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Dave Holmberg  

Wood Heating and Our Environment

 

There is nothing like wood heat, and wood was used as our original heating fuel. Wood burning continues to be an effective and economical way to heat your home or business. It can also completely compliment any decor and can also be a steward in environmental awareness. Whether it is primary heating or a secondary heating source, wood burning, with it’s advanced technology, wood  is an effective and efficient heat source.  

Today, the efficiency of wood-heating systems has improved significantly. Most of the new wood-heating appliances are very attractive stoves and fireplaces designed for the main living areas of a home.

With the use of advanced technology and other hearth appliances, all of our products whether it be wood, pellets or natural gas,  can provide primary or secondary heat for your home or business- while offering the beauty of a visible fire.

The keys to safe and successful wood burning is good planning, carefully selecting a high-efficiency appliance, installing and properly operating the appliance.

It is our aim to assist you in this decision making process of not only selecting the right appliance but to train you to maximize the benefits and enjoyment of your heating appliance.

 Whether it be natural gas, propane, heating oil, wood, biomass pellets; any of these fuels that you choose to heat your home will have affects on the environment. Of these choices, wood and pellets, are the only selection that are renewable resources. And because trees recycle carbon dioxide, wood burning does not contribute to the problem of climate change.

The term renewable does not only mean that a tree can be grown for future wood sources but the term renewable also refers to a tree’s ability to recycle carbon dioxide.

As a tree grows, it use carbon dioxide from the air as a source of carbon to build its structure. This carbon makes up about half of the weight of wood. When the wood is burned, it decomposes rapidly, and the carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere again.

A similar amount of carbon dioxide would be slowly released if the tree died and was left to rot on the forest floor. As a result, wood heating does not contribute to the problem of climate change the way fossil fuel can add.

When oil, gas and coal are burned, the carbon they contained is oxidized to carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. In effect, the combustion of fossil fuels releases ancient carbon ( carbon that has been buried within the earth for thousands of years), thereby increasing the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide.

 

In comparison, wood combustion can be considered carbon neutral because trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow. This process is called carbon sequestration. Approximately one ton of carbon is sequestered for each cubic meter of wood. When trees mature, die and fall in the forest and decomposed, the same amount of carbon is emitted as would be released if they were burned for heat. This cycle can be repeated forever without increasing atmospheric carbon.

 

A healthy forest is not a museum, but a living community of plants and animals. When trees are used for energy, a part of the forests carbon bank is diverted from the natural decay and forest cycle into our homes to heat them.

When we heat with wood, we are simply tapping into the natural carbon cycle in which carbon dioxide flows from the atmosphere to the forest and back.

The key to ecologically sound and sustainable wood energy use is to ensure that the forests remains healthy, maintains a stable level of variously aged trees and provides a good habitat for a diversity of other species, both plants and animals.

Ensuring there is a healthy fuelwood market is key to a sustainable forestry plan. Landowners have more incentive to remove low value trees and manage their forests sustainably knowing there is a market for their low value material.

 

The second key to wood energy use is to ensure that these wood burning appliances burn clean and virtually smoke free.

The combustion of wood produces small particles that are called PM2.5. What this means is these particulate matters are 30 times smaller than a human hair. Sources of PM2.5 include combustion under various forms, such as the ones used for cars and trucks, wood heating, as well as other industrial processes.

While it is true that old technology  like open fireplaces and simple heaters could not burn the wood completely, the new generation of wood-burning appliances are designed to burn these particles. These appliances produce almost no visible smoke they are very, very efficient at burning these particles.

The wood heating industry has evolved. The vast majority of appliances sold on the market now meet and sometimes exceed the particle emissions limits set by EPA as well as CSA B415.1.

 

Today, these highly efficient technologies come in three categories: advanced combustion, catalytic, and densified pellet systems.

 

Advanced Combustion Systems In Wood Stove and Fireplace

Highly efficient combustion systems create the conditions needed to burn the smoke before it leaves the appliance.

The characteristics are:

  • Ø  Firebox insulation to keep temperatures high
  • Ø  Primary combustion air that is preheated so that it does not cool the fire.
  • Ø  Preheated secondary air that is fed to the fire through sets of small holes in the gas-burning zone, above and behind the fuel bed.
  • Ø  Internal baffles that give the gases a long and hot enough route so that they can burn completely.

When wood in a combustion stove or fireplace is burning well, one may see nearly transparent flame swirling above the wood in addition to the normal flames coming from the wood.

 

Catalytic Technology

Catalytic technology in stoves and fireplaces rely on a catalyst to help burn smoke before it leaves the appliance. The catalyst  is a coated ceramic honeycomb –shaped device through which the exhaust gas is routed. This coating lowers the ignition temperature of the combustion gases as they pass through it. This allows catalytic appliances to burn cleaner at low heat output settings. The device does have a limited life as the catalyst deteriorates over time and the emissions rise accordingly.

Because the catalyst restricts gas flow through the appliance, catalytic stoves always include a bypass dampener in the flue. This dampener is opened while the stove is starting and closed when the fire is hot. The restriction of gas flow can also cause draft problems which also must be considered.

 

Densified Pellet Systems

Densified pellet systems burn fuel usually made from sawdust ( which is normally wasted) or other biomass waste compressed into small cylinders usually app. ¼ inch in diameter and app. 1 inch in length. The pressure and heat created during their production binds the pellets together with the lignin that occurs naturally in the wood without using any additives.

Pellet burning units include a hopper that holds app 20 to 50 pounds and a small screw auger that automatically moves the pellets from the hopper into the combustion chamber.

If pellet appliances are properly adjusted, they can operate at lower emission standards than natural firewood appliances.

 

Heat Output

Wood and pellet stoves range from very small units, designed to heat only a small area, to large stoves that can heat large areas.

Selecting a stove the correct heat output range can be tricky because the stove’s appearance does not always reflect  its performance. If the stove’s output is too large for the space to be heated, it will be turned down low much of the time, producing a smoky fire. An undersized unit, may deteriorate quickly because of constant over-firing.

 

 

At our place of business, we heat entirely with wood and wood pellets. Our retail and show area is approximately 2000 sq ft of not so well insulated building and the heat that these units produce makes the showroom very comfortable.

 

Technology has advanced here as well that you no longer have to just rely on cutting your firewood as you can also use compressed firelogs using a waste product like sawdust to be the only ingredient in these logs. What we are finding with our woodstove and fireplace at our business, is these logs produce more heat, less ash and we use less wood to heat our place. The management required for wood burning is far less with using these compressed firelogs than is required with traditional chopped wood.

Technology has also advanced the pellet stove and the use of pellets for heating our homes. They still give the wood heat that you experience with wood stoves, just a lot less work involved in not only gathering wood but removal of ashes, and the continual cleaning of dirt and dust.

Some of the advantages of a pellet burning appliance is that it can be controlled by a thermostat which makes the system very easy to operate and maintain comfortable temperatures.

There is also a lot less ashes that have to be cleaned than there is with the traditional wood burning appliances.

 

Depending on what your choices are, we can supply you with whatever wood or pellet burning appliance best suits your needs.

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