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Wood is Good
Modern home heating with wood is clean carbon neutral and renewable. These three ideas sound simple, but there is a lot of meaning behind each one. Find out how heating with wood can help you reduce your family's carbon footprint while preserving air quality.
Woodburning can be a Sound Choice for Rural Canadians
Over two million Canadian woodburners are using their stoves as a supplement to their overall home heating. Using a clean burning stove to utilize a renewable energy source represents a major offset from the nonrenewable fossil fuels of oil and gas. There are no perfect fuels in today's world. Even solar, wind, and hydroelectric sources have environmental impacts. What is important is that we use an appropriate energy source for a particular application.
For rural Canadians, woodburning is very appropriate, and environmentally responsible. The harvesting of cordwood from local woodlots is an essential aspect of proper forest management. Firewood is not a result of clear cutting.
On the contrary, it is the culling of damaged, crowded and aged trees to make room for sustained growth of the younger, healthier trees. Most woodlot owners periodically bring in a local logging specialist to harvest some of the mature trees for lumber before they are past their prime. The tops of these harvested trees are a major source of cordwood.
Like the current trend of sourcing our food within a 100 mile radius, firewood is a fuel source that comes from local areas and is part of the fabric of rural Canadian economies. Compare that to oil which comes from halfway around the world, or gas that is pipelined for thousands of miles and fills the pockets of faceless multinational corporations.
Wood heating has changed completely since the days of pot-belly stoves and smoking open fireplaces. The changes mean that features inside advanced stoves and fireplaces convert wood smoke into bright flames and heat instead of letting it escape up the chimney. The result is cleaner air in your community and more heat with less wood for you.
When considering wood heat, or upgrading an older stove, ask your salesperson to show you options that have these advanced features and are EPA certified. You will find that most advanced stoves emit only 2 to 4 grams of smoke per hour of operation, compared to the roughly 40 grams of smoke pollution that older, so-called 'air tights' dumped into the air.
Wood is a clean fuel that you can feel good about using when you burn seasoned firewood in an advanced stove or fireplace.
...you are simply bringing part of nature's carbon cycle into your home and releasing its stored energy.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main greenhouse gas and its increasing concentration in the atmosphere is mainly the result of burning fossil fuels - coal, oil and natural gas - that were formed millions of years ago. Trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow, converting it to the carbon that makes up almost half the weight of dry wood. As wood burns, this carbon is again released as CO2. If instead of being processed into firewood for home heating, an old tree fell and rotted on the forest floor, the same amount of CO2 would go back into the atmosphere.
When you heat your home with wood, you are simply bringing part of nature's carbon cycle into your home and releasing its stored energy. Considered over the average tree life cycle of 50 to 100 years, fuelwood use can be considered almost carbon-neutral, except for the energy used to process and transport it.
Solar, wind and hydro-electric energy are considered renewable because they can be used forever without being used up. Firewood is also a renewable energy resource but for less obvious reasons that need some explanation.
Most firewood is produced from old, damaged or low-grade trees that are unfit for other purposes. When one of these trees is harvested from the woodlot, its absence creates an opening for sunlight to penetrate and stimulate the growth of smaller trees below.
These younger trees grow more quickly and absorb more CO2 than the one removed. Selective tree harvesting for firewood can actually improve the quality of a woodlot over many generations, even as it yields a renewable fuel that displaces the use of fosil fuels. With sustainable harvesting practices, our forests can provide a continual source of energy.
Most Canadians remember well the ice storm of 1998, when areas in Ontario and Quebec were without power for weeks. This is an extreme example of the occasional power outages that are a fact of life for rural Canadians. An efficient woodstove can make blackouts a minimal inconvenience by providing your own source of heating and cooking. Woodburners can be proud of their self sufficiency, energy independence, and sense of security.
...and a Rewarding Lifestyle
Beyond all the arguments about energy sources and the technology, it is important to consider the human aspect of woodburning. No other energy source brings people together the way wood does. For many families, the harvesting, carrying, splitting, and stacking of firewood is hard work, but also a cherished annual ritual that brings us together. Our automatic world today increasingly causes us to lose touch with our families and environment. Rest assured, there is nothing automatic about woodburning but the rewards are worth it!
Last but not least, there is the quality of heat from a woodstove. As the sun takes its annual journey away from us for those long winter nights, we yearn for the warm radiance of the summer sun. Nothing warms you to the bone like palms outstretched towards the cheery flames of your woodstove. The radiance of that summer sun is unleashed in the flaming wood of your stove.
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