When most of us think about fireplaces we imagine cozying up in front of a roaring wood fire. Unfortunately, open hearth masonry fireplaces are among the least efficient heating appliances, with as much as 90% of the heat produced by the fire going straight up the chimney. For homeowners who want the look and feel of a real wood fire – without the extreme inefficiency – a wood burning insert is often the perfect solution.
If you have a wood burning insert, it is important to use the right kind of firewood to keep it burning safely and efficiently. For inserts – and for all wood burning appliances – seasoned firewood is the best choice for firewood.
What is seasoned wood?
Seasoning wood isn’t about salt, pepper, or your favorite spices! Instead, it refers to the process by which wood is cut, stacked, and exposed to the elements to dry. While the seasoning process can anywhere from six months to a year – or longer – it is the only way to get the best wood for your fireplace.
The primary purpose of the seasoning process is the removal of moisture from the wood. When wood is cut it contains as much as 40-50% water. The water content in freshly cut or “green” firewood makes it difficult to ignite, burn sluggishly, produce greater amounts of smoke, and creates additional creosote. After seasoning, the moisture content in wood is as low as 10-20%. This lower moisture content helps the wood ignite and burn quickly and at higher temperatures, making a better fire and a more enjoyable experience for you and your family.
Tips for finding the best firewood
Unless you cut, chop, stack, and store your own firewood, finding properly seasoned wood can be a challenge. When shopping for firewood, the following tips can ensure you are getting the best seasoned firewood for your wood insert.
- Find a reputable seller. Ads for firewood can be found online, in newspapers, and even posted in local hardware stores. Before purchasing, make sure to ask questions about the wood: What kind of wood is it? When was it cut? How long has it been seasoned for? Reputable sellers should be able to easily answer any questions about the firewood they are selling.
- Decide how much to buy. Unless you are buying a few logs at a time, firewood is typically sold by the cord and can be broken into sections of half, quarter, or third cords. Because cords are not measurements typically used in everyday life, it can be difficult to visualize how much wood this is. A cord of wood will measure four feet high by four feet wide by eight feet long. The amount of wood you use will depend on the size of your home and fireplace, how often it is used, and whether or not it is used as a primary heat source.
- Only burn seasoned wood. Wood or wood products that are prefabricated, pre-treated, or painted are never suitable for use in an fireplace insert. This includes plywood and fencing and decking materials. The coatings on these kinds of wood can release toxic chemicals into the air when burned.
Choosing the right firewood can help you get the most out of your wood burning fireplace insert. For more information on the importance of seasoned firewood or to find a new wood burning insert for your home, contact The Cozy Flame today!