You heard it here and we stand by it: wood stoves are hot. The CO2 released cannot be more than the amount of CO2 absorbed out of the atmosphere by the tree in growth, so wood is a global-warming neutral energy source. But with oil prices rising, and consumers moving to a wood stove in every house next to the two cars in the garage, concerns about personal heat source choices are heating up. Why worry about such a natural source of energy? The reason: fine particulate matter. The German Environmental Agency estimates that the many stoves in use in private homes and small businesses are emitting as much particulate as cars and trucks, of which wood stoves are responsible for by far the largest piece of the pie at 80%. To address the problem, the German Environmental Agency plans to update the laws. Today, German consumers can rely on only a limited number of wood stoves recognized with the Blue Angel environmental label, or perhaps their own wisdom*, in choosing an efficient and non-polluting stove. In the future, stoves will only be approved for sale if they meet stringent emissions standards. The next question is: will Germany follow the lead of the US Environmental Protection Agency's wood stove changeout campaign to phase out the older models of wood heaters commonly in use?
*Hint: look for a system which is fully automatic (okay, take a moment to yearn for the rush of heat when opening the pot-belly to add a log and the old-fashioned levers for adjusting airflow) and which uses pellets or another form of fuel designed to deliver consistent burning performance (and say goodbye to "a man who cuts his own wood is twice warmed").