Cooperative Living April 2024 - 22

YOUR BUSINESS
It's a Brick House
Doswell company recycles sawdust to
make ecologically friendly heat source
by Audrey T. Hingley, Contributing Writer
ccording to the U.S. Energy Information
Administration's 2023 Residential Energy
Consumption Survey, Americans primarily use
electricity to heat their homes.
While heating choices may vary by region and climate,
many Virginians also have woodstoves or fi replaces that
supplement their primary heat sources.
Enter Liberty Bricks, a Doswell, Va.-based business that
manufactures and sells a fi rewood alternative commonly
called wood bricks. Th ey are located in a small industrial
park that Rappahannock Electric Cooperative helped build
the infrastructure for, some 30 years ago. Liberty Bricks are
made from kiln-dried, bark-free oak and poplar wood chips
and sawdust that founder Peter Moliterno collectively
calls " wood fi ber. "
Wood fi ber is fed into a mold, where a half-million pounds
of pressure compresses the fi ber into brick-shaped products,
held together by natural resins and the rejoined fi bers in the
wood. No glue or binders are added.
" We're just taking wood, putting it under pressure and
compacting it, making it easier to burn, " Moliterno says.
Th e bricks can be used alone or combined with traditional
fi rewood. Th ey are made with recycled wood waste that
might otherwise have gone to a landfi ll.
" We have the driest bricks on the market, so we don't
think of [similar companies] as competitors, " he says.
Moliterno, an agricultural engineer, founded Liberty
Bricks 15 years ago in Petersburg before relocating to Doswell.
Interested in energy, fuel and agriculture, he worked with
pellet mills before coming across this process.
David Roehl, who once worked at a hardwood trim
and molding facility, joined the business as a partner eight
years ago.
A
Peter
Moliterno
" Wood pellet mills cost millions to set up; this is small
scale - it is a case of fi nding a need and fi lling it, " Moliterno
explains. " I knew there was a market for it. "
Moliterno says a typical customer hears about Liberty
Bricks " when they run out of local fi rewood, or get it late in
the season and it has so much moisture they can't burn it, "
noting that 90% of the company's customers use bricks
exclusively once they try them.
Bricks can be used in an open fi replace, but primary
customers are woodstove and fi replace insert users. He adds,
" Firewood users are some of our best customers - it is real
work producing [cutting, stacking, splitting] fi rewood. "
Weaber Lumber, one of the nation's leading hardwood
manufacturers, is adjacent to Liberty Bricks and provides
them with raw materials.
" We work outside under a shed roof and Weaber is our
fi ber supplier - we call it fi ber - since you can use wood
chips, shavings or sawdust to make a brick, " Moliterno says.
Sold by weight, the bricks require less storage space than
cordwood, have no bugs and are easy to handle. Th ey create
less ash, and the low moisture means that creosote buildup
is signifi cantly less than standard wood.
Th ere is a learning curve to using bricks: Th ey ignite
easily if they are stacked in a little teepee around a few wads
of newspaper, but too many bricks loosely packed can make
stoves too hot and cause damage, Moliterno says. " Th e most
common problem is people unfamiliar with bricks can stuff
the stove and melt it by over-fueling it. Normal fi rewood
won't burn that hot, " he says.
*
For more information, visit libertybricks.com.
20 * Cooperative Living * April 2024
co-opliving.com
PHOTOS BY GREGG MACDONALD
http://www.libertybricks.com http://www.co-opliving.com

Cooperative Living April 2024

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Cooperative Living April 2024 - 1
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