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Know Your Wood

BTUs per cord of common wood in Alaska:

Birch - 23.6 MMBtu / cord*
White Spruce - 18.1 MMBtu / cord*
Black Spruce - 15.9 MMBtu / cord*
Cottonwood - 14.5 MMBtu / cord*

*For Seasoned wood. Unseasoned wood gives off less heat. More information: Cooperative Extension Service

Driftwood - Saltwater vs. Freshwater

Saltwater Driftwood:
Never burn in a woodstove
Contains salts that corrode stoves and stove pipes
Produces toxic chemicals
Freshwater Driftwood:
Weathered driftwood contains fewer BTUs per cord
Soaked wood takes longer to dry
Always season wood before burning

How to check if your wood is dry:

Use a moisture meter, dry wood is under 20%. See: Wood Moisture Temperature Corrections (PDF)
Feel how heavy it is for its size, dry wood weighs less
Check the ends for cracks, wood cracks as it dries
Knock two pieces together, dry wood sounds hollow
Split a piece and see if it feels dry to the touch inside
Still not Sure? Burn some test pieces, wet wood is difficult to light and smolders

Burn dry wood, but not too dry:

Water regulates how fast wood burns
Ideal wood moisture range is from 10 to 20%
Wood under 10% is too dry
Very dry wood burns fast and hot
Excessive heat can damage a stove
Prevent damage by mixing in some other wood
Aim for an average of about 20% moisture content

Hardwood vs. Softwood

Comes from trees with leaves
More dense
More BTUs per cord
Burns slower than softwoods
Leaves a good bed of coals
Comes from trees with needles
Less dense
Lower BTUs per cord
Burns quickly
Doesn't leave a good bed of coals

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