In either a wood stove or fireplace, the easiest and best fire is built by using a mixture of both softwoods–from trees such as pines and firs–and hardwoods, such as oak, eucalyptus, cedar and so on. Softwoods start burning easily, and the hardwoods provide for long burning and good "coaling" qualities. A bed of ashes underneath the grate produces steady heat and aids in igniting new fuel as it is added. The fire will continue burning if small amounts of wood are added at regular intervals. In fact, more efficient combustion results from burning small loads of wood with sufficient air than from burning large loads with minimal air.
A fire in the fireplace is relaxing, but they don't heat your home as thoroughly as you may think. Fireplaces deliver 10 percent or less of the fire's heat to the room and will increase your heating bill in two ways. First, firewood costs more than the value of the delivered heat. Seasoned oak firewood must cost less than $20 per cord (a cord is a stack 4 feet wide by 4 feet high by 8 feet long) to provide heat from a fireplace at a cost comparable to a heat pump, according to the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service. Fireplaces also require a large volume of air from the chimney. The incoming air cools the rest of the house, causing the primary heater to operate more than if you had no fire.
Black stove pipe (and furnace pipe, for that matter) should be securely fastened together at each joint with no less than three sheet metal screws or pop-rivets. Stove and vent pipe should be inspected at least yearly, and replaced when signs of rusting or wear are evident.
If you have a newer EPA-rated woodstove, you might have a catalytic combuster in there somewhere. Make sure to check the owner's manual about cleaning it - and stick to the schedule. Combusters should last 5 or 6 years, but a clogged or dirty one will fail rather quickly.
Dirty woodstove glass? Try dipping a dampened piece of newsprint in the fine white ashes after your fire has died. Whipe it onto the glass in circular motions - it works well if the glass isn't terribly dirty to begin with.
Although there are a variety of measuring units, firewood is normally sold by the cord, or a fraction of a cord. The dimensions of a "standard cord" is a stack of wood piled 8 feet long, 4 feet wide and 4 feet high. You won't get a full 128 cubic feet of firewood with a standard cord because of the airspace between the pieces of the wood; the amount of wood in such a stack will depend upon the size and straightness of the pieces, how they are split and how the wood is stacked. Because of this, the total cubic feet in a cord can vary from 70 to 90 or more cubic feet.
When wood is stacked outdoors with good air circulation in a spot that's dry, sunny and open for about six months it will be dry enough to support efficient combustion. Seasoned wood has a higher heating value than green wood. In general, because of its moisture content, a cord of green wood will weigh 70 to 100 percent more than seasoned wood.