Wood-for-Power Living on Small Acreages

Hi All,
My personal goal for 50 years has been to evolve to be happy, and sufficient on just five acres.
As a late teenager I was much influenced by M.G. Kains, “Five Acres and Independence”

Well Life and self-delusion interfered a lot with this goal.
Now with the Wife’s last properties divestments we are finally there.

M.G. had a lot of 1880 thru 1940 experiences with re-vitalizing old broken down small farms across the USofA.
He did insist on these five acres cores having a 2 acre woodlot for woodfuels, fencing and building materials. And for seasonal windward blocking.
Wood heating and cooking of course.
And his life had spanned the change over from horse/mule/stationary and big-wheeled steam power for farms; to small IC engine power. Only that change allowed going down to just five acres.
He actually loved electricity for finally safe lighting and wells pumping and refrigeration’s.

His money flow was to have 1-2 acres of intensive money cropping like fruit trees or truck-gardening. That means specific specialized intensive cropping, like cabbages, lettuces, pumpkins and such to be “trucked” into the cities green grocery markets or directly to the hotel Chefs.
In my county now quite a few doing this on small acreages with honey; farmers-market vegi’s; hoop-gardening; and even a few trying small animals meats: chicken, goat, pig, rabbits. Ha! Then the events wine-tasters operations. And acre of vine rows. A building. And then they license themselves as a winery.

So even today this can, and is being done.
Just outline it out. Learn and do one step at a time. Commit to that learned step and then move onto the next step
And getting on-the-land soonest will get you there fastest. Ha! You have no choice.
Shun the distractions.
Woodgas “perfection” itself; can actually be a distraction for evolving forwards.
Become then just one more way to distract yourself from clear pathways to keep moving forward.

22F yesterday morning. 24F this morning.


Here is my house woodstove chimney heating at 10 pound an hour. ~50,000 BTU’s an hour. No smoke. And I can do this from 2 pounds (~11,000 BTU’s) an hour to 11 pound (55,000 BTU’s) an hour.
Another view of my house.

A nearly perfect solar angled roof top for active water heating or PV solar for my latitude.
Why not? A $$$$/project time distraction in my 250+ days a year cloudy climate.
Much better just growing, harvesting more trees.
Others have tried wind energy harvesting. Now after two-three systems flattened by storms just also grow more trees. Letting the winds/ice storms harvest for them.

Trees. Bushy brushes are the very best way to small acreages solar energy.
Steve Unruh

13 Likes

Now here’s the full-meal-deal about wood stoveing in the State of Washington.

Legally we are not allowed to do this as a primary heat in new, or remodeled residences.
Only will be permitted as a secondary “pleasure-view” heating. We are public announced annually thru many “NO WOOD COMBUSTION”; no yard debris, or back yard fire-ring burning time periods. Air inversion times.
In legally allowed time frames; in your secondary wood heating certified clean-air wood stove we are allowed 20 minutes of visible smoking for refueling purposes, once every two hours.
And who monitors and calls in the enforcement of this?
Your propane and electric heating and pellet stoveing neighbors!!
You dirty, air hogging, pee-loot’er, you.

So over and above wood fuel use economy; and not having to 2 times a year clean the build up soot’s and creosote from your chimney (my own father-in-law; my brother-in-law) . . . .
operating 100% of the time completely visible smoke-less makes life just so much easier.
And doing this really is not about the factory engineered clean-burning stoves.
It is about wood fuel size management. And learning to tend that fire for smoke-less results.

Ha! And twice this winter I’ve had the laugh of having heat and all the hot water I wanted in Grid power outages.

Wood-for-power IS the only true D.I.Y. power here.
Steve Unruh

10 Likes

I get not having enough money, but I wouldn’t let cloudy days be an issue.
You still get insolation through the clouds. We are cloudy here in michigan, and the black solar siding to heat houses started appearing in the 80s. I have seen it on several houses, and I talked to a couple of owners, and it saved them money and there are some downsides but in general they liked it.

1 Like

How much power do you use steve? I’m running a small 450 watt system with all cheap parts (used panels, old truck batteries and a decent charge controller from renogy) that iv been very happy with here on the wetside. My 2 batteries are topped off by 1030, and I power my carport and shed with it and occasional power tools. Hope to soon hook into the house and see how much of the 110 I can power but going to upgrade batteries first

1 Like

Well Marcus in my case (and most here on the DOW I’d wadger) I have a wife who is certainly NOT bought into living on DIY power.
Really see all that I do as a keep’a-hubby-happy-hobby.
So . . . .our Grid usages, and wood fuel consumptions, I’ve managed to ween down by half in the last 20 years.

We now for all consistently use 1.1kW/hours per hour. On a daily 24.
The problem with these three girls here power usages; is they schedule nothing. We can peak daily using 12kW per hour at least twice a day. Ha! Then drop to your 300-450 watts.
My mistake in the past was setting up for 10kW systems to supply. And those would have eaten 10-20 pounds of wood an hour.
The solution to this is in the power outages. These girls then immediately have to drop back to what I WILL supply.
The cluttered front porch pictured hides a Honda 2000 inverter unit. They have had a solid 1600 watts 120AC to work with then. Easily does all of the modern electronics.
Runs what you can plug into a weak 15 amp circuit. Hair dryers. Rice cookers. Bread toasters. The refrigerator. The freezer. Even the vacuum cleaner or the smaller microwave oven. Just not all at the same time.
4 hours to up to 10 hours a day per US gallon of gasoline. So fuel sipping; and quiet, it can be left running stand-by continuously. Some even boat tank extended run these now.

Be 16-20 pounds of wood fuel a day in napkin maths.
I think . . . ~14 pounds of pre-made wood charcoal. The more use practical.

For your house, and especially a home shop you’d do best basing on a true 6500 continuous wattage system for the fueled electrical support leg. Then you can weld. Run a decent air compressor. Use all your power hand tools. Electric or air.
Ha! Ha! My now new dream system: a Honda large inverter generator.
Easy to wood gas feed.
I am waiting for the wifie to see the need and chough up the $$$$. instead of vacation scheming.
I am working now on this size of woodgasifer. One to be lighter and more portable than my current one.
S.U.

5 Likes

Sean up here almost all asphalt roofs are black. Never Obama white.
And my darkened cedar shingles do warm up a lot. South side has the most windows. All sealed double pane argon.
Two of the new houses built on the sold off property lot are the black painted . . . . eeee.
Not a good appearance at all. Looks too Goth. Dark red works. And my plastic water cans for the garden showed well that medium dark grey heated up the best in the sun.
S.U.

3 Likes

Sometimes, when read such things, I think that my perception of USA as “land of free people” must come from very old source, @SteveUnruh. :nerd_face:

5 Likes

“Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell” is the very best way Kamil.

Stepping out into social media; IS Telling as the WashingtonD.C. takeover folks are finding out.
I consider me going onto forums about wood-for-power as a step-up gift I give to others as encouragement. But this is social media exposure.
There have been costs for this telling. All here been doing this pay too.

Freedom ain’t free. It has to be earned, re-earned and payed for.
Only hard earned things have a true value.
Steve unruh

3 Likes

My hat comes off to you sir!!!

With power outages I manage pretty well on the solar for short term, but the 6500watt oldschooliefooliegasguzzler gets broke out for the big demands (facepalm) charcoal is looking good for that. Would love to upgrade to the Honda inverter flavors, some cool tricks with fuel storage and pairing can be done with them. With the ever present cost of fuel rising daily I’ll probably go with a hazard frought predated inverter special. Haven’t seen anyone gassify that dude yet

The compressor and welder are both gas powered units with the ever loyal honda gx160 on the compressor and a war horse briggs on the old hobart. That’s backup though, most of the spiny wrench fab time is done at the shop at work after hours. Home projects are light duty just to conserve power, what can be done with hand tools and such, mostly fur shed type work this time of year. Mix in some small engine repairs ( dirtbike, quad, mowers, weed eaters, chainsaws, snowmobiles and such) I can’t seem to ever put a wrench down hence I do it for a living haha

4 Likes

Charcoalman Gary Gilmore did put up that he was charcoal fueling a Harbor Freight inverter-generator. I cannot get it to search up link.
And Australian Dave does charcoal fueled inverter-generators. Chinese ones he says. He’s happy.
S.U.

3 Likes

Sometimes, the law Steve is talking about is supposedly because of consumer protection in the real estate business. People were buying homes, then finding out they were heated with wood… I get it on one level, but on another, I mean if you were buying a home, you should know how it is heated and.or the cost/time of heating in such a method. So I really suspect it was the natural gas/oil/propane industry pushing for the law change using ‘consumer rights’ as their way to do it.

3 Likes

I’ll have to see if I can search that out, iv been reading into the simple fire design a lot I think the wife could manage that system in a grid down moment if I were to be at work. The generator is electric start with propane backup just so she knows how to operate it. Doesn’t mean she WILL…but charcoal seem simple enough…chunker thoughts…I tell ya, this forum has so many irons in the fire in my head it’s going to be a busy summer

2 Likes

The key to success is to pick one, ignore everything else, and go. There is a lot of different strategies, and a lot of information and trade offs. Then after it starts paying for itself or working, then you can start making adjustments or another one which you think will be an improvement. :stuck_out_tongue:

3 Likes

The wk I started is first iv decided that, then I can use the clean out materials to start with charcoal. Waiting on parts to continue but absorbing everything I can for future use!

2 Likes

Well Marcus,
Wayne and BobMac both do run electrical generators off of their WK’s after the system has been vehicle engine pulled up to working stability.
And Wayne has said he can vehicle idle (or generator run) for a long time.

I discovered my insistence of going small on the woodgasifiers was probably the wrong approach reading these.
Sean French tried telling me this years ago.
S.U.

1 Like

I’m looking forward to pulling the truck up to the gen set, but I gotta have me a chargas powered mower! Heck I’d save 4 gallons of dino a month if I could mow the grass on the good stuff!

4 Likes

Hey Marcus I am still looking for that HF inverter unit GaryG charcoal gassed.
Here for his primary works:

Scroll to the bottom of his opening post for the participants icon/avatars. Click opening up his as the first big green G. In the upper RH corner of the summery brought up you can action click up only that persons posts in that topic. Then you can read Gary’s five years evolving 2012-17 in his 51 posts. Ha! Saves from wading through the full 323.
Quite the guy Charcoalman Gary is.
S.U.

3 Likes

scroll up for more pictures and details. Learn from the best.
S.U.

2 Likes

Donn was the one that I got the idea from I have a spare mower sitting around it would just be to cool to not do it

1 Like

The fantastic thing about the "simple fire " is that by this time tomorrow if you really wanted to run that mower on charcoal you could have a video up loaded on YouTube for us all to watch its that simple !
Once constructed and run too destruction after a hour or so you can then change out the mild steel pipe nipple for better type , be that the flute or tungsten carbide nozzle .
Dave

5 Likes