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Wood Stove 101: The Best (and Worst) Firewood Types

When choosing firewood for your wood stove, you have a lot of options. There are two main factors you must consider when choosing the best logs for a wood burning stove: wood type and wood moisture content. In this post, we’ll explain which types of wood make the best logs for a wood burning stove. To learn about wood moisture content, check out our how-to guide post Wood Stove 101: Using Seasoned Firewood.

Why does what type of wood I burn matter?

Firewood wood stove

Seasoned oak burning beautifully in the Catalyst wood stove

Choosing firewood wood is more complex than you think. What you burn is critical to your wood burning stove’s performance and longevity. Whether you harvest your own firewood or use a delivery service, you need to know about wood species when choosing firewood. Wood species affects how well your stove performs in a several areas.

  1. Efficiency: The efficiency of your wood stove can depend significantly on the type of wood you are using. Softwoods and resinous (oily) woods can burn inefficiently. For this reason, pine, eucalyptus, birch, aspen, and a few other species do not make the best logs for a wood burning stove.
  2. Appearance: Choosing firewood wood from a typically resinous species can create thick black smoke, which clouds the front glass of your wood stove. Once clouded, cleaning the glass can be more difficult.
  3. Safety: Burning resinous woods also creates a potential safety hazard in your home. Resinous woods produce significant amounts of creosote, which builds up within the chimney and is the main cause of chimney fires in wood stoves.
  4. Reliability: Choosing firewood that is soft and resinous also negatively affects the reliability of your wood burning stove. Softwoods and resinous firewoods produce chemicals that are harsh on the internal components of a wood stove. Specifically, the catalytic combustor and the combustion fan of Catalyst can be negatively affected over time. For this reason, hardwoods provide much less wear and tear on wood stoves and make the best logs for a wood burning stove.

Best Firewood Types to Use

So, what are the best logs for a wood burning stove? Any non-resinous hard wood can give you a good burn, but our three favorites are:

Oak firewood wood stove

Seasoned oak

  1. Oak: Known for its long, slow burns, oak is likely the best firewood wood out there. Oak is a dense hardwood that is available throughout most regions of North America. While oak wood can take a little longer than other woods to become properly seasoned, the fire from well seasoned oak in your wood stove can’t be beat. This is the mainstream firewood favorite for wood stoves, and probably one of the all-around best logs for a wood burning stove.
  2. Ash: Burns steady and is easy to split — what more could you ask for? Ash provides some of the best wood for burning in a wood stove. It is largely found in eastern and central North America, but is available in other wood burning regions as well including the West Coast of the United States. The emerald ash borer, an invasive species native to northeast Asia, has killed many ash trees throughout the United States. These killed trees are perfect for responsible firewood harvesting.
  3. Maple: Maple firewood burns very similarly to Ash. When properly seasoned, it will produce long and steady burns in your wood burning stove. Maple can be found throughout the entire continental United States, making it a very popular firewood choice for wood stoves.

While oak, ash, and maple are our top three, there are many other types of firewood wood that are acceptable for wood stoves:

  • Apple
  • Beech
  • Cherry
  • Hawthorn
  • Mulberry

Worst Firewood Types to Use

Not all wood is created equal. Just as there are firewood types we recommend, there are also several we specifically do not recommend using. Most of these are not recommended because they are either softwoods, highly resinous, or both! Softwoods burn quickly and inefficiently, producing harmful chemicals. Resinous woods produce thick oils that blacken glass and foul the inside of your stove. We do not recommend using the following firewood types:

  • Alder
  • Cedar
  • Eucalyptus
  • Pine
  • Poplar

With this guide, choosing the best wood for burning in your wood stove is easy! Have any questions or comments on your experience using these or other firewood types? Need some more help with choosing firewood wood? Leave your comments below!

Ryan Fisher is the COO of MF Fire

4 Facts on the Future of Modern Wood Stoves

Modern Wood Stove in the nation's capital.

This isn’t the first time wood stoves and Washington have intersected. MF Fire won the low emissions prize at the the 2013 Wood Stove Decathlon in Washington D.C.

Wood stoves made big news recently because of the new two-step emissions regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The first step of the new EPA wood burning stove regulations, which went into effect in May 2016, prohibits the sale of any wood stove that emits greater than 4.5 grams per hour of particulate matter (or soot). The second, and far tougher, step of the new EPA wood burning stove regulations begins January 1, 2020. The 2020 EPA rules prohibit for sale any stove emitting more than 2.0 grams per hour of particulates. It’s hard to understate just how big of a shake up this will be in the wood stove world. Consequently, these market shifts pave the way for modern wood stoves.

Contemporary Wood Stove Market

Contemporary wood stove manufacturers in the United States sell more than 200,000 wood burning stoves each year, with models ranging dramatically in performance. Many articles discuss how the new stringent standards from the EPA will weed out under-performing models, but we at MF Fire decided to perform our own analysis to see how our ultra-clean modern wood stove, Catalyst, will fare compared to our competitors in the future.

Here are four quick facts about how the contemporary wood stove industry will change forever:

  1. 85% of the current wood stove models listed by the EPA will retire as they fail to meet the new standards for modern wood stoves.
  2. 41 manufacturers have no modern wood stoves that meet the second step of the EPA wood burning stove regulations slated to take effect in January 1, 2020.
  3. Experts project that 86% of approximately 60 wood stove manufacturers will leave the market in the next 4 years as a result of having 1 or fewer viable models for sale.
  4. Even the largest wood stove manufacturer, Hearth & Homes Technologies, will retire an estimated 35 of its 49 models (69%).

Modern Wood Stoves

Clean wood stove

MF Fire got it’s start in the University of Maryland Fire Lab, and we believe that more research is the way forward.

Suffice to say, a massive hole exists in the U.S. residential wood stove heating market. The solution, that we at MF Fire embrace, is aggressive research and development, as well as radical innovation.  But, what makes an innovative and modern wood stove?

Most importantly, our modern wood stove, Catalyst, easily exceeds the stringent 2020 EPA wood burning stove standards. This means that Catalyst will be a smart choice for years to come.

Do you have a friend or family member that would be interested in the Catalyst contemporary wood stove? Share this article on Facebook by clicking the button below.




Wood Stove Heating is Actually Growing

One of the biggest misconceptions we’ve run into since we first built the Catalyst wood stove is that wood heat is a dying industry. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Wood stove heating is actually growing dramatically across the U.S. and especially in the Northeast. Many people are realizing the benefits of a wood burning stove. In fact, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, all nine states in the New England and the Middle Atlantic Census divisions saw at least a 50% jump from 2005 to 2012 in the number of households that rely on wood as the main heating source.

graph of states with highest percentage increase in homes using wood as main heating source, as explained in the article text

In total, about 12 million homes use wood as a primary or secondary heat source, and wood stoves are the most common source of heat (fireplaces are second). Why do customers switch to wood? It’s inexpensive, it’s local, and it’s renewable. Those wood burning stove benefits are hard to beat!

With growth comes attention, and with attention comes regulation. The EPA has issued updated emissions standards for wood stoves that many stoves in the current marketplace do not meet. That’s why MF Fire built the Catalyst Wood Burning Stove to be the most efficient stove out there.

To learn more about potential wood burning stove benefits visit: http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=15431