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Can you be hot and green at the same time?


What do wood fuel customers want from their fuel? Low price, high calorific value, clean and easily handled or eco-friendly credentials?

Our experience so far is that our members and clients want all of these, but that price comes first.

Then there’s the heat: most of us have sat and watched a damp heap of logs smoke and glower in the stove and wished we’d found some with lower moisture content. So a fuel that gets the temperature up fast and then burns long and warm is an important factor, which means the lower the moisture content the better. A good clean burn that keeps the lum clear and the heat pumping out is what we’re all aiming for.

Many Wood Fuel Coop customers tell us they like the ease of handling and storing wood briquettes and pellets, and the fact they can store them with us and not have to fill an outhouse or porch with several months’ supply. They also cite the ‘clean’ factor, the lack of dust, bits of bark and dazed spiders that you get from bringing logs into the house…though many people now mix briquettes and logs and find that this helps a lot in driving out moisture and getting a hotter burn.

Not as many folk indicate at the start that they’re concerned about the green credentials of their fuel or that this is a major factor when choosing… but when they learn that we try to source the ones with the best eco-scores and lowest carbon footprints, they see that as a plus point.

As winter approaches, more and more deliveries of different types of fuels are arriving at the depot. Old favourites like Verdo and Hotmax are very popular but this week we’ve been trialling the new Fire Blox from SWF, who are based in Perthshire. Last winter we stocked their sawdust cobs and for many folk, these became the basic fuel to which a mixture of others were added at different times.

Mix and match burning is very much a feature of getting the most out of your stove. In our experience (and the Toasty Toes Team tests everything in a variety of appliances) no two woodfuels are exactly alike – and Fire Blox now add a new type of burning performance to the mix. Larger than before, each of the ‘blox’ measures, in cm, 15L x 12W x 7D. My studio stove is probably the smallest most of us are likely to have and one block just goes through the door.

A criticism of the previous SWF sawdust briquettes, which were cylindrical cobs, was that they produced a lot of dust and were quite messy to use. The new Fire Blox are a lot more densely packed and although they shed more than the Hotmax and Verdo, they’re clean to use if handled carefully.

In burning characteristics they fit neatly in between the above. To start the stove and get the heat going, I find the Hotmax work well, especially when combined with an Ezilite starter and a Waxling firelighter. The small size of the Hotmax briquettes allows more air into the fire, which gets it going well. Then the choice depends on whether you want a lot of heat followed by a relatively long burn (Verdo briquettes), or a slower heat and a long burn (Fire Blox briquettes). The latter take more effort to get going and then can either produce a lot of heat if you leave the air intake wide open, or can chunter away for a couple of hours with a steady, lower output. They’re reckoned to put out approx. 4.9kw/kg and are clean burning, producing very little ash. I put the ash on the compost heap or spread it over the flower beds, to help condition the soil.

So what about those green credentials? Well, Fire Blox are made from 100% recycled timber, the kind that would normally go to landfill. It has no additives, is claimed to be carbon neutral and has under 8% moisture content. It’s an entirely Scottish product, produced by SWF in partnership with DJ Laing Recycling Solutions Ltd.

So, in answer to the question, yes, you can be hot and green at the same time! We’d very much like to get feedback from customers about the fuels they’re burning, and what they’d like to see available from us too. (Fuels and Prices here). We’ll be adding that feedback to the reviews that will appear in this spot over the coming weeks and months.