Seasoned firewood is more efficient

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The frigid weather we’ve had this week makes us want to build more fires in our fireplaces and wood stoves. I’ve probably had fewer fires in my fireplace so far this year than in the past several years due to our abnormally warm December.

Building fires turns our attention to the kind of wood we are using for the fireplace and safe, energy efficient home heating fires begin with the right kind of firewood.

If you are in the market for firewood, keep in mind that when firewood is first cut, 40 to 50 percent of its weight comes from water. One fresh cut cord, or 128 cubic feet, of oak can contain enough water to fill five and a half 55 gallon drums.

To burn fresh cut firewood in a wood burning stove or fireplace you’d first have to boil off all that water. That doesn’t make for very efficient heating.

University of Georgia experts recommend buying seasoned wood from a vendor. Seasoned wood has dried to a level that allows it to burn easily and give off a high heat value. Well-seasoned firewood contains less than 20 percent of its weight in water.

With Augusta temperatures, fresh cut firewood that is split and stacked can sufficiently air dry and become seasoned in three to four months. Six to eight months would be even better if possible. I cut most of my firewood for this winter back in June when we had those three high wind thunderstorms within a week’s time. I wound up sawing and hauling 4 pickup truck loads. I did not get all of it split until October as I did it all by hand. At least during the minimum three to four month time frame, the moisture content drops in the wood, so it can be burned without leaving behind a lot or residue. Over time, it could build up and start a chimney or flue fire.

Many people assume the sticky, gum-like resins in pine firewood cause more creosote residues than hardwood. Research has found this false. The buildup is more often the result or burning wood at relatively low temperatures. Burning poorly seasoned wood favors creosote buildup because evaporating water cools the burning process.

To keep your family and home safe, always run a wood stove or fireplace within the manufacturer’s recommended temperature limits. Too low a temperature increases creosote buildup. Just remember, dry, well-seasoned wood is important for an efficient heat source.

Regular chimney inspections and cleanings also help prevent creosote buildup. Check the chimney closely or hire a professional chimney sweep. Inspect as often as twice a month during the heating season. Your personal chimney cleaning schedule should be based on how frequently your stove or fireplace is used and how it is operated.

Reach Sid Mullis, the director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County, at (706) 821-2349 or smullis@uga.edu.


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