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Is heating with wood responsible?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
There was another thread about a firewood powered car, and I didn't want to hijack the thread so I started this one.

We recently installed a Wood Burning fireplace and did a lot of research prior to purchase, so I thought I would share it.

First, doesn't burning firewood introduce Carbon in the atmosphere? 

It does, but the the trees that we use, are either dead, or have been cut for other reasons, (Orchard reductions etc.)  Left to lay they would break down and slowly introduce the carbon into the atmosphere.  We are speeding up this process greatly, but it is the same net result. This is instead of using fossil fuels that left alone would never enter the atmosphere.

Now, obviously there are alternatives such as electricity, that can have lesser impact ( since all of the electricity we buy is from renewable sources)   but the cost in a cold climate is very high.   So we are trying a achieve a balance.

So the other decisions are made based on looks, Quality, efficiency, and emissions

The EPA is regulating the emissions of wood heaters and as someone stated the maximum emissions for a Non Catalytic heater is 7.5 gm/hr. Catalytic equipped heaters are limited to 4.1 Gm/hr.  The Average certified wood stove is 6.0 gm/hr.

We found two fireplaces we liked, both with emissions well below the max., Fireplace Extraordinaire,( Cat equipped 2.5 gm/hr)   and Quadrafire (non cat. 3.1 gm/hr)

The second major consideration is Efficiency. A higher efficiency fireplace will result in less fuel consumed and thus,  net less emissions.

Because of this fact, fireplaces with an efficiency rating of 75% or greater qualify for a federal tax rebate.  This had not been setup when we purchased ours.

The Fireplace Extraordinaire has an efficiency rating of 72%, so although it does a great job, if you are concerned with the rebate($1500.00), it won't cut it.  Interestingly enough, when we were shopping all dealers agreed that was a great unit.

The Quadrafire had the highest efficiency we found, at a whopping 76.99%

Although efficiency is measured at the unit, there is one other feature that made these two stand out. Both have fans that take air from outside the building, heat it, and introduce it to the building.  This pressurizes the building and makes any air leaks go out, instead of in. This makes a much higher net heat gain.  The Quadrafire can heat outside air or inside, the FPE outside only, this might be an issue in extremely cold conditions (Sub Zero)

We chose the Quadrafire and although it has been too warm to use it much, we have a little and have absolutely no regrets.

BTW.  I have no interest, financial or other wise in either of these products.
post #2 of 9
Hmmm...this is a good question! I don't know anything about those wood burning fire places but I have seen those "eco fireplaces."  I think one of the ones they had at West Coast Green last year was the EcoSmart one which uses ethanol: http://www.ecosmartfire.com/en/home

Then the question is...is burning wood better? Or ethanol?  I suppose really having no fire is better at the end of the day, but sometimes a fire is just so nice.    

The argument with wood of course is that it absorbs carbon when it's in tree form.  Ethanol I know has had some ups and downs in its history as to whether it's ACTUALLY environmentally friendly.

Now comes my slight change to the question.  What about outdoor firepits?  My boyfriend and I have been talking about getting one for out patio.  Those are obviously just big bowls where you stick some wood in and let 'er rip!  They certainly aren't as high tech by any stretch of the imagination as the ones whirnot mentioned...so where do they fall on the scale?  Does the same principle of "well....it was going to emit this carbon anyway" (assuming you're using wood from fallen trees) still hold true?  Or do you have to start thinking about the particulates you're sending into the air?
post #3 of 9
 Hi jessg,

Wood pits in the back yard are among the worst from all standpoints - particulate emissions & gaseous emissions plus not heating anything very well. 

They are nice though!

The ecosmartfire units are pretty - they look good but they are burning ethanol.

They are also without a flue (at least some) which means you have an open flame in the room without a directed exhaust. Not what I am interested in.

Looked at their site a bit more - maybe not so bad! Have to do a bit more study on this one.
post #4 of 9
Well you know, wood floats. And, wood burns. We burn witches so witches have to float. So, I say find floating people and burn them instead of wood. People do release a good bit of methane but that would be consumed pretty much when they burn.

Relying on solid science good.
post #5 of 9
I have an old inefficient wood stove that I'm sure throws loads of CO2 into the air...
It heats my living room nicely and I leave the rest of the house cold.  (Old house built in 1870)  Before the wood stove gas bills were as bad as $600/mo. (After the furnace they dropped to $175/mo.)  

After I finish remolding the old house (insulation!) I will be looking to get a geothermal "water furnace" and will use the wood stove as back up or to keep warm on very cold days...

It is my belief that it is far better to burn a bit of wood (even in an old stove) and not burn so much (or any gas) as wood is a renewable energy source that not many people use.
post #6 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Russ View Post

 Hi jessg,

Wood pits in the back yard are among the worst from all standpoints - particulate emissions & gaseous emissions plus not heating anything very well. 

They are nice though!

The ecosmartfire units are pretty - they look good but they are burning ethanol.

They are also without a flue (at least some) which means you have an open flame in the room without a directed exhaust. Not what I am interested in.

Looked at their site a bit more - maybe not so bad! Have to do a bit more study on this one.

Yeah, that's what I was afraid of. Any ideas on an eco-friendly way to have an outdoor fire? Hah, might be a complete oxymoron. They're just so nice to have on occasion. Ah well. If no such thing exists, then we'll forgo it probably.
post #7 of 9
We have a woodstove (EPA certified) that came with the house.  It pumps copious amounts of heat.

The question:  what of the ECO logs, that are made of wood chips?  They certainly keep the house cleaner than the stack of maple full of bark, bugs and dust that we used the first year, but are they more environmentally friendly?

Keith
post #8 of 9
Ethanol - what is the environmental impact of ethanol, or taking our food crops and turning theme into gasoline?  How much energy is used in the production of it?  This is another side of the Green debate that I think is trading four quarters for a dollar...
post #9 of 9
The EROEI is not great on ethanol - it should slowly fade away with any luck.

To me the food crop land being diverted was a bogus claim that the green side picked up on and ran with. Neither extreme in the environmental discussions happen to have much in the way of ethics - it is who screams the loudest and preferably firstest! 
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