Why are solar panels so trustworthy? They don’t work in the shadows! Okay, bad solar jokes aside you may have heard of solar lumber kilns recently. You may be wondering if they are a kiln type that may work best for you. We tackle the topic of solar lumber kilns vs traditional lumber kilns and how to decide which one is better.
Kilns fix the typical fresh-cut or green lumber problem of containing a large amount of water inside of it. This moisture content affects a wood’s finish, strength, and stability. Air-drying lumber can lead to pest infestations or other natural defects from being left out in the elements for months at a time. Removing the water or moisture content in a sealed container like a kiln will be important to produce a predictable amount of high-quality dry lumber.
Properly dried wood has a high market value and allows many market segments to work with wood easily, getting better final results. Furthermore, you can use different drying methods to strengthen the lumber, lower the moisture content, preserve color, control shrinkage, reduce weight, and kill bugs and fungus.
Traditional lumber kilns and solar lumber kilns are the common drying methods you can consider for removing moisture or water from your lumber. Despite the ongoing debate on the best drying methods, solar lumber kilns offer the most efficient and affordable methods or mechanisms to reduce wood’s water content for at-home solutions. Traditional kilns typically hit the sweet spot for the efficiency of drying large board feet order in less time. This article provides comprehensive solar lumber kilns vs traditional lumber kilns comparisons to help you choose the appropriate one for your needs.
Table of Contents
What is a Solar Kiln?
There are a ton of build plans for various at-home solar kilns to remove moisture from wood. These drying kilns rely on the collection of heat from the sun to power your kiln, which is useful in evaporating water or removing moisture in lumber. Unlike using solar power to create electricity in homes or offices, you can’t control or save the energy you need to make the kiln more or less effective. What you see in the sky is what you get. What you lack in control, you gain with a cheap energy source. Solar kilns help produce a better option to air-drying wood.
Thus, when you require to remove a certain amount of moisture from your lumber and need a particular heat requirement, you won’t be able to check and forecast the heat levels easily. However, the solar drying mechanism has been popular among most woodworkers and small dealers to remove water from their lumber cheaply. Despite the numerous financial benefits of using solar kilns, the process may be unpredictable, especially if it depends on the weather.
Nevertheless, you can control the solar kiln drying process to a small extent using electric fans. These fans help circulate air through the kiln to enhance heat circulation. Many small wood dealers prefer solar kilns to traditional ones due to their “more effective than air-drying” and cost-effective nature of the drying process. Solar drying can take over 8 – 12 weeks to complete because many climates don’t give you the perfect weather required to finish quickly. Typically if you have small orders for kiln-dried wood, or you only build a few furniture pieces a year, building and using a solar kiln may be the best choice for you.
What is a Traditional Kiln?
For many years lumber suppliers used traditional kilns to remove moisture from lumbers. This kiln drying method uses heat from a furnace, hot water coils, or steam to heat the kiln chamber. Heating the kiln chamber helps dry water from wood quickly without relying on the weather to keep an even heat temperature in the kiln. This process can use uses various energy sources, such as electricity, burning wood, coal, etc., to achieve the most efficient results.
After removing the water from the lumber, the system turned it into water vapor through evaporation, exhausting the kiln with heated air. Traditional kilns use huge amounts of heat to remove certain amounts of water or moisture from the lumber, which requires regular air circulation. The need for more heat reduces these kilns’ energy efficiency and effectiveness compared to dehumidification kilns which we talk more about later.
For instance, a traditional kiln requires drawing approximately 400 cubic feet of air to remove one pound of moisture. Remember, the kiln has to heat the air before exhausting it with evaporating water. Despite providing high-quality results, the high heating requirements make this drying process more heat and energy-demanding.
Solar Lumber Kilns Vs Traditional Lumber Kilns – Main Feature Comparisons
When you consider traditional and solar kilns as the popular methods to remove water or content moisture from the lumber, it’s time to find out why. Despite their popularity and several similarities, these drying methods have some big differences. Below is the solar lumber kilns vs traditional lumber kilns comparison:
Despite performing the same task of removing water or moisture from timber, these processes have varying energy requirements. Unlike traditional kilns, solar alternatives have fewer energy requirements depending on weather conditions or other factors. You can consider using your preferred renewable energy sources to get the appropriate heat to remove water from the lumber.
In contrast, traditional kilns require more energy as the process requires you to heat more air and water to evenly remove the moisture from the lumber. You can reduce your energy requirements by drying your lumber using the dehumidification kiln. The huge energy requirement makes this process less effective for large-scale wood dealers seeking to remove water from large wood or lumber chunks.
The operational cost of a lumber kiln is vital when removing water from your lumber. Most likely your kiln’s power bill is one of the bigger ones you pay every month. highest operating cost. Solar kilns sound great because an alternative to high gas or electricity bills makes our accountant excited. The allure of reducing the cost of removing water or moisture from your lumber is tempting. When using solar kilns, you don’t require a large amount of energy to generate huge volumes of heat, as most of the process will depend on the sun in various weather conditions. Many new wood dealers are switching to this alternative to reduce or save on drying costs. On the contrary, traditional kilns use more costly energy sources, such as coal, water, electricity, wood burning, etc., to achieve the heat you require to remove moisture from the wood.
Traditional and dehumidification kilns use a lot of energy when compared to the free energy provided by the sun. However, these kilns can dry wood in 4-8 weeks of time to produce a high-quality product with the promise of complete control over the entire process. Dehumidification uses less energy than traditional lumber kilns because dehumidification kilns recycle the hot air it produces through the kiln
Traditional kilns are the fastest method to dry or remove moisture content from your timber. Compared to the different alternatives, like the solar drying kilns, using traditional kilns allows you to dry the lumber in a much shorter timeframe. Solar drying kilns require about eight weeks or more due to weather changes. Traditional kilns can finish the drying process in a little over a month, rain or shine.
Furthermore, the process reduces the profitability of the wood, as you can’t dry more lumber simultaneously. However, unlike the solar method, which requires huge water and air heating volumes to remove moisture from your wood, solar kilns require less time. Therefore, traditional drying kilns offer an alternative for commercial wood dealers to the solar drying method.
Solar and traditional kilns have different mechanisms of action. If you aren’t ready to manage a Kiln, solar kilns may work for you. If you don’t want to miss out on large orders coming through for kiln-dried wood. You will find kilns to be attractive. For instance, the dehumidification kiln recycles the heated air that circulates over the wood to remove water content as opposed to continually pumping gas-powered steam in a traditional kiln.
Traditional kilns heat lumber with steam pupped through large pipes and exhaust the moisture and hot hair generated to remove the moisture content. You require more heat and energy to remove all the moisture or water content in a traditional lumber kiln than in a dehumidification lumber kiln.
Furthermore, after removing the water in the lumber, the dehumidification kilns pass the heated air over a cold refrigeration coil to condense it into liquid form before passing it out as a cool stream. In contrast, the traditional system releases the heated air as a cloud of steam. The easy functioning process of solar kiln drying makes them a greater alternative for a farmland owner or DIYer who want to dry lumber or wood sparingly over an extended period.
Solar Lumber Kilns Vs Traditional Lumber Kilns- Which is Environmentally Friendly?
Experts reveal that solar kilns are the common ways individuals remove moisture or water from the wood. Although solar kilns use less power than the traditional ones, these kilns are more harmful to the environment than the traditional ones. Traditional kilns use more common heat sources, such as gas, coal, etc., which makes them more environmentally friendly to protect all living things, unlike solar kilns.
In contrast, solar kilns use and produce more heat and energy during the drying process, which is usually harmful to the environment. Therefore, when using solar kilns, it’ll be vital to consider effective sources or types that use renewable energy. These alternatives will be vital to power the process and reduce the environmental effect. The process will lower the production of pollutants and toxic gases, such as harsh air pollutants, greenhouse gases, etc.
Energy is essential to removing moisture from lumber or wood. Besides requiring less energy for the drying process, solar kilns dry lumber for longer than conventional kilns. Furthermore, when using the solar kilns to get rid of moisture from your lumber or wood, you require less control after setting the process. Thus, these properties make the process not effective and efficient for your commercial timber use.
The main drawback of this drying process is the ineffectiveness of drying huge amounts of wood or lumber for your commercial needs. Remember that big lumber producer or millers must churn out or remove more kiln-dried wood in less time to maximize production and profit. The removal of more dried wood in a short time allows them to maximize profits. Furthermore, the more the wood or lumber stays in the kiln, the more costly or expensive the process becomes.
How Dehumidification Kilns Works
Dehumidification kilns use a proper heat pump system to enhance the drying process for the best results when removing moisture from your wood or lumber. It’s the best alternative to get satisfactory results with zero drying defects. The energy efficiency of this type of kiln is typically mentioned when answering the question of how it stacks up to solar lumber kilns vs traditional lumber kilns. Below is the process of how the dehumidification kiln works:
The first step of using the dehumidification kiln is making the wet lumber with high moisture is the preparation phase. Stack hundreds of board feet with thick stickers in between each wood slab to help promote an even moisture removal. Preparing the wood allows it to reach an appropriate saturation point as the drying process starts. Remember, during the process, the outer portion will reach the fiber saturation point, approximately 28 to 30% before the inner portions. It’ll be good change the heat settings to accomdate specific species or thickness of your lumber to achieve optimal results.
The kilns start removing the moisture from the wood by heating and drying its atmosphere. During the process, the outside dries faster, making the outer fibers shrink. With the lumber’s interior core having a fiber saturation moisture content, it’ll prevent the shrinking of the exterior shell. The process will develop tensile stress on the exterior and interior compressions. These compressions are vital to remove the appropriate amount of water from the wood, producing high-quality results.
Remember, the process may result in a drying defect if the maximum tensile stress exceeds the exterior fiber. You can avoid these defects by drying the load at reasonably controlled temperatures. Furthermore, increasing the temporary relative humidity will also help reduce the surface check. This stage is essential when using the humification kiln, as any mishandling can result in a drying defect or collapse.
During the drying process, the board’s center will lose more moisture falling below the fiber saturation point. The center will shrink, while the other fibers with a different tension set will prevent the interior from shrinking. This process stresses the inner portions and builds up stress on the outer wood portion (casehardening).
Experts reveal that casehardening is a vital step in removing all moisture from the interior surface of the wood. Case hardening occurs due to the wood’s surfaces stretching larger than their normal size. Remember, the case hardened materials exhibit different cupping tendencies on the wood’s interior and exterior surfaces. The tendencies make the dry cores resist the wet surface lumber’s expansion, leading to compression sets.
To make the wood stress fee, the amount of compression stress on the lumber’s face should equal the previous tension set. This similarity will help accomplish case hardening relief and even reverse the kiln atmosphere controls. The heating system allows you to take kiln samples to help you check the overall performance of the kin and process.
It’ll be vital to select the kiln sample during the stacking duration. Remember that the number of samples you can take depends on the wood’s characteristics and condition. Furthermore, it’ll be wise to consider the final intended uses of your material and the type of kiln when monitoring the samples. The wood’s central section is the best location to obtain your moisture content and stress development as the drying process continues. You’ll do this wether or not you like the final ruling of solar lumber kilns vs traditional lumber kilns.
Solar Lumber Kilns Vs Traditional Lumber Kilns – The Bottom Line
Removing moisture or water content is the best way to create high-quality wood customers love, to prevent shrinkages, reduce weight, and control pest infestation. We’ve got numerous kilns you can use to remove the moisture content from your wood like solar lumber kilns vs traditional lumber kilns. Other dehumidification kilns and the traditional kilns don’t measure up to our evenheat kilns designed to optimize wood drying at every nook and cranny in a kiln.
Despite the similarities, dehumidification kilns offer the appropriate way to remove wood moisture without drying defects. The method offers a cost-effective, energy efficiency, ease-to-use and effective process to get rid of water from the lumber to achieve high-quality products. Get in touch to hear more about our highly praised lumber kilns and see which is the best fit for you and your business.