There’s simply no escaping OpenAI’s ChatGPT. The revolutionary AI chatbot helper has been all over the news recently. Search the web and you’ll see thousands of alarmist articles saying it will make millions of programming jobs redundant with its ability to write computer code, make the sportswriting profession a thing of the past with its ability to generate articles from match statistics, and even replace teachers for high school students.
But our business here at Lekto is supplying high-quality wood fuels to customers in the UK. So what we want to find out most is whether it can the AI can function as your in-home wood fuel expert.
To find out, we asked ChatGPT to give us its best tips for heating with wood fuels. Our in-house team of wood heating experts (some of whom have over 20 years of experience in the field) then took a close look at these tips and gave them a score from F to A+.
So let’s take a look at the results!
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What Is ChatGPT?
OpenAI’s ChatGPT (short for Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer) is an artificial intelligence chatbot that humans can interact with via a chat form. It was created using the state-of-the-art GPT-3.5 large language model and fine-tuned using such techniques as supervised and reinforcement learning.
The chatbot writes clear, coherent sentences and can hold a conversation with you on a variety of topics. You can ask it questions just about anything and it will spit out a convincing-sounding result. It can tell you everything from how to make a simple cocktail to how to choose a gaming computer.
But is the AI’s information accurate? Let’s find out. We’ve asked ChatGPT to give us 7 wood fuel tips and asked our experts to rate them. Let’s look at the results.
How Can I Get ChatGPT?
The older, less sophisticated ChatGPT model can be used by anyone via OpenAI's official ChatGPT website. The more modern ChatGPT4 is available to use via the ChatGPT plus subscription. Several sites are capitalising on the AI craze by offering free ChatGPT bots embedded into their sites. And if online access is important to you, then Microsoft's Bing Chat AI is the choice for you. As of today, Bing Chat is the only way for you to get a GPT4 chatbot with internet access.
ChatGPT Tip #1: Tips on Choosing and Burning Dry Wood
ChatGPT wrote: Start with dry, seasoned wood. Freshly cut wood can contain up to 50% moisture, which can reduce its heating efficiency and increase the amount of creosote that builds up in your chimney. Look for wood that has been cut and stored for at least six months, or purchase kiln-dried wood.
Tip Score: D
While avoiding wet wood is sound advice in and of itself, this tip contains several factual inaccuracies.
First is the claim that freshly cut wood can contain upwards of 50% moisture. There are actually certain tree species that contain over 110% moisture when freshly cut as wood moisture is calculated as the relation of water weight to wood matter weight.
ChatGPT is correct about excess moisture reducing the burning efficiency of firewood and leading to creosote buildup in your chimney. This being said, the AI doesn’t tell us how dry should your logs be in order to burn safely and efficiently. According to expert consensus, logs should be dried to at least under 20% moisture. This is the number used by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs for its Ready to Burn firewood quality standard.
The next tip is downright dangerous. ChatGPT suggests we look for firewood that has been stored for at least six months. This is wrong on many levels. While some firewood species can, indeed, reach moisture levels of under 20% in just six months, this is more of an exception than the rule.
Energy-dense oak logs, for example, can take upwards of two years to dry properly. Secondly, and this is the dangerous part, drying your logs and simply storing them are two completely different things. Simply storing your logs in a shed won’t magically make them dry. In fact, chances are your firewood logs will begin to rot and harmful mould will appear quickly on them. Burning such logs, even if they are properly dried later on, can be downright dangerous for the health of your loved ones.
We’ll give this tip a D. While it does contain a grain of right advice, following the AI’s suggestions to the letter may harm your health and the health of those you love.
ChatGPT Tip #2: Use a Fireplace Insert Instead of an Open Fire
ChatGPT wrote: Use a wood stove or fireplace insert. These appliances are designed specifically for burning wood and can be more efficient at heating your home than a traditional open fireplace.
Tip Score: C
This is a rather commonsense tip, so there’s nothing overtly wrong with it. Indeed, a dedicated wood-burning stove or insert will, in general, burn a lot more efficiently than an open fire. But you don’t need to be a wood fuel expert to understand that. While open fires do provide some heat, their primary function is to look nice, instead of delivering efficient heat for your home.
We’ll give this tip a C because there’s nothing overtly wrong with it, although calling it a proper “tip” might be a bit of a stretch.
ChatGPT Tip #3: Ensure Proper Air Flow
ChatGPT wrote: Use proper ventilation. Proper ventilation is essential for safely and effectively heating your home with wood. Make sure your chimney is in good repair and that you have adequate air flow to support the fire.
Tip Score: B
Ventilation is definitely not the right term to use here. The term we are looking for is adequate airflow. While this may seem like a nitpick, it’s anything but. As many years of experience tell us, whenever you mention the word ventilation, inexperienced users more often than not reach for their windows, rather than their airflow controls (this isn’t a joke).
As far as ensuring that your chimney is in good repair, this is sound advice. We recommend you have your chimney inspected at least once a year. A qualified chimney sweep should be able to perform the inspection. Sometimes they do so free of charge. Sometimes you may have to pay a small price.
As far as the importance of having adequate airflow to feed your fire, this is very sound advice. Fire needs a steady supply of fresh oxygen to burn efficiently.
We’re giving this tip a B. The chatbot isn’t overly careful with its choice of vocabulary, but the advice about having your chimney in good repair and ensuring proper airflow is sound.
ChatGPT Tip #4: Take Advantage of Your Airflow Controls
ChatGPT wrote: Use a damper to control the flow of air. A damper is a valve that controls the flow of air into the fireplace or wood stove. By closing the damper when you're not using the fireplace, you can reduce the amount of warm air that escapes up the chimney.
Tip Score: C
This one really had us for a second. Had ChatGPT told us about the ways in which you can control the burn speed and temperature of your wood fuels via the proper use of a damper, we would’ve rated this tip an A, but alas we’ve arrived at another non-tip. A text that reads coherently but carries no helpful information.
The chatbot started talking about a damper, but failed to explain how to use it properly. Closing and opening it fully is a basic activity that no reasonable wood fuel user doesn’t know about.
We’re rating this tip a C, since it lacks helpful information but isn’t overly harmful.
ChatGPT Tip #5: Use a Humidifier
ChatGPT wrote: Use a humidifier. Dry air can be uncomfortable and can also make it feel colder in your home. A humidifier can help add moisture to the air, making it feel warmer and more comfortable.
Tip Score: F
This tip is utter nonsense. During the cold parts of the year, dry air will always feel warmer than humid air. This is because the water particles suspended in the air are great heat conductors. So the more humid your air, the faster it will cool your skin and the colder you will feel.
This being said, wood stoves can cause the air in your rooms to become drier than you might want them to be. A humidifier is one solution to this problem. Another solution is to place a metal bowl or bucket on top of your stove and fill it with water. The heat will make the water evaporate and replenish any lost moisture.
ChatGPT Tip #6: Avoid Using too Much Wood Fuel at Once
ChatGPT wrote: Avoid overloading your stove or fireplace. Piling too much wood into your stove or fireplace can cause the fire to burn too hot, which can be unsafe and waste fuel.
Tip Score: A
Finally! A tip that can actually help a real human being. Using too much wood fuel is a common mistake that almost any novice wood fuel user makes at one point or another. As a result, you might encounter several problems.
If you’re lucky and your fuel burns at a safe temperature, you’ll simply overheat your rooms and will have to open the windows to cool them down. This is wasteful but it isn’t dangerous.
If you’re unlucky, your appliance may get damaged by the excess heat. For example, when used improperly, our ultra-hot-heating Hardwood Heat Logs can cause wood stove glass to shatter and metal elements to bend.
But the worst thing that can happen is that your wood fuels will begin to expand and will pour out of the stove and onto your floors, starting a fire. So please be careful when working with fire. Less is more. Especially when you’re trying out a new wood briquette fuel.
We’re giving this tip an A. While the information is nothing groundbreaking, this ChatGPT tip can actually be quite helpful for new users.
ChatGPT Tip #7: Close Wind-Facing Doors and Windows
ChatGPT wrote: Close the doors and windows on the side of your home facing the wind. This will help keep the cold air out and the warm air in, making your home more comfortable and efficient to heat.
Tip Score: F
This one brings me back to the mid-2010s. It’s exactly this type of nonsense that earlier AI chatbots were famous for. Sentences that make grammatical but not logical sense. It’s hard to imagine someone heating their home with their windows open. And even if such a bizarre person did exist, this tip wouldn’t help them as it only tells them to close some of their windows, not all of them.
We’re giving this word soup of a paragraph an F.
Conclusions: Sometimes Impressive But Often Inconsistent
It’s safe to say that ChatGPT won’t be replacing Lekto’s team of wood fuel experts anytime soon. A lot of the information supplied by OpenAI’s chatbot doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. And while we did manage to extract some nuggets of truth from it, this only happened because we knew the answers ourselves ahead of time.
If you’re a novice wood fuel user, do not trust ChatGPT to teach you everything you need to know about it.
Instead, we recommend you read our expert-written blog posts that are targeted at beginners:
- Wood Heating 101: The Complete Beginner’s Guide
- The Ultimate Guide to Briquettes: All You Need to Know to Make the Switch
- The Ultimate Guide to Firewood: All You Need to Know
- Frequently Asked Questions About Firewood
- The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a Chimney Sweep
- Wood Fuel 101: What Is Chimney Creosote Buildup?
- Wood Heating Showdown: Softwood Logs vs Hardwood Logs