Selecting Firewood for your Fireplace
Not all firewood is going to provide you with the same results, even when properly seasoned. The secret to choosing the right firewood for your particular needs is to know the different types of wood that are available to you and the characteristics of each. This might seem like a lot of information to learn for something as basic as building a fire; however, as the old adage goes, “you get out what you put in.” Here are a few tips in selecting the right wood for your fireplace that will produce a better burn and keep your fireplace and chimney healthy.
Always season before you burn!
Excessive moisture in firewood of any kind will decrease its burning efficiency. The smoke that results from burning green or unseasoned wood is nothing more than energy that’s going straight up your chimney instead of being translated into heat for your home. Wood smoke is more than a sign of an inefficiently burning fuel, however; it’s also extremely unhealthy! Smoke consists of tiny particles that are capable of evading your body’s natural defense mechanisms. Excessive smoke can also create a dangerous situation inside your chimney, as it causes increased amount of creosote to build up, which could eventually lead to a chimney fire.
Regardless of the type of firewood you use, it’s supremely important that you season it, as all of it contains moisture. Seasoning takes place when the moisture content in the wood reaches equilibrium with that of the surrounding air. A common method of seasoning wood is simply stacking it outdoors in a spot that allows for good air circulation and is dry, sunny and open for approximately six months out of the year. Seasoning in this manner will produce wood that is dry enough to support efficient combustion and has a higher heating value than unseasoned wood.
There are two basic types of firewood, softwood and hardwood. Softwoods—pines, spruces and firs—start burning easily. Typically, these woods have less potential British Thermal Unit (BTU) energy than hardwoods (meaning they give off less heat). Softwoods also smoke much more than their hardwood counterparts. The one true advantage softwood has is that it lights very quickly because it’s less dense; this quality makes it an excellent choice for kindling for any fire. Hardwoods—oaks, maples and cedars—on the other hand, don’t start burning quite as easily but burn for a long time. Per square inch, when compared to softwoods, they have much more BTU potential than other types of wood and, therefore, burn hotter and more steadily.
Building Your Fire
The easiest and best fire is built by using a mixture of both softwoods and hardwoods. A bed of ashes underneath the grate produces steady heat and aids in igniting new fuel as it‘s added. This will ensure that the fire will continue burning as long as small amounts of wood are added at regular intervals. As a matter of fact, more efficient wood burning results from burning small loads of wood with sufficient air than from burning large loads of wood with minimal air.
It is far more important that your firewood be dry and seasoned as compared to what type of wood you’re burning. Having both soft and hardwood on hand is a good idea. You can use the softer woods for kindling and for fires during cooler months when only a small amount of heat output is desired and save the harder woods for the coldest months. Keeping these things in mind will make you a much happier homeowner and will make the cold months of the year much more enjoyable for you and your family.
Whatever type of firewood you ultimately decide to burn, it’s important to get your chimney inspected and cleaned annually. Call one of our certified chimney professionals today to make sure your fireplace and chimney are safe and ready for the burning season. We look forward to discussing your chimney and fireplace needs with you. Chimney Saver Solutions is always ready to be of service.