Winter Heat – Firewood Buying 101

If you're using firewood just for aesthetic purposes, you can get it by just walking down to Wal-Mart and buying a pile of wood to use every once in a while. If you're using your firewood to actually heat your home, however, you need to be a little more sophisticated with how you buy your wood. Here's how to get the best bang for your buck when buying firewood.

What Exactly Is a Cord?

Firewood is generally not sold by weight. The most widely recognized way to measure firewood is by volume. A cord is the standard measure, coming in at 8 feet in length, 4 feet deep and 4 feet tall.

Comparing prices by cord is the only real way to compare prices between sellers. Make sure you're comparing apples to apples. Don't let one seller quote you a price for a truckload, another by weight and another by the cord.

All sellers should quote you prices by the cord, not by any other measure. This makes it easier to make sure you're getting a good deal.

Setting Up Your Storage Area

The best way to set up your wood storage shed is to pre-measure out 4' by 8' measurements. Ask your wood seller to stack the wood in the shed in the pre-measured area.

This makes it easy for you to make sure you're really getting all the wood you paid for.

What Is Seasoned Wood?

Remember that wood is actually a water transportation system for trees. Trees use it to bring water and nutrients from roots to their branches and to leaves.

This water is retained inside wood for a long time after the tree dies. Fresh wood from a tree could be as much as 45% water.

Seasoning simply means the wood has had time to dry out. Wood that's been seasoned for six months could have as little as 20% water content.

Seasoned wood catches fire a lot more easily than fresh wood. It generates more heat when burned. By weight, $100 of seasoned wood is worth about 25% more than $100 of unseasoned wood, as you'll generate about 25% more heat from it.

If you're mixing different kinds of woods, you should start your fires with seasoned woods.

Check Your Wood's BTU (British Thermal Unit)

A lot of wood sellers will tout woods that are good for furniture as if they were good for burning. In reality, wood that's good for burning is measured completely differently than furniture wood.

Firewood is measured by how many BTUs, or how much heat, you'd get out of burning one cord of wood. The two main factors in determining a woods BTU is the density of the wood and its water content. Popular furniture woods like walnut are not the best wood for burning. For example, walnut only gets 20.2 million BTUs per cord when burned.

By contrast, hedge apple wood generates over 32 million BTUs per cord meaning you get more heat. Ash, oak, hickory and maple also have high BTU measurements. You can look up the BTUs per cord data for different kinds of woods easily online.

Wood stoves can drastically slash your winter heating bill. Now that you know how to measure your firewood, how to make sure you're getting what you paid for, the difference between seasoned and unseasoned wood, and how to measure the heat output of the wood you're buying, you shouldn't have any trouble keeping your feet toasty warm this winter.

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