In the United States there are over 12 million wood burning stoves in use and in recent years their popularity has increased dramatically. There are many reasons for their popularity, but perhaps the major reason they are in demand is due to wood being one of the cheapest fuels to burn. Wood is far cheaper than gas, oil and electricity and this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down, especially with energy companies increasing their prices on a routine basis.
However, there are many types of wood out there, so it’s essential you know your Ash from your Oak, as it can seriously save you a lot of time and money. The truth is that all types of wood are not equal, in fact far from it, some woods don’t burn well at all and should be completely avoided; this is because woods vary in burning qualities and properties.
Dry Wood is Best
It’s also important to realise that although there are certain green woods than can be burned, it is certainly not ideal. The most efficient way to burn any type of wood is to dry it out completely, if not obvious this is because the water content can impact the way the wood burns. If there’s too much water content you will probably discover a number of issues, the first one being a weak flame which won’t produce very much heat. Also, you will probably find the wood does not keep alight for long, especially in more damp areas, for these reasons burning damp wood is a bad idea, it will waste time and produce little heat.
So Which Type of Wood Should You Use?
As mentioned there are many type of wood and believe it or not, they are all chemically very similar. The main factor that affects the way wood burns is the water content and density of the wood, for example hard woods such as oak and maple contain more energy per cord and as a result produce more heat per load. Additionally they produce long lasting fires.
Softer woods like birch, pine, spruce and poplar are not as dense, burn quicker and do not yield a long-lasting coal bed when burned. For this reason they are not ideal, especially in colder climates or seasons.
Traditionally the hardwoods were reserved for winter and cold weather use, and softer woods such as birch are used during the summer and spring months. However this isn’t always convenient, so the go to wood to burn on your stove should be ash or beech wood, these both burn very slowly in comparison to other woods such as willow and spruce. Additionally both ash and beech produce a steady flame and produce considerable heat, these are the two most important qualities to look for in a good wood to burn.
How to Dry Out Wood
Now you know the type of wood to source for the best efficiency and heat output, you should concentrate on drying your wood. This isn’t usually a problem, since most people buy wood from a supplier, however if it’s newly chopped wood it will need processing. Wood should ideally have a moisture content of 20% or less which you can measure with a moisture meter.
Before storing your wood, it’s a wise idea to split it, ideally no more than 6 inches in diameter, this increases exposure to the air which is essential for the drying process to occur. Always make sure your wood is stored away from the ground and for at least 12 months.