Cutting Your Own Firewood

Learn from a research forester the best techniques and tips for selecting the best trees and cutting firewood.

  • We use more heat energy in our homes than any other energy.
    Photo by Pixabay/StockSnap
  • “Backyard Woodland” by Josh VanBrakle helps readers who own forestland take care of their woods and get the most out of their forest property.
    Photo courtesy of Countryman Press

Backyard Woodland (Countryman Press, 2016) by Josh VanBrakle helps readers to care for and appreciate the woods in their backyard. As the first ever guide of its type for nurturing the land in Americans’ care, this book helps the 10 million Americans that own forestland to give it the attention and care it deserves. The following excerpt is his guide to cutting your own firewood.

When you think of carbon emissions, two big sources come to mind. One is electricity: big coal plants spewing carbon dioxide into the air. Driving is another: all those cars burning all that gas.

But there’s a third way we use energy, one that receives less attention. It’s heat. The US Energy Information Administration reports that we use more energy to heat our homes than any other home energy use. In northern regions like the one where I live, home heating consumes more energy than all other home energy uses combined. 

Much of that heat comes from fossil fuels. Natural gas and electricity dominate, but fuel oil and propane are also common, especially in rural areas without natural gas infrastructure.

When we burn these fuels, we release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that has been trapped for millions of years. That’s not good for the climate. But if we burn wood, especially wood we’ve grown ourselves on our woodlots, the wood contains carbon that was in the atmosphere recently. That means we’re not introducing new carbon from underground into the system. Plus, if we’re careful about which trees we use, we can speed up the pace of carbon storage on our woodlands and draw even more carbon from the air. That’s a climate win-win.

Of course, that climate benefit depends on harvesting the right trees. How do you know which ones to cut, and which to leave? Here are some tips on choosing your firewood trees so they both keep you warm and your woodlot growing well:

10/27/2020 2:34:20 PM


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