Skip to main content

Choosing the best wood for your fireplace or wood insert

If you burn wood to heat your home you undoubtedly have an interest in choosing woods that are clean-burning and productive in terms of heat produced. You will get the best results and generate more heat per wood volume when burning the highest density (heaviest) wood you can find.

Dense firewood will produce the highest recoverable British Thermal Units (BTUs), but all wood must be "seasoned" for optimum heat production.The seasoning process is simply a matter of allowing the wood to dry in order to lower the moisture content. Dry wood burns more efficiently, with fewer hydrocarbons going up the chimney. It's estimated that even a mildly wet log loses fully 5% of its available energy vs. burning a dry log. When burning a wet log, a considerable amount of energy is spent driving off the water, which reduces efficiency.

The Best Woods to Burn by Species

There are several variable properties in different wood species that affect the chances for sustainable, cleaner heat. The best wood species are hard hardwoods that have dense cells, with green (and dried) weights that are relatively heavy. These species will give out more heat when measured in BTUs than softer woods.

The best burning firewood species:
  • Hickory: 25 to 28 million BTUs/cord—density 37 to 58 lbs./cu.ft.
  • Oak: 24 to 28 million BTUs/cord—density 37 to 58 lbs./cu.ft
  • Black Locust: 27 million BTUs/cord—density 43 lbs./cu.ft.
  • Beech: 24 to 27 million BTUs/cord—density 32 to 56 lbs./cu.ft.
  • White Ash: 24 million BTUs/cord—density 43 lbs./cu.ft.

By comparison, softwoods such as white pine may generate only about 15 million BTUs/cord.Other woods with acceptable burning characteristics include maple (20 to 25 million BTUs/cord), elm, birch, and cherry (about 20 million BTUs/cord). 


Other Considerations


Sheer BTU potential is, of course, a big consideration when selecting a wood for burning, but it is not the only one, and it may not be even the most important. In general, heavy, dense woods will always produce more heat than softer, more porous woods. But there other things to keep in mind:

Availability and cost: Hickory is a great wood to burn, but it might be expensive if your region doesn't grow much of it. In some communities, a second-tier wood, like maple, might be a more realistic choice due to sheer availability.
 Difficulty of splitting: If you are splitting your own wood for use in a fireplace or woodstove, the splitting characteristics of the wood will make a big difference. Woods with predominantly parallel grains, including oaks, ash, and hard maple are easy to split. Those with interlocking grain, such as elm and sycamore, are notoriously hard to split. 
Burning characteristics: All firewood burns in three distinct stages: in the first stage, the wood is being heated to a point that fully drives all moisture out of the cells. In the second stage, actual flames are chemically combining oxygen with carbon to produce flame as the wood is consumed. The third stage, known as "coaling," is when the wood is reduced to glowing embers that radiate a lot of heat.It is this stage, not the flames themselves, that produces the most heat. The ideal wood species for a heating fire are those that pass through the flame stage with a minimum of smoke and ash, and then spend a long time in the coaling stage.By all measures, the five species mentioned above all fall into the excellent category for heat-producing woods, with oak and hickory winning top honors.



















information cited from  Steve Nix at thoughtco.com

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Chimney and Fireplace Anatomy and Definitions

Listed below are chimney and fireplace terms and definitions as well as a diagram of a traditional masonry fireplace and chimney.



Anatomy of a Chimney
Chimney Crown – Your chimney crown protects your chimney from water damage entering through small cracks. Without a proper chimney crown- or if you have a cracked one, rain water seeps into the bricks and mortar of your chimney structure. Even minute amounts of water can result in brick flaking, mortar deterioration, and unsightly salt deposits on your chimney. Eventually, the bricks and mortar break up enough that the chimney is no longer structurally sound. 
Flue – A flue is simply a passage for conveying exhaust gases from an appliance to the outdoors. A flue may be a duct, pipe, vent, or chimney. An unlined chimney is technically a flue, even though an unlined chimney is a fire hazard.
Flue Lining – For a safe flue, a lining must be used to ensure minimal accumulation of flammable debris. This lining should be stainless steel or speci…

Chimney Sweep FAQ's

Why should I have my chimney inspected?

According to the National Fire Protection Association, chimney’s should be inspected or cleaned annually. The chimney and fireplace / furnace system is quite complicated and an inspection can alert you to a potential problem before it becomes a costly repair or a safety issue. Many times homeowners are unaware of problems that may exist.

There are 3 levels of Chimney Inspections that can be done depending on each individual case. It is always a good idea to schedule your inspection and cleaning in the late summer or early fall, before you begin using the chimney or furnace during the heating season. Many of our customers request to be on a regular annual schedule for this work. Another important time to schedule an inspection is if you have changed to a new furnace or if you have just purchased the home and want to be sure about the condition of the chimney system.


How does a Chimney Sweep clean a chimney? Will it make a mess?

At Lehigh Valley Chi…