Knowledge is Power: Compare fuel costs and save.

As temperatures start to drop many people start wondering how to get the best return on their home energy investments. If you are one of those people, the Fuel Value Calculator just became your new best friend.

This basic spreadsheet contains two complementary worksheets.

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Compare energy options with the Fuel Value Calculator.

The Fuel Value Calculator will help calculate how much you could afford to pay for alternative heating fuels based on your current fuel source, its cost, and estimated recoverable heating values.

The Power Calculator will help you estimate savings when considering generating electricity from woody biomass.

The calculations in both worksheets are based on the energy in the fuels and their typical combustion efficiency but do not consider other costs (such as capital or maintenance costs, conversion costs, or fuel handling costs).

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Evaluating Wood Species and Preservatives for Highway Sign Posts

Wooden sign posts have been around about as long as roads. While most people take such roadside attractions for granted, researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory – as usual – take the time to investigate potential improvements.

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GTR-231 lead author Stan Lebow.

FPL research scientists Stan Lebow, Robert Ross, and Sam Zelinka, in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), have worked to evaluate options for alternative species used as sign posts as well as the preservatives used to enhance durability and lengthen service life. Their work is now available as a General Technical Report (FPL-GTR-231) titled Evaluation of Wood Species and Preservatives for Use in Wisconsin Highway Sign Posts.

Most wooden sign posts are made of red pine or Southern Pine. Treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA), these posts generally experience solid performance and a satisfactory service life.There are some concerns, however, including warping, sourcing of the wood, and whether CCA is the optimal treatment solution for various alternative wood species.

Warp is sometimes a problem over the long term service life of some pine posts. Use of locally sourced wood species could decrease transportation costs associated with shipping posts from longer distances while benefiting regional wood industries supplying locally sourced products. Although CCA is an effective preservative, it may not be the optimum treatment for non-pine wood species. The report reviews engineering properties and characteristics of alternative wood species such as ash, aspen, hard and soft maples, basswood, hemlock, and spruce, among others.

The report concludes that WisDOT’s current practice of using red pine or Southern Pine posts treated with CCA may be the best combination of wood species and preservatives currently available. Red pine and Southern Pine are readily available and relatively strong compared with many other softwood species. Red pine is also an important commercial resource for Wisconsin and the upper Midwest. Other potential regional species to consider include eastern white pine and soft maples. However, strength may be a concern with eastern white pine, whereas cost may be a concern with soft maples.

CCA is an effective preservative, readily treats red pine and Southern Pine, and is compatible with aluminum signs. Copper naphthenate in oil solvent appears to be one of the most logical alternatives to CCA, and would be a strong candidate for treatment of hardwoods. Copper naphthenate is non-corrosive to aluminum and would avoid warp associated with re-drying after treatment with water-based preservatives.

Durability and Wood Protection for Historic Covered Bridges in the United States

Covered bridges are iconic structures in the United States. Over half of the 16,000 covered bridges found across the globe are located in the US. Most were built in the mid- 19th century and found mostly east of the Mississippi River. The unique cultural and architectural qualities of covered bridges drive efforts to protect them from biological and physical deterioration as well as structural damage by vandalism and arsonists.

Portland Mills Bridge, Parke County, Indiana

Portland Mills Bridge, Parke County, Indiana

The National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Program, sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, was established to preserve these unique historic structures through research to restore, rehabilitate, and protect them. Vina Yang and Carol Clausen of the Forest Products Laboratory’s Durability and Wood Protection research group, presented a poster paper for the International Research Group on Wood Protection. Their poster, Durability and Wood Protection for Historic Covered Bridges in the United States, was presented at a spring conference in St. George, Utah.

The Portland Mills bridge was constructed using a Burr Arch truss.

The Portland Mills bridge was constructed using a Burr Arch truss.

Protecting covered bridges from decay and insect damage is a top goal and typically done through in-place remedial treatments. Naturally-durable locally-sourced wood species for above-ground replacement components are suitable alternatives to treated wood during bridge rehabilitation. Likewise, guidance for selection of replacement fasteners is available.

Fire is a leading cause of loss and damage for covered bridges, sometimes accidental but also commonly by arsonists and vandals. Traditional fire prevention measures such as sprinklers, alarms, and fire retardant treatments have been evaluated along with the development of new technologies based on flame detectors, fiber optic sensors, and infra-red camera systems that could be used to alert authorities to possible acts of vandalism.

Three-dimensional laser scanning is being used to document as-built design details to authenticate restoration efforts. A variety of new remote sensing technologies are also under development, focusing on continuous remote monitoring of biological and physical conditions in bridges.

Fastener Corrosion Research Garners Wood Engineering Achievement Award

Samuel Zelinka will be awarded a Wood Engineering Achievement Award at the 2014 Forest Products Society Annual Excellence Awards, Aug. 10-13, in Quebec City.

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Samuel Zelinka

Zelinka, a materials research engineer at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), analyzes the relationships between wood and moisture with a particular focus on understanding how corrosion impacts the performance of fasteners. His work is part of the Durability and Wood Protection research group at FPL.

The Woodworking Network explains that Zelinka’s work developing electrochemical-based tools to assess the corrosion potential of fasteners in preservative treated wood is what garnered him the award. His findings have led to a “new model for electrical conduction in wood as a function of moisture content that helps explain why corrosion and mold growth occur below fiber saturation.”

This year’s Forest Products Society Convention, its 68th, is a joint effort between the Forest Products Society and the World Conference on Timber Engineering. It strives to combine the knowledge and experiences of a global network of professionals exploring the state of forest products research and innovations in the field.

In 2013 Zelinka published a popular desk reference on fastener corrosion created for engineers titled Guide for Materials Selection and Design for Metals Used in Contact with Copper-Treated Wood. Zelinka received the Presidential Early Career Scientist Award in 2011, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Investigating the Structure and Function of Wood

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The Centennial Edition of the Wood Handbook was published in 2010.

Wood has evolved over millions of years to serve three main functions for itself:

  • Conduction of water from the roots to the leaves
  • Mechanical support of the plant body
  • Storage of biochemicals

As a complex biological structure, a composite material of many chemical and cell types acting together to serve the needs of a living plant, wood is a versatile material suited to many uses.

As Alex Wiedenhoeft writes in Chapter Three of the Wood Handbook, there is no property of wood – physical, mechanical, chemical, biological, or technological-that is not fundamentally derived from the fact that wood is formed to meet the needs of the living tree. Wiedenhoeft is a research botanist at FPL, working within the Engineering Properties of Wood, Wood Based Materials and Structures group and affiliated with the Center for Wood Anatomy Research.

The three primary functions of trees have influenced the evolution of approximately 20,000 different species of woody plants, each with unique properties, uses, and capabilities, in both plant and human contexts. Chapter Three categorizes the biological structure of wood at decreasing scales, from the whole tree and tree types, to axial and radial systems, vascular cambium, growth rings, and cellular differences. Wiedenhoeft also examines the appearance of wood as sawn lumber in terms of color and luster, grain and textures, slope of grain, knots, and decorative features. Chapter Three wraps up with a section on the importance of wood identification from a scientific perspective.