Wood burning stoves to heat homes – a greener lifestyle?

For some people heating their homes includes the use of a fireplace or wood burning stoves. And the rising cost of energy means that more people are now considering installing a wood burner. But is this a greener option? Read on for advice from Stephen Tester about wood selection for modern stoves

Written by Stephen Tester | Arboricultural Consultant

A greener lifestyle

Wood burning releases a lot of CO2 yet heating with wood is often seen as an acceptable source of green energy. This is because with wood, if consumption and the potential carbon sequestration of trees is matched, then it can be considered a sustainable source of fuel unlike the fossil derived fuels.

However certain practices or ways of burning are more efficient at making use of the energy and carbon released and are less polluting than others. Most obviously burning wet or unseasoned wood, compared to seasoned/ dry wood, will be typically less efficient at giving off heat and will also release more air polluting particles and gases linked to reduced air quality.

Water content of wood and seasoning

Properly seasoned wood burns hotter, cleaner, and with less smoke. Following a recent change in law in 2021, the sale of wet wood is now banned. In practice, this means all firewood now sold should contain less than 20% moisture.

Open hearth or wood burner

Whilst the look, sound, smell and atmosphere of an open hearth is well loved in practice, an open hearth is often slow burning, inefficient and the heat radiated low.

A modern wood burner is my recommendation. They come in various traditional or contemporary styles and often minimal conversion and maintenance requirements. Modern wood burning stoves have been designed for optimal burning.

Alternative sources of wood

If you decide to try and forage for free wood, most woodland owners or managers would not object to you picking up a few kindling sticks or pine cones whilst out on a walk. But to remove more would probably not be seen favorably by an owner, without their permission. From a legal perspective, you should always ask owners permission before taking.

Which wood to burn?

With a couple of exceptions, pretty much any wood can be used. However there are differences in their quality. Click here for a table showing some of common wood types and their suitability.

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Want to know more?

Email Stephen Tester, Arboriculture Consultant for more information or to discuss the arboricultural aspects of a project.


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