All woods produce about the same heat value per pound and can technically be burnt in a fireplace or wood stove. However, softwoods, such as pine and cedar, tend to produce more creosote and require a greater volume of wood to produce the same amount of heat. If you decide to burn pine, take extra precautions to ensure that the firewood is safe and burns efficiently.
Pine wood is less dense than most hardwoods, such as oak or maple. A given volume of pine firewood weighs less than these more desirable woods and produces less heat. Most stove owners prefer hardwoods for their greater efficiency. However, homeowners may wish to burn a fallen tree or untreated scrap timber. The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association recommends using softwood pieces to get fires started quickly. Switch to hardwood once the chimney is preheated to keep fires burning longer and more effectively.
In addition to its decreased heating power compared to hardwood, pine contains significantly more sap. This increases the risk of very smoky fires, creosote deposits and chimney fires. Maintaining a hot fire instead of a smouldering one will produce less smoke, creosote and tar. Clean-burning wood stoves make this process easier. Older types of wood stoves may need constant monitoring to reduce the risk of creosote build-up.
Well-seasoned wood contains less moisture, burns more efficiently and reduces the risk of excessive creosote inside the stove chimney. Green wood smoulders easily and can create large amounts of smoke. Choose only wood with 20 to 30 per cent moisture as tested by a moisture meter. Some pine can season in only three to four months, if kept inside or in direct sunlight, or if kiln-dried for timber. Other pine wood takes considerably longer, between six and 18 months, and is dangerous and inefficient to burn before seasoning is complete.
Wood-stove owners who burn pine firewood must pay extra attention to stove and chimney maintenance. The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association recommends inspecting chimneys and vents at least once per year. Check older stoves or stoves burning wood with a high sap percentage more often. Clean and inspect connectors and pipes as often as once or twice a month to reduce the risk of unwanted fires.