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Firewood facts can be useful

Posted: January 29, 2012 - 12:12am
Donnie Brown's dog Bella stands on firewood that is for sale at Brown Feed and Seed. Firewood sales have been slow so far because of the mild winter.  Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Donnie Brown's dog Bella stands on firewood that is for sale at Brown Feed and Seed. Firewood sales have been slow so far because of the mild winter.

Except for a smattering of cooler days this winter, lighting up fireplaces hasn’t been necessary for more than a few days at a time.

However, with February looming, colder temperatures are in the forecast. For those who have fireplaces, it’s useful to know what types of wood are best for burning and how firewood is measured.

All combustible materials have a BTU – or British Thermal Unit – rating. A BTU is the amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of a pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit, and is used to refer to the amount of energy output by a heat-generating device. Dry wood has about 7,000 BTUs per pound.

According to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, it takes approximately 1,000 BTUs to raise the temperature of a pound of water by 1 degree.

Oak is the most common firewood in the Augusta area, said Chris Parker of Evergreen Lawncare in Martinez.

“Actually, oak is most common and has a very high BTU, although dogwood is higher in BTU,” said Parker.

To make sure you are getting the best deal on a load of firewood – and the best bang for the buck when it comes to heating the house – it helps to know how firewood is measured. The Georgia Department of Agriculture notes that firewood is measured in “cords.”

“According to regulations, wood of any type sold as fuel for fireplaces or stoves must be sold by the cord, fraction of a cord or cubic measure,” reads a news release by the department. “A cord is defined as 128 cubic feet of wood stacked by the line or row in a compact manner with individual pieces touching. The cord can be (4) feet high, (4) feet wide and (8) feet long, or any combination of these measurements – height, width and length – that yield 128 cubic feet of firewood.

“Although consumers easily can measure the height and length of a cord of wood, they should pay particular attention to the width – depth – of the cord. Since it is impractical to cut firewood into lengths of (4) feet for most uses, consumers likely will want the wood in more manageable lengths of 24 or 16 inches for use in fireplaces and stoves. Therefore, for wood stacked in rows (4) feet high and (8) feet long, it will take two rows of 24-inch wood or three rows of 16-inch wood to provide a width of (4) feet.”

The Georgia Department of Agriculture notes that it “requires that the quantity of the firewood be clearly displayed on the package in terms of cubic measure so the consumer will know the exact amount of wood purchased.

“Department rules also state that firewood must be designated within 10 percent accuracy as to the type or species of wood. For instance, a cord may be advertised as 50 percent oak and 50 percent hickory as long as the percentage of each species is not off by more than 10 percent.”

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