HOULTON, Maine — Mainers who use wood stoves for heat this season may find higher than normal moisture levels in wood is affecting how well it burns.
Firewood can be bought “seasoned” or “unseasoned.” Unseasoned, or green, wood contains up to 80 percent moisture by weight, according to woodheat.org. Properly seasoned wood has a moisture content of less than 20 percent.
Peter Lammert, forester and wood energy specialist for the Maine Forest Service, believes that this year, seasoned wood isn’t really seasoned at all.
This summer, Lammert said, it rained significantly from early June into August.
“Drying time was definitely scarce,” he said Tuesday.
Cutting, splitting and drying wood is a long process, he said, and wood is usually split and piled to dry for three months during the summer.
“[Seasoned wood this year] is green,” he said. “Because of all the rain we’ve had, it has not had a chance to dry. That has become a problem for people.”
Dry wood burns, and heats, much better. This year, however, many people have found themselves buying seasoned wood that is nevertheless wet.
“I have heard numerous complaints about that,” he said. “People all the time are ordering their seasoned wood and getting it home and finding that they have wet pieces that are just not burning as well as they should.”
“When wood is wet, you are going to waste a certain percentage of the available heat burning off the moisture,” he said.
Lammert speculated that the rain and its effect on this year’s wood stockpile has prompted more people to turn to kiln-dried wood.
“That is the highest quality wood. It also is the most expensive,” he said, noting that it typically costs about $35 more per cord. “But every year, dealers are selling more and more kiln-dried wood.”
While prices vary by area, the average cost per cord for green firewood cut, split and delivered in the Bangor area was $220 this week.
Lammert recommends buying firewood in the spring. Once obtained, he said, owners should get seasoned wood off the ground and onto pavement or pallets to keep the pieces on the bottom from getting wet. Pile it in a place where the sun can shine on it and the wind can blow through the pile. If the wood has to be stored outside, use a waterproof roof to help keep it dry.