Woodburning is an efficient way of making use of one of the worlds bestsun catchers, simply by allowing one of natures processes to take placeindoors. In former times wood was crucial to the survival of people all overthe world for heating and preparing food. It is our most ancient source ofenergy and forests are able to absorb an extraordinary amount of carbondioxide.
The problem is that trees don’t live forever and sooner or later, somethirty years some hundreds, the trees die and decay and in the process they releasethe same quantity of gases that would be released if they were burned. All woodhas a finite lifespan after which they either rot or are burned. Most carbondioxide is absorbed by a tree when it is young, so forest establishment willraise carbon dioxide absorption in the forest.
So, using wood for heating etc.does not lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions provided consumptionof wood and renewal of forests and trees are in balance. We have a wealth offorests to supply the raw material for firewood and our tradition of burningwood has not been broken by the use of peat and coal.
Research shows that wood burning today is a dramatically cleaner processthan it was thirty years ago. The emissions from good quality wood burned in amodern, clean burning stove using the proper techniques emits less than 5% ofthe emissions that old stoves would have produced in the past.
The newer stovesburn more efficiently and in some cases 90% of the energy potential is used.When compared to other sources of heat wood comes out remarkably well and theinfrastructure required by woodburning is very simple.
For personal use all that is required is a chainsaw, an axe and a meansof transporting the firewood. The whole thing is straightforward, no paperworkinvolved and it is within the capabilities of old and young alike.
Chopping firewood with an axe is one of the most primitive of jobs that we do –primitive in the sense that we do the job in the same way as remote ancestors.Chopping wood is an opportunity to use our natural brute force but in a way whichrequires your full attention at all times to avoid chopping your leg off.
Drying wood is the one area where we in Ireland are lacking and we havea tendency to use less than well dried wood which causes some of the problemsthat get some bad press for the act of burning wood a source of heat. Allmoisture will reduce firewood efficiency and result in less heat. To get thebest value from wood in the form of heat and low emissions the moisture contentshould be lower than 20%. The performance of dry in your stove versus poorlydried wood is surprisingly noticeable. Dry wood will provide considerably moreheat and be much easier to light than can be demonstrated by statistics alone.
The good thing is that wood dries remarkably fast quickly if it is chopped andsplit soon after felling. Softwood logs can be ready quickly if chopped andstacked properly whereas wood such as Oak can take up to two seasons to dryproperly. Everyone has bought firewood at a gas station that is not dry and thebest thing you can do with this is to either return it or leave it to dry, theworst option is to try to burn. Wherever you source your wood be it the forestor the gas station source it in enough time to make sure it sufficiently drybefore you burn it.
Regardless of the scale – whether we look at woodburning as a culture,as bioenergy, or as a way of getting close to nature – the world’s oldestsource of energy still has a great deal to offer.