The thermometer hit 40F (about 4C) the other night, the time of year where smart residents of Western Massachusetts start thinking about how they’re going to heat their homes this year. Most years, I am not a smart resident – I usually wait until there’s snow on the ground until I order my cordwood. But there’s been enough news about the price of heating oil that I started moving wood around a few weeks ago to make room for two new cords.
For those of you who don’t live in cold places, the “cord” may not be natural unit of measurement. A cord of wood is a pile of tightly stacked, split hardwood, measuring four feet by four feet by eight feet – 128 cubic feet, or 3.6 cubic meters. If the wood is “seasoned” – air-dried for several months – a cord of wood will weigh 2 tons (1800kg); wet, it can weight a lot more.
Rachel called our wood guy this evening and arranged to have him start hauling over two cords of seasoned wood. Price per cord? $175. I opened our checkbook and discovered that last year’s cordwood cost $135. In other words, we just saw a 30% increase in the price of cord wood from last year to this one.
I’m not complaining about $175 wood – a quick web search turns up offers for $190 wood not far from me… and over in the eastern part of the state, where they light fires for atmosphere, not warmth, seasoned cordwood sells for a
ludicrous steep $300 – $350 a cord. (For that price, I hope they stack it for you.) In other words, my wood guy isn’t screwing me over.
(Update: Tom, who’s selling wood at $300 a cord was good enough to stop in and explain why it’s so expensive in the comments below… doesn’t sound so ludicrous to me anymore.)
Instead, his costs have increased. With diesel fuel at $2.85 a gallon, it costs a pretty penny to haul four tons of wood from his house to mine. It costs more money for him to drive his truck into the forest as well, to run his chainsaw and his hydraulic splitter. In other words, the rising price of oil is responsible, at least in part, for the rise of the price of wood.
A cord of wood provides as much heat as 100 to 150 gallons of fuel oil. At $2.60 a gallon for fuel oil – up at least 60% from last year – my $350 pile of wood looks like $650 worth of oil.
In other words, it’s probably time to order two more cords. Which leads to another, little-discussed benefit of using cordwood to heat: the steroidal biceps I’ll have after stacking 8 tons of wood in my garage.