It’s practically heating season in the mountains! As fall and winter are upon us, it’s important to plan ahead if you burn wood.
You may have heard that burning dry wood is better, but you may not be aware of how essential it is to the environment. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with tips on how to choose the best dry wood to maximize heat and minimize air pollution.
The truth is, burning wet wood can cost you money and cause dangerous creosote buildup.
Burning wet wood has two negative consequences:
- Your fire will smoke more, causing creosote build up in your stove and chimney.
- Your wood will burn less efficiently, costing you more to create the same amount of heat.
When you burn wet wood, some of the heat that would be released to your home must be used to heat and boil off residual water. In addition, energy is released in the form of smoke. This smoke is both a pollutant and can cause irritation to your eyes, throat, and lungs.
Every year when we clean out chimneys and wood stoves we see massive amounts of creosote build-up from owners who probably didn’t understand the necessity of burning wood with the proper moisture content. Please keep your family and your home safe by burning only wood that is properly seasoned and ready to burn.
Your wood needs to dry below 20% moisture content before it is ready to burn.
Cut wood takes at least 6-12 months to dry, but there are a lot of factors that affect it. Drying time depends on weather conditions, how covered it is, airflow, and the type of tree the wood comes from. Split wood will dry much faster than whole logs. Your firewood should be kept off the ground, and with a covering over the top to protect it from rain or snow.
Things to consider when purchasing firewood:
If you’re purchasing firewood, there are a number of things to keep in mind. Firewood can be purchased under several designations:
- Green wood: While green wood is the cheapest option, it also requires drying out. You should have a suitable place to store the wood (keeping it dry of course!) for 6-12 months before burning.
- Dried wood: Dried wood is a bit more expensive but should be good to go from the dealer. It’s still best to ask questions and check your wood to ensure it’s below 20%.
- Kiln-dried wood: Kiln dried wood is the most expensive option but has the most quality control. If you’re looking for the more environmentally-friendly option however, it’s best to use naturally dried wood.
- Seasoned wood: “Seasoned” is not a technical term, so if you come across this from a supplier, you’ll want to ask lots of questions. Ask when the wood was cut into rounds – not when it was felled! (Remember: the drying process happens much faster for cut wood). And you’ll definitely want to check the moisture content yourself before using seasoned wood.
How do you check the moisture content of wood?
While there are various DIY techniques to test the moisture of your wood, the most accurate and easy way is to use a moisture meter.
Moisture meters are relatively cheap (anywhere from $15-$50+) and are straightforward to use. You’ll want to split a piece of firewood and test the freshly cut side.
The EPA provides a good instructional pamphlet on how to use a moisture meter. Just remember, you’re looking for a moisture content below 20%.
Remember: The moisture content of your wood is a matter of safety.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that while burning dry wood will save you money and effort, it’s also about keeping your home and loved ones safe. Buildup in your stove or chimney is a serious matter that requires immediate attention.
If you’ve made the mistake of burning wet or green wood in the past, schedule a service call for your cleanup today, and make sure you stick to drier wood in the future. Our certified chimney sweep carries a moisture meter and would be happy to test your wood.
Always remember to plan ahead when it comes to your firewood. If you’re cutting it yourself or buying green wood you’ll want to ensure you’re giving it plenty of time to dry before you use it in your woodstove.