The Best Firewood for Winter Heat

| 11/7/2007 12:00:00 AM

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It's that time of year again when folks who heat their homes with a woodstove or just enjoy the occasional use of their fireplace think of laying in a hefty supply of cordwood.

If you have not yet ordered your year's supply of wood, before doing so you may want to consider how much heat the wood you burn will produce. The efficiency of a woodstove is based on many factors, among them are the dryness of the wood and the kind of wood being burned. For a quick hot fire the best wood is a light weight soft wood such as pine. If you want a fire that will give a steady heat and last a long time, then a hardwood such as oak is your best bet.

The chart in the Image Gallery of this article tells the BTUs per cord of 27 varieties of hard and soft woods. It also includes ratings for ignition and smoke produced when burning.

But no matter what kind of wood you burn, if it is not aged properly it will not produce the optimum heat. Green-cut wood needs to be seasoned for six to 18 months, depending on the kind of wood. And stacking the wood in the most efficient way will speed up the process, allowing the sun and wind to dry the wood.

A cord of wood is 128 cubic feet or a stack 4 feet wide by 4 feet high by 8 feet long. A 'face' cord is 2 feet wide by 4 feet high by 8 feet long. You can stack your wood in this kind of rectangular shape on in more fanciful arrangements. But however you stack it, be sure to place the wood so that there is sufficient airflow between the pieces to encourage drying.

You can read more about firewood and logging at

11/5/2012 2:17:33 AM

Hi, The why and what tree, should not be based on weight. All firewood charts say, heavier the wood (tree) the more heat available. I do not like the rinse-and-repeat what other people have said in the past. And all of it without any type of science to prove their findings. Finally, I have found a source to prove my first suspicions. The author of many sources of the facts is David A Tillman. He has written many books and the one I currently has is, "Wood As An Energy Resource", 1978 Academic Press. The short - what type of wood answer is, soft woods. If you had all types of firewood (types of trees) and all the wood had 10% water content, your soft wood would have more energy in it. Why? A huge source of heat is from Hydrogen (in the wood) and the Oxygen (in the incoming air from the draft) combines and that reaction creates water. That reaction does make a lot of heat. Also, the carbon dioxide in the heavier woods (any carbon dioxide) will not burn and is inert (has no real value or chance of burning like fuel). A good example is hitting a drum, how does it sound? Then, cover the drum with several bath towels. Hit the drum and how does it sound? It will sound quiet and not vibrate as much. That is what carbon dioxide does to fuel, if the concentration is way to high. You will need more incoming draft air to burn really hard wood. Why does maple, box elder, cotton wood burn so fast and hot in your stove? Your stove has a poor design that does not take advantage of the hydrogen in soft woods. Tillman says soft wood is better for fuel (apple to apples if all wood is at the same moisture content). I have seen many poor stove designs and only one good. Andrew

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