When choosing wood for a fire, it’s important that you know what type you are burning and what is best for a fire. Also keep in mind whether the fire will be indoor or outdoor, as different woods will burn with different intensity and duration. The main reason for the differences are wood density and moisture retention (how well they hold onto their water). Wood that is of a high density and high moisture retention being the worst example of firewood, providing little fuel for a fire to burn (lasts only a short period) and burning with a very low intensity (low heat).
We all want to keep warm over the winter months, and a classic wood-burning stove is an attractive option for doing so, but is it environmentally friendly? Well, in short, yes and here are some reasons why:
Trees can be cut down for their wood and provide fuel for many different fires. But the most important part is that new ones can be planted to replace the old, something that can’t be done with coal or gas which is very much a finite resource.
Dry wood is also the best burner, wood often found in dead or dying trees, so don’t feel guilty about trees being cut down! Even logs and sticks shed from decaying trees would be more than good enough to fuel a good fire.
Worried we may run out? Well, don’t worry. The UK alone has 30,000 football fields, or 16% of its surface area, covered in trees that are constantly being born, growing and dying. Even if that were to fail by some catastrophic miracle, there are a great many more worldwide. Wood will continue to be a cheap and renewable source of energy well in the future.
It has no carbon footprint
Now, even the cleanest stove will still cause some pollution, but any form of wood burning will produce no Carbon footprint. How? The reason for that is that trees take in CO2 from the Atmosphere and turn it into oxygen throughout their natural life cycle.
This means, any CO2 produced by burning wood can be neutralised by the trees and that are still alive. Resulting in no carbon footprint, something that can’t be said for the fossil fuel alternatives.
Modern stoves are cleaner than ever!
As I mentioned, even the cleanest will cause pollution, but modern wood burning stoves easily rank the lowest for pollutants produced. Oil and Coal producing up to four times more. Add onto that benefit the previous two factors and there really is no cleaner source of heating.
There are some very solid reasons for choosing a wood burning stove over gas or electric, but the main advantages are environmental and economic.
Wood is renewable and a clean burning fuel, especially when comparing a self-contained home stove with using energy from power stations running on fossil fuels. Oil and gas are not renewable, but when trees are harvested, so saplings are planted in their place, meaning that the environmental benefits of the plantation continues.
The carbon neutral benefits of using firewood to heat the home, and for cooking, are massive. The Forestry Commission has advised that the area of the country comprising woodland should be increased from four per cent to 16 per cent. Using a wood burning stove can reduce your carbon footprint by more than 70 per cent, compared to 55 per cent for a flue gas fire, 32 per cent for an open gas fire and zero for an electric fire.
It is clear from these figures that firewood burning stoves are best for the environment when compared with gas or electric heating, but their use has other environmental benefits. For instance, foraging and using renewable energy will teach children practical lessons about the planet and its future.
Wood burning stoves have economic advantages over other types of fuel, as well. Burning wood works out at approximately three pence per kilowatt hour. Gas and oil cost around twice as much, while electricity costs more than five times, on average, than a wood burning stove.
Installation of a wood burning stove involves an outlay, naturally, but so does the installation of a gas or electric central heating system. Once installed, a wood burning stove will require little or no maintenance and its fuel is either inexpensive or even free. To be rid of gas heating bills and not having to worry about using too much expensive energy will be of great benefit through the years, a wood burning stove will last for generations, and save homeowners thousands of pounds in the process.
With the growth of the internet, many more people these days choose to work from home. Using an inexpensive wood burning stove for warmth in the daytime will save hundreds every year on gas bills.
As well as foraging in woodland for free fuel, there are other sources for firewood. Joinery companies and timber merchants will have a lot of waste wood, which may just go in a bin and be used for landfill. It can do no harm to ask the local companies who work with wood if you can take their off-cuts off their hands, doing each other a favour.
Wood burning stoves may need to be cleaned out when they are cold, which takes a little time, but they also provide a comfort that just isn’t possible with other fuels. Just to have a glowing stove in the kitchen or living room warms the heart as well as the hands. Who wants to sit at home on a chilly winter’s evening and stare at a radiator?
When choosing to install a wood burning stove, you need not be constrained by where your chimney is sited, as you can have a flue installed on to an outside wall. This flexibility makes a firewood fuelled stove a match for any other form of heating. Also, the cost of installation should not deter anyone as this will be more than recouped with the saving on conventional heating bills.
Heat Output Capacities
Stoves are available in a number of heat output capacities, so it is advisable to check the dimensions of the room in which it is to be sited. Firewood burning appliances are available in a range from outputs of around five Kw up to 20 Kw, so it is essential to have a stove that has enough potential to heat the room, but also doesn’t give out too much heat.
Another factor to consider is what type of property you live in. You have to consider whether the walls are insulated, with a double skin of bricks, uninsulated cavity walls, double glazing and roof insulation, as these will affect the amount of energy you need.
It is essential to decide what job you want your firewood stove to do – warming the kitchen or living room, cooking or both. Another thing to consider are the doors. Do you want solid cast iron doors, or glass doors that allow you to see the flames dancing inside?
If you are new to wood burners, it is unlikely that you will have a supply of properly seasoned wood, but it is available from garden centres as well as specialist suppliers who can deliver larger amounts. Once you have a good supply, it is time to start looking for more wood so it has time to season before your first load has finished. One of the great advantages of a wood burning stove is that fuel is often free, or at worst cheap, so to start and continue saving you should add to the woodpile regularly.
It may sound like the simplest thing in the world to light a fire, but starting a wood burning stove takes a little getting used to. Although hardwood is the best fuel to use for maximum heat output, it is difficult to ignite at first. You should have a supply of hardwood for the longer burn, but also seasoned softwood that will ignite more quickly and act as kindling for the main fuel. Using paper as kindling can often be quite messy, as the ashes can escape from the firebox.
The easiest and cleanest way to get the stove going is to use paraffin firelighters. These can be lit easily, igniting your softwood which in turn will ignite the hardwood. Leaving the stove door open slightly for a short while as the fire begins to burn will also prevent condensation, and anyone who has a firewood fuelled stove will tell you that any form of moisture should be avoided. The lighting procedure will take a little time to get used to, but it will be worth it in the end.
One of life’s greatest pleasures, when you have to endure the UK’s winter weather, is to come home and shut the door behind you to the welcome of a wood burning stove. Just to see its glow and immediately feel the warmth quickly banishes the elements outside. But it would be a waste to confine all this welcome warmth to just one room, which is why most homeowners with wood burning stoves choose to use their power to heat the whole of the property. Choosing this form of heating has many benefits.
There is no other fuel, apart from firewood, that is free, either foraged from public land or donated by friendly neighbours. Even when bought from a commercial supplier, wood burning for home heating still has advantages over alternative supplies, both in cost and for saving energy.
Although using wood for stoves will require a little more effort than for those using ready-bought pellets or chips, the satisfaction from preparing the fuel is priceless. Trees are now planted in great numbers to offset the lack of oxygen that is given out, and the amount of carbon dioxide consumed, by harvested trees.
Research by the Energy Saving Trust shows that as much as £800 per year can be saved when switching from electric storage heaters to wood burning stoves to keep the home warm, around £130 if switching from oil systems and between £300 to almost £500 if changing from coal fuel. While the installation of a home heating system powered by a wood burning stove may initially come at a price, the money saved over time will repay the outlay and pay a premium afterwards.
The government launched the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) in 2011 to provide initiatives and encouragement for both domestic and non-domestic users to consider renewable heat sources. As usual with government information, it is not easy for the layman to decipher, but it is worth spending some time browsing their site, https://www.ofgem.gov.uk, for information. The majority of homes should qualify, and if your home does meet the needs of the scheme, you can feel satisfied that you have saved cash and helped the environment a little.
Time and effort saving
Installing a wood burning stove system to heat your property, whether domestic or non-domestic, will put you firmly in charge. There should be no need for emergency call-outs, as with gas, oil or electric systems failing, no need for engineers who may charge you what they feel like charging, because a wood burning system is so simple to install and maintain that the whole family or company can feel confident using it. Of course, the system, and most importantly the stove, need to be kept clean and well-maintained, but the only other work that needs to be carried out regularly is making sure that there is enough wood drying out in the shed, so that there is a constant, comforting glow in the kitchen all year round, and all the warmth it gives.
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