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It is quite possible that a smoky fireplace or wood stove problem can be solved by using the right wood, so:

Know your wood

Species Characteristics

Firewood from different species or types of trees varies widely in heat content, burning characteristics and overall quality. Table I below presents several important burning characteristics for most species.

Green weight is the weight of a cord of freshly cut wood before drying.

Dry weight is the weight of a cord after air drying.

Green firewood may contain 50 percent or more water by weight. Green wood produces less heat because heat must be used to boil off this water before combustion can occur. Green wood also produces more smoke and creosote than dry wood. Firewood always should be purchased dry or allowed to dry before burning.

Dry wood may cost more than green wood because it produces more heat and is easier to handle.  A wood's dry weight per volume, or density, is important because denser or heavier wood contains more heat per volume.  It is best to buy or gather dense woods such as oak, ash or mulberry.

Hardwoods, or woods from broadleaved trees, tend to be denser than softwoods, or woods from conifers. Some firewood dealers sell "mixed hardwood" firewood. This may or may not be desirable, depending on the proportion of low-density hardwoods, such as cottonwood, that are included.

Table I also contains information on other characteristics that determine firewood quality. Ease of splitting is important because larger pieces of wood usually must be split for good drying and burning.

Fragrance and tendency to smoke and spark are most important when wood is burned in a fireplace. Woods that spark or pop can throw embers out of an open fireplace and cause a fire danger. Conifers tend to do this more because of their high resin content.

Woods that form coals are good to use in wood stoves because they allow a fire to be carried overnight effectively.

TABLE I. Firewood Facts

The amount of heat per cord of dry wood is presented in Table I. Heat content is shown as a percent of dry green ash, a common Nebraska firewood. Values above 100 signify a higher heat content than green ash and values below 100 a lower heat content.

Species Weight (lbs./Cord) Heat/ Cord (1,000 BTU'S) % Green Ash Ease of Splitting Smoke Sparks Coals Fragrance Overall Quality
Green Dry
Apple 4850 3888 27.0 135 Medium Low Few Good Excellent Excellent
Ash, Green 4184 2880 20.0 100 Easy Low Few Good Slight Excellent
Ash, White 3952 3472 24.2 121 Medium Low Few Good Slight Excellent
Basswood (Linden) 4404 1984 13.8 69 Easy Medium Few Poor Good Fair
Birch, Paper 4312 2992 20.8 104 Medium Medium Few Good Slight Fair
Boxelder 3589 2632 18.3 92 Difficult Medium Few Poor Slight Fair
Buckeye, Ohio 4210 1984 13.8 69 Medium Low Few Poor Slight Fair
Catalpa 4560 2360 16.4 82 Difficult Medium Few Good Bad Fair
Cherry, Black 3696 2928 20.4 102 Easy Low Few Excellent Excellent Good
Coffeetree, Kentucky 3872 3112 21.6 108 Medium Low Few Good Good Good
Cottonwood 4640 2272 15.8 79 Easy Medium Few Good Slight Fair
Douglas-Fir 3319 2970 20.7 103 Easy High Few Fair Slight Good
Elm, American 4456 2872 20.0 100 Difficult Medium Few Excellent Good Fair
Elm, Red 4800 3112 21.6 108 Easy Medium Few Excellent Good Good
Elm, Siberian 3800 3020 20.9 105 Difficult Medium Few Good Fair Fair
Fir, Concolor 3585 2104 14.6 73 Easy Medium Few Poor Slight Fair
Hackberry 3984 3048 21.2 106 Easy Low Few Good Slight Good
Hickory, Bitternut 5032 3832 26.7 134 Medium Low Few Excellent Excellent Excellent
Hickory, Shagbark 5104 3952 27.5 138 Difficult Low Few Excellent Excellent Excellent
Honeylocust 4640 3832 26.7 133 Easy Low Few Excellent Slight Excellent
Ironwood 4590 4016 27.9 140 Difficult Medium Few Excellent Slight Excellent
Juniper, Rocky Mountain 3535 3150 21.8 109 Medium Medium Many Poor Excellent Fair
Locust, Black 4616 4016 27.9 140 Difficult Low Few Excellent Slight Excellent
Maple, Other 4685 3680 25.5 128 Easy Low Few Excellent Good Excellent
Maple, Silver 3904 2752 19.0 95 Medium Low Few Excellent Good Fair
Mulberry 4712 3712 25.8 129 Easy Medium Many Excellent Good Excellent
Oak, Bur 4960 3768 26.2 131 Easy Low Few Excellent Good Excellent
Oak, Red 4888 3528 24.6 123 Medium Low Few Excellent Good Excellent
Oak, White 5573 4200 29.1 146 Medium Low Few Excellent Good Excellent
Osage-Orange 5120 4728 32.9 165 Easy Low Many Excellent Excellent Excellent
Pine, Eastern White 2780 2250 15.6 78 Medium Medium Few Poor Good Fair
Pine, Jack 3200 2488 17.2 86 Difficult Low Many Poor Good Fair
Pine, Ponderosa 3600 2336 16.2 81 Easy Medium Many Fair Good Fair
Redcedar, Eastern 2950 2632 18.2 91 Medium Medium Many Poor Excellent Fair
Spruce 2800 2240 15.5 78 Easy Medium Many Poor Slight Fair
Sycamore 5096 2808 19.5 98 Difficult Medium Few Good Slight Good
Walnut, Black 4584 3192 22.2 111 Easy Low Few Good Good Excellent
Willow 4320 2540 17.6 88 Easy Low Few Poor Slight Poor

Nice chart found while visiting a University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the United States Department of Agriculture web site.

More Firewood Notes

Wood supply preparation

Wood should be dried as much as possible before burning. Properly seasoned wood has about 7,700 BTU maximum usable energy per pound versus only about 5,000 BTU available from green wood. For best results, season or air-dry wood for at least six to eight months after cutting. This should bring the moisture content down to 15 to 20% by weight.

The best time to cut wood is during the winter or early spring before the sap runs. If the tree is felled when fully leafed out, let it lie until leaves have become crisp to allow leaves to draw out as much moisture as possible from the tree before further cutting.

Drying time is greatly reduced if wood is cut into firewood length and split, especially pieces larger than 8 inches in diameter. Splitting is easiest when wood is frozen or green and should be done before wood is stacked. Wood must be properly stacked for satisfactory drying. The greater the surface area exposed to air, the more rapid the drying. Therefore, stack wood loosely and keep it off moist ground. The stack should be located in an open area for good air circulation--avoid stacking in wood lots for seasoning.

Store firewood outdoors, under partial or full protection from the elements, and no closer than 25 feet from the house. Keep area around wood clear of weeds, leaves, debris, etc., to discourage rodents, snakes, insects, and other unwanted pests from making their home in the stacked wood. Avoid storing large quantities in the house, warm garage or basement because the heat will activate insect and fungi or spore activity and bring about hatching of any insect eggs in or on the wood.

All firewood contains water. Freshly cut wood can be up to 45% water, while well seasoned firewood generally has a 20-25% moisture content. Well seasoned firewood is easier to start, produces more heat, and burns cleaner. The important thing to remember is that the water must be gone before the wood will burn. If your wood is cut 6 months to a year in advance and properly stored, the sun and wind will do the job for free. If you try to burn green wood, the heat produced by combustion must dry the wood before it will burn, using up a large percentage of the available energy in the process. This results in less heat delivered to your home, and literally gallons of acidic water in the form of creosote deposited in your chimney.

Wood is composed of bundles of microscopic tubes that were used to transport water from the roots of the tree to the leaves. These tubes will stay full of water for years even after a tree is dead. This is why it is so important to have your firewood cut to length for 6 months or more before you burn it, it gives this water a chance to evaporate since the tube ends are finally open and the water only has to migrate a foot or two to escape. Splitting the wood helps too by exposing more surface area to the sun and wind, but cutting the wood to shorter lengths is of primary importance.

There are a few things you can look for to see if the wood you intend to purchase is seasoned or not. Well seasoned firewood generally has darkened ends with cracks or splits visible, it is relatively lightweight, and makes a clear "clunk" when two pieces are beat together. Green wood on the other hand is very heavy, the ends look fresher, and it tends to make a dull "thud" when struck. These clues can fool you however, and by far the best way to be sure you have good wood when you need it is to buy your wood the spring before you intend to burn it and store it properly.

(Notes complied from: http://www.oda.state.or.us/Measurement_Standards/laws_and_regs/fuelwood_facts.html)

 

     

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