Residential Wood Heating

If you heat with wood now or are considering the use of wood fuel for home heating, this book is for you. Wood as a home energy source differs in important ways from all the other options. Heating with wood can be challenging because of the physical demands involved. Special knowledge and skills are needed to successfully use this hands-on home heating option. In this book you will find much of the information needed to make sure your wood heat system is safe. You will also find helpful tips on how to operate and maintain it effectively.

Just as with all energy sources, heating with wood has both advantages and disadvantages. Some of the advantages are that wood is a renewable energy resource that does not need much processing. Many users like the fact that heating with wood makes their households self-sufficient for heating and secure during an electrical power failure since firewood burning appliances can operate without electricity. Burning wood from local sources means a double economic benefit in the form of savings to the household budget, and energy payments that circulate locally instead of going to distant energy companies. Some people enjoy cutting, splitting and stacking firewood and treat it as part of their physical fitness routine. Most people find the beauty of the natural wood fire hard to resist and many couldn’t imagine living a winter in Canada without it.

There are disadvantages too. The most serious problem is air pollution caused by older stoves, fireplaces and furnaces that can’t burn the wood completely, and by users who don’t know how to burn wood properly. Even the most advanced wood heating technologies produce more air emissions in the form of small particles than the conventional heating fuels like oil and gas. Heating with wood means that household members must be involved in managing the fire, the fuel supply and doing regular maintenance jobs like ash removal. All these tasks take time and therefore have a cost.

Wood fuel is bulky so a winter’s supply takes up a lot of space. There are practical limits to the number of households in Canada that could be heated with wood because of the damage that could be caused to the forest resource and to the air quality in large cities.

Although wood was Canada’s traditional fuel and was the main energy source until about 150 years ago, there have been major advances in wood burning over the past 25 years. These have made wood burning safer, more efficient and convenient than ever before. Some of these advances include:

- New firebox designs are capable of burning the wood more completely, cleanly and at higher efficiencies. 

- A new type of door glass can withstand the heat, and a technology keeps the glass clear for days at a time, allowing efficient heating to be combined with viewing of the fire.

- Pellet stoves that use compressed wood and other biomass wastes are capable of providing at least 24 hours of unattended heating.

- Reliable installation safety standards provide clear guidelines for safe installation.

- Training and professional certification programs for installers and inspectors mean that you can get dependable advice and service.

As recently as 1980, most serious wood burning was done with basement wood furnaces or simple, black, wood stoves. Now, all that has changed. The majority of new wood heating installations are attractive, advanced-technology stoves and fireplaces located in main living areas. Properly installed and located wood heaters are able to provide most or all of the heat for a home, while at the same time offering the beauty of a visible fire. 

Canadian houses have also become more energy efficient, with more insulation, more effective air barriers and sealed doors and windows. These changes have made houses easier to heat, but have also meant that wood-burning systems must be more carefully designed so they will function properly within the tightly sealed house environment.

The keys to safe and successful wood burning are good planning, careful installation and proper operation. This book is intended to help you plan a successful installation and to use your wood-burning system in the most safe and effective way.

… The above excerpt is from the CMHC publication “A Guide to Residential Wood Heating“. The full book is an excellent read and downloadable at http://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/odpub/pdf/66067.pdf?fr=1347037607343 

 

 

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