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I Think I Get More Heat Out Of Pine Than Hardwood?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by turbocruiser, Nov 17, 2013.

  1. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser Feeling the Heat

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    Please don't flame me for my ignorance because I'm sure that is what it partially is but after all sorts of study with my wood and my stove I'm getting more and more convinced that overall I get more heat out of pine than out of hardwood.

    Granted I have to load the pine MUCH more frequently but whereas pine will start flaming super fast and make my secondary system go absolutely wild with flames like flamethrowers almost all throughout that load, the hardwood will start slowly, make my secondary system lazily loaf along as compared to the pine, and then go to a long lasting coal stage that simply won't allow me to reload the stove as frequently.

    Now I really do recognize all the science that states that hardwood has more btu's per pound but in reality in terms of the overall burn and the ability to stuff more pounds per hour of wood into the stove the experience I have had thus far tells me that overall I get more heat out of pine than out of hardwood.

    Ohh, just to eliminate the other factors out there I am making totally sure that my moisture levels are about the same, the split sizes are about the same, the loading patterns are about the same etc. In other words to the best of my ability I am trying to follow the scientific method and only allow one different variable. So I'd love to learn the thoughts of those out there with MUCH more experience but so far this is the experience I have had.

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  2. Grisu

    Grisu Minister of Fire

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    Thinking in BTUs per hour you are probably right. You state the same reasons why I had come to love pine in the midst of winter. Since it burns really fast with little coals, I can stuff the stove every 3 to 4 hours and keep it at hot temps (>500 F) pretty much all the time. More difficult to do with hardwood and its extensive coaling stage. The drawbacks are you are tending the stove quite often and softwoods are more work compared with hardwood as you will need to cut, split, stack and move around about 40% to 50% more wood.

    Plus, if you feel the need to burn pine for the heat most of the time it suggests your stove is undersized. Looking at your sig that could be the case for you as the Alterra is a pretty small stove.
    jeff_t likes this.
  3. Augie

    Augie Feeling the Heat

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    Before people just on you I feel as though I should point out that you haven't accounted for, or at least mentioned moisture content of your wood.

    Do you have a moisture meter? do you know the values for the wood you are loading? I agree that the less dense woods catch faster and have a shorter end of the burn period, but I am willing to bet that having dry hardwood will change your mind. I have some really dry Hickory(14 percent MC) that catches just as quickly as dry pine, but I have some elm that is 23 percent MC that takes a while to catch, although it will burn and keep the house warm it takes a ton of energy to get the remaining moisture out of the wood before I get really good secondaries.

    And the wood has EXACTLY the same BTU's per pound, hardwood has more BTU's per Volume than softwood(because hardwood is denser).

    Dont worry everyone has noob questions, I did, I do at times still......
  4. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser Feeling the Heat

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    Uhh, you must have missed it but I did indeed mention the moisture levels being about the same and I always use a moisture meter to determine that. My wood tends to fluctuate between 6% and 10%. I have some hardwood that reads lower than the pine actually and the results there still seem the same that overall I get more heat out of the pine than out of the hardwood.
  5. Nick Mystic

    Nick Mystic Minister of Fire

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    The pine you are burning is releasing its BTUs faster than the oak or other hardwoods you are comparing it to. Since the BTUs are released faster they will produce more heat for that shorter period of time than a comparable load of hardwood. A piece of wood laying out in the woods undisturbed will release the same number of BTUs during the years it takes to decompose as it would have produced in an hour or two burning in a wood stove. Faster release means more relative heat during the short time.
  6. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    Are you measuring on a newly split face? 6% to 10% MC would be highly unusual. It's hard enough to get most wood much below 20% in most climates.
  7. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser Feeling the Heat

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    That makes sense and then on top of that because I basically am able to reload two loads of pine for every one load of hardwood, it does indeed seem to provide much more heat overall. In other words if the pine took just as long to breakdown to ash then it would not matter much at all but because it takes twice as long as pine to breakdown the hardwood then not only "releases the heat slower" but also "takes longer to reload". Am I understanding that right?
  8. madison

    madison Minister of Fire

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    Is this kiln dried wood or just high altitude Rocky mountain beetle killed pine?

    IMHO, moisture meters are not very accurate ...
  9. Augie

    Augie Feeling the Heat

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    You didn't mention it you said

    I see you are in the Rockies, dry air for sure, but Is this kiln dried? I have not see wood that was dried naturally that ever gets that low. What are you procedures for measuring MC? Im not trying to be an ass, but most(read just about every) person who is new and says something similar, and/or that they are having trouble with some aspect of burning wood for heat will say that "it isnt my wood" when after a thorough investigation it is the wood.

    So the usual questions
    When was the hardwood CSS?
    Softwood?
    Species of hardwood?
    How are you determining the MC of your wood? Are you splitting a round and testing a fresh face? using the probes along the grain? pressing firmly?
  10. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    In my experience, the meters themselves are fine and always within a couple of percent, but you do have to use them correctly and that means on the face of a fresh split and pins firmly pressed in and preferably with the grain.
  11. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser Feeling the Heat

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    Okay, now you are splitting hairs, and not splitting splits. :p I'm sorry I didn't mention the moisture in percentage points for that first post I just tried to eliminate any additional variables as in different types with different levels. So whether the wood is all at 50% or all at 10% it is all approximately the same that's all. To address the excellent questions everyone is asking...

    1. I live in an area which I would describe as "Mountain Desert" at 6,800+ foot altitude the afternoon average humidity hovers at about 25% - 35%, we have an average of 315 days of strong sunshine, an average of about 16 inches of precipitation and an average of 10 - 15 mph winds all throughout the year.
    2. All of the wood that I have was standing dead for a full two to three years (I have yet to cut a live tree although some of the beetle kill basically was on its last leg when it was cut so it may indeed have been "alive" but not by much), then it is c/s/s for a full two to three years.
    3. Although I often leave rounds uncovered, by the time the wood is split it sits completely covered in small sheds with only two rows thickness, lots and lots of spaces offering airflow and those sheds then sit on top of a deep thickness of dark river rock which gets so hot its hard to step on it barefoot in Spring or Summer.
    4. Most of my pine is lodgepole pine although I also have some other species. The hardwood is all sorts of stuff from Ash to Elm to Oak to Scrub Oak. The hardwood is all sourced as locally as possible the pine sometimes comes from elevations as high as 10K feet altitude.
    5. I always use my moisture meter on a freshly split face right in the middle of the middle of the split. It is a "General Tool" moisture meter if that is at all important. Not the fanciest tool but I do think it is accurate. I stick the probes down as deep as I can and always with the grain.
    6. I am on my third to fourth year of burning in an EPA stove with secondary air system. Prior to that I burned wood with an open air fireplace for years and years (15+) and prior to that with a Pre-EPA stove although that always was more for ambiance than anything else.
    7. I'm trying to be as honest and humble as possible by always admitting that I am not an expert at the stove thing but I've been wood burning long enough to know the wood and on top of that I'm a woodworker by hobby and have some experience and expertise that transfers from that hobby.

    I hope that helps and I appreciate all the advice as always. Thanks.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
  12. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    Btu/lb is roughly the same for all wood, but from what I hear the resin is higher for pine than most hardwood. It's the btu/cf that determines how much heat you can really pack into ang get out of your stove on a hourly basis. I get more heat in a hurry from pine as well, but more ash too, and 2x the motion cutting/splitting/stacking/moving/lightingcleaning -UGH! Makes you appreciate energy density.

    Love pine for the shoulder seasons. Especially when the stove doesn't run 24/7.
  13. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    Right. About 8600 BTU/pound for non-resinous wood, and some sources say about 9000 for resinous like pine. But again, maybe splitting hairs:) (Those figures are for oven-dried wood)

    But the point is that it will take more of the less dense wood like pine than the dense wood like oak to produce the same amount of heat. But in terms of volume, not weight.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2013
  14. Grisu

    Grisu Minister of Fire

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    What kind of pine you are burning? I have plenty of white one and definitively get less ash than with the hardwoods (ash, maple) that I am burning. (Hardwoods are dry and I am serious about sifting out coals, too.) Agree with the rest. Pine is a PITA to cut, split and stack when considering the BTU per cord.
  15. Seanm

    Seanm Feeling the Heat

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    He states that he is burning Lodgepole Pine which is what I burn as well, in fact Im burning it right now. Lodgepole sure does burn hot! Its one of the higher btu pines you will find out there and I find it easy to split green or dry with very little sticky sap. We have it everywhere around here and close by so theres no need to drive long distances burning gasoline and increasing costs when its often under 15 minutes away.
  16. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    This sums it up. More time spent in the hottest part of the burn cycle. More off-gassing and crazy secondary action makes a hotter stove.
    Seanm and Grisu like this.
  17. Todd

    Todd Minister of Fire

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    I don't have Lodgepole but have burned some sappy Spruce and Red Pine and yes it takes off faster than hardwoods but it just doesn't last half as long as good hardwoods like Oak.

    Another thing to consider, the higher elevation pine is much more dense than lower elevations so it may burn longer and hotter.
    Beetle-Kill likes this.
  18. Beetle-Kill

    Beetle-Kill Minister of Fire

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    +1. From center to bark, I've measured 80+ rings on a 10" round.
  19. heatwise

    heatwise Feeling the Heat

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    Pine is excellent stuff. it's most often left behind and overlooked in this area . I do make a point to split it down small and use it sparingly.hardwoods aren't scarce here. I'm not after any one specific wood type but rather appreciate what shows up on the scrounge hunt and make good use of everything after it drys out .
  20. turbocruiser

    turbocruiser Feeling the Heat

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    Thanks for all the awesome helpful answers here folks. I think several people stated what I was observing which was that even though Pine may have less heat in terms of BTUs/Cord the fact that it releases its energy really rapidly, goes from wood to ash so soon without an extra extended coaling stage, and allows me to reload the stove much more frequently is why I was observing what I was observing. I think that my strategy for the future is to use the pine to start the stove and to reload the stove load after load up to bedtime then I'll stuff the stove full of hardwood so I don't have to reload the stove and then that also helps with having a huge and hot coal bed to reignite the pine the next morning. Again I really appreciate all the awesome advice here!
  21. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    FREE pine is always better than purchased hardwood.
  22. eclecticcottage

    eclecticcottage Minister of Fire

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    I agree 98%. We might still buy a cord or so of hardwood to put up for seasoning just for those low teens/single digit nights when a full load of pine won't cut it (the 2% of the time when bought hardwood is still better than free pine). We'd have coals in the AM, but I can guarantee the VF would kick on sometime in the night!
  23. ColdNH

    ColdNH Minister of Fire

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    Yep, i had about half a cord of pine ready to burn this season that I cut down on my property a while ago, was going to use it just for shoulder season but after so much success with it and its abundance of freeness around here. I am going to use it as you described. Its great for shoulder season, but its also great just to get a fire going or if your in front of the stove all day and just feel like feeding the thing firewood and keeping it roaring and toasty warm. Just scored about 3-4 cord of it which will hopefully be ready to go for next season. supplementing with this stuff will give my oak more time to season.
  24. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    Dont know what it feels like to BUY wood. After 5 years burning, still working my way thru the "other " stuff.
    I rarely use my cherished seasoned oak that i scrounged.
  25. Seanm

    Seanm Feeling the Heat

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    I do exactly what youre describing. I process enough Lodgepole Pine to use as my main wood for day time burning and save the Larch which has a much higher btu content for my overnight burns. Pine is much easier to come by in the bush compared to Larch and there is very little hard wood to be had in the east kootenays.

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