Many homeowners go to great lengths to ensure that their fireplaces are operating in the most efficient way possible. What they might not realize, however, is that the fireplace they use in their wood burning appliances can also impact their performance and efficiency.
Because there are many different types of firewood to choose from, selecting the right wood may seem intimidating. While choosing firewood ultimately comes down to personal preference, there are several other factors to take into consideration.
Types of Firewood
Not all wood is created equally. Each type of tree has its own burning characteristics. Some burn faster or slower, others burn at lower or higher temperatures, and others still create more or less smoke. Although each tree is unique, wood can be divided into two main categories: hard woods and soft woods.
Hard Woods: Hard woods are dense, heavy woods that include species such as ash, birch, and oak. Hard woods burn at medium to high temperatures, produce little smoke, and are easy to split. Additionally, they are often the easiest woods to find, making them the most inexpensive fuel source. Because of their burn characteristics, hard woods are generally considered to be the preferred firewood.
Soft Woods: Soft woods are trees that have needle leaves, such as evergreens, firs, pines, and spruces. Softwoods ignite quickly, making them ideal for use as kindling. However, most soft woods are not recommended as firewood because of their low burn temperatures and the large amount of smoke they create.
Pretreated Wood: Pretreated wood is any wood that has come into contact with paint, glue, or other chemicals. This wood is often used in decking, fencing, or playground materials. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, homeowners should “never burn coated, painted, or pressure-treated wood because it releases toxic chemicals when burned.”
When homeowners hear the word seasoning, many think about what they use while cooking, not something that pertains to their fireplace. In the context of firewood, however, seasoning refers to the process in which wood is allowed to dry before being burned. Fresh cut wood is made of up as much as 50% water; after the seasoning process, there is only 15-20% moisture content left.
Removing the moisture allows the wood to burn more efficiently at hotter temperatures while producing less smoke and creosote.
For most wood, the seasoning process takes 6-12 months. Because of the length of time it takes, some homeowners choose to season their own firewood to ensure it is done correctly. If buying pre-seasoned firewood, ask how long the wood has been seasoned before purchasing.
Firewood should always be stored outdoors and homeowners should only bring in as much wood as they immediately need. Wood should be stored in such a way that the bottom row does not come into contact with the ground; storing wood directly on the ground can allow moisture and bugs into the woodpile. Likewise, wood should be covered to prevent snow, rain, or ice from sitting on top of the woods, but the sides should be left open to prevent moisture from getting trapped.
If you have questions about the best wood for your fireplace or how to help your wood burning appliance burn more efficiently, contact the experts at Coopertown Services today!