Here at the Harvard Forest we heat with wood. Not a sweet little wood stove, but an industrial scale wood-fired furnace that heats enough hot water to make the radiators in Shaler Hall, the headquarters of the forest, and Community House, where I live, toasty. Heating seasons are long in New England, and in keeping with local tradition we tried to hold out on firing up the system until Columbus Day.



A bit of cardboard and kindling lights the industrial scale wood furnace at the Harvard Forest for the first time this heating season. The burner is fired about four times a day on weekdays, and three times on weekends. 


The glory of a beautifully split, stacked, dry woodpile. The Harvard Woods Crew is always getting ready for the next heating season, gathering and processing wood gathered entirely locally from the Harvard Forest

It takes about 100 cords of wood to keep Shaler Hall and Community House and other buildings on the campus toasty all heating season.  The Harvard Forest Thermal Biomass System — as it’s officially called — is more efficient than the old oil burner cut up and hauled away from the basement at Shaler Hall last year, the first year the wood burner was fired up. 

Taking the DO NOT FIRE warnings off the furnaces to fire the system up for the forest time was a particularly sweet moment for me after some 39 degree nights, waiting for the system to be switched on. 


Shut down no more, and I’m glad of it! There’s something so pleasing about heating a forest research center with wood, sustainably and  locally-sourced.




Another view of our glorious wood supply, the work of the Harvard Forest Woods Crew


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