We often get asked about the type of firewood people should be using. The answer is will be determined by a few factors. One, of course, is your location. What type of wood is readily available in your area? Another question that must be answered is what are you going to use the wood for? Is it just for heat, or are you going to be cooking with it? Answering these questions will help you get the right firewood for your situation.
Something to keep in mind is the more valuable woods are those that have the highest density. This is because the heat produced by various types of wood is virtually the same. However, denser wood will last longer on the fire, which in turn helps you use less firewood overall. Oak, for instance, can be twice as dense as a softwood like Pine. Because of this, Oak is likely to be more expensive because you aren’t going to be using as much.
Another thing to think about is sticking with your local woods. This tends to support sustainable forestry, and it also helps keep down the transport of insects and fungi from other regions. Another big plus to buying your wood from a local producer is cost. It tends to be much cheaper because there are lower transportation costs.
Of course, the best firewood of all is well seasoned firewood. Not only is the wood going to burn more efficiently, but it is also going to be better for your chimney or stove. Since trees tend to be 40% to 60% water by weight when they are cut down, that moisture left will affect the burning of the wood. Much of the energy generated during burning will be used to dry the wood instead of producing heat for your home. Some of the problems associated with burning wet wood include excess creosote buildup and the need for more wood to keep the fire going and to provide the necessary heat for a room. It generally takes about 6 months to properly “season” or dry firewood to 20 – 25% moisture content. This will allow the fire to burn nicely but not too quickly as when the wood is overly dry. If you don’t have a hydrometer or moisture gauge, look at the ends of the firewood – if it is beginning to split or crack in places it’s probably ready to be used as fuel.