Thursday, November 17, 2011

Test Driving Juniper Firewood

Our house goes through about four cords of firewood every winter. The house was built in the '70s and did not come with a furnace. It relied on electrically heated ceilings, most of which have failed and are unrepairable. Little 1500 watt Cadet wall heaters were subsequently installed in some of the rooms, but those are about as useful as hair driers (also 1500 watts) for keeping the downstairs, where Mrs Elliott's employees work, comfortable.

The previous owners put a very efficient wood stove insert into the downstairs fireplace, and I added a blower to it. As long as there is wood burning in the stove, the whole house is suffused with heat.

For our first three winters here I purchased Lodgepole pine, four cords every fall, split and stacked.

But softwoods are not my favorite firewood: not a lot of btu's/cord and the stuff burns up quickly. I used to burn oak in a woodstove down in a '30s-era house in Vista, Calif., and loved it. It packs a lot more btu's per stick and burns more steadily.

But we don't have hardwood here in Central Oregon.

So this year I decided to switch to juniper. Your Western Juniper weighs more and packs more btu's than our Lodgepole pine, about 18% greater in both cases (weight pretty much translates directly into heat).

The woodstove seems to be happy with it. And I really like how it burns in the upstairs fireplace. Where pine burns quickly and needs constant replenishing, juniper, in comparison, burns more slowly and constantly, and I don't need to keep feeding sticks into the fire.

Juniper smells like incense, too.

The guys who brought the wood told me that juniper clogs up a chimney with creosote faster than pine. I'll call my chimneysweep dude and see what he thinks.


  1. "The guys who brought the wood told me that juniper clogs up a chimney with creosote faster than pine."

    True. The other drawback is that it's messier -- sheds more bits of bark than lodgepole. But it does burn well and smell nice.

  2. Yep, it's messier all right. This load especially so because it was taken from trees that had been exposed to intentional groundfires, set by the owner to enrich the soil. Lots of charred bark.


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