Heating My Home is My Hobby

| 12/29/2010 9:16:44 AM

I can remember when we were getting prepared to leave our suburban, natural gas-heated home to live in our new home on 150 acres in the bush. A friend warned me about how hard it is to heat with wood.  In fact my friend knew of someone who had given up and moved back to the city because it was so hard. If I didn’t know any better I would guess it might have been some sour grapes.

Luckily my friend’s warning was completely unnecessary! Not only is heating with wood not been a problem, it has become my hobby! I absolutely love it! I can’t get enough of it and I usually have about a two-year supply of wood cut and curing at any one time. I love everything about heating with wood. I love cutting it. I love splitting it. I love piling it. And I absolutely adore the heat you get from a woodstove. We had a small house in the city that should have been easy to heat with our natural gas, forced air furnace but Michelle remembers that she always felt cold. We kept the thermostat at 21°C during the day, but it was never that wonderful, warm all over feeling that you get from wood heat.


At first I was a bit concerned about the environmental consequences of heating with wood. Then our friend Bill Kemp (author of The Renewable Energy Handbook), who understands this stuff, was able to set me straight. Heating with wood is carbon neutral. In fact short of building an R-14042 house and heating it with a beeswax candle, it’s really the only way to have carbon neutral heat. A geothermal heat pump system is great in that for every unit of electric energy you put in you get 3 units of heat energy out of the ground, but you still need to buy the electricity to run the system, and for most of us there is an environmental consequence to that electricity be it coal, natural gas, oil or nuclear. (And for anyone thinking of running a geothermal system on an off-grid house, good luck! The time of year when you will want to run your heating system is the same time of year when sunlight is in short supply. You’ll be running a generator just to keep your geothermal system going and that defeats the purpose.)

As a tree is growing it is absorbing carbon dioxide and storing it as woody matter. If that tree dies and decomposes on the forest floor it releases that CO2 back to the atmosphere and it also releases heat, albeit very slowly. But it only releases the amount of CO2 that it absorbed. If, instead, you burn that wood in a woodstove it will release the same amount of heat and CO2 as it would rotting on the forest floor, you’re just speeding up the process.

Natural gas companies have convinced people that natural gas is a very clean way to heat your home. Compared to other energy sources like oil and coal it can be. But natural gas is methane gas that was stored in the ground not affecting the atmosphere. When you pump it out of the ground and burn it you release that sequestered CO2 into the atmosphere, and it’s the CO2 in the atmosphere that is causing it to heat up.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters