A firewood moisture meter is a relatively new forestry tool in the grand scheme of time that people have used wood to generate heat and to keep them warm. A moisture meter is a handheld digital device that is used to determine the level of moisture content in wood.
It is basic knowledge that dry wood burns better than wet wood. To identify dry wood from wet ones, people used to rely on the sound the wood produces when two plans of wood are banged together as a hollow sound refers to a drier piece of wood.
Some other clues for determining the suitability of firewood to burn are its visible color, weight, and the presence or absence of cracks.
However, in today’s time, we neither have that level of experience nor we have the necessity to rely on methods that are prone to inaccuracies.
What we do have is technological advancements resulting in a smart, affordable, reliable, and easy-to-use gadget that tells the moisture content of our firewood in seconds.
How to Find the Best Moisture Meter?
Trying to get your hands on the best firewood moisture meter can be much challenging than it seems because of two major reasons:
- You don’t have much information on what moisture meters are, how they work and what features to look for.
- You’ve got hundreds of options to choose from on the internet, and even in your local woodshop.
To help you decide on the perfect moisture meter for your project, this article will guide you through the important things to consider while looking for the moisture meter and present you with reviews of the top 5 options available on the market.
But first, let’s start with why a moisture meter is not a novelty, but a necessity.
Why do You Need a Moisture Meter?
Moisture meters are used for detecting the amount of moisture present in materials like flooring, furniture, concrete structures, and firewood.
The use of moisture meters before buying or selecting your firewood for your stove is necessary to make sure that your wood burns efficiently.
If you are someone who purchases your firewood, you can check for yourself, the moisture content in your firewood to make sure that the supplier is not making any false claim about seasoning and moisture content.
Also, if you are someone who makes your firewood, you can make even more use this handy gadget by experimenting with the way you cut, store, stack, and select your firewood.
What Happens When You Burn Firewood with High Moisture Content?
Well-seasoned firewood that is ready for use must have a moisture content of 20% or less. As the moisture content climbs above 20%, the wood becomes progressively harder to burn and comes with issues like:
- It is difficult to catch fire and harder to get the fire going.
- It produces excessive smoke along with particulates, which may be harmful and cause irritation.
- The amount of heat being produced is largely reduced.
- It increases the risk of chimney fires by causing creosotes to accumulate.
As a result, it becomes absolutely necessary to check the dryness of your firewood whether you are burning your wood in indoor stoves or on outdoor fire pits.
It is also important to have an understanding of the things you need to consider before buying firewood moisture meter and the following section has got you covered up with every bit of that information:
Things to Consider before Buying a Firewood Moisture Meter
Pin or Pinless?
The first thing that you need to understand while buying moisture meters is that there are two types of moisture meters available in the market that are pin meters and pinless meters.
Only when you’ve decided on whether to opt for a pin-type moisture meter or a pinless type moisture meter, you can look for other features in each of them. Let’s discuss what differentiates them and which one better suits our purpose.
As the name suggests, the pin moisture meter has two sharp prongs that are inserted into the wood to test the moisture content.
After inserting the pins into the wood, electricity is allowed to pass between them and the electrical resistance is measured to determine the moisture content of the area.
If you remember a thing or two from science classes, you must know that moisture is an excellent conductor of electricity while wood is not; therefore, wetter wood will have less resistance while dry wood will have greater resistance.
On the other hand, the pinless moisture meter will have a sensor pad instead of pins to measure moisture levels. The sensor pad produces electrical waves which create an electromagnetic field on the wood.
The fluctuations in the electromagnetic wave due to varying degrees of moisture level in the wood are then recorded by the pad to give the reading of the moisture content.
A pin-type moisture meter is also called a damaging meter because it requires you to penetrate the surface of the material you are trying to get the moisture level of.
A pinless type moisture meter is also called a non-damaging meter because there is no damage caused while taking the measurement.
Similarly, using a pinless type moisture meter is relatively easier and quicker because of the same reason of not having to make holes on the wood and it can be faster if you need to measure moisture levels of a large stack of firewood.
For measuring the moisture level of firewood, putting holes on them isn’t an issue since they are going to be burned anyway.
Also, since the level of accuracy of pin moisture meters is greater than pinless moisture meters and pinless moisture meters are prone to inaccuracies in irregular or warped surfaces, moisture meters with pins are almost always the best option for you if you are planning to use them primarily to determine firewood moisture levels.
If you intend to use your moisture meter for flooring and woodworking works as well, you can go for the benefits of pinless moisture meters.
If you are still confused on which type is the best for you, there are hybrid moisture meters with both pins and sensor pads on them like the General Tools MMH800 moisture meter reviewed later in this article.
The accuracy of moisture meters is represented in percentage and not all moisture meters give you the same and accurate results.
The best ones in the market are accurate within 0.1% although there are moisture meters that are up to 3% off the current moisture level in your firewood.
For measuring firewood, you should avoid purchasing units that have more than 1% inaccuracy and ideally go for the most accurate option to get the best results.
Moisture Content Range
The moisture content range that can be measured accurately by your moisture meter is specified by the manufacturer. Moisture meters that can read the moisture content in a range of 5% to 60% are considered the best.
While some products claim to read very low and very high moisture meters, they are prone to inaccuracies and are not dependable because of too little and a lot of moisture in the wood respectively.
If you have a specific use of the moisture meter, you can choose the meter which offers the range you want.
For example, to check air-dried or kiln-dried lumber, you need a range of 7%-20% whereas if you intend to use it to track the seasoning of your firewood, you will be needing a greater range.
All the moisture meters available on the market have either analog or digital displays.
The analog moisture meters have been the standard for many years and professionals prefer it to this day because of their ease of use and can be a good option for new years for the same reason.
However, most of the best moisture meters on the market today are digital with LED or LCD screens which make them easy to read, durable, and precise to decimal places.
In a digital display, you should look for features like backlight, the size of the fonts, and the size of the display to make it easier to operate in difficult circumstances.
There are also multiple displays offered on some models that show the readings of moisture and temperatures separately.
Ease of Use
The one thing that you want your gadget field to be easy to use to have a productive workflow. To find a unit that is easy to operate, you should look for the calibration requirement of your unit.
Some moisture meters only require you to put the cover over the pins to calibrate with the push of a button. On the other hand, some meters require you to follow a series of steps manually to get the device working accurately.
Moisture meters are found in a range of models in the market and each one of them offers several features that make your tasks easier.
Some of those features that are significant and need considerations before buying include battery life, hold-feature, indicators, protection cap, and automatic power-off feature.
You should be aware of the type of batteries or chargers that are used in the moisture meters along with their battery life to avoid running out of charge when you need it the most. Moreover, the best moisture meters notify you of the available battery life.
To save battery life, many moisture meters come with a feature of automatic powering off the device when it has been inactive for several minutes. You should make sure that this feature is on the list of the ones you will buy.
Likewise, color and sound indicators are also used by good moisture meters to make it easy to interpret the results.
The hold feature comes in very handy when you can’t record the measurement instantly. It freezes the result and you can record it down when you can do so.
Top Options for the Best Firewood Moisture Meter in 2021
Based on the various factors we’ve discussed like accuracy, type, display, range, and other features to consider carefully before buying a firewood moisture meter, we have picked only the best ones out of many models available on the market for recommendations along with detailed reviews on each of them.
STIHL 15411852 Wood Digital Moisture Meter
STIHL is a brand that knows the in and out of working with firewood and is a reputed manufacturer of top-quality forestry appliances.
This brand value is reflected in the STIHL Wood Moisture Meter since this meter works great with wood offering a measuring range of 6-42%, making it an ideal choice for someone who works closely with firewood and does woodworking tasks.
The STIHL Wood Moisture Meter is well-liked by many, mainly because of its ease of use as it has in a complicated setting and a basic LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screen.
Since it is a pin-type moisture meter, it features two short pins inside the top cover which are well built for durability.
It is a small-sized device with a dimension of 80 x 40 x 20 mm, feels comfortable on the hand, and can be easily operated by a single hand which also makes it easy to carry around.
On the technical side, it offers a high enough accuracy of 2% with a temperature range of 0-40 0 C. It also has extra added features of giving the surrounding temperature measurement and battery indicators which can be quite useful in some cases.
- Type: Pin-type
- Accuracy: 2%
- Moisture content Range: 6 – 42%
- Display: LCD
- Battery level indicator
- Temperature measurement
With all these features combined, you will be getting yourself a reliable, durable, and effective moisture meter that will last you several years.
Finally, if you are looking for a moisture meter primarily for measuring the moisture content of your firewood, you need to look no further than this STIHL Wood Moisture Meter because although it can measure moisture levels of a variety of surfaces, this is specifically built to work best with wood.
Lignomat Mini-ligno E/D
If you are looking for an accurate and fast moisture meter with slightly advanced technology, the Mini-Ligno E/D moisture meter from Lignomat can be a great option for you.
This is also a pin-type moisture meter, however, you’ll have the option to choose either 3/16” or 7/16” pins depending upon your firewood type.
The moisture content range is very wide at 6-45% making it usable for all types of firewood. This is a compact fit-in-your-pocket device with a dimension of 70 x 140 x 25mm.
This moisture meter offers you built-in calibration and another important feature that sets it apart is that it lets you choose between two wood groups – hardwoods and softwoods.
This makes this meter more accurate than those that measure all types of firewood on the same mode.
Higher-end devices may feature even more wood modes, but for an average user, it might be a challenging and frustrating task to figure out the accurate wood type for anything more than two groups.
Even the looks of the lignomat mini-ligno moisture meter suggest that it is a strongly built device and it is the case. The LED display featured on this meter is not only bright enough to be readable in all situations but is extremely durable and backed by a lifetime warranty.
- Type : Pin-type
- Accuracy: 0.1% below 10% moisture content and around 2% above that.
- Moisture content range: 6-45%
- Display: LED
- Two wood modes for wood species corrections
- Two years warranty.
However, this meter will cost you a bit more than the rest and the batteries on this meter are not easily replaceable.
But, its built quality and its advanced technology will make up for your extra expenses and you will not have to replace the batteries quite often.
So, if the features and specifications mentioned are aligning with your needs, the mini-ligno E/D lignomt will be a good moisture meter purchase for assessing your firewood.
General Tools MMH800 4-in-1 Combo Moisture Meter
General Tools Company is one of the leading moisture meter manufacturing companies in the world. They offer a variety of excellent moisture meter models for beginners and professionals alike, ranging in prices from $30 up to $300.
Out of them, the General tools MMH800 stands out as the best model for firewood moisture detection because of its versatility, affordability, and quality.
This moisture meter features both pin and pinless type moisture meters combined to give you the advantages of both types so that you can choose the mode of operation based on the nature of the work you are working on.
Moreover, double LCDs are provided for reading the moisture percentage and ambient temperatures separately, which makes it even more versatile.
The moisture measurement range of 5-50% is comfortable enough for firewood moisture measurement but the accuracy of ±3%, although it is reliable on the lower end among other comparable units.
You will also highly appreciate the ability to store moisture readings to be accessed later on and also the ability to compare readings on the device itself.
- Type: Both Pin-type and Pinless type combined
- Accuracy: ±3%.
- Moisture content Range: 5-50%
- Display: Double LCD display
- Measures temperature and humidity
- Holds and Records readings for convenient viewing later.
- Extra pins and batteries included.
If you are confused on whether a pin-type or a pinless type moisture meter is best for you, this General tools MMH800 moisture meter will make the decision easy since it has both the piercing pins and scanning sensor pads for your damaging and non-damaging moisture readings.
However, if you use your meter for firewood moisture measurement, you may want to use the sensor pads only when you need to measure a large volume of firewood at once with less accuracy.
Dr. Meter MD812 Digital Wood Moisture Meter
The MD812 Moisture Meter by Dr. Meter is a cheap but excellent moisture meter for determining if your firewood is ready to burn. This specific model is included in this list instead of other meters by the same brand because of its high accuracy and ease of use.
The accuracy of this meter is within ±1 percent and measures the moisture content in the range of 5-40%. The best thing about this moisture meter is that it is almost impossible to misread the result, thanks to the exceptionally large icons on the LCD display.
It is one of the easiest moisture meters to operate as it has only two buttons, one to hold the result and another to power on the device.
You will also easily be able to penetrate the wood because of its extra pointed pins. Moreover, the purchase will include many accessories like a carrying bag, batteries, and two spare pins.
- Type : Pin-type
- Accuracy: ±1%
- Moisture content Range: 5-40%
- Display: Large sized LCD
- Extra-large icons
- Hold feature.
- Ability to select two-pin or 4-pin sensor
This is not a durable device that will last for years and you can find quite a few reviews about having to replace the device after using it for a short time. However, it offers a reasonable warranty and someones return and replacement policies.
The extra set of pins, batteries, and a carrying pouch will also help increase its durability in the long run. Besides, it is a cheap device that gives accurate results.
If you are an average homeowner that only wants to make sure that your wood burns right, this moisture meter might be the best option for you.
Valiant FR421 Digital Moisture Meter
The Valiant FR421 moisture meter is a robust tool that is used and recommended by firewood professionals as well. The moisture measurement range of this meter is 6 to 48 percent and its accuracy is within ±2%.
This meter has a unique feature of a color-coded display of the percentage of moisture content in your firewood. You will see a green glow when the readings show a moisture content of 6-15% indicating that the wood is perfect for burning brightly with optimum heat.
Similarly, between 15-20%, the glow will be amber which indicates that the wood is ok to burn. Finally, a red glow will occur for moisture content above 20%, in which case, it is recommended to let the wood dry further before use.
- Type : Pin-type
- Accuracy: ±2%.
- Moisture content Range: 6-48%
- Display: LCD display
- Measures ambient temperature in Fahrenheit and degrees Celsius.
- Color changing display
The three different glows feature offered by the FR421 can be useless if you are someone who knows your firewood, but the device will definitely provide you with accurate results regardless.
However, this feature can be really helpful to make decisions easy when selecting the right firewood as a beginner.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: What Should be the Ideal Moisture Content of my Firewood?
Answer: The ideal moisture content of firewood is between 15% to 20% According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The moisture content of freshly cut firewood is generally between 45-65%, which may depend on the species of the tree.
To burn the firewood, it is absolutely necessary to reduce that percentage to the recommended level through proper seasoning methods and techniques.
A moisture meter will help you track the moisture content throughout the seasoning process until the wood is ready to burn.
Question: Are Pin-type Moisture Meters Better than Pinless Moisture Meters?
Answer: Choosing one type of moisture meter above the other should depend on the type of work you need for and the price and technological differences between the two moisture meters.
The major drawback of a pin meter is that it damages the surface while taking a reading and it can be hard to drive the pin into the surface.
On the contrary, pinless moisture meters only scan the surface without it and take practically no force at all to operate.
Both moisture meters are prone to inaccuracies as the reading can be skewed due to factors like temperature for pin meters and irregular surfaces for pinless meters.
If you are measuring the moisture content of your firewood, a pin meter is recommended because a small hole in the wood is not a problem for something that will eventually burn.
Also, a piece of firewood will have irregular surfaces and pinless meters will provide an inaccurate reading if not measured correctly.
A moisture meter having both pin and pinless features will be an ideal suit if you are still confused about which one is the best for you.
Question: How does a Moisture Meter Work?
Answer: A pin-type moisture meter works by converting the electrical resistance offered by the wood to the moisture content in percentage.
To measure the electrical resistance, a pin-type moisture meter generally has two pins that act as electrodes to flow the electricity after they are inserted into the wood.
A wetter wood will have lesser resistance and a dryer wood will have greater resistance since water is a good conductor of electricity while wood is not.
A pinless moisture meter, on the other hand, works by converting the response of the wood to high-frequency electromagnetic waves into moisture content in percentage.
A pinless meter has a sensor pad that produces electrical waves and records the response of the measuring area of the wood.
Question: How to Use the Moisture Meter Correctly?
Answer: The accuracy of your firewood moisture readings does not depend only on the accuracy of the moisture meter you are using. It is greatly influenced by how well you use the device as well.
First, you need to check that the moisture meter is well calibrated and in the correct measuring mode for the type of material you are measuring.
In our case, some moisture meters will also have specific modes for individual trees or groups of trees. You will get detailed information about it in the user’s manual.
It is equally necessary to take your measurements properly. The ideal place to measure your firewood is the middle of the inside of your firewood after splitting it in half.
This is because your wood is drier on the outside because of the effect of the sun and air. Finally, it is always a good idea to take more than one measurement in different parts of the wood for increasing the precision of your readings.
Having a moisture meter with you will ensure that you will never put wood that doesn’t burn into your stove again. Consequently- this essential, compact, and cheap tool will result in considerable financial and health benefits for you in the long run.
Whether you are looking for a firewood moisture meter for basic usage for a more intensive application, we hope that our guide has helped understand the things you need to consider before choosing one.
Also, choosing one of the models we have reviewed according to your specific requirements will most likely leave you satisfied with the product.
Finally, determining the moisture level of your wood before burning is very essential, and being able to do so accurately, and in a matter of seconds is even a fun and satisfying thing to do. So grab one for yourself as soon as possible.