As we all know if you’ve got a log burner then the quality of the wood we burn is the key to having a great fire that burns well generates lots of heat and is easy to control. If you’re new to stoves then there a few really simple things to know that should help you.
Is my wood ready to burn?
The aim is to burn any wood at 20% moisture and below. This is really easy to check with a simple moisture meter that you can get for less than £20. One that I like is made by STHIL in their traditional orange colour. So easy to use turn it on, jab the prongs into the wood and hey presto you’ve got a fairly accurate indication as to whether its ready to burn. Obviously you want to test on a log that’s already cut to size.
A really handy thing to remember is:-
1 litre of water weighs approximately 1Kg
1Kg of wood @ 20% moisture has 200mL of water in it that’s 2/3 of an average mug !
The other thing to remember and crazy as it seems but water does not burn.
What happens if you try to burn wood that is too wet
Essentially until wood in a stove is heated above 100˚C , the boiling point of water, energy is being used to drive moisture out so that it can burn. That’s no heat to you plus lots of nurturing and fiddling about to keep it lit. However at around 150˚C the wood starts to give off volatile hydrocarbons ( that’s fuel stuff that will burn ) however this will not ignite until the temperature reaches around 270˚C this is known as the flash point of wood gas.
So excess water holds the temperature down. Steam combines with the volatile hydrocarbons to produces a sticky tarry creosote solution which coats the flue. If this continues without being resolved there are some expensive problems heading your way. That’s bad and still no heat for you.
The key is to get the fire box and flue up to temperature quickly this guarantees an efficient use of fuel with very few or no undesirable emissions. Happy days you get heat, nice flames to look at and a stove that you can control. A handy help until you get the hang of things is a magnetic flue pipe thermometer which is really useful.
The best way to store wood is outside in a log store. Ideally we buy seasoned wood in the spring and put it in our store until later in the year by which time it will be ready to burn. We know its ready because we checked it with our moisture meter !
A well stocked log store is a real feature.
Long thin stores tend to work best. Covered from the rain but open to any drying winds. The advantages are increased air circulation and when its time to re stock you don’t have to move the ready to burn logs to the front just work side to side. So it’s a lot less hassle when you buy more in the spring. A useful analogy would be to think about drying washing. A sheltered carport is good but a cold draught proof garage isn’t.
Seasoned or Kiln Dried
Kiln dried will always be the best wood to burn but obviously that comes at a cost so if you’ve got the space plan ahead and buy early. However with the best will in the world we all get caught out but if that’s the case stop and buy wood that’s ready to burn.
Hardwood or Softwood
If its at the right moisture content all wood will burn. However because hard wood is more dense it tends to burn longer so you don’t need to reload the stove quite as often. As a result you would expect to pay more for hardwood when buying by volume. The difference comes down to the kWh per cubic meter so buying a mixed hardwood softwood load can be quite variable. Each Kilogram of wood provides approximately 5.3 kWh.
Most reputable log suppliers will supply fairly exact volumes of either hard or softwood cut to a consistent size which helps with stacking and a good indication as to its suitability for immediate use.
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