Turn up the heat with a wood burning stove

The benefits of installing a wood burning stove as secondary heating

When faced with a myriad of heating options for the typical British home, choosing the most environmentally friendly and financially viable is a quandary for many homeowners. However, when the outside temperatures don’t justify the use of central heating, a secondary heating system can provide a reliable and efficient source of warmth.

Until now, the most popular forms of secondary heating have been open or gas effect fires – however neither heating method is particularly efficient. And in the face of rising energy prices and a greater focus on carbon reduction, consumers are recognising the benefits of wood burning stoves as a secondary heating system. Phil Wood, Stove Industry Alliance Chairman, explains:

Although the regulations do not require secondary heating to be specified, many people choose to have a room heater to provide heating when the central heating system isn’t required or to create a focal point in a living space.

And across the country, there has been a sharp rise in the number of homeowners choosing wood burning stoves as both a practical way to cut fuel bills and an environmentally-friendly answer to heating their homes. When compared with alternative fuels, wood offers significantly reduced costs – a wood burning stove is 25% cheaper per kWh to run than a gas effect fire, 43% cheaper than an oil fire, and an impressive 76% cheaper than an electric fire.

WOOD FUEL GRAPHIC 1The benefits of installing a wood burning stove in an existing house are considerable. Statistics from Kiwa GASTEC at CRE, the energy management and low carbon consultancy, training and product testing facility, confirm that replacing a decorative gas fire with a wood burning stove will reduce the carbon footprint of the house by 22%, a figure that rises to 36% when replacing an LPG decorative gas fire with a wood burning stove. The reduction in carbon, when replacing an open fire is 14%.

An electric fire is the most carbon intensive option. Nearly 200kg of carbon can be saved per year simply by switching from an electric fire to a wood burning stove.

The increased efficiency of a wood burning stove with 70% efficiency (and more efficient models achieving 80%) compared to an open fire at 32%, and a room open gas effect fire ranging from 20 to 55% efficiency will make a noticeable difference to fuel economy and warmth in the house.

Existing properties with chimneys can benefit from the reduction in the air loss rate, by reducing the chimney diameter from 200mm to a flue of 150mm internal diameter suitable for most stoves. This will also eliminate the drafts caused by an open fire drawing air from the room.

Wood is one of the most environmentally friendly fuels that can be used. It is a renewable energy and virtually carbon neutral. The natural cycle of planting and harvesting trees has created a sustainable process that will provide carbon neutral fuel into the future. CO₂ is taken out of the atmosphere by growing trees at the same time as it is released by the combustion of the previous harvest.

To reflect this closed loop CO2 cycle, the carbon factor for wood logs has been significantly reduced in the latest measurement of energy efficiency to 0.008kg of carbon per kWatt compared with 0.198kg for gas, 0.274kg for oil and 0.517kg for electricity.

Interestingly the amount of carbon released by burning a log is less than the carbon that would be released if it were left to decompose on the forest floor.

What’s more Defra has exempted clean burning stoves for use in smoke control areas. Most urban areas in the UK are in smoke control areas. This means that a Defra exempt stove can be used in an urban house and not affect air quality.

An efficient wood burning stove can provide both economic and environmental advantages for homeowners. So for those looking to boost their green credentials, and enjoy the advantages of an efficient secondary heating source, a wood burning stove could be the answer.

What is wood biomass and how does it differ from fossil fuel?

The vital difference is one of timescale.

Wood is a carbon based biological material derived from living or recently living organisms. In the context of wood biomass for fuel this is often used to mean plant based material such as trees or crops. Wood biomass can be harvested on a sustainable basis as part of a constantly replenished crop; CO₂ is taken out of the atmosphere at the same time as it is released by combustion of the previous harvest. This process is often referred to as being CO₂ Neutral – it maintains a closed CO₂ cycle with no net increase in atmospheric CO₂ levels.

Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are also derived from biological material, but material that absorbed CO₂ from the atmosphere millions of years ago. As fuels they offer high energy density, but making use of that energy involves releasing CO₂ during the burn period, resulting in increased atmospheric concentrations.

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