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Do different types of firewood produce different amounts of heat?Featured science projectScience project video


This experiment was done to find out whether different types of firewood will burn at different temperatures. The results will help us to choose the ideal type of wood to use in campfires or outdoor cooking.


The hardwoods are denser and therefore produce more heat compared to soft wood.

Scientific Terms

British Thermal Units (BTUs), density, thermal energy



There are many types of firewood available for use in cooking or heating. The choice of wood to be used depends the purpose for which it is used, and weather conditions. Your choice of wood may vary if it is used for outdoor cooking, barbecques, fire places or campfire. Some of the things we need to know about firewood are listed below.
Use only dry or seasoned firewood for burning. Wet or recently cut firewood will contain water moisture. They will burn at lower temperatures and release more smoke.

The amount of heat from a burning wood is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). Hard woods have higher BTUs and therefore are more effective as firewood, as compared to soft woods which have lower BTUs
Hard woods have a very high density. The amount of potential thermal energy stored per unit volume of hardwood is high and therefore hardwoods have higher BTUs. These woods are difficult to ignite but once they start burning, they will burn for a longer period of time, giving out less intense heat.

Soft woods have a lower density. The amount of potential thermal energy stored per unit volume of hardwood is low and therefore soft woods have lower BTUs. These woods are easy to ignite but the heat is low and they do not burn for very long.

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Complexity level:
Project cost ($):
Time required:
1 hour to prepare, 1 hour for experiment
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Easily found
Safety concerns:

Fire hazard. Parents should supervise the experiment and handle all flammable materials. This experiment should be undertaken only under the watchful eye of an adult. A fire extinguisher should be kept on hand at all times for safety and no flammable gases/materials should be present in the vicinity of the experiment.