Q. We are thinking about using wood for heating our shop. Anything we should be looking at?
A. First, contact your insurance company to make sure you are covered in case of a fire. Oftentimes, an insurance company can provide assistance. They would rather spend a little time with you now than have you make a claim later.
Second, I cannot comment about the safety aspects of using wood. Make sure you review them carefully, including the low combustion temperature of wood dust compared to solid wood fuel.
Third, wood (especially larger pieces that have not been dried) stored for burning can harbor the lyctid powderpost beetle. I cannot give you the details in this column, but you do need to cover this risk in detail and make sure that you do not have these insects around your wood used for manufacturing products. This insect is especially troublesome because the wood may show no sign of their activity for a year or two after the wood is infected (eggs are laid).
Fourth, we always should use a heating plenum for the air used for burning. That is, air used for burning should be outside air and not the air in the plant. If the air inside the facility is used in combustion, you will constantly be bringing outside cold air into the plant and when you heat this cold air, the humidity will often drop under 20 percent MC. This very dry condition can cause shrinkage issues in the wood. With fresh air always coming in to the plant, we will be unable to humidify the plant to the typically required 38 percent RH. A plenum system allows for much less fresh air entering the plant so we can likely control humidity.
Fifth, because of the many issues with wood heating in a manufacturing situation, I encourage you to work with a wood heating consultant. We have had too many cases of fire within our industry; I suspect that prevention steps are very worthwhile.