There are a number of ways homeowners care for their fireplace systems, including regular maintenance, damper position, and soot removal. However, many do not realize that the kind of firewood they use can significantly impact fireplace performance.
Not all firewood is created equally; various kinds of wood have their own burning characteristics such as smell, smoke production, burn temperature, and even how quickly it ignites. Firewood can be divided into two categories: hardwoods and softwoods.
Hardwoods are heavy, dense woods with leaves that change color in the fall and include species such as birch, ash, maple, and oak. Hardwoods are known for burning at high temperatures and producing little smoke. Because they burn well, are readily available, and are inexpensive, hardwoods are considered the preferred firewood for indoor fires.
Softwoods are trees with needle leaves such as evergreens, firs, and pines.Softwoods are trees with needle leaves such as evergreens, firs, and pines. Softwood ignites quickly, making it ideal as kindling. However, softwoods also burn at lower temperatures and produce a large amount of fragrant smoke. Because of this, they are best used in outdoor fire pits or smokers.
- Pretreated wood.
Many homeowners try to recycle old fencing, decking, or other scrap wood by burning it in the fireplace. However, the Environmental Protection Agency, states “never burn coated, painted, or pressure-treated wood because it releases toxic chemicals when burned.”
After finding the best type of firewood for your home, it is important to make sure the wood has been properly seasoned. Seasoning wood is very different than the seasoning you do in the kitchen; instead of adding spices, seasoned wood is wood that has been cut, stacked, and allowed to dry while exposed to wind and sun. Most wood should be seasoned for 6-12 months before being ready to burn; if buying pre-seasoned wood, a firewood dealer should be able to tell you how long the wood has been seasoned.
Seasoning wood is important as it helps remove moisture from the wood. Freshly cut wood is made up of as much as 50% water; when this green wood is burned the fires ignite slowly, burn sluggishly, put off more smoke, and create additional creosote buildup in the flue. Seasoning the wood can reduce the moisture content to as low as 15%, making the wood ideal for use in indoor fireplaces.
How you store your firewood is just as important as the type of wood and seasoning process. Wood should be stacked outdoors either in a fireplace rack or on top of concrete or plywood; doing this ensures the bottom layer of wood does not come in contact with the ground which prevents rot and insect infestation in the woodpile. Likewise, the top of the woodpile should be covered while the sides are left often; this keeps moisture from rain and snow from seeping into the woodpile while still allowing air to flow through the wood pile and continue the seasoning process.
Using the right firewood can help your fireplace burn more safely and efficiently this winter. For more information on the right wood for your home contact Coopertown Services today!