Many people are unaware of the significant advantages that comes with burning wood as a heating source, both from an environmental and financial perspective. In this article we will firstly outline the environmental benefits of wood, as a truly sustainable energy source. We then look at how best you can save money when burning wood.
The Environmental Benefits
Burning wood is effectively a closed carbon cycle. When wood is burnt, it releases CO2 into the atmosphere, but as wood grows, it absorbs back CO2 from the atmosphere. So in effect it clears away what it produces. Furthermore, wood unlike fossil fuels is a sustainable resource, which grows – often at a very quick rate.
In the UK there are around 3 million hectares of woodlands. A hardwood forest might grow up to 7 tonnes of new wood per hectare each year, and softwood much more. When fully seasoned this is approximately 5 tonnes of useful fire wood per hectare per annum.
Wood can be burnt in a more environmentally friendly way, if you consider the following tips:
- Avoid using an open fire if possible. These usually have a heating efficiency of only around 20%. This means around 80% of the heat an open fire produces is wasted, mostly disappearing up the chimney. This results in more wood being burnt, for less heat, which is not as good for the environment, and will cost you more in firewood too.
- Do not burn unseasoned wood. Unseasoned wood has a moisture content of around 20% or more. Trying to burn unseasoned wood will produce a poor heat output, increase smoke, increase the chances of congestion in the flue or chimney, and increase the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.You are able to measure the moisture content with a moisture metre.
- Select your firewood carefully. If you are buying from a reputable wood seller they should tell you the type of wood you are considering buying, and also its approximate moisture content.
- Five of the best fire woods:
- Six fire woods to avoid:
The Financial Benefits
Burning wood need not be expensive. For those that source their own fire wood this can be extremely cheap. However, for most this is not an option. Here are a few tips to help you save money when using wood as a heating source:
1. Heat one room – A stove or fire will work more effectively if it is heating one room in a house as opposed to trying to heat all rooms. Unlike central heating, which has access to all rooms via radiators, a fire does not have this option.
Keep the doors shut, to ensure the heat is kept in the room and a fire can make a room incredibly warm.
2. Invest in a high efficiency wood burning stove. Whereas an open fire has an efficiency of around 20%, a high efficiency wood burning stove will have an efficiency of around 80% – which is a huge increase. This will mean you will be burning a great deal less wood for the same heat output – which in turn will save you money. Many wood burning stoves can easily sit in place of a traditional open fire.
3. Estimate your wood usage – At the start of the colder weather have a think about the amount of wood you will use over the winter. Buying in bulk can attract a discount and certainly works out cheaper than an emergency supply from your local petrol station.
Also buying wood in bulk will mean you know exactly what you are burning, and can relax, knowing you have already paid for your fuel – no surprises with excessive fuel bills arriving in the post!
4. Cheap isn’t always best. Hardwoods like oak gives a longer, stronger heat output than softer woods. As a result they last longer and you need to burn less than with soft woods. If the price for hardwood is only a little more than soft wood it could be more cost efficient. Ask your wood seller as to the cost of the different woods, and if they only have one type of wood, consider shopping around.
There is a very close relationship between environmental and financial benefits around burning wood. The key to remember is efficiency is best. Best for the environment and of course best for your wallet.