Best Wood For Heating

November 2, 2013, by Ken Jorgustin

wood-btu-heat-per-cord

Have you ever wondered what is the best wood to use for heating and burning in a wood stove? Ever wondered how much heat that a particular wood species will provide when burned?


 
Did you know that one cord of firewood provides the heat equivalent to that produced by burning 200 to 250 gallons of heating oil, depending on the type of hardwood you are using?

A cord of Oak will burn about 29 Million BTU’s, and is one of the better (more efficient) types of wood to heat with. Oak is very hard and dense, and will burn for a long time compared with many others.

the-best-firewood-is-oak

On the flip-side, a cord of Pine will only provide 60% of the heat as Oak, while Cedar will provide less than half the heat as Oak.

If we compared the wood burning capacity by weight, instead of by cord, most wood would produce about the same amount of heat. The difference is that dense hard woods are heavier, pack more heat, and therefore a cord (or any quantity) of hard wood will produce more heat than the same quantity of a softer wood.

For heating, in general it is best to consume dense hard woods. Hardwoods, or woods from broadleaved trees, tend to be denser than softwoods or woods from conifers.

In case you wondered, a standard cord of wood is 128 cubic feet – 8 feet x 4 feet x 4 feet.

Really though, the best firewood is going to be whatever is locally available to you, so long as it’s dry and fits in your stove. If you have a choice though, choose a hardwood for fewer trips to the log pile.

 

List of wood species, heating BTU’s per cord, from most to least,
(not all inclusive)

Oak
Beech
Apple
Mulberry
Maple
Walnut
Juniper
Birch
Douglas-fir
Cherry
Ash
Elm
Sycamore
Hemlock
Aspen
Chestnut
Willow
Alder
Pine
Cottonwood
Spruce
Cedar

 
In case you were wondering about those waxy energy ‘Duraflame’ type fire-logs…

Typical Oak firewood has about 8,500 BTU’s per pound.
A typical wax-fiber firelog has about 14,000 BTU’s per pound.

While energy logs might be a nice quick fix for a fire, it’s an expensive fire…

 
NOTE: Be wary of using soft and oily woods like Pine in a stove or fireplace due the buildup of creosote (a residue that is highly flammable) in the flu over time. Pine makes for a great firestarter because it burns very hot and fast, but not good for long-term use.