Ditching the Woodburner – Alternatives?

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  • Ditching the Woodburner – Alternatives?
  • Premier Icon Daffy
    Subscriber

    I really like our woodburner, it’s a great place to while away an evening with a book and glass of wine, but…every time I light it, I’m conscious of just how polluting the thing is and it makes me feel guilty and thus reluctant to light it except on special occasions.

    We’re not on the gas main here, and electric is just silly, I guess the only option is bottled gas, perhaps with the permanent connection through the wall to a bottle outside?

    Stoner
    Member

    Where are you?
    what fuel are you burning and how?

    middle of a city burning crap wet wood is obvs rather different to dry, seasoned wood burnt hard in the middle of nowhere.

    What about a pellet stove? 5%< moisture, efficient burning (90%+), reliable fuel quality, nice to look at, controllable, low ash (<1%)

    Premier Icon Daffy
    Subscriber

    Small village in the coutryside – maybe 50 houses.

    kiln dried hardwood, mostly stored outside, but in a shed shielded from the elements. The wood we burn has usually been inside the house/garage for months before it’s burned, so is dry. It’s lighted using 20mm^3 of firelighters.

    Regardless of where it’s burned, it’s still releasing a lot of nasty particulates, far more than from hundreds of diesel cars…

    Premier Icon SaxonRider
    Subscriber

    it’s still releasing a lot of nasty particulates, far more than from hundreds of diesel cars…

    Really? I have never looked into the science, but I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t one of those things where we will discover next decade that everything we thought in this one was wrong. Kind of like we’ve just done with diesel cars, and margarine as opposed to butter in the 70s/80s…

    I just have a hard time believing that something human beings have done since we developed opposable thumbs could be so intrinsically damaging, especially when compared to the processing involved in allowing you to burn a non-renewable fuel.

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    We have an electric ‘woodburner’, it fools no one on close inspection but does the same job by providing a focal point and the flames are realistic enough if you’re not looking directly at them.

    I doubt bottled gas is cheaper than electric, last time I looked it was about 3x more expensive.

    Premier Icon JAG
    Subscriber

    Burning wood is Carbon neutral 🙂

    Shipping Gas around the world, transporting it, putting it into large Steel bottles etc… probably isn’t 8)

    gobuchul
    Member

    Link to one of the most recent articles:

    That’s all about pollution in large cities, not a small village.

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    Really? I have never looked into the science, but I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t one of those things where we will discover next decade that everything we thought in this one was wrong. Kind of like we’ve just done with diesel cars, and margarine as opposed to butter in the 70s/80s…

    You’re kidding?

    1) For millennia there were a fration of the current population. London, pre industrialist and subsequent population boom was about the size of Reading.
    2) It still (when it grew) eventually lead to the clean air act being introduced.

    The word ‘smoke’ scientifically means a suspension of solid particles in air. There’s steam as well in smoke, but if you’re burning solids in a relatively uncontrolled way (i.e a woodburner) it’s going to be pumping out 1000’s of times more particulates than even a crappy old diesel.

    That’s all about pollution in large cities, not a small village.

    So even in a city with (tens, hundreds of?) thousands of cars, and relatively few woodburners, the woodburners are causing a significant problem?

    Premier Icon Daffy
    Subscriber

    That’s all about pollution in large cities, not a small village.

    But the principal is the same…if everyone doesn’t do their bit for the environment…what’s the point?

    Stoner
    Member

    particulate suspension is temporary. Out in the sticks it poses far less risk as concentrations are much lower, dispersal happens faster and the opportunity for harm is massively lower. Particulates do not represent a permanent environmental damage. Gases might though.

    Premier Icon SaxonRider
    Subscriber

    TINAS, that may be so, but what I am saying is that we always seem to discover later that the cumulative effects of some new-fangled alternative to what we used to consider normal end up being more destructive than, well… what we used to consider normal.

    In any case, what about Stoner’s suggestion of a filter, above?

    EDIT: Actually, see both of Stoner’s posts, above!

    gobuchul
    Member

    But the principal is the same.

    It’s not though is it?

    You have to “burn” something to heat your home. The main problem with woodburners is when there are a lot of them in a relatively small area causing localised pollution.

    Although using bottled LPG may cause less local pollution I think it may be worse for overall carbon footprint. Think of offshore installations, high tech ships with huge stainless steel tanks, road transport and gas cylinders.

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    particulate suspension is temporary. Out in the sticks it poses far less risk as concentrations are much lower, dispersal happens faster and the opportunity for harm is massively lower. Particulates do not represent a permanent environmental damage. Gases might though.

    I actually get a sore throat visiting my parents during a winter high pressure. They live in a very middle class village* in the midlands that happens to be in a slight bowl. It’s definitely in the sticks, the nearest postbox is a mile up the road, the nearest streetlamp and bus stop is 2!

    *the kind of place you’d advertise your house (with it’s wood burner) for sale in country life rather than on purple-bricks

    footflaps
    Member

    But the principal is the same…if everyone doesn’t do their bit for the environment…what’s the point?

    Swapping a wood burner for fossil fuels wouldn’t be a clear cut positive step for the environment. Less particulates, but more CO2.

    Bruce
    Member

    You live in the country with limited fuel options, if you use bottle gas it with probably be delivered by a diesel lorry. Under these circumstances I can see no problem with burning wood.

    Premier Icon thisisnotaspoon
    Subscriber

    You live in the country with limited fuel options, if you use bottle gas it with probably be delivered by a diesel lorry. Under these circumstances I can see no problem with burning wood.

    And if you burn wood……

    Someones cut it with a chainsaw (2 stroke, probably running rich and/or hot for added environmental crappyness).

    Maybe it’s been kiln dried.

    It’s been delivered by a truck, and it’s nowhere near as energy dense as gas so it’s probably making a dedicated trip.

    If you coppice your own wood around your house and don’t own a chainsaw you may have a point, otherwise.

    Premier Icon Daffy
    Subscriber

    Stoner – thanks for the link, that might be an ideal solution.

    You live in the country with limited fuel options, if you use bottle gas it with probably be delivered by a diesel lorry

    That does make a difference but relatively few of the people burning wood are burning stuff hand gathered from their own land. A lot get it delivered

    Premier Icon TheGingerOne
    Subscriber

    Given you already have the woodburner, surely the environmental cost of manufacturing and installing the new heat source, plus removing even for re-sale the woodburner, far outweigh the cost of using what you have?

    Premier Icon Daffy
    Subscriber

    True, but I’m also actively poisoning the people of my village…

    gobuchul
    Member

    True, but I’m also actively poisoning the people of my village…

    You’re not. 🙄

    johnners
    Member

    I’m also actively poisoning the people of my village…

    Chances are at least some of them are dicks…

    Stoner
    Member

    Ive just farted.
    My neighbours are done for I tell ye!

    Premier Icon howsyourdad1
    Subscriber

    Go round collecting all the plastic rubbish in the village and nearby then torch that. Everyone wins.

    Premier Icon SaxonRider
    Subscriber

    Chances are at least some of them are dicks…

    😆

    alpin
    Member

    And if you burn wood……

    Someones cut it with a chainsaw (2 stroke, probably running rich and/or hot for added environmental crappyness).

    Maybe it’s been kiln dried.

    It’s been delivered by a truck, and it’s nowhere near as energy dense as gas so it’s probably making a dedicated trip.

    If you coppice your own wood around your house and don’t own a chainsaw you may have a point, otherwise.

    +1 I agree with spoon.

    However, given the choice I’d rather heat my place with wood just for the cosiness.

    If you want to reduce your impact upon or save the planet kill yourself now.

    Premier Icon ourmaninthenorth
    Subscriber

    We’re not on the gas main here, and electric is just silly, I guess the only option is bottled gas, perhaps with the permanent connection through the wall to a bottle outside?

    I live in a 1960s bungalow in a small village (25 houses and pub). It has cavity wall insulation, but loft insulation is just fibreglass. We have central heating running off bottled LPG.

    The first winter we lived here (moving from a large, uninsulated terraced house with mains gas) we went through £2000 worth of gas from November to February. We weren’t excessive, and we used the thermostat and boiler timer sensibly (we’re out all day at work). That’s right: two thousand **** pounds. And that doesn’t include the autumn and spring.

    As soon as the weather improved, I had a log burner installed. We still use the central heating, but now it does morning only duties (and hot water), with the log burner providing enough heat through the house during the winter.

    You buy bottled LPG in pairs of bottles. A single LPG bottle weighs 47kg and holds 92 litres of LPG. Current pricing is £120/pair delivered. That’s 65p/litre of fuel. And at full chat in our house in the depths of that first winter, we went through a pair of cylinders every week for 4 months….

    Here’s what the OFT had to say about bottled LPG:

    In summing up the state of the cylinder LPG market, the OFT concluded that: “Cylinder LPG users may have only a limited number of local suppliers, may pay higher heating costs on average than any other off-grid consumers, may be less able to readily switch to a different fuel type and are susceptible to road delivery disruptions.”

    (Taken from http://www.gocompare.com/gas-and-electricity/lpg/#egLFcjYj6xtA2PRK.97.)

    I buy dried wood. Because our stove isn’t our main heating resource – but is still significant – I use only 1.5 tonnes per year. The last order cost me £400. This might be expensive for wood, but it’s a drop in the ocean compared with the cost of bottled LPG.

    EDIT: the wood I buy is sold by a chap who runs a tree surgery business – he’s recycling the wood into fuel for me (and more money for him). It’s all air dried.

    neilnevill
    Member

    That new Sciencetist article isn’t that great, it’s hardly better than the daily mail version. I have read some good scientific papers, just facts and analysis, no journalistic twist, which do show particle emission is significant but much, much smaller with modern stoves and good burning practice. I would struggle to find them again but if i can I’ll post the link.

    Processing by chainsaw doesn’t polute much. I processed about 10m³ of wood using 2 litres of chain oil and 5 litres of fuel mix. Modern saws are set to run lean for emissions, which is stupid, as it will kill the saw much faster and the energy required to replace it should be considered.

    OP, have you considered a modern and efficient stove? Maybe one with a catalytic element? The Americans seem ahead of us here, their EPA regs are tight and there the modern stoves use catalytic elements for very very high efficiency and clean burning.

    Overall burn dry wood, burn hot, hot, hot and never slumber, never overload and things are clean. There is also a trade of local and short term pollution Vs worldwide and long term global warming. How you make that assessment i don’t know, but it should be made. I’ve burnt 6m³ of wood this year, around 3 tonnes, produced around 6000kwh of heat and not burnt about 1.25 tonnes of carbon from natural gas. I must accept I’ve poluted my neighbourhood, although since i burn well, you never see smoke or smell anything coming out of my chimney, I’m sure it’s not so bad as some suggest.

    Have you looked at air source heat pumps? Run off electricity and are cheaper to run per kW of heat than mains gas combi boilers. Massively come down in price in the last few years too

    footflaps
    Member

    Go round collecting all the plastic rubbish in the village and nearby then torch that. Everyone wins.

    Pretty standard in Africa, either that or dump it in the local river….

    Premier Icon NewRetroTom
    Subscriber

    If you only burn your woodburner when it’s raining does that make it ok? The rain will take all of the carbon particles out of the air very quickly.

    sniff
    Member

    Pellet stove + RHI

    neilnevill
    Member

    Oh and the wood i burn is local arb waste. I drive about 3.5 miles to collect it, about 10 trips for a winter’s worth. So ought to factor in 2×3.5×10=70 miles in the car, a little under 3 gallons of fuel. Balance against the tree surgeon making a couple of extra 5 mile ish journeys to the recycling centre, the wood then going off to Drax along with lots more. There’s probably little in it but my feeling is local use probably saves energy.

    gobuchul
    Member

    Run off electricity and are cheaper to run per kW of heat than mains gas combi boilers.

    Where’s teh figures for that?

    When I looked at these, they were only a sensible option if you had no mains gas.

    Stoner
    Member

    Have you looked at air source heat pumps? Run off electricity and are cheaper to run per kW of heat than mains gas combi boilers

    unless recently someone has defied the laws of physics they dont.

    The v best that can manage a COP of 3-4 in ideal conditions, and more realistically an SPF of 2.5-2.8, and Electricity costs at 16p/kWh (all in, incl standing charges), the net unit cost of energy at a generous 16/2.8 = 5.7p/kWh
    With mains gas costing 4.6p/kWh it is 20% cheaper

    However, it does produce slightly less net CO2/kWh which is why it’s eligible for RHI as long as it has a sufficiently high SPF.

    Sources:
    http://www.nottenergy.com/energy_cost_comparison/
    http://www.greenmatch.co.uk/blog/2014/06/air-source-heat-pump-performance

    Premier Icon geoffj
    Subscriber

    Oil?

    We’re moving from a house with an oil/wood burner/solar thermal combo to mains gas.
    I’m looking forward to not having to cut wood – it was an itch I had to scratch, but I’m happy to hang the chainsaw up for now.

    Stoner
    Member

    what happened to you man?
    You sold out!

    neilnevill
    Member

    My brother has an air source heat pump, installed about 3 years ago iirc. He saves money Vs the oil fired boiler he had before, but fairly sure he still would rather be on mains gas financially?.

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