How to make sure you burn the best firewood


To get the cleanest possible burn, we recommend going with kiln-dried firewood. Drying the wood in a kiln both speeds up and perfects the dryness of the wood and will ease the means as to how well it will burn too. It will also make a difference too as to how clean the flame is and how much smoke is given off. It makes no end of difference if you are able to heat your home in a clean and safe manner. This is even more the case in times when there may be a cold snap which can arise right when you least expect this to happen.

It helps if you are burning from a high quality wood burning stove

Choose a high-efficiency wood-burning stove or fireplace insert for the most eco-friendly way to burn firewood for the most heat output and be sure to maintain your stove or fireplace for optimal combustion. Buying the right stove or fireplace insert in the first place helps. It in turn allows us to run them at the optimum efficiency level. This is while giving the level of heat required to heat the home. It’s a balancing act. Too big and either it overheats or doesn’t get to correct temperature and burns inefficiently. Too small and we jam them too full trying to get more heat out of them. This can in turn cause smoking, pollution and an inefficient burn.

Just like choosing, tuning and servicing a car – the looks are important. But so is the environmental impact. So think efficiency, then service and maintain to ensure your stove or fireplace continues to perform as it’s designed to. A leaking door gasket should never be left to allow excess air to enter and disrupt a clean burning process.

Carefully choose your logs

Regardless of the choice of wood for home heating, it should be sourced sustainably. This should be from managed forests that replant regularly. Preferably with a diversified mix of local species of tree. This is because these by nature are going to be the ones that grow best. They will also in turn support indigenous plant cover and wildlife. It stands to reason that we shouldn’t be cutting more than we are growing. With the best hardwoods the problem is that they tend to be amongst the slowest growing trees. When it comes to buying firewood, it is key to remember this.

Purchasing your firewood

Pitch is the resin excreted from many coniferous trees, and it is often blamed for gumming up stove pipes along with fingers. But in reality the real culprit is moisture. When the pitch dries, it acts as sort of a super charged fuel, which is responsible for the pops and crackles that you don’t get when burning hardwood, but isn’t really responsible for clogging your chimney. Regardless of how much more creosote softwood does or does not produce, you should be keeping your chimney clean anyway. So relax, and burn it if you have it.

In fact a small softwood fire can be ideal as a quick way to take the edge off of a cold house. This is all without overheating your home and leaving a big charcoal bed. It is also the best kindling you will find. In areas where a lot of people heat with firewood, there are often notoriously reputable as well as notoriously shady firewood providers. If you have a chance, ask others in your region about their experiences. Do so rather than just taking the phone number off the side of a truck.

Beware of wet firewood

You can easily receive firewood that is too wet. It may also be starting to rot, or not the species you were told it was. And it is easy to get shortchanged on a truckload of wood and not realize it until you’ve stacked it because let’s face it, the temptation is to load the truck so that you only see the best wood when it arrives and gets tipped. Purchasing firewood early in the season is often helpful for getting a quality product at the right price. By the late fall when people without a secured supply are nervous and scrambling for the best firewood, the price often goes up and the quality goes down.

Wood moist content is also vital to look into

It might be worth getting a moisture meter to check the quality of your firewood, especially if you don’t know the source, and check it before the wood gets dumped from the truck. It will cost you £65 to £90 to buy a good moisture metre, but avoiding even one miserable cold winter with wet wood smouldering in the hearth and refusing to get to a decent level of heat makes it a worthwhile investment. Operation is simply a case of jamming the prongs into the wood and reading the numbers.

Whether you are cutting your own firewood or buying it, trees should ideally be cut in the winter before the sap starts to rise. Then split and stacked in early spring. This is unless of course you’re only harvesting the naturally dead wood in a forest before it starts to decay. This is the most eco-friendly option if the most labour intensive. When you are shopping for the best firewood that’s going to give the most heat, ask when it was cut. What the wood varieties are, be selective. If the supplier doesn’t know or doesn’t want to say, keep looking would be our advice.

Wood moisture levels

Prepared and cut correctly and in the right season, the best firewood should be dry enough for burning by the fall, which means an ideal maximum moisture content between 15% and 20%. If firewood is kept too long in the stack it starts to be attacked by insects and fungi, which isn’t exactly a good plan to stack near or bring into your timber framed home either.

What you need to know about pressed logs

Manufactured pressed fire logs have become very popular. They are easy to find, and can burn well while giving a lot of heat. We aren’t talking about the ‘light the bag’ chemical fire logs that became trendy in the 80’s for instant Christmas ambience. But rather the modern day equivalent of responsibly manufactured logs for airtight wood stoves or fireplace inserts. Different brands of manufactured fire logs will have used different materials and manufacturing techniques, so do some research before making a purchase. The most eco-friendly choice would be local to your region, and won’t contain paraffin or resin adhesives to bind the logs. You can also find fire logs in different sizes. So look into the numbers regarding burning time and BTUs per log. A smaller log will light faster, but a bigger log might serve you better overnight and give off more heat.

Overall, what you need to know, in detail

There is something biologically imbedded in us that makes us want to be seen as someone who can produce a good hot fire, especially when our friends are watching. Endless blowing on, and watching a kindling pile smoke away into nothingness is not good for anyone’s ego. A smoking fire is not an efficient fire, as smoke is the result of poor combustion. This is caused by either burning wet wood, or by burning dry firewood poorly. An efficient fire should result in no visible smoke leaving your chimney. Smoke means you are polluting more. Also, you aren’t getting as much heat as you should for your money and labour. For a better burn, choose a better wood burning stove or fireplace insert in the first place.


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