The Edmond Sun


October 22, 2009

Don’t get burned when buying firewood

EDMOND — The day the firewood gets delivered at my house is almost as magical as Christmas morning. There is nothing as relaxing as coming home in the dead of winter to sit in front of the fire. I look forward to this all year. Some may think that a person who sits on the hearth until her back just can’t take the heat anymore is crazy, but I suppose most gardeners are.

Aside from the sheer recreational enjoyment, burning firewood can have some economic benefits if the proper system is in place. Unfortunately, many homes have an open fireplace. This system often removes more heat from a house than it puts back because a fire will create an open draft that will suck the heat out of an area and send it right up the chimney.

An efficient air-tight wood stove, on the other hand, can achieve an efficiency of up to 70 percent fuel input to actual heat output. The efficiency of a stove is affected by the design and location of the system, as well as by indoor and outdoor temperatures and individual use patterns. Most fireplaces that I’ve seen recently are more concerned about aesthetics than efficiency.

Even though the fireplace dealt may not be the most efficient, there is the opportunity to increase the heat produced by selecting the best type of firewood. Different types of wood will yield varying amounts of heat when burned. Wood goes through different stages when it burns. Heating efficiency of firewood depends on how that wood progresses through three stages. Energy is expended in each of the three stages.

In the first stage, wood is heated to a point where the moisture within the wood cells can evaporate. After the wood has dried, it then undergoes a chemical breakdown to charcoal, volatile gases and volatile liquids. The second stage is indicated by the obvious visual sign of actual flames. What burns in this second state are the volatile gases and volatile liquids. Finally, the third stage occurs when the charcoal burns and can be seen when the embers glow. During this third stage heat is radiated from the burning charcoal. This also is known as the “aaahhhhh” moment when sitting in front of the fireplace.

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