Sustainability of Heating with Wood

Save money and keep your home warm during the winter by heating with wood.


| November 2014



Heating With Wood

Although heating with wood is not for everyone, those who are willing to gather, chop and season their own firewood can significantly reduce the cost of energy during winter.


Photo by Fotolia/Mikhail Olykainen

Want to heat your rural home without gas or coal? In Wood Heat (Firefly Books, 2014), author Andrew Jones provides a useful guide to using wood to heat your home. Jones dissects the environmental and economical upsides and downsides of heating with wood while providing advice and instructions that are necessary to help you successfully produce enough energy to keep your home warm during the winter. This excerpt, which discusses the sustainability of wood heating, is from Chapter 1, “Who Burns Wood?”

You can buy this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Wood Heat.

Environmental Impact of Heating with Wood

Wood is not a perfect fuel, but does such a thing exist? All energy generation and consumption by nature creates unwanted by-products, and impassioned arguments about the legacies of coal and uranium mining and natural gas and oil extraction are ongoing. Even famously “clean” energy sources like wind and solar power have been found to have a detrimental impact on the environment.

The biggest drawback and major environmental impact of wood burning is, of course, visible for all to see—wood-smoke pollution. Three aspects of this pollution are discussed and debated, sometimes hotly: nuisance smoke (caused by neighbors inefficiently heating their homes); air-shed contamination (caused by too much smoke produced in areas with a depressed topography, such as a river valley, which is prone to temperature inversions in the winter that trap smoke close to the ground); and indoor air pollution (caused by leaky or inefficient in-house wood-burning appliances).

There is no getting away from the fact that burning wood produces smoke, which is unhealthy to breathe in high concentrations. Even in low concentrations, it can be harmful to children, the elderly and people with lung diseases or allergies. Those who would like to curb wood burning in some communities point out that wood smoke contains toxic chemicals like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and dioxins as well as known carcinogens such as furans and acrolein. This despite the fact that a poorly fired backyard barbecue or a city bus can emit equally noxious substances.

The good news is that the new wood-burning technology built into today’s certified stoves goes a long way toward addressing all three aspects of wood-smoke pollution. Thanks to the four decades of research since the 1970s oil crisis, we know a great deal more about wood burning. Advanced-technology stoves, inserts, fireplaces and furnaces can reduce wood smoke by up to 90 percent when compared with older, so-called airtight stoves.

rickvt
11/21/2014 5:01:42 PM

Sorry did not keep formatting. Bottom line Wood=$13.64 per MMBtu Oil=$34.98 per MMBtu


rickvt
11/21/2014 4:54:11 PM

The article starts off with “ … firewood can significantly reduce the cost of energy during winter.” I only started burning wood a few years ago, and had to justify the cost of stove etc. to my wife, showing the savings advantage of burning wood over fuel oil. I stumbled on the Vermont public service site comparing costs per million btu for various heating fuels, for an apple to apple comparison. Retrieved 11/21/14 from: http://publicservice.vermont.gov/publications/fuel_report Comparing the Cost of Heating Fuels April 2011 Type of Energy BTU/unit $/unit $/MMBtu Fuel Oil, gallon 138,200 $3.87 $34.98 Wood, cord(green) 22,000,000 $180.00 $13.64 Kerosene, gallon 136,600 $4.22 $38.62 Propane, gallon 91,600 $3.37 $46.00 Natural Gas, therm 100,000 $1.55 $19.40 Electricity, kwh 3,412 $0.15 $43.46 Pellets, ton 16,400,000 $247.00 $18.83 Dividing BTUs per fuel oil gal into BTUs per cord will give approx. 160 gallons oil per cord of wood. Needless to say the price of the stove was recouped in a short period of time, burning 4 cord of wood per year.


doug
11/12/2014 9:12:39 AM

CaresAboutHealth, your claims are as substantial as wood smoke. A quick search online shows that the Libby wood stove changeout reduced indoor air pollution by 72%. Right from the EPA website. You are full of wood chips on the topic of global warming, which this article was very clear on. Wood heating is the only carbon-neutral option, meaning it is the only one that doesnt contribute to global warming. So who do you work for? The coal industry?


doug
11/12/2014 9:10:16 AM

CaresAboutHealth, your claims are as substantial as wood smoke. A quick search online shows that the Libby wood stove changeout reduced indoor air pollution by 72%. Right from the EPA website. You are full of wood chips on the topic of global warming, which this article was very clear on. Wood heating is the only carbon-neutral option, meaning it is the only one that doesnt contribute to global warming. So who do you work for? The coal industry?


doug
11/12/2014 9:09:41 AM

CaresAboutHealth, your claims are as substantial as wood smoke. A quick search online shows that the Libby wood stove changeout reduced indoor air pollution by 72%. Right from the EPA website. You are full of wood chips on the topic of global warming, which this article was very clear on. Wood heating is the only carbon-neutral option, meaning it is the only one that *doesn't* contribute to global warming. So who do you work for? The coal industry?


doug
11/12/2014 9:06:51 AM

CaresAboutHealth, your arguments are as substantial as... wood smoke. A quick search online brings up results on the EPA website that show a reduction of indoor pollutants of 72%. You are also full of wood chips if you think burning wood contributes to global warming. The article explains why it is the only form of home heating that *doesn't* contribute to it. It is carbon-neutral! So who do you work for? The coal industry?


caresabouthealth
11/10/2014 8:43:00 PM

Claims that old stoves are much more polluting than new ones is a ploy by people who want to promote wood heating. In reality, most new stoves emit about 10 grams per hour and old stoves average about 14 - so the real reduction is about 29%, nothing like the "up to 90%" claimed here! In Libby, Montana, huge sums (over $2.5 million) was spent replacing 1130 stoves to achieve a 28% reduction in pollution in a town of 2,600 residents. Even after all the old stoves had been replaced, Libby had many days with of very unhealthy pollution - woodsmoke.3sc.net/ahha-tactics#libby Using wood heating leads to many unnecessary health problems from heart attacks, strokes, cancers, respiratory diseases, genetic damage in babies, increased risk of autism and behavioral problems, reduced IQ when children start school etc etc The average passenger car emits about 20 grams of PM2.5 per year - the average new stove emits 20 to 40 kg per year, so it is 1,000 to 2,000 times more polluting - woodsmoke.3sc.net/cleancarbenefits The methane and carbon monoxide emissions from new wood stoves also cause more global warming than other forms of heating. The UN recommended phasing out log-burning stoves in developed countries to reduce global warming as well as improve health - environmentprogress.com/key-research-articles/australian-wood-heaters-currently-increase-global-warming-and-health-costs. If you care about your health and care about Mother Earth - find a more environmentally friendly form of heating.






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