Which logs should I use in my wood burner?
With the rapid expansion of wood burners in the UK (100,000 new stoves expected to be fitted in the next year),I get this question so often.
Really, the answer is way more simple than some companies like to make out.
You will hear from many that it must be “Kiln-Dried Ready To Burn hardwood” but in fact wood burners will burn any wood, as long as it is dry. Yes heat output may vary, but this always has to be considered along side firewood price.
There is a huge problem with this advice, the UK is not producing enough hardwood of a grade that can be processed into firewood, and the result is we are sucking in huge quantities of imported hardwood from Eastern Europe.
This is a disaster for several reasons; Firstly, hauling firewood all that distance can’t be anything other than harmful for the environment, just when you are hoping that with using a log burner, you are doing your bit for the renewable energy targets.
The second problem is that many of these countries don’t have the responsible re-planting programmes like those that must be in place in the UK before you can get a felling licence.
So, if I am saying that we should use local timber production if possible, and there isn’t enough hardwood, where are we going next?
Well, that is relatively easy answer, you should be looking at softwoods as a good fuel for log burners:
All wood burners can burn softwoods, the only stipulation is that you want to get the timber as dry as possible to ensure complete burn of the resins.
The reason to burn softwoods are clear:
1. Plentiful UK production
2. Quick growing, so able to be replaced quickly
3. Cheaper to buy from the forests and much simpler and quicker to process so fantastic savings available
4. Much easier to dry, so much less fuel & time required
So with these advantages, softwoods, either kiln, or air dried, make great options for wood burners.
I wanted to touch on the 3 main softwood species that you will come across, and their significant features.
1. Larch. My personal favourite firewood.
Larch is just superb. It grows quickly and straight, so cheap to buy and process. It dries very quickly, faster than any other firewood. Larch can be air-dried to below 20% in a matter of a few months.
The burning qualities are great. I hear people suggest that hardwoods are 50% better than softwoods, well this is just nonsense, if you compare any hardwood, except oak, with larch. The difference is only about 10-15%, but there is price differential of up to 33%
We have been selling larch, and using it ourselves, for over 10 years with not a single report of an oiled up flue. This is just pure scaremongering. Just ensure that you burn dry wood, which as I have just said, because of its quick drying properties, will be much easier with larch than ANY other timber.
2. Scots Pine. My second favourite firewood.
With all the plentiful, quick growing and ease of processing advantages of larch, Pine is great. The only drawback between pine and larch is that it dries much slower. So in our system, we supply this kiln dried at under 20%. The burning qualities of pine are excellent, giving strong, quick, radiant heat.
3. Spruce. This is the most plentiful softwood available. However you don’t see as much coming into the firewood market as it commands premium prices for both constructional timber and for the paper industry. It is a good drying timber, but doesn’t produce the energy density of pine or larch.
So in summary, wood burners will burn any wood.
Wood burners can burn softwood
Just ensure good, dry, sub 20% moisture content wood is burnt. This can be seasoned or kiln dried.