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Best Wood For Firewood: Hardwood or Softwood

By at October 7, 2013 | 12:00 am | 0 Comment

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Best Wood For Firewood:  Hardwood or Softwood

I get a lot of questions about the best type of wood to burn.  There are many studies that have been done to determine the answer to this question.  So I did a little research and basically averaged out all the ratings and metrics that have been created, to make it easier for you to decide.  Of course, I will point out the types of woods I like to burn here in New England, and as always, I ask the advice of my dad, Carl, who is a wanna-be mountain man and has been burning wood for heat for as long as I can remember!

Burning Wood

You may be surprised to learn that all wood, regardless of species, is about the same.  The difference in species is mainly in their density.  Because of this not all firewood is created equally for burning.  Also, there are some other characteristics that influence firewood choice – like spark output, smoke output, burn-ability, and split-ability.  Thankfully there are many wood types that are perfectly suited for fireplace or wood stove burning, and it really comes down to your own preference. (Take a look at the graphs below this post and decide for yourself)

Generally speaking, hardwoods make better firewood than softwoods. Hardwoods have the highest BTU ( British Thermal Units).  So what does this mean?  Hardwoods deliver a great amount of steady heat and are long-burning.  Different types of wood will be available in different parts of the country, so find the best wood accessible to you.  My personal favorites here New England include Oak, Ash, Beech, Hard Maple, Dogwood, Hickory, Cherry, and Apple.  Apple has an amazing Fragrant, but obviously, you would be lucky to come across a much of it, unless you live close to Apple farms.

However, don’t totally discount softwoods.  They serve as fire starters since they ignite and burn quickly; leaving a bed embers for the hardwoods. Softwoods are also useful to burn in the Spring and Fall when you don’t want as much heat output in your home.  New England softwoods include those like Pine, White Spruce, Cedars, and Douglas Fir.  I like to use Pine for my kindling.  It contains natural sap that makes it a great fire starter.  Much better than any non-environmentally friendly chemicals and starters out there!  Pine also grows in abundance.

I find that a mixture of softwoods and hardwoods will create the easiest and best fire.  After you have your fire started with kindling, start adding in your hardwoods- small amounts at regular intervals.  Efficient combustion results from burning small loads of woods with sufficient air space.  I also like to throw a few pieces of aromatic pieces (like cedar, fir, apple) in with my other firewood.

It is important to ask your supplier what types of wood they have and where their source comes from.  Makes sure the supply doesn’t include endangered species and that it is not transported past state lines.  No matter the type of wood chosen remember to only burn seasoned wood.  Keep in mind that you get what you pay for-and that hardwoods are generally more expensive than softwoods.

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Would love to hear about your favorite species.

Best overall Rankings

Best Firewood


Best Heat output (BTUs/ A Cord Of Wood)

Best Firewood

Highest Dry Weight / A Cord Of Wood – Indicative of Density and Heat Output

Firewood Weight


Best Fragrance

Best Fragrance

Splitability (is that a word?) – If You Split Your Own Wood

Firewood Splitability

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Heating With Wood

By at September 21, 2013 | 3:27 pm | 16 Comments

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There are many benefits to heating your home with wood.

1.  Buying wood from local sources strengthens your local economy.  

Wood that is cut and used locally means money does not leave the community. This is extremely beneficial to rural and small town economies where wood heating is most prevalent.  This puts money into the local economy while keeping it out of the pockets of multinational corporations.  There is no million dollar wood fuel utility or multinational corporation involved in the wood heating business.  It is small local businesses that benefit from heating with wood!  This includes your local stove and fireplace shop, local chimney sweeper or the farmers, landscapers, and truckers who process and sell firewood.

Farmers Market

2.  Heating your home with wood provides you with a sense of security and independence.

Wood heating is as much of a lifestyle choice as it is a heating fuel option.  Burning wood require participation and effort but in exchange offers commensurate rewards.  It provides security during power failures.  Conventional heating systems are useless when a storm interrupts your electrical supply but a wood stove or fireplace keeps you warm, cozy, and safe.  Wood burning takes effort- similar to tending a garden, cooking a home meal, or performing your own home renovations- But you are always rewarded.  Just think about having the ability to provide for your family directly instead of depending on large energy utility suppliers!

fire cooking

3.  The act of building and sustaining fire is embedded in our ancient roots.

For all of human history we have built fire for survival: for warmth, food preparation, and companionship.  Burning wood brings you closer to nature and the environment.  A real wood fire is a focal point and gathering place for family, friends, and conversation.  The radiant heat from a wood burning fire heats you like the rays of the sun.  It is one of life’s small pleasures, especially on a cold winter’s night!  A real wood fire satisfies like no imitation can.

Ancient Fire Cooking

4.  Burning wood can save you money.

Wood fuel is cheaper than heating with oil, coal, or electricity. Despite all the hype you may hear about other heating options, it turns out that burning wood in a stove or fireplace is good for the local economy and good to your wallet.   A household paying $200 for a cord of seasoned hardwood with a modern, energy efficient stove can get more than 2x the equivalent oil heating value at $4.00 per gallon.  Buy your wood unseasoned a year ahead of winter and you can save 3x.



While gas and heating oil prices have risen substantially in recent years, the price of wood has remained steady. Households can reduce their annual bills by a third by installing a stove. In the past, most buyers were those replacing an open fire with a much more fuel-efficient wood burner. The most efficient models achieve 80% efficiency – compared to an open fire at 32%, and a room open gas effect fire at 20% to 55% efficiency.

5.  Wood can be a renewable and abundant energy resource.

Sound woodlot management yields firewood that is a byproduct of thinning out non-lumber grade trees.  Sustainable woodlot management includes planting a new tree for every tree that is cut down. Renewable means that you don’t deplete the earth’s natural resources.  Here in New England we have an abundance of trees!  This makes firewood accessible, affordable, and a renewable energy resource.

tree ax

6.  Wood burning yields a zero-net carbon contribution.

Wood is created from energy produced by the sun and this energy is stored within the tree as it grows.  When you burn wood you are actually releasing this stored energy. Trees go through a natural cycle of growth and decay.  Whether they are burned or are slowly oxidized as they rot on the forest floor, there is a balance between the carbon stored in the tree as it grows and what is released once they die.

Wood burning, unlike fossil fuels (oil, coal), is a zero-net carbon contributor.  In other words, using wood as a fuel source does NOT contribute to the Greenhouse Effect.  Wood recycles carbon dioxide found in our atmosphere through the cyclical process of absorption, release, and re-absorption.  Oil and coal, are fossil fuels that reintroduce long buried carbon into the atmosphere- This is a one way trip.  Wood burning releases only a small amount of acid-causing sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere.

New advanced technology wood stoves, fireplaces, and furnaces are certified low emission by the US Environmental Protection Agency.  They can burn with no visible smoke and create 90%  less pollution than those used 30 years ago.


Tell us what you think!  Comment below on benefits important to you, and important stuff I  may have missed.

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