About firewood logs
Logs are the most versatile and available form of wood fuel, and, of all the wood fuels, are the easiest way of heating a home with a chimney. Logs can fuel open fires (not recommended as this is a very inefficient way to heat a room), stoves and modern boilers in homes of all sizes. Log processing businesses can often offer a range of length logs to suit your needs, but, they are commonly available in 8 and 10 inch lengths from your local suppliers.
However, when buying your logs, you need to be aware of the quality of product (particularly moisture content) and the service you will receive. You may also be interested in whether firewood has been sourced from sustainably managed woodland. It is advisable to talk to a selection of local producers to find out as much information as you can.
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Firewood logs are a bulky and variable product that are ideally locally produced and used. A variety of small scale producers exist with a range of knowledge, experience and traditions.
Softwood or hardwood
Traditionally hardwood is perceived as a better fuel. The truth is both are good fuels. A kilogram of softwood can have the same calorific value as a kilogram of hardwood. You will need a greater volume of softwood to get the same energy because softwood has a lower density, however, softwood is generally cheaper and quicker to reach useful temperatures but the same volume of hardwood will burn for longer. For logs, many suppliers recommend buying a combination of the two.
Ask about the moisture content
• 25% moisture content or below is the accepted standard
• If you buy unseasoned (green) logs they will have a higher moisture content, but should be cheaper - although you’ll need to dry them before burning. If you have a spare and suitable covered area that you could leave next year’s supply to dry in, this could be a good financial option.
• When using a moisture meter, always test the split surface of a freshly split log – the difference between the inside and outside can be as much as 15%, but the average moisture content across the log should be no more than 25%
• Logs are ideally split to a 5-12cm diameter for most efficient drying and burning.
Ask about delivery options
• Ask how your supplier can deliver to your home - do you want them dumped at the gate, in returnable bags, or do you want them stacked into your log store?
• Remember to ask about delivery charges, bag deposits and stacking costs.
• Make sure you have a suitable storage area. Logs stored outside need to be raised above the ground in a well ventilated area and protected from the rain, and not only close to the house but convenient for the delivery.
• Check that the logs delivered are suitable in terms of size for your stove or boiler. A standard log length is about 8-10 inches
Ask about weight and volume
• Understand what you are buying. Logs are sold by the load, in tonnes, loose cubic metres, stacked cubic metres or in small bags. If you buy by the ‘load’, always ask what volume the load contains.
• Always buy logs by volume and not by weight, because volume does not take into account moisture content. Purchasing by weight means you might be just buying a lot of water!
• When buying by cubic metre, check if it’s a loose or stacked cubic metre. A loose cubic metre (when logs are piled randomly) contains a third less wood than a stacked cubic metre (when logs are stacked neatly). Bulk loads are more commonly sold by the loose cubic metre.
Fuel demand will depend on the size and thermal efficiency of the heated building. As a rough indication, for whole house heating, a small cottage might use 8m3 of seasoned stacked logs per year, a 3 to 4 bedroom semi-detached house around 12m3 and a detached farmhouse about 16m3.