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Burning Properties by Firewood Species

Common Wood Species by BTUs

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Portable fireplace by the lake
Ingunn B. Haslekås/Moment Open/Getty Images

Question: What wood species gives off the most heat?

You will get the best results and more heat per wood volume when burning the highest density (heaviest) wood you can find. Dense firewood will produce the highest recoverable BTUs but all wood must be "seasoned". Seasoning lowers the moisture content and less energy is used to drive off water which limits heat efficiency.

Answer: Trees considered to be deciduous (lose their leaves in winter) and more specifically hard hardwoods tend to be a more dense wood and will burn hotter and longer than trees considered to be evergreen or softwood (there are some exceptions). Firewood also tends to burn hotter when seasoned to reduce moisture.

Wood heat value is measured in BTUs or British Thermal Units. The higher the value, the more heat you get per unit of wood. Here is a list of tree species ranked by their heating abilities:

Five Best Burning Species

  • Hickory - 25 to 28 million BTUs/cord - density 37 to 58 lbs./cu.ft.
  • Oak - 24 to 28 million BTUs/cord - density 37 to 58 lbs./cu.ft.
  • Black Locust - 27 million BTUs/cord - density 43 lbs./cu.ft.
  • Beech - 24 to 27 million BTUs/cord - density 32 to 56 lbs./cu.ft.
  • White Ash - 24 million BTUs/cord - density 43 lbs./cu.ft.

 

Five Poor Performing Species

  • White Pine - 15 million BTUs/cord - density 22 to 31 lbs./cu.ft.
  • Cottonwood/Willow - 16 million BTUs/cord - density 24 to 37 lbs./cu.ft.
  • Basswood - 14 million BTUs/cord - density 20 to 37 lbs./cu.ft.
  • Aspen - 15 million BTUs/cord - density 26 lbs./cu.ft.
  • Yellow Poplar - 18 mm million BTUs/cord - density 22 to 31 lbs./cu.ft.

 

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