A wood stove is an appliance providing wood-burning heat. Favored as an energy source for supplemental or emergency heat, a wood stove needs dry, well-seasoned wood for efficient operation. The type of wood affects the operation and energy output of the wood stove. Softwoods such as cedar can be burned in your wood stove but should be mixed with hardwoods for best results.
Cedar is a softwood high in natural resin. Resin is tree sap that collects in wood pockets or pores. Because resin is highly flammable, resin-rich wood burns hot and sometimes explodes into sparks or burning wood pieces. Cedar is an open-pore wood compared to oak or other hardwoods, so it throws out high flames for a short period of time and dies down quickly with minimal coaling properties. This means that cedar is not a valuable heat-producing wood, but is good for starting a fire.
A wood stove functions effectively with a mixed wood fire. Cedar and other softwoods, easily ignitable, make excellent fire-starters. Cedar, split down into kindling, forms a fire base that catches fire quickly and heats air that flows up the chimney. As warm air goes up the chimney, it draws air around the fire and makes wood burn more completely. Smoke goes up the heated chimney and carries fumes or soot out through the chimney. Small seasoned cedar logs, stacked on the kindling, form a hot foundation for hardwood logs. When hardwood logs are stacked on the cedar, the hardwood burns more slowly but with higher heat because its dense wood burns down to hot embers and coals.
Use red cedar, poplar and other softwoods to start the fire. Add oak, hickory or other hardwood logs for steady heat. Mix cedar and hardwoods in small amounts for continued burning. A wood stove can be damaged by wood that burns too hot, so full-stove fires of cedar or other softwoods are not recommended. When cedar is cheap or free, it is inexpensive fuel and can burn in your wood stove but keep the cedar fire modest to protect the stove from overheating and to minimize sparking. Even though hardwood is more costly than softwood cedar, invest in hardwoods and mix them with your cedar for wood stove fuel.
Cedar fires deposit small amounts of resin in chimneys as they burn. These deposits are flammable and must be regularly cleaned from the chimney. Wood stoves burning with cedar are more hazardous due to excessive heat and sparking. Keep combustible household furnishings away from the stove. Place a multipurpose fire extinguisher near the wood stove for emergency use.