The type of the firewood that you choose to use can greatly influence both your enjoyment of your fireplace and its performance. Burning wood efficiently will reduce pollution, minimize health risks, and provide warmth for less cost. Choosing suitable firewood allows you to keep your family warm and safe by protecting your family and neighbors from harmful smoke and reducing the accumulation of creosote—the main cause of chimney fires.
By investing a few minutes of your time to better understand firewood, you will harvest the fruits of your labor once you recognize and enjoy the difference in your fireplace. Below is a quick primer on burning proper types of wood:
Moisture content. The most important factor to keep in mind when choosing a wood is to consider the moisture content. Wet wood takes more energy to burn, creates greater smoke, produces more creosote, and provides less warmth. On the other hand, wood that has been “seasoned,” or dried out, burns more efficiently than wood with higher moisture content. Some signs of dryness: cracks in the end grain, darkening of the wood to grey or yellow, a hollow sound when banged, and light weight.
Proper storage. Normally it takes at least six months for the moisture to leave the wood after a tree has been cut down. Even if the wood was cut six months prior, the wood must be properly stored by keeping it off of the ground and protected from rain or snow. Make sure your storage area keeps the wood dry and sheltered from Mother Nature’s elements.
Suitably split. The more surface area that is exposed to the flame, the cleaner the firewood will burn. Pieces should be at least three inches shorter than the size of your firebox. The smaller split pieces can be used to get the fire started; later, when the fire is well established, you can feed the fire with large pieces.
Sufficiently air and do not overload. Stuffing too much firewood into the firebox reduces the amount of the air needed for the combustion. Refuel more often with smaller firewood loads.
Softwood and hardwood. Hardwood is denser is and nearly double the weight of softwood. Softwood burns cleaner and ignites more easily, making it an excellent choice for a fire during spring or fall because it will create a shorter, cooler fire. Hardwood burns twice as long and produces twice the amount of heat, making it preferable for cold winter months to lower your fuel costs and to produce a long burning blaze.
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