Thursday, October 19, 2006


If you decide to rent a house or apartment in southern Chile in the winter there is a good chance you will have to buy firewood. It is by far the most common method of heating, as well as the most economical, given the high prices of gas in Chile.

If you have never burned firewood for heat before, it may take some getting used to, but it is not without its charm. On a cold winter day, a wood fire will be very cozy, and many find the quality of heat to be superior to gas.

When it comes to buying firewood, there are several options, and not all are equal in value and quality. Firewood is only economical if it is bought in bulk, by the cubic meter. A cubic meter of firewood should cost anywhere from 12,000 to 18,000 pesos ($24 - $36). It will be delivered directly to your house. When buying firewood there are two things to watch out for – dishonest vendors and wet wood. Almost all vendors will try giving you less than a cubic meter, as most people don’t have an exact concept of a cubic meter. To avoid this, have a tape measure and calculator ready. After the vendors stack the wood, measure all three dimensions of the stack, and multiply. An example of a common stacking arrangement is 1.5 meters tall, .3 meters deep, and 2 meters wide. Calculating 1.5 X .3 X 2 gives .9 cubic meters, which is less than you paid for. If this happens, insist on another row, or whatever quantity is necessary to give you 1 cubic meter. You must also watch out for wet wood, as it will give you less heat as well as more air pollution. It is difficult to find properly dry wood, especially towards the end of winter. If you are staying in Chile for a larger time frame, buy the wood in the summer and let it dry outside under a plastic tarp. Properly dried firewood, when burned correctly, should burn cleanly with nearly invisible smoke.

If all this sounds like too much hassle, find an apartment with a gas furnace, and expect to pay much more in heating bills.

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