix/house/Compressed_Wood_Bricks_2605.jpg

http://enginuitysystems.com/pix/house/Compressed_Wood_Bricks_2608.jpg

http://enginuitysystems.com/pix/house/Compressed_Wood_Bricks_2609.jpg

Added another brick after the first load was burning well:

http://enginuitysystems.com/pix/house/Compressed_Wood_Bricks_2613.jpg

Greg_B
12-24-2015, 03:51 PM
Paul,

I live in Lancaster co, not to far from the Wood Fuel Brick place. Used to burn their product, but they changed their pricing. Maybe they broke their business model. They used to have a price per bundle, then a discounted price per ton. Did away with that and a ton cost the same as buying bundles. My local supplier went to ECO / Envir bricks. They are larger, but I like them better. 6 in a 20lbs pack. Paid 265/ton this year.

They are more than cordwood, but fit better in the garage.

Of course with the current low price for propane, no savings burning them, but sure makes the basement family room toasty.

Greg

PStechPaul
12-24-2015, 05:15 PM
I located the manufacturer in Leola, PA and saw an image of their warehouse at 440 Concrete Ave. The addresses seem rather weird on Google, and I didn't see a sign, but there are address numbers on the buildings.

I think these are from the same manufacturer in Apple Creek, OH. TSC seems to carry only the larger 7 pound bricks, but the price is fairly good at about $300/ton based on the $2.99 sale price per package. The packs seem to be fully wrapped so should stay dry better than my last purchase from SACO. I lost probably four of the 40 pound packs which comes to about $30.

But it's too warm to really need to burn anything, except to help dry the dampness that is prevalent with the steady rain that will probably stick around until the New Year.