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Is Burning Wood Environmentally Friendly?

Burning Wood is Carbon Neutral
by Dave Lamb – dave@mychimneys.com

Contrary to what many may think, burning wood for heat does not add to your individual carbon footprint, as wood gives off the same amount of carbon whether it is burned up or decays naturally. Wood burning does not release any more carbon dioxide than the eventual biodegradation of the wood if it was not burned. Wood burning is recognized as considered “carbon neutral” by the Carbon Trust.

Wood is a very environmentally friendly source of fuel because it’s carbon neutral status. Over the course of a tree’s life it will absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and then release this carbon dioxide when it either decomposes naturally or is burned. For this reason, no CO2 is added to the atmosphere, it is simply released back into the environment either way.

When it comes to finding the right heat source to use, wood is becoming the answer of choice for many good reasons. Natural gas, oil and electric furnaces all run on fossil fuels that have high costs and questionable implications for the environment. But what about the oldest source of fuel combined with new technologies? Here seems to be a solution that can be unanimously agreed upon. With today’s efficient wood burning appliances and the move to fully sustainable wood harvesting practices, wood has become a reliable, inexpensive and environmentally friendly way to heat your home!

Let’s take a closer look.

What are the positive effects of switching to a wood burning appliance?

Renewable Resource – Unlike the majority of the alternatives, wood is a renewable resource. It’s true that this takes some consideration on the part of the wood harvesting company, but clear cutting is no longer the norm. Along with other groups, the US Forest Service helps to monitor the excess timber harvested and they also work to ensure that wood cutting companies are utilizing sustainable cutting practices. It is very important that wood harvesters follow the rule of planting more trees than they cut to keep trees growing and allow this resource to always be used. Ultimately, by following a few simple rules, trees will continue to be around forever to provide an all around beneficial heat source for the savvy homeowner.

We have more trees today in the US than we did 100 years ago. Remember that trees and wood are what is called a “renewable” resource. Unlike gas, oil and coal which are available in finite amounts. Over 700 million acres of the US is forested, about 66% of the amount that was here when Columbus came to the New World. It makes ecological sense to preserve a certain percentage of what are considered “old growth” forests, but there is also plenty of room to produce wood for burning, paper products and building. Maintaining balance is the ultimate goal of most environmentalists.

Low Emissions, High Efficiency – With the higher standards that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) established in the 1980s, wood burning stoves have been an increasingly clean and efficient method of heating. Technology and design in these wood stoves and fireplace inserts is constantly improving and developing cleaner and cleaner burning methods. In fact, with the same number of logs, a modern wood burning stove or fireplace insert will heat a room for 3 times as long as an ordinary open fire. Along these same lines, the warmth in the room will remain for longer because rather than exchanging the hot air in the room with cool air from outside, wood burning stoves circulate the air around the room adding to the warmth rather than sending it away.

The efficient burning is not only good for a longer lasting fire, it is also good for the environment. With the fire burning longer and more completely than an ordinary open fire, the fire burns everything, including the gases created during combustion. This results in the emissions being lower because the gases that are bad for the environment burn too. Some modern stoves are so completely clean burning that they are approved for use in smokeless areas.

Cost Effective – While your neighbors may be constantly stressing about the high costs of energy, you can breathe a long sigh of relief. The cost of wood is roughly one third of the cost of oil, electricity or gas and is not in constant threat of getting more and more expensive. In fact, there are many ways to get firewood for free! Check out your local recycling facilities, go scavenging for fallen branches in a nearby woods, or sift though the accumulated things in the garage for old furniture or wood scraps to burn (just be sure not to burn treated or painted wood and never burn trash!). Otherwise, getting wood delivered to your home is an inexpensive option as well.

There are many different places to get wood to burn for your wood burning stove or fireplace insert and local options to find wood to burn all winter long. So whether you are building a new home or converting the old one, the choice of what type of energy to use to heat your home should no longer be a daunting dilemma. Today’s technological advances have taken an old fashioned method of heating and reinvented it as the most environmentally friendly and cost effective way to utilize modern heating technologies.

Call us at Northeastern Chimney llc for more information at 860-233-5770 or visit our website for more details on wood stoves and fireplace inserts.

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