Recent Study on Alaskan Firewood Consumption

Study on Alaskan Firewood Consumption
Scott Salveson, NFA Director

A number of local, state and federal agencies have conducted a study of residential wood heating habits in Southwestern Alaska. The study shows that in this cold climate, approximately 5.6 cords of wood are consumed by each family annually. It must be noted that only 15-20% of households surveyed use wood as their primary heating fuel, with the large majority using it as secondary heating.

The study also found that there appears to be a need for education and energy efficiency within the broad context of sustainability.

Regarding air pollution, it was noted that a significant number of homes are using wood boilers with hydronic heating, prompting interest in air-quality control studies in areas where the concentrations of such heating systems were highest.

This survey, conducted door-to-door, studied 405 homes in a cold climate with 11,216 heating degree days per year.

How does this apply to the rest of the country?

While the study, conducted in rural Alaska, does not represent any “typical” demographic area in the U.S., several points are of interest to the Firewood Industry.

Most importantly, this study was prompted by an increased demand for firewood to supplement more common forms of heating fuel (primarily oil, in this area). This increase in demand and use of firewood raises questions of air quality control and the sustainable use of forest resources in the context of residential heating.

  1. Demand for firewood rises with the cost of other heating fuels. This isn’t anything we didn’t already know, but here it is again.
  2. There is a need for education regarding wood heating system design and use. The study did not touch on the quality of the firewood consumed other than noting the species being primarily spruce or birch.

While it would be very difficult to measure and record moisture levels, storage accommodations and burning techniques, this knowledge (and technique) is critical to efficient (and ecologically friendly) burning.

Consumers must be educated on the importance of properly dried wood and recognize the fallacy of wet wood burning longer. (It may last longer, but it produces far less heat — along with creosote, smoke, and smell).

The question remains — whose job is it to educate consumers on proper firewood?

Stove manufacturers. Many do a great, but generally only capture the attention of those in the market for a new stove.

Governmental agencies (local, state, federal). Disseminate good information, but it is often ignored as just “more B.S. from the government.”

Firewood producers/vendors. This is where the NFA has shown that there is a great opportunity for marketing, using educational messages on identification of quality firewood and proper burning practices.

Our members who have used our educational messages and materials in their marketing have met with great success.
All of our educational marketing messages are supported by our own publicity efforts — we reach thousands of followers each week on Facebook alone and have over 1800 fans. Consumers recognize our logo and associate it with responsible, reliable producers and vendors who go out of their way to provide a good product, good service — and good information.

This is why incorporating the NFA logo into your own marketing and advertising materials is important — it is one step you can take to display your dedication to the betterment of the Firewood Industry.