Hardwoods or Softwoods
While the debate about when the earth will run out of gas and oil continues to confuse us all it is a simple fact that wood is a sustainable fuel, a fuel we can use with a clear conscience because we can utilise nature’s earth and sunlight to grow as much wood as we need. One question we’re often asked is whether it’s best to burn hardwoods or softwoods?
Wood as a fuel for heating is becoming increasingly popular, not only because the price of gas and oil rise relentlessly at ever increasing rates, but also because of the way we now harvest and prepare the wood, which when used in modern wood burning appliances, has revolutionised the efficiency, cleanliness and simplicity of burning wood.
Weight for weight all wood has the potential to generate very similar amounts of heat.
In many regions of the world softwoods are used extensively as the preferred fuel of choice simply because they are abundantly available. However, because softwoods are generally less dense they will occupy a far bigger volume than hardwoods so you will need more storage space.
Because of its lower density softwoods have the ability to burn at a faster rate than hardwoods which means that a newly lit fire of softwood will establish much quicker than one of hardwood. Unfortunately, it also means that you will need to load the appliance more regularly if you are burning for an extended time.
The choice of hardwoods or softwoods is further complicated by the fact that not all hardwoods are created equal. A good example of this is Silver Birch. This tree species is a hardwood but similar in density to softwoods. As a result it burns fiercely, throwing out a lot of heat but only for a short time.
Of more importance than the question of hardwoods or softwoods? is the moisture content. Whatever moisture is in the wood to be burned has to be boiled away before the wood will ignite and the heat needed to achieve this is heat you will not benefit from and will require burning far more wood than necessary. Not only will excess water cause you to burn more fuel, it will be responsible for the formation of copious amounts of tar that you will have to all too regularly pay a chimney sweep to remove.
The term “seasoned” is often used to describe wood that has been dried but it has no more quantifiable meaning than descriptions like “farm fresh”. Wood is hydroscopic which means that it will absorb as well as lose water during storage and in the damp atmosphere of the United Kingdom it is extremely difficult to dry wood to an ideal moisture content.
The only way to ensure wood contains the minimum practical moisture content for burning is to prepare it by drying it in a kiln, yet the term “ kiln dried” without qualification is as vague as “seasoned “. The temperature at which the wood is dried and the time it is dried for is critical if the wood is to be dried sufficiently without the volatile combustible content of the wood being lost.
Border Biomass Fuels ensure our wood is dried at the ideal temperature and time for each species of wood we kiln dry. We are proud to know that after kiln drying our wood we achieve wood capable of delivering the maximum heat possible. The maximum heating potential means the maximum fuel efficiency and the minimum fuel consumption.
So, hardwoods or softwoods The answer really does depend on price and availability. Of far more importance is the moisture content of the firewood and whether that moisture content is at the optimum level to facilitate a steady burn producing lots of heat.