When we burn wood or coal, we are effectively releasing the sun’s energy into our living rooms. However, we are also releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which we know to be a major contributor to global warming. So, is there a better choice of the two? At SBW HQ we believe there is, and we believe it is wood. Let’s take a look.
Wood beats coal
Firstly, the coal we burn today is millions of years old and can take over 200,000 years to be replaced. A tree can be harvested for woodfuel after a relatively short period of time, depending on the species and where it is grown. You are certainly looking at a mere 60 years and up. So, it can be produced sustainably.
Also, wood only releases carbon dioxide that it has locked away during its lifetime, which can make it almost carbon neutral. However, you have to take into account the forestry and processing which adds a carbon “cost” to woodfuel.
Comparing carbon dioxide
To compare the two, it is estimated that coal releases 1.018kg of harmful carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour (Kwh), whereas burning the right wood only releases about 100g per Kwh.
What do we mean by “the right wood”? Well, that is a whole other topic, but basically, we mean dry or seasoned wood. For woodburning stoves that means wood that is less than 20% moisture content. This can be checked with a relatively cheap moisture content meter. Burning wet wood can be as bad for the environment as burning coal. It’s also pretty bad for your stove too. Coal and wet wood burnt in the UK produces about three times as many harmful particulates into the atmosphere as all road transport.
It is also important to source our woodfuel from sustainable forestry activities where replanting is necessary to actively circulate our carbon dioxide within the carbon cycle.
Which creates more warmth?
Of course, there is the argument that coal burns hotter. This is true to an extent. However, coal, softwood and hardwood have a very similar heat to weight ratio. It just so happens that coal is on average twice the density of hardwood which in turn is twice the density of softwoods. Which basically means we need to burn twice the volume of hardwood to get the same heat as coal and twice the volume of softwood to achieve the same heat output as hardwood.
Which fuel requires less cleaning?
Finally, coal is a dirty fuel. It is often very dusty and takes longer to light than wood and it smells awful. Whereas well-seasoned woodfuel burnt properly burns very clean, leaving very little unburnt matter. Also, if you have ever had the pleasure of cooking with different species of hardwoods, you will have experienced that beautiful smoky aroma in the food you have eaten.
Responsibly sourced, well-seasoned wood is a clean, sustainable source of heat for your home. Oh, and did I mention, how watching a lovely log fire in your stove, warms your heart as well as your home.
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