I’ve never lived in a home with a fireplace (my last apartment had one but I never used it) so this winter is going to be a bit of a treat for me. We have a fireplace, complete with blower, and even some fireplace tools so we look forward to it. We have three pieces of Duraflame firelogs to start the fires and five or six pieces of regular old firewood. Being a total novice in this, I consulted the power of the Internet for more information on firewood and apparently, it can get complicated. Ultimately, though, since the fireplace will be for romantic evenings and not for real heat generation, a lot of this information (while very handy) won’t be as important to me.
All wood has water and all the water needs to be vaporized before the wood will burn and generate some heat. Since it takes energy to vaporize the water, while the fire is drying the wood, it’s not putting out as much heat and that’s where some of your loss is. Freshly cut wood (soft wood) has up to 45% water and “seasoned” wood (hard wood), sitting around for six months drying, has only about 20%. Another downside to using fresh wood is that the vaporized water is deposited into your chimney as creosote .
Firewood is sold by the ‘cord’ – 128 cubic feet usually stored as a 4′ x 4′ x 8′. While it’s sold by volume, the heat production depends on its weight and a cord of hard wood weighs twice as much as a cord of soft wood and produces twice as much heat (potentially). According to a friend of mine, a cord of hard wood goes for around $125-$150 though it could go up with gas prices being high (and consumers turning to wood as a substitute – go economics!)
In searching for firewood providers, I found out Maryland only lets vendors sell by the cord or half-cord. Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources About Buying Firewood page  was helpful with a great table on the effectiveness of certain woods.
Looks like if I want more wood I’ll just swing by the local Giant and pick up one of their little packages.