The Return of the Firewood Season
As cooler weather sets in, many of us start thinking of getting some wood ready for our fireplace or woodstove. A wood fire can provide a pleasant, inexpensive and environmentally-friendly way to heat your house. Here are a few tips for getting the most from your firewood:
Be safe. Have your wood burning system cleaned and inspected before use. A small fire that you might burn at the beginning of the season can actually be dangerous: “cooler” fires can result in increased formation of creosote. Creosote is a black residue from wood smoke that can accumulate on the inside of chimney pipes. Eventually this creosote layer may ignite and burn at dangerously high temperatures. Dirty chimneys should be cleaned before use. Using dry firewood and burning hot fires periodically can help to keep your chimney clean.
Dry firewood is the best. Ideally, your firewood should have been cut to length and split no later than in the spring. This allows the heat of the summer to dry out (‘season') the wood. Dry wood is easier to get burning and ensures that the heat from the fire goes to heating the house and not to evaporating water. Stacking and covering your firewood pile in an area where the sun and wind hits it can help to speed the seasoning process.
Hard wood provides more heat. Tennessee is lucky to be home to many tree species that produce hard (dense) wood, so finding good firewood species here is pretty easy. Oak, hickory and hard maple are all dense woods. Keep in mind that any tree species, including those with softer wood (e.g. yellow poplar, gum and pine), will burn well if dry. The difference is that, for a given size piece, harder woods provide more fuel. The means you don't have to fill the stove as often.
Relax and enjoy! Besides the heat and the attractive flames, you can take comfort in the knowledge that wood is an abundant, local, inexpensive, renewable and carbon-neutral (doesn't lead to climate change) source of fuel.