If you decide to heat your home with wood, you should consider some factors. Nowadays, this renewable energy source can be a cheap and environmentally friendly alternative, but it can also bring complications. In order to proceed properly when making a fire and using the fuel, here is some useful information and environmentally friendly heating methods.
Table of contents
- Is heating with wood worthwhile and what you should definitely pay attention to in the process
- Environmentally friendly and economic advantages
- Tips for sustainable heating with wood
- Precautions and rules to follow when heating with wood
- Wood requirements for different heating devices with their advantages and disadvantages
- Optimal chimney construction and air supply for heating with wood
- Use properly seasoned wood and avoid possible penalties
Is it worthwhile to heat with wood and what you should pay attention to
Firewood has always been an effective way to heat a home. In addition, wood is the epitome of renewable energy , grants independence from fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas or coal, provides security of supply and remains fully integrated into the biological cycle when properly burned. In terms of price, the material also compares very favorably with other fuels. Although it is a renewable resource, it makes sense to take a few simple steps to use it efficiently.
Given the expense associated with wood heating, it just makes sense to use such heat sources as efficiently as possible . The result can be lower heating costs if you buy your firewood, and less work if you process the fuel locally. Proper installation of a chimney, as well as a wood stove or fireplace, accordingly provides greater comfort and energy efficiency, and there is less chance of smoke escaping when you open the stove door. In addition, lower costs, less maintenance and better indoor air quality are some of the many benefits of heating with wood. Therefore, it can definitely be worth it to try new options for wood heating.
Environmental and economic benefits
Heating a home with wood can be enjoyable, efficient, safe, easy and environmentally friendly. Done right, this heat source can keep you and your family warm during a winter power outage and even allow you to cook your food for an extended period of time. In addition, heating with wood can turn a dreary heating season into a cozy, enjoyable time. The increased use of wood fires and systems powered by them in recent years is based not only on the economic aspect, but also on an environmentally friendly principle. It is mainly about fireplaces, pellet stoves and hybrid boilers, which can be very beneficial with their sustainability. Wood, like wind and sun, is a natural and renewable energy source that grows again almost indefinitely in many latitudes.
So the main advantage is that wood is an easy-to-harvest resource, unlike other fossil fuels. If sourced regionally and a few basic rules are followed during combustion, heating with wood has little impact on the environment. When wood is burned, only the amount of carbon dioxide that was bound during the growth process is released, which means that wood can be CO₂-neutral.
Tips for sustainable heating with wood
- Proper firing: Proper firing is crucial to ensure that the combustion of wood produces as few emissions as possible. To quickly achieve a sufficient firebox temperature, thinly split kindling wood and conventional means of ignition are useful.
- Good wood is what counts: Suitable firewood is air-dried and has a residual moisture content of 15 to 20 percent. Untreated, dry wood is particularly suitable for wood-burning stoves. Low-resin hardwoods such as beech, oak and birch are characterized by a particularly quiet flame. Such types of wood accordingly burn optimally and longer flame and are therefore ideally applied only in small quantities. Fine white ash and little soot in the fire are evidence of environmentally friendly combustion. During the burning process, they store the heat given off and only gradually release it into the room, so that the heat is used particularly efficiently.
- Clean stoves mean more heat energy: properly working and maintained stoves ensure that the wood to be burned is optimally converted into heat and that little of it escapes unused into the atmosphere. Regular cleaning and inspection of the fire by a professional guarantees proper and environmentally friendly combustion.
Observe precautions and rules when heating with wood
When heating your home with wood, there are a few rules you should follow to minimize the costs and health and environmental impacts of burning wood indoors. First and foremost, the firewood must be dry. If the firewood is damp, it will not ignite and burn optimally. It dries from the surface inward, so unsplit pieces burn very slowly. The more surface wood is exposed by splitting, the faster it dries. Also, stack your firewood loosely to promote air circulation. By dry, it is meant that the moisture content of the wood must be less than 20 percent. Also, never burn materials such as:
- Glossy magazines or newsprint
- Painted or treated wood
- Foil or metal-coated gift wrap
- Household waste (diapers, plastic bags, etc.)
- Rags or cloth made from synthetic materials
These items release toxic chemicals into the air that can harm your health and damage your wood stove or fireplace. But how much firewood do you need to keep your home warm in the winter by heating with wood? This depends largely on your climate, the area you want to heat, the level of insulation, and how airtight your home is. Listed below are the most common heating appliances and their fuel requirements.
Wood requirements for different heating appliances with their advantages and disadvantages.
- Pellet stoves burn between 7 and 9 tons of wood pellets annually and can certainly fulfill the efficient and easy-to-use aspects of successful wood heating. However, such devices have limitations that you should consider. Pellets are considered environmentally friendly, but require manufacturing to get into the appropriate shape. Pellet stoves also require you to constantly refill them to heat your living spaces. They also require electricity to operate and would not be suitable for keeping your home warm during a power outage without an emergency power supply.
- Wood stoves are like pellet stoves in operation and function, though you can purchase logs. Expected wood consumption for a wood stove is between 20 and 30 cubic yards of logs per year. Harvesting that much wood requires a lot of work, but is cheaper than wood pellets. If you buy the right wood stove, you may be able to heat water or cook on the surface. A wood stove is more beneficial during a power outage. However, the efficiencies are different. In addition, a wood stove cannot store heat, and much of it goes directly up the chimney. This leads to constant recharging to maintain heat output. This is the reason why so much wood is needed for the heating season.
- Hybrid boilers top the list with an average of 30 to 40 m³ of logs. This is a huge amount of work and storage due to the inefficient use of the wood. However, you can use it to heat your home as well as your water. The advantage is that you don’t have to see a fire or have a fireplace in your house. The disadvantage is that they emit more emissions and you have to fire them and continuously. However, a wood boiler takes much more wood than a wood stove and you don’t have to reload it as often. They do require electricity to operate, however, so like pellet stoves, they can’t function without a backup power supply in the event of a power outage.
Optimal chimney construction and air supply for heating with wood.
A proper chimney system is crucial to enjoying your wood stove. The last thing you want is smoke and toxic gases lingering in your home. Not only is this dangerous, but it also prevents you from enjoying your fire in comfort. The first step in designing a good chimney system is to install the chimney within the building envelope of the home. This means that a chimney should be in the heated area of the house for as long as possible. In the best case, it enters the home at the highest point of the heated area.
Another and less understood reality that affects airflow is where the chimney is located. Thinking of the chimney as a column of air is understandable, but the house itself is often overlooked as a column of air, it’s just a wider one. For this reason, even in it there is a slight pressure. This air pressure is higher or positive near the roof of the house and slightly negative near the basement. This pressure, which is created in a house by the difference in temperature from the inside to the outside, is called the chimney effect. The greater the temperature difference, the greater the stack effect. The greater the stack effect, the more impact it has on your heater. If it is upstairs, which is not very practical, it will help remove smoke. However, if it is downstairs, it will make it more difficult for drafts to pass through.
In the middle of the house is generally the neutral pressure plane. This is the area where the chimney effect of the house does not affect the draft, because the pressure is neither positive nor negative, it is neutral. This is the best area of the house to place a wood-burning appliance because there is nothing obstructing the draft. The first floor is, of course, the most difficult place to create a good draft with a wood-burning stove.
Use properly seasoned wood and avoid possible penalties.
The next tip is to make sure that you burn only properly seasoned firewood. This is the most important aspect of heating efficiently with wood once you have chosen your heater. The first reason is that wood with high moisture content cannot reach a high enough temperature to burn efficiently. Another reason is that too much moisture will cause excess pollutants to be released into the atmosphere. This will also cause creosote to build up in your chimney and wood stove. Properly seasoned firewood requires advanced preparation, which pays off when the weather turns cold. Ideally, harvest your firewood in early spring for the following season.
In Germany, however, there are high fines when it comes to wood consumption from forests. This is mainly due to the increasing amounts of wood from forest areas because of the rising prices of heating gas. This leads to the shortage of firewood and fireplace wood, with most forests belonging either to the state or to a company, or a private owner. In addition, in most cases a permit, or a wood collection license is required. Otherwise, unauthorized logging can be categorized as theft. So, anyone who cuts down trees, saws them off, or rips out branches, as well as collects firewood for commercial purposes, will face heavy fines. Therefore, it is best to inquire about the respective state forest laws or inform the private owner of the forest area before collecting firewood.