Thursday, February 17, 2011
Burning Wood for Home Heating
Wood burning does not release any more carbon dioxide than the eventual biodegradation of the wood if it was not burned. Wood burning can therefore be considered "carbon neutral" - the CO2 released to the atmosphere by combustion is recycled continuously into new plant growth as part of the carbon cycle, while the energy released during combustion is simply a form of stored solar energy. However, wood harvesting and transport operations do produce varying degrees of greenhouse gas pollution. Inefficient and incomplete combustion of wood can result in elevated levels of greenhouse gases other than CO2, which may result in positive emissions where the biproducts have greater Carbon dioxide equivalent values.
The intentional and controlled charring of wood and its incorporation into the soil is an effective method for carbon sequestration as well as an important technique to improve soil conditions for agriculture, particularly in heavily forested regions. It forms the basis of the rich soils known as Terra preta.
In the United States, firewood is usually sold by the cord, 128 ft³ (3.62 m³), corresponding to a woodpile 8 ft wide × 4 ft high of 4 ft-long logs. The cord is legally defined by statute in most states. A "thrown cord" is firewood that has not been stacked and is defined as 4 ft wide x 4 ft tall x 10 ft long. The additional volume is to make it equivalent to a standard stacked cord, where there is less void space. It is also common to see wood sold by the "face cord", which is usually not legally defined, and varies from one area to another. For example, in one state a pile of wood 8 feet wide × 4 feet high of 16"-long logs will often be sold as a "face cord", though its volume is only one-third of a cord. In another state, or even another area of the same state, the volume of a face cord may be considerably different.
Wood fuel is wood used as fuel. The burning of wood is currently the largest use of energy derived from a solid fuel biomass. Wood fuel can be used for cooking and heating, and occasionally for fueling steam engines and steam turbines that generate electricity. Wood fuel may be available as firewood (e.g. logs, bolts, blocks), charcoal, chips, sheets, pellets and sawdust. The particular form used depends upon factors such as source, quantity, quality and application. Sawmill waste and construction industry by-products also include various forms of lumber tailings. Some consider wood fuel bad for the environment, however this is not the case if proper techinques are used. Carbon dioxide released from burning wood is equal to the carbon wood releases as it rots. One might increase carbon emissions using gas powered saws and spliters in the production of firewood, but when wood heat replaces carbon-producing fuels such as propane, heating oil or electricity from a coal-burning plant, then wood burning has a positive impact on the carbon footprint.
Wood may be sent into a furnace to be burned, stove, fireplace, or in a campfire, or used for a bonfire. Wood is the most easily available form of fuel, requiring no tools in the case of picking up dead wood, or little tools, although as in any industry, specialized tools, such as skidders and hydraulic wood splitters, have evolved to mechanize production
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