As Old Man Winter turns on the cold, many of us crank up the heat to stay warm. But with the threat of high heating bills, homeowners are trying to find other ways of heating their homes this winter. Once a thing of the past, woodburning stoves, fireplaces and heat boxes are becoming a popular means of heating the home and not draining the wallet. Here are some tips to help you get the most BTUs for your buck when purchasing wood for burning:
Whether you buy firewood or cut down that dead tree in the back yard, the best woods to burn are hardwood tree species. Do not burn pine, spruce or other types of evergreens in the fireplace. They contain pitch, a sticky sap that vaporizes and is carried up the flue. As it cools, the pitch condenses on the chimney walls and becomes a fire hazard. Hardwood species do not have pitch and are not as dangerous to burn. Recommended woods, in order from most heat derived from a given amount of wood to the least heat, include Osage orange, black locust, hickory, post oak, pecan, honeylocust, mulberry, bur oak, red oak, sugar maple, green ash, black walnut, hackberry, sycamore, silver maple, cottonwood and willow.
Burn dry wood only - wood that has been cut for at least a year. Fresh or green wood is more likely to pop out burning sparks, a definite hazard. Likewise, when you add green wood to a fire, the heat has to dry it out before the wood will burn, creating a smoky fire that can cause creosote buildup in the chimney.
Finally, green wood does not produce as much heat as it burns wasting wood and money.
Do not use surface cracks on the ends of the logs as a good indicator that the wood has been seasoned. Cracks can show up just a few weeks after the logs have been cut. A better test is to knock pieces of wood together. Dry logs will have a ringing sound. Green, moisture-laden wood has a dull thud.
To store your firewood, stack it neatly, bark side up, on supports at least 8 inches off the ground. By stacking it bark side up, rain and snow will not hasten the decay of the wood. By storing it off the ground, you will help prevent unwanted insect and rodent pests from taking up residency in the wood pile.
And finally, to add a little pizzaz and spark to the fire, there are commercially available products that turn different colors when burned. Pine cones, wood chips and small wood sticks that have be treated with copper sulfate will burn with an emerald green flame. This will give you a little different look than the normal rosy-red glow of plain wood. These products are safe to use if handled and burned according to the package directions.