Monday 29 June 2015

Heating with wood - A part time job

'When I renovated this house eight years ago I installed wood fired heating with a Rayburn. It works well, its renewable energy, I like the smell of wood smoke and its cheap if the opportunity cost of my labour is zero. I am retired  so it is zero! but  the decision to heat and cook with wood entails a part-time job. The job description,  might be;

" Part-time woodcutter, splitter,stacker and transporter wanted.,
 Must have two chainsaws, three tonne trailer and towing vehicle,
Good all round fitness and agility, personal protective equipment
needed together with willingness to work outdoors in all weathers.
No wage but can feel smug about carbon footprint."

Hughie at work with the splitter
I need ten to twelve tonnes of wood at 20 per cent moisture to keep me going for a year. I don't have any woodland so the logs have to be purchased from the Forestry Commission, collected from their depot and transported 100 km. Perhaps you can see where I am going? Just how smug can I be about my carbon footprint? Trees are a renewable energy source but like the "food miles" used to bring asparagus to Ft. William from Peru I am clocking up "wood miles", chainsaw and log splitter hours.

Felling, snedding and bucking into five foot lengths is done by the FC, then I have to saw the lengths into 15" logs. Timber has to be hauled to the depot then brought home by me. More energy is used by Hughie's log splitter. On Saturday we split five tonnes in three hours with his machine, if I had done it by hand it would have taken three days and left me in need of another holiday.

Somewhere in the literature on renewable energy there must be a way of attributing all of these costs to the carbon footprint of my Rayburn. Then there's the  Government's "Renewable Heat Initiative" which pays landowners with forests to heat their castles with wood which sounds a bit like socialism for the wealthy and not much benefit for the environment.

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