In Time For Arctic Blast: The Heat Value of Firewood


An “arctic blast” is expected to hit Kansas this weekend, dropping temperatures to near zero or below. With the possibility of extended cold winter weather settling in, now is a good time to talk about the selection of firewood because not all firewood is created equal.

Firewood is typically sold as a volume – usually a cord – which is 128 cubic feet. However, the heating value of various types of firewood can vary greatly. For example, K-State Research and Extension horticulturist Ward Upham says there’s a big difference between a pound of cottonwood and a pound of hedge.

The heat value of firewood is measured in thermal units. Cottonwood ranks at the bottom for heat value, along with elms and sycamores. While oak isn’t at the top of the list, Upham says it’s still a solid choice.

Honey locust has a good heat value but can spark and should not be used in an open fireplace. Black locust is a better choice because it’s a dense wood, burns well and produces a nice bed of coals. However, the firewood with the best heat value is Osage orange and hedge.

In addition to selecting firewood with a good heat value, it should be purchased locally to avoid the possibility of transporting pests. Upham says Emerald Ash Borer is now in Kansas because of transported wood.

Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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