Wood Burning and the Carbon Footprint

March 20th, 2012 by affordablesweep Leave a reply »

Wood Burning and the Carbon Footprint

How can you help save the environment, save money and still heat your home completely all winter long? Wood burning stoves use a replenishable and inexpensive fuel that is extremely efficient especially when modern appliances are used. Wood burning stoves may seem old fashioned, but the rustic, old fashioned look and feel comes with modern efficiency and capabilities these days. You don’t have to choose one or the other, the romantic blaze from a woodburnig stove or fireplace insert can also heat your home and save you money.

Is burning wood really a “greener” way to heat or supplement the heating of your home? Well, to begin with burning wood for heat does not add to your individual carbon footprint. Wood gives off the same amount of carbon whether it is burned up or decays naturally and is considered Carbon Neutral. Next point to consider is that wood is a “renewable” resource. Unlike oil, coal, or gas – when we run out of those fuel sources, they’ll be gone for good. Wood harvesting techniques are based on a sustainable model, so wood will be there for us in the future. We can’t grow oil, but we can (and do) grow more trees. Another point to consider is the cost of production and transportation associated with the non-renewables. Over all, wood comes out looking good from a “green” perspective.

As compared with fossil fuels and other energy sources, the benefits of wood far surpass its competition. New wood burning stoves and fireplace inserts are engineered with fuel economy in mind and health and environmental concerns kept as the highest priority. While fossil fuels contaminate the environment and then are used up and cannot be replaced, wood burning has made drastic improvements in burning efficiency and without emissions and can be easily used sustainably.

Still need more convincing?

Low Cost – Wood burning stoves and fireplace inserts are the most cost effective source of energy. Wood is abundantly available and homeowners can often find a source of wood to burn for free! Even without the extra effort of finding wood for free, wood is still a relatively inexpensive option. Wood costs roughly a third the cost of natural gas, electricity or oil. Coal, gas and oil are fossil-based, non-renewable resources. And in the last year, costs for these commodities have soared along with the electricity prices. Don’t get caught in these traps. A wood burning stove is your way out.

Low Emissions – Today, high efficiency wood burning stoves and fireplace inserts can maximize the heat dispersed from a burning log and these stoves leave behind little evidence of the wood burning as it is almost completely burned besides minor amounts of ash. The new stoves produce only about 2-5 grams of smoke per hour of burning. And even less ash. For this reason, some modern stoves are so completely clean burning that they are approved for use in smokeless areas indoors. A wood burning stove is designed to burn at much higher temperatures. This means gases present in the smoke are fully burned and not released back into the atmosphere. This results in a thermal efficiency of around 80%. Which means that a log burnt in a modern wood stove can get around 4 times more heat than one log in an open fire.

Carbon Neutral - The process of burning wood also does not emit any additional carbon dioxide than the natural biodegradation of the wood if it were left to rot on the forest floor. Over the course of a tree’s life it absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and then releases this carbon dioxide when it either decomposes naturally or is burned. For this reason, no CO2 is added to the atmosphere, it simply releases the carbon dioxide that was previously accumulated back into the environment. Wood is a very environmentally friendly source of fuel because it is carbon neutral. Fossil fuels on the other hand, are not carbon neutral. Fossil fuels have stored and accumulated carbon over hundreds of years and then, all at once, this carbon is released in its entirety when the fossil fuels are burned. This process adds substantial amounts of carbon dioxide to the environment.

Sustainable – Wood is an abundant resource in North America and unlike many of the alternatives, a renewable one too. Today we have more wooded acres than we did 100 years ago and the balance is carefully managed to preserve our wooded lands. To keep the wood supply at a sustainable state, there needs to be some maintenance that goes along with the wood harvesting.


Sustainable forests are the key to wood as a heat resource. The days where clear cutting was acceptable are over and the concept of planting more than you harvest is alive and well. Wood is an entirely renewable source of energy only when handled correctly, but the great news is that it is very simple to maintain a sustainable forest! The US Forest Service helps control the excess timber that is harvested and they work to ensure the companies are utilizing sustainable cutting practices. Another important factor in eco-friendly wood burning is using local wood. The costs associated with preparing wood to burn goes up when transportation is involved, so the best way to receive wood is from a local forest or producer. This local purchasing reduces the pollution emitted during the transportation process and ensures the entire process is sustainable.

With the energy crisis always on the upswing, any and every use of fuel is under high scrutiny. Overall, a timber-fueled system provides a great all around solution to a home heating fuel source. Avoid the stress. Go green and reduce energy costs at the same time!

Give me a call if you have any questions at Affordable Chimney Service / 704.526.6348.

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