Wood conversion to Btu

Converting cords of wood into a Btu equivalent is an imprecise procedure. The number of cords each household reports having burned is inexact, even with the more precise drawings provided, because the estimate requires the respondent to add up the use of wood over a 12-month period during which wood may have been added to the supply as well as removed. Besides errors of memory inherent in this task, the estimates are subject to problems in definition and perception of what a cord is. The nominal cord as delivered to a suburban residential buyer may differ from the dimensions of the standard cord. This difference is possible because wood is most often cut in lengths that are longer than what makes a third of a cord (16 inches) and shorter than what makes a half cord (24 inches).
In other cases, wood is bought or cut in unusual units (for example, pickup-truck load, or trunk load). Finally, volume estimates are difficult to make when the wood is left in a pile instead of being stacked. Other factors that make it difficult to estimate the Btu value of the wood burned is that the amount of empty space between the stacked logs may vary from 12 to 40 percent of the volume. Moisture content may vary from 20 percent in dried wood to 50 percent in green wood. (Moisture reduces the useful Btu output because energy is used in driving off the moisture). Finally, some tree species contain twice the Btu content of species with the lowest Btu value. Generally, hard woods have greater Btu value than soft woods. Wood is converted to Btu at the rate of 20 million Btu per cord, which is a rough average that takes all these factors into account. Also see Btu conversion factors.

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