Whether you are heating your home or simply enjoying a crackling fire in your fireplace, choosing the right wood can make a tremendous difference. The Chimney Safety Institute of America offers the following tips to make your woodburning experience more enjoyable and more efficient:
1. Always check your source. You can never be sure how much wood you are buying when you buy by the truckload. Buying a cord ensures that you will get what you pay for. A standard cord of firewood is 128 cubic feet of wood, generally measured as a stack 8 feet long by 4 feet tall by 4 feet deep.
2. Buy dry wood. Well-seasoned firewood, with an average moisture content of 20-25 percent, is easier to start, produces more heat and burns cleaner. An inexpensive handheld moisture meter, available at home improvement stores or local specialty hearth retailers, will allow you to test your own wood. In a pinch, you can simply bang two pieces together. When two pieces of seasoned wood are banged together, they make a "clunk" sound. When two pieces of green wood are banged together, they make a "thud" sound.
3. Nevermind the species. It is far more important that the fuel be dry as compared to the species. You don't have to burn only premium hardwoods. Less dense woods like elm and even soft maple are abundant and make fine firewood as long as you're willing to make a few extra trips to the woodpile.
4. Store smart. Wood should be stored off the ground if possible and protected from excess moisture when weather threatens. Also remember that your woodpile looks like heaven to termites, so it is best to keep only a small amount of wood near the house.
5. Check your chimney. Have chimneys inspected annually, and cleaned as necessary, by a qualified professional chimney service technician. This reduces the risk of fires and carbon monoxide poisonings due to creosote buildup or obstructions in the chimneys. Put your mind at ease by asking to see your chimney sweeps certification badge, and rest assured that you are getting the best service.
Find a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep at www.CSIA.org.