Log burners - continued

Having spent a while on French websites trying to ascertain the number of steres that will get us through the winter and coming up with the answer - anywhere between 8 and 62!!! I thought I might get a better idea from an expat forum. And so I read through NEW TO FINISTERRE (AND TO LOG BURNERS!) Oh dear now I remember why I haven't got involved in online discussions for many a long year! That discussion went a bit sideways, I had hoped bois de chauffage usage would have been a more logical route.

So is there someone out there in a similar situation that I could equate to - old house/minimal insuation, single glazing, 10kw poele to heat 55sq. m. (electric heaters in bedrooms) in the south of France but not a hot part of the south!

My son lives in Brittany and swears by 'flamey flames', French websites seem to favour just a glow, but French youtube tutorials on how to operate your poele appear to be blazing away.

So what's your answer?

We have a very efficient 12KW stove and have never needed to use the electric heaters in the two bedrooms, or indeed the bathroom. Very old stone house, high ceilings, all rooms on one floor, full double glazing (Doors and windows) and 250mm of insulation in walls and loft. We use dried oak and once we start the fire for winter it never goes out until spring hits. Temperatures here have gone down to -24degs but very rare, normally -6/7 etc. We use approx 10 stere and we keep the fire at a nice orange glow during the day and close it right down every night. The fire is so effective that we normally open the windows and front door in the morning to let some heat out.

Our wood is delivered in 6 stere loads and this year the man brought round two truck loads in one go so we have to stow the lot away all in one go, took my wife and I 4 hours to stack neatly in our wood store in the barn using two wheel barrows, she loads, I push the barrows and stack the wood. Hard work but once its done, its done.

I should also add that we have the chimney swept twice a year including once during winter as per the legal requirements here, the sweep is coming round on Tuesday to do this years 2nd sweep. So this may also help the stove operate perfectly.

Rgds, Mike L

Hi, we used 10 stere last winter - 50cm logs. We have 2 wood burners each 9.5kw and a house of 84m2. We had no insulation, draughty doors and single glazed windows (we kept most of the shutters shut night and day). The living areas kept warm and toasty, we closed up one bedroom and the other bedroom and bathroom were often very cold.(have oil fired heaters too). We live in the Auvergne so regularly less than 0 degrees. Hope this helps.

I think that's the topic covered - thanks folks

It depends on where you are, such details as how cold does it get, what area do you have to heat, which woods are available. To take the easy route, how we survive, we get pretty cold, some -10°C is possible (lower even) but a few nights in that range and days that do not go to plus. We run our central heating, hot water supply and do cooking on our stove. We also have a large open fire when necessary. We have 8 steres all over the place at present, it will be in the wood barn by the middle of next week. That does us for the winter as a rule. As Val says, if it is a long cold winter then we use more that 8 steres but from the pleasanter winters keep a reserve and have wood of our own still to cut down to logs. Ideally we would like the pleasant winter and use 6 steres to build up a reserve. It is all a bit like juggling or asking the old question 'how long is a piece of string?' Then you have to get used to mixed wood. Daytime we use charme (hornbeam), if we really want heat we throw in châtaigne (chestnut) and for long burning chêne (oak). The drier the wood the faster it burns, so for overnight you want relatively fresh, but not 'wet', oak which will gently burn damped down - unless you want to get up every couple of hours to feed it. Under no circumstances use any kind of pine or cedar unless it has been logged and left over three years or the tar build up is horrendous. Most damp wood causes tar build up too. I am cheating though, I have had Rayburns and log burners since I bought my first house that had the former in it and most of the last 45 years have had one or both, otherwise I would say it is a science you need to take a crash course in!

I buy 9 sterre each winter and always have a bit in reserve. There are so many variables involved it’s hard to give somebody else an estimate.

I used 8 sterre last winter to heat my 42 m2 (110 m3) kitchen. During the cold months the fire is alight all day and keeps in over night. Only let it go out when I have to empty the ashes out. It's an old house that we rennovated 18 years ago so it has double glazing but not as much insulation as I'd like.

I buy in 4 sterre loads as that means guy can use a trailor that he can reverse into my garage and dump next to where wood will be stacked.

It's a bit back breaking but you can do it. My supplier only delivers in 4 steres' worth now so I ended up with 12 in the middle of the driveway. It did arrive in batches about a week apart but bloomin' heck me and the poor little wheelbarrow were exhausted I can tell you. If you have a garden, put some out there on top of a couple of pallets if you have them or a few "base" logs just to keep them off the ground. As long as you have a rain proof cover across the top, weighted down with an old tyre or something against the wind they'll be fine.

That's good advice, we had 4 steres delivered this morning just to see how big a space it occupied in the cellar and how long it would take us to shift the stuff, as there's no delivery charge we will just keep getting smallish loads.

Hi Barbara,

Going through your points, roughly, not in any particular order, partially because I'm having "a day" and my mind is all over the place:

(1) I don't do flamey flames - end result is constantly putting extra logs in because they're burning through too quickly while stripping down to a t-shirt because it's simply too hot unless it's heating a barn. You do need a bit of a "licking" flame though, don't leave it simply smouldering or you'll tar up the chimney.

(2) The space I need to heat is bigger than 55 sqm so of course can only give you a guesstimate.

(3) Much also depends on your lifestyle - if on sunny albeit chilly days you're out romping around the countryside, gardening, off shopping for a while etc that obviously will cut down on log consumption because you won't be home needing a fire. I work from home on a computer so when the chill sets in with me I end up dressed like a yeti until I can't bear it and then light the fire. On mild days, I try and leave it until my son's due home from school. Last year I did buy a second hand cuisiniere which I will now put on late afternoon as then it can supply hot water for washing up (saving the electric water heater), dry damp clothes, heat part of upstairs and cook a pizza. Lovely.

(4) The weather also obviously plays a major role, the principal role. I've made 8 steres last a winter but with an unexpected cold snap or the cold extending into, say, April I've gone through 10 or 11 steres.

My basic rule of thumb is order what I can afford at the time. Wood doesn't "go off", it simply gets better, so anything that's left over will serve you well the following year. Don't just say "Oh 5 steres will do" if you can actually afford a bit more - suppliers have a habit of running out, especially in January and February so better to have a surplus than fall short.

I should also say we're using 30/33 cm chestnut logs.

Further question has anyone discerned a big difference between burning grade 1 (oak etc) wood and grade 2 ?