Trying to find hardwood briquettes? Let us explain how Hardwood and Softwood Briquettes compare.
You might be surprised to know that briquettes don’t need to be hardwood; softwood briquettes are safe for your stove and give an excellent burning experience.
But why are hardwood briquettes so hard to find? Well, let’s explain!
This year, Wood Fuel Co-op have moved to UK suppliers for almost all of our stock. This is for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, we know many customers prefer homegrown, so it’s great to be able to offer UK products.
Secondly, external factors such as Brexit and the war in Ukraine have made sourcing briquettes from Europe very difficult. Russia is a huge supplier of timber products worldwide and because briquettes are a by-product of the timber industry, they have been seriously affected.
Removal of Russian timber from the market has had a profound effect on supplies across Europe. It’s also become increasingly difficult to ensure the timber is legally harvested, as much of the timber felled in Russia is done so illegally, causing irreparable damage to ancient forest ecosystems.
Although it’s great to be stocking UK products, there are some drawbacks.
Most obvious is price.
It’s still cheaper to import products than it is to buy homegrown ones. Astonishingly, it’s cheaper to bring a container of briquettes from Latvia than it is to buy a lorry load from Scotland.
Then there’s the type of wood. All of the briquettes from the UK, made from British timber, tend to be softwood. This isn’t actually a problem – softwood briquettes burn brilliantly and are just as hot as hardwood ones. The problem is customer perception, because most people know that softwood logs are not great for their stoves.
Most stove suppliers will also tell you to only burn hardwoods. Hardwoods are denser, so they burn longer; they’re less sappy, so they don’t spit or crackle; they don’t tar up your stove and flue. Even kiln-dried softwood logs will spit and cause tarring, hence the easiest advice is to just burn hardwood logs.
But, while that was all true of traditional logs, it’s not true of briquettes.
Briquettes of all types go through immense heat and pressure treatment. The type of wood is not as important as particle size, temperature and compression. Small particles and high temperatures and compression levels will produce an excellent briquette, regardless of tree species.
Hardwood and softwood briquettes are equally dense, and equally dry. That means you get a good burn time from both types and softwood briquettes will not tar your stove. This is because the pockets of sap that even kiln-drying doesn’t eliminate are removed during the grinding, drying and compression processes. Hardwood briquettes are often more difficult to break, but softwood briquettes have an equally high calorific value and are arguably more sustainable.
Why are softwoods more sustainable? Well, there are a few factors.
Softwoods are easier to source in the UK, so there are fewer travel miles involved. Plus, it supports UK industry and by using a waste product it means we’re not felling trees just for firewood.
Then there’s the fact that we’re not felling ecologically rich hardwood woodlands. Some hardwood species, such as oak, support over 2,300 species, including birds, mammals, invertebrates, lichens and fungi.
Conversely, a softwood species like spruce grows fast and supports significantly fewer species. Cutting down spruce trees for firewood is therefore preferable to harvesting less sustainable hardwoods.
Of course, briquettes are a by-product of the timber industry, which means no one is felling trees to make briquettes. They being felled to make myriad other products and the waste sawdust is used to produce briquettes. Again, the prevalence of softwood timber in the UK means that there is much more softwood sawdust available than hardwood.
If you’re not sure if softwood briquettes will work for you, start with our sample packs or express bundles, which let you try out smaller quantities.