Wood Heat Rises Again

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TreeHugger Laumer preparing for winter

It is interesting how even though the price of natural gas is about half of what it was six months ago, my gas company doesn't seem to have noticed yet. Perhaps it is better to rely on one's own resources, as TreeHugger John does with his four tons of firewood. But as so many commenters noted at his post, there is an environmental cost. The Christian Science Monitor picks up the story.

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Beatty family heats their entire home by wood. Image David Pulliam/The Kansas City Star

The Monitor notes that sales of wood stoves are up 55% over last year, and pellet stoves are up 135%. But they then write:

"But as people polish their stoves and admire their woodpiles, environmentalists and health officials are expressing concern that burning wood in old or poorly designed stoves could add significantly to air pollution. And although wood represents a local and renewable fuel source, its credentials as a "carbon neutral" fuel — not adding to global warming — are hazy at best.

Even the very cleanest-burning and best-maintained wood or pellet stoves release a much higher level of emissions than a typical oil furnace, a common heating fuel in the Northeastern US. Natural gas, the most popular heating fuel nationwide, burns even cleaner than oil."

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Wood Stoves From Rammed Earth

They also make an interesting point that Gertrude Stein might take issue with:

"A tree is not a tree is not a tree," Ms. Rector [of the EPA] says. "It is what it lives in." Trees can pick up substances such as mercury, sulfur, or chlorine from the soil in which they grow. And if the wood is not properly seasoned or wet, combustion will be less complete. Not only will the stove give off less heat, it will pollute more." More in Christian Science Monitor

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The Stûv that Dreams Are Made of

Sensible recommendations from the EPA for burning wood:

• Use a properly installed and vented EPA-certified wood stove.

• Season wood outdoors through the summer and for at least six months. Properly seasoned wood is darker, has cracks in the end grain, and sounds hollow when smacked against another piece of wood.

• Store wood outdoors, stacked neatly off the ground with the top covered.

• Use clean newspaper and dry kindling to start fires.

• Have the wood stove cleaned and inspected annually.

• Don't burn household trash or cardboard. Plastics and colored inks on magazines, boxes, and wrappers give off toxic chemicals when burned.

• Never burn coated, painted, or pressure-treated wood, as it also releases toxic chemicals.

• Never burn ocean driftwood, plywood, particle board, or any wood with glue on or in it. They all release harmful chemicals when burned.

• Never burn wet, rotted, diseased, or moldy wood.

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Rais Gabo Wood-burning stove

On Planet Green: Buy Green: Pellet Stoves

More on TreeHugger:

Let's Talk About Pellet Stoves
Gorgeous Pellet Stoves (Of Course, They're Italian)
Finally: a Modern North American Pellet Stove From Snoqualmie

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