Can Wood Burning Stoves Impact the Environment?
Answer: yes, like most things humans do on earth. It will have an environmental impact. Compared to many other heating methods, wood burning stoves have a far lower impact.
How big of an impact does wood burning stoves on the environment is quite easy to figure out. In this article we will compare the different types of heating types commonly used in the United States and abroad to figure out which methods have the least amount of environmental impact. We will also compare why different types of heating methods are used across the world. Then finally we will review changes that need to be made to make progress to a greener and cleaner future.
How do wood burning stoves impact the environment?
The biggest misconception is that burning wood creates pollution in the form of carbon monoxide. This is just not true. Yes, carbon monoxide is released when wood is burned, but CO is also release when a dead tree is decomposing. It does not matter in which manner the carbon monoxide is released. It is the same amount either way.
The largest impact to the environment with wood burning stoves is harvesting the trees themselves. De-forestation is already a big problem across the world. Day after day more trees are cut to support the human condition called “survival”. Because the by-products are trees produce so many goods humans use, they get cut down more rapidly.
Follow this link for a lot more information on deforestation: Deforestation facts and information (nationalgeographic.com)
Ways we can make wood burning stoves more environmentally friendly
The largest way we can make wood burning stoves more environmentally friendly is to burn things that would have otherwise ended up in the trash can. Here are 3 items you can burn in your wood stove safely to keep you warm:
- Old news papers
- Old Books
- Old Magazines
- Food waste
You get the point. I hope this list sparked some ideas in your head about things you can use to burn for heat. Just confirm those ways safe to burn! Here is a good resource for you. Best Wood-Burning Practices | US EPA
The biggest take away is to make sure what you burn is 100% natural to the environment.
What parts of the world are wood burning stoves mostly used?
Well… If you live in the southern parts of America, you may have never seen a wood stove before. If you’re from the northern parts of America, you are probably shocked to think someone has never seen a wood stove before. In the south when you see a wood stove or even a fireplace in a home, it is merely just a decoration.
The history of wood burning stoves
The first wood stove was patented in 1557 but did not become popular until the one and only Benjamin Franklin got his hands on one. Benjamin Franklin wanted to improve the design of what we would call a fireplace into something more efficient. He named it the franklin stove and became more common around the era of the industrial revolution.
Can wood burning stoves impact to the environment be improved?
Yes, the biggest way the wood burning stove has been improved is with the pellet stove. You may have seen something called a Traeger grille. This is the same concept and uses the same kind of fuel just typically flavored for that nice cherry taste on a brisket. Pellet stoves’ burn a compacted organic material made from tree’s, biomass or even food waste. They are dried and then compacted firmly into a small pellet.
Since a pellet is compacted into a small form, they can achieve a higher temperature then a regular ole log. The fuel source from a pellet is much more controlled and we can control the burn rate and temperature much easier.
Are wood burning stoves allowed in every home?
Mostly yes, wood stoves, fireplaces and pellet stoves typically fall under the same local ordinances and codes as each other. You of course will have to speak with local agencies around you to find out more, but the odds are in your favor. The biggest reason these heating devices for homes and cabins are regulated is probably self-explanatory. For the safety of your family. and your neighbors. Do some digging. The epa’s website is again a great source and a place to start: Ordinances and Regulations for Wood-Burning Appliances | US EPA
When would a wood burning stove not work so well?
The main reason a wood stove wouldn’t work for your home is in large multi-story type structures. Unless you plan to have multiple wood stoves around the home, do not plan on this being a reliable consistent source of heat. That wood be… I mean the would be a lot of wood.
What is the best wood to use for a wood burning stove?
For a wood stove the best fuel source will be from what is in and around your property. Passed that the log that burned the highest in temperature and the longest is maple, oak, ash, birch, and most fruit trees.
Can wood burning stoves be dangerous?
Wood stoves are dangerous. It is important to make sure all safety measures are taken. Here are a list of safety measures to take with wood stoves.
- Make sure the wood stove is installed to manufacture recommendations and local requirements… Just so not homes are burnt in the pursuit of heat.
- Make sure carbon monoxide sensors are in and around your home/house.
- Have an action plan of who to call and what to do in case of a fire.
- Inspect the wood stove for any defects prior to lighting
- Have a gate around the stove to protect young children or pets.
Do wood burning stoves increase the risk of a home fire?
Wood stoves do not increase the risk of a home fire anymore then an oven, fireplace, or a central heating system. It is important that your wood stove is of high quality, or it isn’t out date. Among many other issues an old wood stove can cause house fires or even carbon monoxide poisoning from leaking smoke.
Are there ways to limit the amount of indoor pollution wood burning stoves make?
When have issues with carbon monoxide pollution in your home It is important to confirm the wood you are burning is dry. Wet logs will create much more smoke than dry logs. The example I tend to give people is when I am grille on a propane BBQ pit. I buy these small wood chips from the hardware store. In an effort to increase the flavors of the meat I am smoking; I will soak the chips in water. This will increase the smoke output by roughly 150%.
If everyone switched to wood burning stoves, would it have an impact to our forests?
Yes, our forests would be impacted by an increase of wood burning stove users.
Environmental impacts from other heating sources will go down as well. As far as the impact to our planet I wouldn’t recommend everyone switching to wood stoves or even pellet stoves. Trees are a far too important renewable resource. It is important the world continues to innovate with truly renewable energy to supply heat to our homes.