How to select the best firewood

November 6, 2014

With the rising cost of home energy, burning wood has become a viable, thrifty way of heating your home. With winter on the way, now is the perfect time to stock up on firewood. Selecting the best firewood means you get more heat for less money and effort. Here are a few tips on how to select the best firewood to keep your home cozy all winter long.

Purchase and burn only seasoned firewood

Seasoned firewood is dry wood that has a moisture content of only about 20 to 25 per cent. It's not wood harvested from live, green trees which usually average a 45 per cent moisture content. Seasoned firewood has mostly been cut from dead trees that have had ample time to dry-out in the woods.

Picking types of firewood: hardwood versus softwood

Both hardwood and softwood firewood varieties are commonly burned as a home's heating source in North America, but each type has distinct properties that should be taken into consideration when picking a type of wood to burn.

Hardwood types

Hardwoods come from trees such as ash, hickory, hornbeam, locust, apple, wild cherry, oak and maple. Firewood obtained from hardwood trees are the most coveted of all fuel wood types, and considered the best wood to burn as a heat source. Compared to softwoods, hardwoods are quite dense and have the highest BTU (British Thermal Units), so they give off the greatest, most consistent heat. You should be prepared to pay more money for hardwood firewood.

Softwood types

Softwoods come from trees like birch, aspen, larch, willow, silver maple, cedar, fir, spruce and pine. They light quickly and make for ideal kindling. Unfortunately, they are not as dense as hardwoods, so they burn up more quickly. Softwoods tend to be laden with ample sap which makes the firewood spark. The sparks can burn skin, carpets and furniture. They may even fly up the chimney and start a roof fire. Despite the danger of a possible fire, the low price of softwoods makes them a common firewood choice in North America.

Wood to avoid

You should always avoid any type of wood that has been treated with chemicals or painted for use in construction. Such wood often causes creosote to build up in the chimney, which can ignite into a flue fire. Treated or painted woods may also give off toxic fumes when burned that could be harmful to your health.

Selecting the correct firewood to burn as fuel during the winter helps with your home's energy consumption and ensures you stay toasty warm during the coldest seasons.

How to select the best firewood
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