A warm fire is more than just a welcome comfort during these cold winter months. It’s also a way for many cost-conscious families to save money on their heating bills.
Unfortunately, fires can be dangerous. And that’s especially true if you’re not buying the right firewood. The Chimney Safety Institute of America reported that there were 22,500 structural fires that started in a fireplace or a chimney in 2011.
The right firewood can dramatically reduce your risk of a house fire. So before you head out to grab the materials for your next cozy evening, you’ll want to keep these questions in mind.
How do I buy the right firewood? It’s easy to go to your local hardware store and purchase whatever is on display. But there are other things to consider, such as your storage options and how long you want the wood to burn:
- Analyze your usage. Think back to the previous winter and estimate how many fires you had. Make sure to add a couple fires if last winter was mild or subtract a few if the winter was severe. Five or six logs should last you a couple of hours per fire, so plan from there.
- Get your wood as early as possible. Smart shoppers buy their firewood earlier rather than later. This ensures the wood will be dry by the time it’s in their fireplace. If you wait, you could be stuck with moist wood. Increased demand can also mean you’ll pay more for it.
- Buy seasoned wood. If you order your wood, be sure to specify seasoned wood. If you’re in a store, look for “seasoned” on the label. This wood has been dried and will burn efficiently with less steam than unseasoned, moist woods. Seasoned wood is darker and has cracks in the grain. If you bang it against another piece of wood, it should sound hollow. If you’re unsure if your wood is dry enough, you can purchase a moisture meter to test its content.
- Favor hardwoods over softwoods. Both woods have a use in your fireplace but soft woods (firs and pines) should only be used as kindling. Hardwoods – such as oak, beech, ash and hickory – burn more efficiently and with less smoke than their softwood counterparts. This will give you longer lasting, more satisfying fires.