Wood-burning fire places

While attempting to be red-hot warm, during the white-blanketed winter, it’s not really topical to think green. But with the variety of different choices for heating this winter: gas, electric and wood-stove— be careful not to purchase too hastily. A wood-burning fire may seem greener and cheaper, but the environmental effects of a winter season full of wood-burning could result in more than expected.

This winter season, consumers are looking to save not only on their gas-guzzling, but on heating bills as well. Wood stove sales have increased by about 55% compared to last season’s sales. Consumers are looking for a way to stray away from costly oil and gas, and head towards a greener and cheaper alternative.

Ideally, wood seems like a smart alternative to oil and gas since it is a renewable resource (if you chop down a tree, you can just go ahead and plant a new one) and a local resource (transportation costs would include only the break of a sweat) but the particulate matter (tiny particles that can cause serious respiratory problems) emitted from burning wood ads up. In some rural communities, wood smoke can be accounted for about 82% of particulate matter emitted. Furthermore, the smoke is emitted inside and right outside your house, increasing the likelihood of exposure in significant quantities.

In addition to the particulate matter emitted, high concentrations of toxic chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde are found in wood smoke. On the bright side, most modern stoves, which are manufactured under EPA regulations, are much cleaner than the older models. But these newer models focus mainly on cutting down the high concentrations of toxic chemicals, and not so much the particulate matter. According to the epa.gov site, modern wood stoves still produce particulate matter in concentrations about 100 times greater than oil or gas furnaces.

While wood stoves produce significantly greater amounts of particulate matter than gas or oil furnaces, using wood to heat your home is considered to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. As long as the firewood you use is farmed in a sustainable manner, heating by wood is less likely to contribute to global warming. According to climatechange.gov, researchers estimate that wood may produce 3-10 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions per unit of heat than other energy sources.

For those entirely committed to utilizing a wood stove this winter, make sure you’re using an EPA certified stove manufactured after 1992, or check woodheat.org for smart tips on how to use the wood stove in a greener way. Alternatively, you could put aside the wood stove for a sentimental occasion, savoring the crackling sounds and firewood fragrance. For the rest of the season, consider keeping your thermostat low and an extra comforter near for the chillier nights.


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