Home Heating

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Published on: Jan. 2, 2007

Last revision: Nov. 30, 2010

Many people in Missouri cut firewood to heat their homes and other buildings. My family heated with wood when I was growing up in Shannon County. We cut firewood from tree tops and cull logs that were left behind from timber harvest operations. Whenever my father brought home a load of cull logs with his log truck, we would cut up the logs and split them so the wood would season before burning.

One of the first lessons I learned about firewood is to cut the wood several months before burning so the wood has time to season. Freshly cut firewood doesn’t burn efficiently because it contains too much water. It also can cause a buildup of tarlike creosote inside the flue pipe that can lead to fires.

For best results, firewood should be cured for at least six months. The bark of properly dried firewood will be loose enough to pull off by hand.

Best Woods for Burning

How good the wood is for fuel depends on its density and moisture content. Any wood will burn, but denser heavier) woods, if properly dried, will deliver more heat. Some folks also choose wood that is easy to split over wood that might burn well but is more difficult to split into firewood.

The species of wood that have the most energy content are Osage orange, hickory, locust, oaks, hard maples and ash. Woods with lower energy content include basswood, cottonwood, cedar, pine, silver maple, elm and sycamore. The table included with this article compares the basic heating value of different types of wood.

The amount of energy that you get from firewood very much depends on the efficiency of the stove, fireplace or furnace where you burn it. If you have an open fireplace, nearly all of the heat goes up the chimney. The fires may look nice, but they can actually cost you heat by drawing cold air into the house as heat goes up the chimney.

Fireplaces with glass doors do a better job, and a good fireplace insert increases efficiency even more. To get the most from your firewood, though, you need a high-efficiency wood stove. Wood stove technology has come a long way since we burned wood in the family home in Shannon County. Now you can find safe, non-smoking stoves and furnaces that burn wood efficiently and circulate heat throughout the house.

Buying Wood

Different units of measurements—such as rick, rank, cord or pickup load—used

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