Firewood tips

Published date22 June 2022
Publication titleWest Coast Messenger, The
Spring and summer are the best times to buy firewood. Why buy so early? For wood to burn well and cleanly it needs time to dry. You can buy "unseasoned" wood and store it (in an area where air can circulate) ready for use when the cold weather arrives. If you leave it until later you may have to buy dry firewood-and pay more

ƒ å Type of wood

Softwoods like pine dry in around 6 to 12 months but burn rapidly. This means regularly adding wood to keep a cosy blaze going. "Old man pine" is from trees aged 30 years or more. It's denser than ordinary pine and contains more resin, so it burns for longer and puts out more heat.

Medium-density woods like macrocarpa burn a bit slower and contain more energy. If you have an open fire, avoid macrocarpa as it's prone to sparking.

Hardwoods such as gum and manuka make a better fire as they have greater heat content and burn slowly. But freshly felled hardwoods can take up to 18 months to dry.

Many suppliers also offer a blend of softwood and hardwood called "hot mix". The idea is to use softwood (usually pine) to get the fire started, then to add slow-burning hardwood once the room is warm. There is no standard ratio to hot mix so you should ask your supplier about proportions to make sure you're getting a good deal. In general, the more hardwood in the mixture, the better.

Burning and storing wood ƒ å Dryness

Only burn dry, well-seasoned wood. Green wood cools the fire, creating smoke that adds to air pollution.

Not sure if your wood is ready to burn? Firewood should have less than 25% moisture. You can test it by throwing a small piece onto hot glowing coals. If it catches fire on the top and sides within 1 minute, it's dry enough to burn well.

If you're buying wood to burn straight away, ask if it's dry.

Green, wet firewood will not be "fit for the purpose" under the Consumer Guarantees Act-it won't burn properly and will clog up the flue.

You can buy inexpensive moisture meters which let you check the moisture content of firewood you are about to buy or burn.

ƒ åWoodburner vs. open fire Modern woodburners are cleaner-burning and more efficient than open fires. An average woodburner is about 70% efficient, which means it transfers around 70% of the heat to the surroundings. With an open fire you'll be lucky to get 20%.

If a woodburner is permitted in your area, it's a pleasant way to reduce your electricity bill.

Some models can be fitted with a wetback, to preheat water for the hot water cylinder, giving further...

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