Sunday, November 3, 2013

How To Buy Firewood

    Firewood produces the most heat into the home and is more enjoyable to use when it is dry and seasoned. The difference between “dry” and “seasoned” is that you can have seasoned wood, meaning dead or down for a year or more, that is saturated with water from rain or other sources. A tree that has been dead for a long time may not be dry due to water wicking up from the ground into the wood.

When Is The Time To Buy?
    Spring is the best time to get your firewood whether you cut it yourself or purchase it. In Shasta County the hot dry summer will season wood adequately for next season use. Therefore you can take advantage of lower firewood prices in Spring, access to the woods for wood cutters before forest fire season begins, and a sure supply of seasoned wood for a safe warm home next winter, if you get wood now.  No matter what a wood supplier says, wood cut only a few weeks ago and not seasoned by storing it stacked with free air movement around it will not be seasoned in a couple of weeks or even months. Fresh cut wood can be 50% water! When you burn unseasoned wood you use your heat to dry the wood out before it starts burning. This is a waste of fuel heat.
    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.

How Much Wood Is A Cord?
    Insist that your wood supplier bring your wood tightly stacked in the back of the truck and measure the length X width X height to see if it comes out to 128 cubic feet. 4’ high by 4’ deep by 8’ long is the traditional measurement of the volume of a cord. A stack 5’ X 4’ X 6’ is 120 cubic feet for example. When you measure be sure to deduct for wheel wells under the wood, or for spare tires, gas cans, and chain saws. There is no practical value in using terms like “rick of wood”, “face cord”, “tier” or other terms. Just figure out how many cubic feet it is as stacked and you’ll know how much you are getting. Wood piled as opposed to being stacked in a truck measuring  4’ X 4’ X 8’ may have as little as 60 actual cubic feet of wood due to air spaces between pieces. Make sure it is a nice tight stack. Most people in the “valley” who heat solely with wood burn about two cord a year in a woodstove or insert. We’ve used a whole cord of oak in three weeks when trying to heat in an open fireplace. New wood stoves burn about 25% less wood than older stoves from the 1980’s with up to 95% less air pollution.

Storing Firewood
Even well seasoned firewood can be ruined by bad storage. Exposed to constant rain or covered in snow, wood will reabsorb large amounts of water, making it unfit to burn and causing it to rot before it can be used. Wood should be stored off the ground if possible and protected from excess moisture when weather threatens. The ideal situation is a wood shed, where there is a roof but open or loose sides for plenty of air circulation to promote drying.

What Is The Best Wood To Buy?
    In Shasta County there are a number of good wood species to use for firewood. Most wood contains around 8,200 BTUs per pound. All of the oaks, cedar, lodge pole pine, douglas fir, red fir etc. all fall into this category. The softer woods are not as dense as oak and thus weigh perhaps half as much in a given size. Therefore it may take twice as much soft wood to produce the same BTUs as oak per the same volume. Since the soft wood has less wood (less dense) compared to a piece of hardwood the exact same size it  burns twice as fast. Wood burners tend to turn the air down to slow the burn with soft wood – therefore creosote forms. Softwoods will burn clean with the correct fuel/air mix. Hard woods will form creosote if not enough air is supplied. Think of someone trying to save gas by driving with their choke on. Black smoke and unburnt fuel will come out the tailpipe. There needs to be enough air. The softer the wood or the smaller the pieces the more air needs to be supplied for efficient burning.
     Some wood has high ash content. Any of the oaks from below about 2000’ will leave relatively large amounts of ash which needs regular removal from the firebox. Walnut is very high in ash. Cedar, black oak, almond, and fir tend to burn with little ash residue.

Manzanita burns REALLY hot. We have seen it warp the inside of a stove and even burn a hole through the side. The best way to use it is to use one small piece at a time – 1” – 1.5” diameter X 12” long – This will raise firebox temperatures and has the advantage that it coals up nicely like a charcoal briquette.  Manzanita is great for searing steaks on a BBQ.

 Artificial Logs
Artificial logs are either pressed wood (like Presto Logs) or a wood/wax combination (like Dura-Flame).  Some are not for use in wood stoves – read the label – though they could be cut in pieces and used for fire starter. Also some sort of explode when you poke them.

    We hope this article helps you choose the best wood and brings you an enjoyable wood heat experience. If you have questions or need a firewood supplier please call us at 530 221 3331 in Redding, 530 527 3331 Red bluff, or 530 .924 3164 in the Chico area.

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