MONTPELIER – With wood stove season rapidly approaching, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation has tips for choosing the best dry wood to maximize heat for your home and minimize air pollution from burning it.
Evaluating the moisture content of firewood can be tricky. Wood can be purchased when it is “green,” “seasoned,” “dried,” or “kiln dried,” but these are relative terms and wood is only ready to be burned when its moisture content is 20% or less.
Burning wood that is too wet means energy goes into boiling off residual water in order for the wood to ignite. In the process, it releases pollution into the air and creosote that coats chimneys which can become a fire hazard. Be sure to ask firewood dealers how they define the terms they are using to describe their products and try using a moisture meter to test the moisture content of your firewood. Moisture meters are available to borrow from 60 public libraries around the state, including the Waterbury Public Library.
Some general guidelines for purchasing firewood:
“Green wood” is fresh cut and should not be used for fuel until it has had time to dry properly. This is the least expensive to purchase and will require 6-12 months to dry depending on species and conditions.
“Dry wood” refers to air-dried wood that should be immediately burnable at the time of delivery. Dry wood should never be stored uncovered as it will reabsorb rain and snow.
“Kiln dried wood” has been dried through the introduction of heat in a deliberately controlled environment (a kiln) to shorten the drying time and make the wood immediately burnable at time of delivery. This is the most expensive but highest quality firewood.
“Seasoned wood” is the least well-defined of the terms associated with firewood. “Seasoning” is synonymous with “drying,” but the key is to know the wood’s actual moisture content and how long and under what conditions it was “seasoned.” Ask dealers how long the wood has been split, as opposed to just felled, and if it was stacked under cover to facilitate drying. Assume that seasoned wood is not ready to burn without further drying.
If you are not planning to buy dry wood, allow plenty of time for wood to dry under cover and with ample airflow around it. Ordering wood in winter or spring to then stack and cover to dry during the summer is the most reliable and economical way to ensure a supply of properly dried firewood.
Vermonters interested in burning less wood altogether should consider upgrading an old wood burning stove for a newer, cleaner burning model. A $200 stove changeout rebate is available from Efficiency Vermont and stoves with at least 75% efficiency are eligible for a 26% federal tax credit. For more information on these and other current wood heater rebates is available online at fpr.vermont.gov/woodenergy/rebates