More on burning wood for heat


There’s some excellent comments on our previous post here about the carbon footprint of heating a home with wood vs. heating oil.

DJ, who lives way out in the country, uses a wood burning stove rather than a fireplace, as the heat output is far greater. Our neighbors across the street here in Connecticut also heat their home entirely with wood. They currently use a wood pellet stove, which is high tech, has a computer in it, but the neighbor says it requires considerable tweaking and cleaning, so he may go back to a wood burning stove.

After a few days burning wood I can say 1) it takes considerable time to get the wood ready, and then to prepare and stoke the fire, 2) to heat a home during the winter takes large amounts of wood. So, how sustainable really is wood, especially if used on a mass scale?

Joe Hartley says forests have been dedicated to growing wood for fuel, but such monoculture can have unintended consequences. He mentions friends in Wisconsin who used 5-6 cords of wood each winter. A cord is 4x4x8 or 128 sq ft. 6 cords is 1068 sq ft. That’s a lot of wood. Way out in the country this is doable. But even where we live, in an area where each home has at least an acre, if all homes were heated with wood, the air would be hazy with soot.

Joe and Eli Stephens both mention that burning wood produces quite a lot of particulate air pollution and other nasties too.

My sister’s boyfriend is an environmental engineer, so I asked him. He says, everything considered, heating oil (the primary home-heating method in New England) is probably more eco-friendly than burning wood. Which is not the intuitive answer, but no doubt the correct one.