When you’ve had your log burner installed the biggest and most important decision is which logs to burn. With so many different species and varieties of logs on the market, discerning the value and efficiency of them all isn’t easy, and it’s not a simple case of throwing in any old wood or using the cheapest you can find; that’s the fastest way to start causing damage to your flue lining.
Hardwood vs. Softwood
The simplest way to breakdown the different logs available is to split them in to two categories – softwood and hardwood, the latter being more dense and thus longer burning, releasing their energy over a prolonged period of time, rather than faster burning softwood species were you spend more time opening the door on your stove and feeding logs, rather than sitting back and enjoying your wood burner.
Softwood species also crackle and spit more (often damaging carpet when opening the stove door!) and also generate more smoke than hardwoods.
Both hardwood and softwood generate the same amount of heat, however due to the density you would require twice the volume of softwood logs for the same heat output than hardwood logs – which is one of the reasons buying hardwood logs is much better value.
For these reasons we do not recommend burning softwoods in log burners, and only for when used as kindling, which softwood is perfect for.
Common hardwood species are:
Common softwood species are:
Hardwood logs are difficult to season naturally using traditional air-drying methods
Due to hardwood being twice as dense as softwood, it takes a lot longer to season naturally and in the British climate this could take anything up to 3 years before the logs are suitable for wood burning – this is where most local suppliers and traditional seasoned logs suppliers struggle, especially when demand is high and they’re forced to sell stock that’s still seasoning once winter is in full swing. This is why chimney sweeps and stove manufacturers will normally recommend kiln dried hardwood as the best logs to burn.
Trying to burn wet, partially seasoned hardwood is the worst kind of wood to burn and simply will not light or generate any heat at all, making purchasing seasoned hardwood very risky unless you own a moisture meter and take external and internal readings.
Kiln dried hardwood logs are cut down, split and dried below 20% moisture within 10 days
Since the invention of the kiln for drying firewood by using heat and humidity control, the firewood industry has changed dramatically. Now it’s possible to buy extremely dry and ready to burn logs all-year round, and because it’s a faster turnaround from felling trees and drying the logs, it’s much more economical meaning the value of kiln dried logs when compared to naturally seasoned logs is huge – not only in a dramatically lower moisture content but in price, especially when comparing heat output per units.