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Know Your Wood Species for Better Fires

If you’re a veteran fire builder, you already know that not all wood species are created equal. It’s common knowledge that dense hardwoods like oak and ash are usually the best choice. But there are many varieties of wood and what you choose will boil down to availability and personal preference.

Naturally, the wood you burn will depend on the area of the country where you live and what is available there. For instance, the Midwest and Northeast generally have the most hickory, oak, elm and ash trees, while the Northwest has the highest concentration of Douglas fir and ponderosa pine. But if you happen to have a couple apple or locust trees that need to come down, they make excellent firewood as well!

Here’s where the personal preference part comes in. If you have access to dense hardwood like oak or red maple, they will burn longer, but it takes a long time – a year or two – for the wood to season (dry out). Softwoods will season much faster, although they won’t burn as long. Another variable is cost, if you buy your cordwood. Good quality seasoned hardwood costs more than green softwood species, so it really comes down to how much time you have and what you’re willing to spend.

Comparing Wood Species
The best woods for burning are oak, hickory, ash, black walnut, maple, mulberry, apple, locust and osage-orange. They will provide long-lasting coals, and produce less smoke and sparks than lighter woods like pine, cedar and fir. That being said, there are many wood species that you may have access to, depending on where you live. To give you a really good overview of how well certain wood species will burn, we recommend an informative chart on the University of Utah Extension Service’s website. It compares weight, BTUs, ease of splitting, smoke, sparks, fragrance and more, and you can access it here.

Your Stove Matters
The wood you burn is only as good as the stove you burn it in. If you have an older stove or insert that’s not EPA certified, it’s inefficient. EPA certified stoves are outfitted with 21st Century technology and are worlds more efficient than the models of yesteryear. And we’d be remiss not to mention that it’s best to choose a wood-burning stove from a well-established, quality American-made brand like Harman. One load of wood can burn and produce heat for many hours, meaning your wood pile lasts longer. And because they burn so efficiently, outside air particulate emissions are low, so they are much better for the environment and produce less ash for you to cleanup. Well worth the investment, you’ll enjoy warmth, ambiance and comfort for many years to come. Find a dealer near you here.

From all of us at Harman, enjoy the fire!

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