Wood BTU Chart – 20 Firewood Types Compared

Wood BTU Chart – 20 Firewood Types Compared

Optimizing Heat: Understanding BTU Outputs of Common Woods

Elevate your home heating strategy with our in-depth guide, featuring a detailed comparison of BTU outputs for 20 wood types, ensuring maximum warmth and efficiency.

For homesteaders, heating with wood isn’t about charm and cozy evenings – it’s about staying warm through the coldest winter months.    A key factor in selecting wood is its British Thermal Unit (BTU) output, which directly impacts the warmth your fire will provide. This guide offers a deep dive into the BTU values as well as a complete Wood BTU Chart of various woods to help you make an informed decision for your heating needs.

What is BTU and It’s Calculated?

Calculating the British Thermal Unit (BTU) output of wood for heating a homestead involves understanding a few key concepts and doing a bit of math. The BTU is a unit of heat that is part of the United States customary units. One BTU is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. When it comes to wood heating, the BTU rating of wood gives you an indication of how much heat the wood can produce when burned. Here’s a detailed look into the process:

1. Wood’s Energy Content

Each type of wood has a different energy content, which is influenced by its density and moisture content. Hardwoods, like oak and maple, generally have a higher energy content than softwoods, such as pine and fir, because they are denser. The energy content of wood is usually measured in BTUs per cord or per pound.

2. Moisture Content

The moisture content of wood significantly impacts its BTU output. Freshly cut wood can have a moisture content of 100% or more, which means it’s half water. Before wood can be effectively used for heating, it needs to be seasoned (dried), which usually reduces its moisture content to 20% or less. Dry wood burns more efficiently and produces more heat because less energy is wasted evaporating water.

3. Calculating Wood BTU Output

To calculate the BTU output of a specific type of wood, you need to know:

  • The wood’s energy content per pound or per cord.
  • The weight of the wood being burned.

For example, if a cord of seasoned oak (which might weigh about 3,600 pounds) has an energy content of about 25 million BTUs per cord, the BTU output of the wood is essentially its energy content.

However, for a more practical estimation, if you know the weight of the wood you’re using, you can use the average energy content per pound to estimate the BTU output. For example, if oak has an average energy content of about 8,000 BTUs per pound, burning 10 pounds of it would theoretically produce 80,000 BTUs of heat.

4. Efficiency Considerations

The actual heat available to heat your home is less than the total BTUs produced by burning wood due to inefficiencies in the combustion process and heat transfer to the room. Wood stoves and fireplaces vary in efficiency, typically ranging from 60% to 80% for modern units. This means that 20% to 40% of the potential heat is lost through the chimney or not effectively transferred into the home.

To estimate the effective BTUs available to heat your home, multiply the total BTUs produced by the efficiency of your wood-burning appliance. For instance, if burning 10 pounds of oak produces 80,000 BTUs and your wood stove is 70% efficient, the heat available to warm your house would be 56,000 BTUs (80,000 * 0.7).

5. Real-World Application

In practice, determining the exact amount of wood you need to heat your home involves considering your home’s size, insulation, outside temperatures, and the desired indoor temperature. It’s a balance between the wood’s BTU output, the efficiency of your heating system, and the specific heating requirements of your space.

Understanding the BTU output of wood and how it translates to heating your homestead is crucial for planning your wood usage over the heating season. By knowing the types of wood you have access to, their moisture content, and the efficiency of your wood-burning appliance, you can estimate how much wood you’ll need to keep your home cozy throughout the winter.

Wood Types and Their BTU Outputs

Understanding the heat output of different wood types is crucial for efficient heating. Below is a table of 20 wood types and their estimated BTU ratings per cord when properly seasoned:


Wood Type BTU Rating (Million BTUs per Cord)
Hickory 27.7
Oak (Red) 24.6
Oak (White) 26.4
Maple (Sugar) 24
Beech 27.5
Birch (Yellow) 22
Ash 20
Cherry 20.4
Elm 20
Walnut 22
Locust (Black) 27.9
Apple 27
Maple (Red) 19.5
Pine (White) 15.9
Spruce 15.5
Cedar 13
Fir 14
Poplar 13.4
Willow 13.5
Aspen 18.2

Maximizing Heating Efficiency with Wood

Selecting high BTU wood is just one part of efficient wood heating. Ensuring wood is well-seasoned and using a modern, efficient wood stove can further optimize your heating experience.



  • How long should wood be seasoned for optimal BTU output?
    • Ideally, wood should be seasoned for 6-12 months.
  • Can mixing different types of wood be beneficial?
    • Yes, mixing can balance quick heat from softer woods with the longer-lasting heat of harder woods.


Additional Resources

For more detailed information on wood heating, consider consulting resources dedicated to sustainable energy and efficient home heating practices.

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