Monday 17 April 2017

I am part of the problem......Burning wood to heat my home isn't as green as I thought

For almost ten years I have been heating my house plus hot water and cooking with wood. I thought that I was doing the right thing and that all that work chainsawing, splitting  logs and stacking gave me a  carbon neutral fuel.

Wrong!... it has gradually dawned on me ( I'm a slow thinker) that I am part of the climate change problem. For a given heat output, burning coal would emit fewer particulates and less carbon dioxide.

Fuel miles!
Wood fuel returns carbon to the atmosphere that was absorbed when the trees were growing but the carbon released by the trees that I am burning today will not be totally reabsorbed for fifty to a hundred years so the atmosphere is taking a big hit now. It wouldn't be so bad if I was planting more trees to capture that carbon when the trees grow.

Then there are the fuel miles used to deliver the wood probably a 300 km round trip with a huge truck burning 100 litres of diesel to bring it's 25 tonne load. Then there's the chainsaw fuel at about 1.5 litres per tonne and the log splitter at 0.5 litres / tonne fuel miles add up quickly.

The greenest way to burn wood would require me to have about 4 ha (10 acres) of my own sustainably managed woodland. If I plant it now there may be thinnings to harvest in 30 - 40 years. I don't have a mature sustainably managed woodland. So what is the green alternative?

I have to make a choice between an oil or LPG fueled boiler or air source heat pump plus  a dual fuel (LPG and Electric) range cooker, with a wood burning stove as back up for power cuts.


Michael Mable said...

A thought-provoking post, Tom, and I think a lot depends on one's situation. I live in Herefordshire, where there is, relatively speaking, quite a lot of deciduous woodland, and much available for harvest and local sale for timber and firewood. It helps, too, that we're friendly with a local tree-surgeon, for whom firewood is effectively a saleable by-product of his main business, so in our circumstances, our wood-burner is fairly moderate in its environmental impact, and being a modern one it's remarkably efficient and clean-burning.

I think too, you also have to factor in the carbon-cost of winning the coal from the ground and transporting that (perhaps even halfway around the globe?) - after all, it doesn't grow on trees anymore... (sorry, awful pun)

Maggie Turner said...

We heated with a wood burning masonry heater for about a decade in the country, loved the heat, very efficient, but lots of work for two people who had to go out to work six days a week, returning home to chop wood and keep the house warm, -30C is not an unusual winter temperature in Canada where we were living. All things considered, we felt this was the most environmentally friendly way to heat our home. No metal tanks, plastic fuel lines, electronics etc.

Now we live in a wee house in town, and had a ground source heat pump installed. LOVE it! Our electricity bill goes up in the winter by about $50CA a month, our regular bills is $100CA a month. We used to spend $1000 a year on firewood. So, now the house is warm all winter and we do not have to fell trees, section them into logs, split the logs, stack the firewood, carry the firewood into the house, burn the fire, and remove the ashes at regular intervals, as well has clean the chimney at regular intervals. Like I said, I LOVE the ground source heat pump, and the thermostat!