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Sweep's Library: Firewood BTU Comparison Charts

Sweepy Here are two charts showing the weight and available heat content of one cord of firewood of various species, the first sorted by heat value, and the second sorted alphabetically for easy lookup. The heat value measurement used is the British Thermal Unit, or BTU, which is defined as the amount of thermal energy it takes to raise one pound of water one degree F. One MBTU = one million BTUs.

Firewood Chart A: Sorted by BTU Content
Common NameSpecies NamePounds
/Cord
MBTU
/Cord
Osage Orange (Hedge)Maclura pomifera4,84530.0
Hop Hornbeam (Ironwood)Ostrya virginiana4,25026.4
Persimmon, AmericanDiospyros virginiana4,16525.8
Hickory, ShagbarkCarya ovata4,08025.3
Dogwood, PacificCornus nuttallii3,99524.8
Holly, AmericanIlex Opaca3,99524.8
Birch, BlackBetula lenta3,91024.2
Oak, WhiteQuercus alba3,91024.2
Madrone, Pacific (Arbutus)Arbutus menziesii3,82523.7
Oak, PostQuercus stellata3,82523.7
Locust, HoneyGleditsia triacanthos3,82523.7
Hickory, Bitternut Carya cordiformis3,82523.7
Beech, Blue (Ironwood)Carpinus caroliniana3,82523.7
MulberryMorus rubra3,74023.2
Locust, BlackRobinia pseudoacacia3,74023.2
Maple, SugarAcer saccharum3,74023.2
Beech, AmericanFagus grandifolia3,65522.7
Oak, Oregon (Garry)Quercus garryana3,65522.7
Oak, Bur (Mossycup)Quercus macrocarpa3,65522.7
Oak, RedQuercus rubra 3,57022.1
Birch, YellowBetula alleghaniensis3,57022.1
Ash, WhiteFraxinus americana 3,48521.6
Myrtle, Oregon (Pepperwood)Umbellularia californica3,48521.6
AppleMalus domestica3,48521.6
Ash, GreenFraxinus pennsylvanica3,40021.1
Maple, BlackAcer nigrum 3,40021.1
Walnut, BlackJuglans nigra3,23020.0
Maple, RedAcer rubrum3,23020.0
Ash, OregonFraxinus latifolia 3,23020.0
Birch, White (Paper)Betula papyrifera 3,23020.0
Tamarack (Larch)Larix laricina3,14519.5
Birch, GrayBetula populifolia3,14519.5
HackberryCeltis occidentalis3,14519.5
Juniper, Rocky MtnJuniperus scopulorum3,14519.5
Cherry, BlackPrunus serotina3,14519.5
Coffeetree, KentuckyGymnocladus dioicus 3,06019.0
Sorrel (Sourwood)Oxydendrum arboreum3,06019.0
Elm, Red Ulmus rubra 3,06019.0
Eucalyptus (Red Gum)Eucalyptus camaldulensis2,97518.4
Elm, AmericanUlmus americana2,97518.4
Sycamore, AmericanPlatanus occidentalis2,89017.9
Maple, Big LeafAcer macrophyllum 2,89017.9
Elm, White (Russian)Ulmus laevis 2,89017.9
Ash, BlackFraxinus nigra2,89017.9
Boxelder (Maple Ash)Acer negundo2,89017.9
Pine, Norway (Red)Pinus resinosa2,89017.9
Fir, DouglasPseudotsuga menzies II2,80517.4
Maple, SilverAcer saccharinum2,80517.4
Compressed Sawdust Logs * Presto homofecit stipes 2,000 16.5
Pine, PitchPinus rigida2,63516.3
Pine, LodgepolePinus contora latifolia2,46515.3
HemlockPinaceae tsuga2,46515.3
Spruce, BlackPicea mariana2,46515.3
Catalpa (Catawba)Catalpa speciosa2,38014.8
Pine, PonderosaPinus ponderosa2,38014.8
Alder, Red or WhiteAlnus rubra or rhombifolia2,38014.8
Pine, Jack (Canadian)Pinus banksiana2,38014.8
Spruce, SitkaPicea sitchensis2,38014.8
Pine, White (Idaho) Pinus monticola 2,23614.3
WillowSalix2,29514.2
Fir, Concolor (White)Abies concolor2,29514.2
Basswood (Linden)Tilia americana2,21013.7
Aspen, American (Poplar)Populus tremuloides2,21013.7
Butternut (White Walnut)Juglans cinerea2,12513.2
Pine, White (Eastern)Pinus strobus2,12513.2
Fir, BalsamAbies balsamea2,12513.2
Cottonwood (Balsam Poplar)Populus trichocarpa2,04012.6
Spruce, EngelmannPicea engelmannii1,95512.1
Cedar, Eastern (Redcedar)Juniperus virginiana1,95512.1
Buckeye, OhioAesculus glabra1,95512.1
Cedar, White (Whitecedar)Thuja occidentalis1,87011.6
BambooPoaceae bambusoideae1,61510.0
BalsaOchroma pyramidale 9355.8

Copyright © 2011 The Chimney Sweep, Inc.
Firewood Chart B: Sorted Alphabetically
Common NameSpecies NamePounds
/Cord
MBTU
/Cord
Alder, Red or WhiteAlnus rubra or rhombifolia2,38014.8
AppleMalus domestica3,48521.6
Ash, BlackFraxinus nigra2,89017.9
Ash, GreenFraxinus pennsylvanica3,40021.1
Ash, OregonFraxinus latifolia 3,23020.0
Ash, WhiteFraxinus americana 3,48521.6
Aspen, American (Poplar)Populus tremuloides2,21013.7
BalsaOchroma pyramidale 9355.8
BambooPoaceae bambusoideae1,61510.0
Basswood (Linden)Tilia americana2,21013.7
Beech, AmericanFagus grandifolia3,65522.7
Beech, Blue (Ironwood)Carpinus caroliniana3,82523.7
Birch, BlackBetula lenta3,89024.2
Birch, GrayBetula populifolia3,14519.5
Birch, YellowBetula alleghaniensis3,57022.1
Birch, White (Paper)Betula papyrifera 3,23020.0
Boxelder (Maple Ash)Acer negundo2,89017.9
Buckeye, OhioAesculus glabra1,95512.1
Butternut (White Walnut) Juglans cinerea 2,125 13.2
Catalpa (Catawba)Catalpa speciosa2,38014.8
Cedar, Eastern (Redcedar)Juniperus virginiana1,95512.1
Cedar, White (Whitecedar)Thuja occidentalis1,87011.6
Cherry, BlackPrunus serotina3,14519.5
Coffeetree, KentuckyGymnocladus dioicus 3,06019.0
Compressed Sawdust Logs * Presto homofecit stipes 2,000 16.5
Cottonwood (Balsam Poplar)Populus trichocarpa2,04012.6
Dogwood, PacificCornus nuttallii3,99524.8
Elm, AmericanUlmus americana2,97518.4
Elm, Red Ulmus rubra 3,06019.0
Elm, White (Russian)Ulmus laevis 2,89017.9
Eucalyptus (Red Gum)Eucalyptus camaldulensis2,97518.4
Fir, BalsamAbies balsamea2,12513.2
Fir, Concolor (White)Abies concolor2,29514.2
Fir, DouglasPseudotsuga menzies II2,80517.4
HackberryCeltis occidentalis3,14519.5
HemlockPinaceae tsuga2,46515.3
Hickory, Bitternut Carya cordiformis3,82523.7
Hickory, ShagbarkCarya ovata4,08025.3
Holly, AmericanIlex Opaca3,99524.8
Hop Hornbeam (Ironwood)Ostrya virginiana4,25026.4
Juniper, Rocky MtnJuniperus scopulorum3,14519.5
Locust, BlackRobinia pseudoacacia3,74023.2
Locust, HoneyGleditsia triacanthos3,82523.7
Madrone, Pacific (Arbutus)Arbutus menziesii3,82523.7
Maple, Big LeafAcer macrophyllum 2,89017.9
Maple, BlackAcer nigrum 3,40021.1
Maple, RedAcer rubrum3,23020.0
Maple, SugarAcer saccharum3,74023.2
Maple, SilverAcer saccharinum2,80517.4
MulberryMorus rubra3,74023.2
Myrtle, Oregon (Pepperwood)Umbellularia californica3,48521.6
Oak, Bur (Mossycup)Quercus macrocarpa3,65522.7
Oak, Oregon (Garry)Quercus garryana3,65522.7
Oak, PostQuercus stellata3,82523.7
Oak, RedQuercus rubra 3,57022.1
Oak, WhiteQuercus alba3,91024.2
Osage Orange (Hedge)Maclura pomifera4,84530.0
Persimmon, AmericanDiospyros virginiana4,16525.8
Pine, Jack (Canadian)Pinus banksiana2,38014.8
Pine, LodgepolePinus contora latifolia2,46515.3
Pine, Norway (Red)Pinus resinosa2,89017.9
Pine, PitchPinus rigida2,63516.3
Pine, PonderosaPinus ponderosa2,38014.8
Pine, White (Eastern)Pinus strobus2,12513.2
Pine, White (Idaho)Pinus monticola2,23614.3
Sorrel (Sourwood)Oxydendrum arboreum3,06019.0
Spruce, EngelmannPicea engelmannii1,95512.1
Spruce, SitkaPicea sitchensis2,38014.8
Spruce, BlackPicea mariana2,46515.3
Sycamore, AmericanPlatanus occidentalis2,89017.9
Tamarack (Larch)Larix laricina3,14519.5
Walnut, BlackJuglans nigra3,23020.0
WillowSalix2,29514.2

Copyright © 2011 The Chimney Sweep, Inc.

Weight and Heat content figures are based on seasoned wood at 20% moisture content, and 85 cu ft of wood per cord. A cord of wood is defined as a stack 4 feet high, 4 feet deep and 8 feet long, which comes to 128 cu ft, but we deduct for air space between the pieces in the stack.

* Compressed sawdust logs sell by weight, not volume.  BTU content given is for one ton (2,000 lbs)

To read about how we derived the numbers for our charts, click here.

Regardless of what species of wood you burn, it won't produce optimal heat output and burn time unless it is properly seasoned. You can read more about why you shouldn't burn unseasoned fuel wood here. 

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A Correction from Wyoming

Just a comment on your BTU chart. A cord of wood is 4X4X8 SOLID! (as in stacked lumber) so when you deducted the "air space" it was an error. However... you did use the same formula for all species, so the BTU content in relation to each other is still accurate, even though the number isn't accurate for a cord.  I did like the fact that you put weights on the list also. Guys are constantly telling me they can get 1 1/2 cords on a pick-up. Didn't think they were... looking at these weights, now I'm sure. Thanks for the info.

Mike

Sweepy Hi Mike,

I'll admit that a tight stack of dimensional lumber will have very little airspace, but dimensional lumber is sold by the board/foot, not the cord. Our charts are concerned with fuel wood, which is irregular-shaped rounds and splits off the tree. The correction for airspace between pieces didn't originate with us, it is a widely held standard in the hearth product and solid fuel industries, and we consider it pretty accurate.

And consider the price you'd pay for a cord of dimensional lumber!  If you put together a 4' wide x 4' tall stack of 8' long Doug Fir 4x4's, it would take 188 of them (considering actual size, 3-1/2" x 3-1/2"), which would run you $1740.00 at the lumber yard at today's price.

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A Correction from Plymouth, Minnesota

I need to address your silly comment about the airspace in a cord of wood. Back in the day, a cord of wood was 4x4x8 as it is today.  However, it was made up of unsplit logs in 8ft lengths stacked 4ft high and 4ft wide.  Logs then were commonly 2ft in diameter or much lager.  Therefore, cords could easily be comprised of four 24" logs stacked two each high and two each wide.

Bruce

Sweepy Hi Bruce, 

In my 35 years in the wood heat business, I've never heard of cordwood being sold or delivered in 8-foot lengths. In fact, here in Washington State, it isn't even LEGAL to sell firewood in anything but 16" lengths. Nonetheless, your statement intrigued me, so I did a little research.

After a couple of hours on the internet, I was unable to find anyone, anywhere, offering fuel wood for sale in 24" diameter 8-foot lengths.

Here's what I did find:

According to a 2009 report by the State of Minnesota, the most popular fuelwood species in your state are Oak & Ash.
With that in mind, let's examine the "Bruce Cord", comprised of four 8' long by 24" diameter Oak or Ash logs.
These logs would be green, as it would take many, many years to season an 8' length.
Which means that, according to the Engineer's Toolbox, each of your 8' x 24" logs would weigh about 1,200 pounds!
Makes me wonder how those cords you refer to get delivered.

Next, let's examine the math. If you look at the diagram, you'll see that each of your 24" logs occupies a cross-sectional area of 452.39 square inches. Four of them occupy just 1809.56 square inches of the 48" x 48" space (2304 square inches). This leaves 494.4 square inches of airspace, or 21% of the total volume. So, your "cord" of 24" diameter logs contains 6% LESS wood than a cord of cut and split pieces (15% airspace).

Even if someone could come up with a practical way to deliver half-ton hunks of wood to residences, what would motivate a buyer to choose that format, knowing that at the end of the hours of hard work required to process it, his woodpile would be 6% short of a cord?

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A Comment from New Zealand:

BTUs? What century was your chart produced? I thought the world measured energy in Joules(J), Kilojoules (KJ), Megajoules (MJ) these days!

I am 70 next birthday, and can distinctly remember learning about energy in high school science classes around 1955~59. We did learn the BTU at first, but the next year we changed to Joules for energy, and were told that the reason was that all science throughout the world was done in metric units, so we better get used to it!

The next few years were an exciting time, as New Zealand changed over to the metric system for everyday use. By this time I was myself a high school teacher and we had the challenge of converting all teaching to metric units. Metric measurement is now universal throughout the country.

OK, I do actually realise you are in the US, and the US has farther to go down this road than any other country in the world. I will just say when the change finally comes your way, embrace it wholeheartedly. It may seem difficult initially, but once you are used to it you will NEVER want to go back to the old system. I have heard literally hundreds of old diehards utter similar sentiments a short time after they have had to change!

Cheers,
Graeme

Sweepy We might be tempted to convert our firewood rating chart over from MBTUs to MegaJoules, but we have one consideration: how many times have we been sitting at our favorite tavern, glass in hand, and found ourselves engaging in some version of the following exchange?

Bob: "Say, during my last sip I noticed that my pounder of Budweiser has warmed up exactly one degree F while I've been holding it. How much energy did my body have to give up to make that happen?"

Tom: "One BTU."

An easy exchange, no? Now let's try the same conversation in a NZ pub:

Kevin: "Say, during my last sip I noticed that my 0.453592 kg glass of Mac's Gold has warmed up exactly .55555 degrees C while I've been holding it. How much energy did my body have to give up to make that happen?"

Graeme: "1,055 Joules."

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Thanks for the chart, very helpful, love the joke at the end

Ryan Weems

Sweepy Joke?

       

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