How to Choose the Best Firewood

Getting maximum benefit out of alternative home heating methods such as high-efficiency wood stoves and fireplace inserts depends in large measure on choosing the best firewood and storing it properly.

When it comes to home heating fuel, not all wood is created equal. The best firewood is well seasoned, stored in a dry place, and comes from a slow growing hardwood tree species.

The following tips for choosing firewood can insure that your high efficiency alternative home heating stove or fireplace insert provides affordable warmth and comfort year after year:

  • Choose the best tree for the best firewood. Any wood can be burned for heat, but only properly seasoned, dry hardwood burns cleanly. Choosing firewood from black locust, hickory, pecan, oak, or honey locust trees creates a clean, slow burn. Softer woods from trees like the silver maple, cottonwood and willow burn much more quickly and create more ash and waste. Mulberry and Osage orange woods spark when burned and should only be used with doors that can be closed tightly. Pine and evergreen woods create tar and pitch when burned and are not ideal for home heating use.
  • Season firewood at least six to nine months. Choosing firewood is only the first step toward creating the best firewood. All firewood must dried or ‘seasoned’ before use or it will not burn well or burn cleanly. Six months is the bare minimum amount of time to season firewood. A year of seasoning is even better, and some woods benefit from drying out even longer than that.
  • Store firewood properly. Another important part of choosing firewood is learning to store it properly. Stacking and storing firewood right after cutting it prevents mold from growing and from being released into the air when the wood is burned. Firewood should be split into appropriate lengths about three inches shorter than the burn box of the fireplace or stove, then stacked off the ground at least three feet away from the house to discourage any insects in the wood from damaging siding or entering the interior. Covering stacked firewood isn’t essential, though some people prefer it.
  • Don’t take the seller’s word. Lots ad for firewood promise that the wood has been seasoned for an entire year, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. If you cut the wood yourself, plan on cutting one year before winter, and burning the wood the following winter at the earliest. If you purchase firewood, try to cure it six to nine months anyway for best results, no matter what the seller says or promises.

Choosing firewood that insures a slow burn, minimal waste, and maximum warmth and efficiency starts with choosing the hardest variety and then seasoning and storing it correctly.

Sometimes every homeowner has to burn firewood that is less that top grade, but by seasoning, storing, and cutting the wood correctly it is still possible to maintain an energy-efficient warm home all winter long.

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Related links:

Firewood Splitter Basics

Firewood Storage Tips

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