Heating our home in the winter used to be one of the biggest expenses we had during those coldest months of the year. Most people that I know use either gas or electric to do so, however due to the growing expense with the unstable cost of energy, I began to look for an alternative source for this energy in order to not only cut costs, but to be more responsible and earth friendly as well.
The first thing that naturally occurred to me was heating with a wood system.
Wood heating systems used to consist of a fireplace with blowers, however methods of heating with wood has developed a lot over more recent years as there have been a lot of improvements with emissions and efficiency with much cleaner systems. Some people are able to use cleaner and more efficient wood burning stoves and furnaces in addition to fireplaces.
When talking about a wood stove, about 10 years or so ago there were stoves that were airtight, which were the best kind that existed back then. Now since it is known that in order for it to burn in a clean manner, the wood needs a supply of air, plus the airtight ones of the past produced a lot of smoke, which of course, is not clean.
The wood stoves that are available today are a lot more “green”, in that they are “controlled combustion” stoves, which means that they also produce very few pollutants and very little smoke. Also, they are much more efficient then the ones from the past, as they do not take nearly as much wood to burn, in fact it uses less than a third of what it was a decade back to get the same effect.
Our home has a fireplace as well, although we never really used it until recently. You see, my husband comes from London, England where it is against the law to burn wood in a fireplace for environmental reasons. People there use electric or gas fireplaces instead. What we ended up doing was to put in an insert in order to use the heat energy that is normally wasted in a fireplace, into an actual efficient heat source. The insert we use has been EPA rated, and it is as efficient as the wood stove that we have, as described above.
The home we live in is more than 50 years old, however another option with some newer homes are prefabricated steel fireplaces. From what I have been told by friends who bought a new home just over a year ago is that they are wonderfully efficient.
There are also pellet stoves available which use wood pellets. These are supposed to be extremely efficient and the wood pellets that are used in them are often made out of recycled wood products, making it even more environmentally sound. These stoves made for the wood pellets are more expensive, however if you can afford the few extra dollars, they burn very clean and are very consistent in the heat put out.
The main reason we chose a wood burning system (we chose the combination of the insert in our fireplace in the lower level of our house, and the wood stove in the upstairs) is that wood is carbon neutral and does not contribute to the buildup of greenhouse gases.
Yes! Wood does produce carbon dioxide, however it is absorbed in a natural way by our forests.
As we did, if you decide to go the route of a wood heating system, then shop around for your best quality system and be sure to weigh the quality and prices against each other before you make a final decision.
I can tell you though, that compared to when we had central gas heating, our gas bill had gone down dramatically over this past winter, and I feel as if I am doing something to help our environment.