If you live in an area where wood stoves are a main source of heat, you have probably already heard or taken part in the common argument over which type of wood burns best.
Everyone seems to have their own preference, but if you are looking for definitive answers to beat those arguments, we have done the research for you and made a list of the best types of wood based on length of burn time, fragrance, abundance and overall satisfaction with results. Between ease of splitting and how often you have to put another log on the fire, here are the results to keep your work staying warm down to the bare minimum. You may be changing your mind, and your wood, quicker than a wood chuck could chuck wood.
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding which wood burns best in wood stoves. Heat per cord, or HPC, measures the BTU’s by the millions and typically ranges between 20-30, 30 producing the best and longest coals. Apart from HPC, there is ease of splitting, the amount of smoke produced, strength of fragrance and how easily it will spark, jumping out of your stove and causing house fires or serious injury.
Also, it is necessary to consider your region and how easily you can obtain certain types of wood, whether you are clearing the logs yourself or buying by the cord.
Here are the top 5 woods to burn for your heating pleasure. We’re counting them down, 5 to 1.
5. Birch. Starting with the lowest rating, birch is a common wood used mostly in the northern hemisphere where pines take a considerable amount of time to grow. The main benefit of burning birch is the coveted bark, full of essential oils that can easily be lit regardless of wind or damp conditions. It emits a very low spark and the density produces a decent coal that can typically last through the night. With a HPC of 20.8, birch burns with a medium amount of smoke, and splitting difficulty is also medium in comparison to other types of wood. It has a fragrance that can be slightly overpowering if you catch a cloud of smoke in your face, so overall birch has been given a rating of fair when burning in a wood stove.
4. Black Walnut. Found throughout the upper and lower Midwest and East Coast, and sporadically on the West Coast, black walnut is a strong, dark wood that is less dense than the standard oak. Although it is a great wood for building everything from cabinets to gun stocks, it is still incredibly easy to split and emits a very low amount of smoke when burned in a wood stove. The fragrance of black walnuts is extremely pleasant to most. Unfortunately, the logs do create a few more sparks than the above mentioned birch wood, so it is advisable to watch your stove before shutting it up for the night. Burning with a HPC of 22.2, black walnut rates as overall excellent. (Because of the toxicity of black walnut, it is best to use it in an EPA-approved wood stove.)
3. White Ash. If you live anywhere other than the West Coast, and not including South Florida, white ash is one of the most highly cultivated and readily available woods for almost any use you can come up with. This strong, straight, dense wood makes a great burning log but splits with a medium difficulty. White ash is only slightly fragrant and produces a good coal that will retain heat for quite some time. The HPC rating is 24.2 and it emits a low level of spark, making it ideal for open fireplaces. Although white ash does produce a slightly thicker smoke, it is still only medium in comparison to other woods. All in all, this readily available wood comes in as excellent firewood.
2. Honey Locust. Here is a timber that the world will actually thank you for burning. Technically considered an invasive weed in other countries, honey locust can be found almost anywhere in the United States, with the exception of Washington and Oregon states. For being such a nuisance, the tree actually has relatively high HPC, approximately 26.7, and produces excellent coals, reducing the amount of the wood that will be needed to burn throughout the cold winter nights. Honey locust creates sparks about the same as black walnut and birch, but is extremely easy to split and produces a minimum amount of smoke. Only slightly fragrant and a quickly replenished source of solid fuel, honey locust receives a slightly higher than excellent rating when it comes to burning in a wood stove.
1. Oak. With over 600 variant species throughout the world, oak is a timber that can be found in any state and is widely available for thousands of uses. Let’s narrow down to the top 4 oaks and talk about burr, gamble, red and white, although most types will still match these specifications. Splitting difficulty for oak varies from each species but can typically be described as a medium chopping wood. The wonderful fragrance and low smoke emitted from oak makes it a great choice for burning in wood stoves. And with a HPC rating anywhere from 24.6-30.7, oak is simply one of the best types of wood that you can burn. The sparks from ignition and random pops that will occur while burning mean that you should keep a close eye on open flames, but through and through oak is rated as a highly excellent burnable firewood.
Regardless of the type of wood you choose to burn in your wood stove, always make sure to practice the highest safety precautions, especially throughout the winter season when fires are burning almost constantly. Always burn wisely, and stay safe!
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