Whilst burning wood does affect air quality due to the smoke produced it does have considerable benefits over other fuel sources.
One of the main benefits of using firewood as a source of fuel is that when it is produced from sustainable sources, such as managed plantations and coppiced woodland, it can be carbon neutral.
That is the amount of carbon dioxide that is released from the burning of the wood is equal to the amount that is taken up by any replanting or regrowth that occurs in the forest from where the wood came.
As a result there is no overall increase in the amount of carbon that is released into the atmosphere.
And with carbon dioxide recognised as a major contributor to global warming, this is a definite bonus.
As mentioned however, burning firewood can be a significant source of air pollution, especially in built up areas.
However there are ways to ensure that the amount of smoke produced by your fire is minimised.
- Make sure that the wood you are burning is well seasoned.
Wood that is burnt before it is fully dry releases more smoke and produces less heat.
- Use a wood heater rather than an open fire.
Open fires are very inefficient with most of the heat travelling straight up the chimney.
Wood heaters are more efficient with their heat transfer and burn more efficiently using less wood.
- Do not overload your fire.
Overloading it may reduce the amount of oxygen that can get to the fuel resulting in poorer combustion.
- Never burn treated wood.
Wood treatments frequently contain toxic elements that can be very dangerous.
- Clean the fire regularly to remove ash.
This will help oxygen circulation to the fire.
- Have your chimney cleaned.
A well drawing fire will burn better than one which does not.
- Have your heater serviced to ensure it functions at its best.
Often firewood comes from native forest rather than managed woodlands or plantations.
In addition to the damage to our forests, wood that comes from native forest can deprive animals of their natural habitat as they make their homes in the fallen timber that is often harvested for firewood.
Many people are starting to rediscover an ancient technique known as coppicing.
Coppicing has been around for thousands of years and involves cutting a tree down to somewhat above ground level and leaving the stump.
From this stump will grow multiple shoots.
As they are growing from an established root system the regrowth will occur quickly and produce good sized wood for burning in heaters.
This technique would suit someone with a small holding who wished to be self sufficient in firewood without having to wait for trees to grow in the normal fashion.
The wood is harvested on a rotation system with certain trees being cut back each year.
This rotation system can also be beneficial for local wildlife, ensuring habitat is available nearby at all times.
So while firewood has some downsides like all fuel sources, when used properly in effective burners it has benefits, such as potentially being carbon neutral, that make it worth considering for the source of heating in your home.