Burning a Better Yule Log

by Josh on December 25, 2009 · 5 comments

in Fireplace,Journal,Living Room

Every year when the weather turns cold I order a load of cord wood to burn in living room fireplace. But I have been slow to fill my firewood rack this year, so I decided to try some of the engineered logs widely available in hardware stores, grocery stores and home improvement centers.  I found mine at a local True Value Hardware store just in time to burn while wrapping gifts and entertaining Christmas guests.

Unlit engineered log

These “logs in a bag” can be made from a variety of materials. Some contain used coffee grounds, others are made from old milk cartons. Whatever they are made from, the engineered logs are claimed to be safer and greener than cord wood.  Safer because the logs emit less carbon monoxide than cord wood, and greener because the logs leave trees intact and often contain recycled content.

Engineered log burning

Engineered logs may have their virtues, but what kind of a fire do they make? The instructions on the bag clearly state to only burn one log at a time.  Although the log burns well for a couple house, it doesn’t look or smell like burning real logs.  The engineered logs don’t put out much heat either, so their appeal– beyond the safe and green aspects I mentioned– is primarily how convenient they are to buy and burn. The log’s bag serves as tinder, so all you need is a match, and once lit the log requires no tending over a long 2 – 3 hour burn time.

I don’t think I’m ready to completely give up burning cord wood in my fireplace, but I like the engineered logs well enough to keep some on hand for easy, convenient fires.  At a cost of $3-5 dollars per log, this is an affordable any day luxury.

Something to try: I have heard that some varieties of engineered logs are designed to permit burning more than one unit at a time. This could help bring the look and heat output of the logs closer to cord wood and eliminate my chief complaints with the engineered logs I tried, though at an increased cost per fire.

Have you tried engineered logs in your fireplace? Do you have a favorite type or brand? Share your recommendations in the comments.

Disclosure: I was one of five bloggers selected by True Value to work on the DIY Squad. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program and my DIY project as well as my posts about my experience. I have also been compensated for the materials needed for my DIY project. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

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