Dry it once
September 10, 2011 | 7:00 pm CDT

Q: We are trying to save money by getting a small dry kiln and drying the lumber ourselves. We are looking at a DH (dehumidifier) electric kiln. The electric company offers us a fantastic rate if we use "off-peak" electricity, which means that we need to shut off the kiln in the afternoon on many days. Is this okay?

A: One of the fundamental rules of drying, especially when drying greener lumber, is "Once drying begins, never let the lumber regain moisture." If you shut off the kiln, it is possible that the lumber will regain some moisture during the shutdown and during the start-up. So, there is a risk of degrade, such as checking and stain.

Let's put this into perspective: Green lumber might cost an average of $600 per thousand board feet (MBF). The difference in price between green lumber and kiln-dried lumber is often $300 per MBF or more. By going to off-peak rates, you will likely save at most $15 in electricity. Is it worth the risk of developing some degrade and losing both your profit of $300 plus your initial investment of $600?

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Gene Wengert

Gene Wengert, “The Wood Doctor” has been training people in efficient use of wood for 45 years. He is extension specialist emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.