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Mountain Firewood Kilns – Upgrades Quality & Meets USDA Regulations

Mountain Firewood Kilns – Upgrades Quality & Meets USDA Regulations

By Maya L. Brewer
Date Posted: 1/1/2010


            Mountain Firewood Kilns (MFK) and SII Dry Kilns (SII) and have combined their ingenuity to create an updated small firewood kiln that meets USDA government regulations. Within the last three months, the two companies have met, compared notes, and engineered a product that is unique to the current firewood kiln industry.

            By using this kiln, firewood producers will satisfy the US government’s requirement that all firewood be heated to a core temperature of 160 degrees for 75 minutes. An internal monitoring device to insure temperature consistency is also included in the kiln along with batch number indicators to verify the quality of the kiln-dried firewood. Producers will have accurate proof of their product.

            As the threat of the Emerald Ash Borer continues to grow, the USDA has had to establish regulations to prevent the devastation of hardwood forests. Since the first US discovery of the Emerald Ash Borer in southeastern Michigan in the summer of 2002, the pest has been transported to Canada, western Ohio, northern Indiana, northern Illinois, Maryland, western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Virginia. In the spring of 2009, Minnesota, New York, and Kentucky also reported sightings.

            Since the discovery of the Emerald Ash Borer, tens of millions of ash trees have died in Michigan alone. Tens of millions more have been lost in the remainder of the reported areas. The USDA has enforced quarantines and fines on the affected states and Canada to prevent potentially infested ash trees, logs or hardwood firewood from infecting other areas.

            According to Bill Latulip of Mountain Firewood Kilns in Littleton, New Hampshire, the Emerald Ash Borer and the Asian Longhorn Beetle are the two biggest pests right now. He stated that New York is currently doing the most of any state right now in terms of “cracking down” on transporting tainted wood products.

            With the USDA increased temperature requirements for heat treating firewood, Bill knew he needed to make some upgrades for his small firewood kilns that could take up to 200 degrees intermittently. He also needed to include sophisticated components that would monitor and make records for each batch of wood.

            Bill brought his product to SII Dry Kilns of Lexington, North Carolina, where his request was seriously considered. As he and Brian Turlington, inside sales, and marketing manager of SII, explored the options, they discovered that there were mutual benefits of the two companies joining together in improving the quality of Bill’s small firewood kiln.

            For SII, a 40-year old family-owned company which manufactures high quality industrial drying equipment for commercial lumber, pallet and firewood companies with more than 1,000 kilns worldwide, it meant breaking into the small firewood drying sector. For MFK, the liaison meant taking his equipment to a whole new level, being able to market it with a reputable company in the industry, and having two locations from which to build and ship his product.

            Bill and Sherri, his wife, began their own manufacturing business, Mountain Firewood Kilns, which supplies both firewood drying and pallet kilns. Each of their kilns is custom-built by using a used sea container, a standard-height refrigerated box, or a 40-foot long road trailer. Bill has sold an average of ten kilns per year since his business started. He currently has 90 kilns currently in use and has supplied components for costumers who have their own containers. (Each container holds five to six cords of wood or approximately 250 pallets)

            According to Bill, the customer supplies his own hot water boiler, which can be fueled with wood, heating oil, kerosene, propane, or natural gas. Or another option is to combine the kiln with an existing in-building boiler. Other heat sources, such as wood, propane or oil boilers, are also available for the MFK kilns which operate in either outdoor or indoor conditions.

            With SII’s adaptations, the kiln can be built in a 220 single-phase system or a 230/420 three-phase system with 300,000 BTU stainless steel and aluminum finned heating coils and a 32,000 CFM air circulating system. Upgrades to his former model also include new 100% aluminum dampers and a windows-based touch screen controller / monitor system.

            One of the benefits of Bill’s kilns is that they’re very flexible regarding the type of fuel required. The units can be fired by multiple fuels such as firewood, pellets, natural gas, propane or even sawdust. In fact, three of his customers are currently using sawdust quite successfully.

            In order to dry wood, baskets are also needed. Set right beneath the processor, the wood drops from the conveyor into the basket. Depending on the style of drying baskets, five to six cords (4x4x8 cord) of wood can be dried at a time. Basket trailers used in drying firewood can be built to hold 1 cord of wood or fitted to hold 1/4 of a cord. MFK offers their customers several options for creating baskets or trailers to fit their customers’ individual needs. MFK has standard trailers available, different-sized baskets with rollers for accommodating loader capacities, and smaller baskets for skid steers.

            According to Bill, the size of the basket depends on what equipment the customer already owns. For a one-cord basket, a front-end loader or a 6,000 pound fork lift is required. This particular basket also has dump trip gates in the front to release the wood into a truck or storage container so the wood doesn’t need to be handled manually.

            Formerly the drying time took three to five days at 140 degrees, depending upon whether the firewood was frozen, while seasoned wood only took one to three days. But now with the new upgrades, Bill commented “it only takes one and a half to two days to get the wood to approximately ten percent moisture content.”

            Being portable with no need for a concrete foundation or permit is one of MFK’s kilns most unique features. This attribute increases the functionality of the product while limiting the time and cost incurred for site preparation.  Just like any other piece of equipment, the kilns can be stationed upon pavement or concrete pads, or on gravel beds. This can save a potential customer thousands of dollars in foundation costs. It allows the units to be portable if necessary.

            The family operates their facility from their log cabin with an adjoining shop where they pre-wire materials and fabricate some of their baskets. Partnering with SII allow us to utilize their 50,000 square feet manufacturing facility with state of the art metal fabricating equipment. Thus allowing us to produce at a much larger volume with shorter lead times from either location.

            Bill is expecting his workload to triple over the next year. He’s anticipating selling over 30 units in 2010. He and SII already have already sold two of the “ new and improved” units and have over 20 active quotes. The majority of those are from New York. The basic cost of the unit is $33,500 and the price varies depending on the type of power, whether the unit is a three-phase or a single-phase, and the inclusion of the upgraded recording system.

            “SII and I now have the best kiln out there for the money,” Bill stated confidently. “I think it’s really going to take off. Now being able to offer it in two locations is a shot in the arm for me.”

            For SII, this is the first time that their company has ever joined with another company on a joint venture, especially in this line of business where they would seem to be competitors. Brian noted that “SII has always offered a high production kiln for heat treating & firewood drying, the “HT” series, but the cost is higher than many customers are prepared to pay. This new and improved MFK unit allows us to compete in the lower cost, lower volume arena, without having to sacrifice quality or durability. With the new USDA regulations, our timing for this project seems to be very good and I believe it will prove to be very beneficial for both of us and our future customers.”

            MFK / SII will continue to show their products at various tradeshow including the Northeastern Forest Products Equipment Expo show May 7th & 8th in Essex Junction, VT. For more information you can contact either Bill Latulip at (603) 444-6954 or Brian Turlington at (800) 545-6379 or visit www.mountainfirewoodkilns.com or www.siidrykilns.com.

 




 






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