When the weather turns cold, fireplaces and wood burning stoves are a great way to provide our homes with an additional source of heat and a warm and cozy atmosphere. Before you buy your supply firewood for the upcoming season, here are a few things to consider.
Buying firewood from a reputable local source promotes good forestry. Moving firewood long distances can introduce harmful insects and diseases that can weaken and kill local trees (e.g. emerald ash borers, gypsy moths, Dutch elm disease, and Oak wilt).
Spring is a great time to buy firewood. If you're willing to buy "green" wood and store it yourself until it's fully dry, you may be able to cut the cost by as much as 30%. Also, if you wait until fall to buy firewood you run the risk of having to settle (and pay) for whatever the dealer has available.
Look for the Species of Wood
Not all types of wood burn equally. It all comes down to density. Denser wood burns more slowly and has a higher heating value. In general, hardwoods (wood from leaf-bearing trees) are generally denser and can have up to twice as much heat value per cord as softwoods (wood from needle-bearing trees). Softwoods are typically easier to split, and although they may burn hot, they also generally burn a lot faster.
Know Exactly What You're Paying For
The price of firewood is generally based on the following factors:
Note: Not all species split equally as well either. This is worth knowing if you plan to split the wood yourself to save some money. Denser wood is generally harder to split. Oak, for example, has a high heating value and makes a very good firewood, but it can be difficult to split. Pine has a low heating value (burns hot, but very fast), and is easy to split.
Avoid storing wood next to the house (or other buildings)
Wood piles are havens for insects, but there's no need to turn your house into one. Store your firewood in a location that is convenient for bringing it indoors, but one that is far enough away from buildings to keep insects outside.
Keep firewood elevated
Wood touching the ground will quickly start to decompose. Keep your pile several inches off the ground by stacking the bottom rows on wood pallets or 2x 4s.
Keep air circulating
If you're stacking multiple cords, leave at least 6 inches of air space between them to allow for maximum drying.
Bring in a little at a time
A large plastic storage bin with a lid provides a nice transition (and insect buffer) from the woodpile to indoors. You can buy them in sizes as large as 45 gallons - the perfect size for storing a week's worth of firewood in the garage or under the basement stairs. When full of wood these bins get heavy, so look for styles with wheels and get help when moving it. Keep the lid on to keep traveling insects inside the bin and keep your children and pets safely out.
Have your chimney inspected annually.
Before the onset of chilly weather, have your wood burning stove or fireplace cleaned and inspected to make sure everything is in proper working order.
Burn "seasoned" wood
"Seasoned" (dry) firewood, is wood that has been cut and air dried for at least 6 months prior to being burned. Seasoned firewood has a lower moisture content than green firewood, so it ignites easier, burns cleaner, and delivers heat more efficiently than green wood. It also smolders less and deposits less creosote on your chimney. To determine whether or not the wood you're burning is seasoned, look for the following signs:
Don't overload your firebox.
A large, hot fire might seem like it will heat your house better, but it won't. You'll only end up wasting wood, and possible cause dangerous cracks to form in your chimney tiles that can lead to a house fire. Never burn garbage, large amounts of paper, or construction debris. They can produce toxic fumes, and leave dangerous deposits on your chimney.
Good fireplace habits can decrease your home's fuel consumption while maintaining a comfortable level of warmth. Make sure your firewood gets enough air to burn properly. Always use a fire screen, and close the damper when the fire is out to keep warm air from escaping up your chimney.
Also be careful of some of the wood sold at the big boxes. You don't know how long they've been sitting in the back. I'm allergic to mold and put a bundle of wood in my cart and instantly felt a reaction coming on, maybe others won't be as sensitive, but check the wood to make sure.
Excellent information! This should be very helpful, especially for people who are new to using fireplaces or wood stoves!
I would like to emphasize your tip about not burning trash. Don't put anything in your fireplace/stove that doesn't belong there. My mom threw an old Ouija board in our wood stove once & darn near burned the house down! There was a big whoosh, then it sounded like a freight train. Sparks were flying & the stovepipe turned red all the way to the 10 ft ceiling! I had to get on the roof with a hose to be sure the roof didn't catch fire. We used to tease her that all the spooks in the Ouija board were mad, but it was probably the compressed sawdust & glue it was made of!
Also, if you have a wood stove, please use a tall 3-sided screen at all times, especially if you have children or animals. Both will get to playing around & run right into it if it's not blocked. And one Fall, our cat (who'd been used to getting on the stove all summer), jumped onto the top of the stove while the screen was moved & severely burned his paws.
Good tips here. We only burn hardwoods in our stove, never pine. While a stove can keep you toasty in cold weather always keep an eye on it, especially when first starting a fire when flues are open. Make sure the fire is not roaring right before bed time. Follow the instructions. Better to be safe than sorry. Also notify your insurance co. When putting in a stove. Many states require permits, with the fire dept. Checking out the work. Keep in mind a regular fireplace when lit will suck much of the "heat" up the chimney, which you have paid for, be it electric, oil, or gas heat.
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