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Everyone loves a wood-burning heater but is the harm worth it?

At this time of year there’s nothing better than being warm and cosy in front of a blazing wood fire. But take a moment to walk outside and check your chimney - it could be polluting an entire neigbourhood…

Burning wood to heat your home is one of the great pleasures of the winter months. Sam Greenhalgh

At this time of year there’s nothing better than being warm and cosy in front of a blazing wood fire. But take a moment to walk outside and check your chimney - it could be polluting an entire neigbourhood.

I have to declare that I am ambivalent about this. I love nearly every aspect of wood heaters. The sight, the smell, the heat they produce, the link with a beautiful and living source of fuel.

When my family moved to Tasmania a few years ago, we found a lovely older style house with high ceilings and verandas that was heated with wood. The fire warmed the entire house and I was delighted with it. But there was a problem.

At the time of our move, I was completing a doctorate on the health effects of bushfire smoke – a small niche within the giant corpus of global research on the health effects of air pollution.

Smoke harms

Bushfire smoke and the smoke produced by wood heaters have much in common. They, along with tobacco smoke, are examples of biomass smoke – emissions that come from burning organic matter such as grass, leaves or wood.

Biomass smoke is a toxic soup of hundreds of different chemicals that includes many well-known toxins and carcinogens.

The population-wide health impacts of outdoor biomass smoke have been far less extensively studied than the more dominant causes of urban air pollution that mostly comes from burning fossil fuels for industry or transport. But the evidence is growing.

There’s absolutely no doubt about the harm woodsmoke does to lungs in those who are susceptible, from precipitating asthma and worsening existing respiratory diseases in the short term, to causing chronic lung diseases and lung cancer in the long term.

Your smoking chimney could be single-handedly polluting the neighbourhood. Agnieszka Baranowska

In cities where wood is the main fuel used for home heating, outdoor smoke pollution concentrations have been directly associated with hospital admissions for both heart and lung diseases. Even relatively brief (one or two days) exposure to outdoor biomass smoke from bushfires has a measurable impact on population health.

My research has shown that on days that Australian air quality standards were exceeded because of bushfire smoke, mortality rates increased by about 5%. And others have found that out-of-hospital cardiac arrests on such days increased by almost 50%.

Lessons from Tasmania

The Tasmanian city of Launceston achieved notoriety during the 1990s as one of Australia’s most severely polluted cities, with air quality that didn’t come anywhere close to meeting national air quality standards for most of winter.

A coordinated series of government interventions from 2001 included an education campaign to reduce the proportion of poorly operated heaters belching visible plumes of smoke, and a buy-back scheme that saw the absolute number of wood heaters fall by half.

The result was vastly improved air quality. The average winter concentration of particulate matter fell by 40% - an improvement large enough to see a substantial drop in mortality. Winter deaths from heart diseases were reduced by 20% and winter deaths from lung diseases fell by 28%.

In absolute numbers this translates into approximately 30 premature deaths avoided every year from the inner city population of 70,000 people.

Deaths are the extreme and uncommon end of the spectrum of health impacts from air pollution. But they represent the tip of the iceberg of community impacts. For every death avoided, there will also be far greater numbers of avoided hospital admissions, ambulance call outs, GP attendances, days unwell and absences from work or school.

Mitigating risks

In rural areas, wood is often readily available at minimal cost and represents the most affordable option for many people. Yet wood smoke clearly extracts a large health toll from the community, even in very small population centres.

Even relatively brief exposure to outdoor biomass smoke from bushfires has a measurable impact on population health. Bruce McKay

So how can we minimise these impacts? The value of insulation and choosing energy efficient fuels are well documented but the immediate costs are beyond the reach of many families.

Systematic government programs clearly have a role and are likely to be highly cost effective. Individually, wood heater owners can do a huge amount to reduce the pollution they cause.

Even modern certified heaters are capable of producing orders of magnitude more pollution when burning inefficiently compared with bright, flaming, efficient use.

Inefficient burning results in the emissions of potent greenhouse gases such as methane and wastes energy that could otherwise be heating the home. You can find detailed advice on how to minimise pollution from your wood heater on many websites.

Probably the single most important thing to remember is to open the air vent fully each time new wood is added to the fire and then allow it to burn hot for 20 minutes before reducing the air intake. It’s especially important never to completely close the air intake.

If a flame is not present, wood gases – invisible in the fire box – will condense into microscopic particles that form thick smoke plumes that will continue to pollute your neighbourhood throughout the night while contributing very little heat to warm your home.

Smoke should almost never be visible from a working chimney, but I still count numerous thick plumes on my way home every night. We clearly have a long way to go before efficient operation of wood heaters becomes the norm.

I still love wood heaters, but owning one meant owning its pollution. Even if we achieved consistently prefect operation, I knew that other heating choices would be better for the environment and the community. We replaced our heater with a less polluting alternative. It’s a bit less evocative but does come on at the flick of a switch.

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157 Comments sorted by

    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Thanks Gavin, at least someone gets it, your is the only reasonable comment so far

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    2. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Gas may produce fewer emissions, but electricity does not.

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    3. Dorothy L Robinson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Gavin Moodie

      Yes, gas or an electric heat pump do indeed contribute less to global warming than wood heaters. That's why the UN Environment Program and the World Meteorological Association recommended phasing out wood heaters in developed countries.

      As well as their CO2 emissions, wood heaters emit shorter-lived greenhouse gases and aerosols - methane and black carbon - which increase current warming, and therefore increase the risk that icecaps and glaciers will melt (reducing the amount of heat…

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Considering the CO2 problem we have - its probably not a good idea to burn wood ever, at least people should be trying to burn as little as they can

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    2. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      You are wrong. With a caveat. IF your source of firewood is sustainable, ie they REPLANT the cut down trees, OR the wood comes from a self regenerating forest, then ALL the CO2 your fire emits goes straight into the new trees growing to replace those cut down. Unlike the CO2 emitted from burning fossil fuels which goes nowhere to make more fossil fuels, certainly not for at least another 150 million years........!

      In fact, GROWING trees lock up far more Carbon than established forests....... because once trees have reached full maturity, they generally stop growing and locking up carbon. PLUS, if allowed to go through their whole lifecycle and die, falling on the forest floor to rot, the trees then emit methane which is some 25 times worse than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.

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    3. In reply to Mike Stasse

      Comment removed by moderator.

    4. David Coles

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      And you able to provide some reasonable evidence for that statement?

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    5. Marion Wilson

      retired

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Not sustainable if the incidents of people driving out of cities and chopping down trees on farms, on roadsides and in national parks is an indicator. Every weekend beginning Autumn through Winter the roads are full of small trailers carrying wood. They are not growing trees themselves they are just burning them. Even though there is piped gas in Cooma the town stinks of wood-smoke for months on end - it can't be healthy.
      We have installed a heat-pump that brings heat from the ground to heat the house. Temperature is simply controlled and in summer can be reversed to cool the house.
      Anybody who says wood fires are a pleasure doesn't clean the ash nor do the dusting. Fires are labour intensive, unsustainable and contribute to global warming. Let the wood rot on the ground.. .

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    6. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Marion Wilson

      See............ That's EXACTLY what I was talking about, UNSUSTAINABLE OVERPOPULATION, people (too many of them!) who have no idea what they are doing, chopping down fresh trees and then burning them, OBVIOUSLY don't give a shit about the environment.

      What I'm talking about is SUSTAINABLE WOOD HARVESTING....... but then nobody undestands sustainability, not even you by the sounds of it. You should google "carbon cycle".......

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    7. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      we are at 400ppm Mike, any talk about sustainable burning CO2 fuel sources is a joke

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    8. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Actually, Mike Stasse is not 'talking shit'. Try thinking about it for a couple of seconds.

      If we burn fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) we are releasing into the atmosphere carbon that was locked away from the carbon cycle millions of years ago. That is the main driver of climate change at the moment - a human driven increase in the amount of carbon into the carbon cycle and into the atmosphere.

      However, the wood in trees contains carbon that is still in the carbon cycle. The carbon - which…

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    9. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Dude, fossil fuels are part of the carbon cycle as well, it just takes longer, your point is a little asinine; your doing you bit aye? replaces the CO2 you burn? why dont you replace CO2 that you dont burn? that would be far better

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    10. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Thats great but reducing our emmissions misses the point - we need to get past zero

      Getting your emmissions is great dont get me wrong but your still emmitting CO2

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    11. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      ".....Dude, fossil fuels are part of the carbon cycle as well, it just takes longer, your point is a little asinine; your doing you bit aye? ..."

      Michael, you shouldn't smoke so much weed before commenting.

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    12. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      C'mon Mike.......... that's pedantic in the extreme. I'm not prepared to wait 150 million years to lock up MY Carbon.......

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    13. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Or maybe I'm not smoking enough? aye? aye? ahhh, marijuana jokes are lame.

      The arguments seem to all be that burning CO2 is absolutely fine as long as it comes from sources with a short life cycle....

      We are at 400ppm - releasing carbon into the atmosphere is bad mmmmkay, its that simple

      The CO2 released from Oil will also go back into the ground, eventually, as will the carbon released from burning wood, its all part of the carbon cycle as whilst we are at 400ppm, claiming that any release of carbon is clean is insanity

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    14. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Why dont you start locking up others carbon then?

      Releasing CO2 into the atmosphere = bad

      To claim that your releasing this CO2 cleanly is crazy

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    15. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      You REALLY have a comprehension problem don't you Michael.......... when I say CLEAN, I mean smoke/pollution free, achieved with well seasoned wood.

      And if I had more land and could grow more trees, then I would lock up other people's Carbon......

      However, seeing as I only have a couple of acres, I've decided that instead I would run the neighbours' house with MY solar panels.......

      Will that do...??

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    16. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      "Will that do...??" you dont have to report to me, do what you want

      "when I say CLEAN, I mean smoke/pollution free" - really so when you burn wood - there is no pollution huh, thats incredible

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    17. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Marion Wilson

      Anybody who says wood fires are a pleasure doesn't clean the ash nor do the dusting. Fires are labour intensive,

      So then, YOU don't work..............??

      ......unsustainable and contribute to global warming.

      EVERYTHING you do contributes to global warming.

      ........ Let the wood rot on the ground.. .

      And THAT's a really stupid idea, because rotting wood releases methane which is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2.

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    18. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      "....The arguments seem to all be that burning CO2 is absolutely fine as long as it comes from sources with a short life cycle...."

      No Michael. The argument is that we should not be emitting (not burning - you can't burn CO2) at all. But if you are going to emit CO2, it is better that it is not adding to the carbon cycle by using sources of carbon that have been locked away from years.

      "....We are at 400ppm - releasing carbon into the atmosphere is bad mmmmkay, its that simple..."

      No-one disagrees Michael. You need to do more reading and less writing.

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    19. Susan Costello

      Public Servant

      In reply to Marion Wilson

      I have a wood fire with a jet master and do not find it labour intensive at all. The ash is cleaned out a couple of times each winter and there is no dust from the fire. I burn wood that has been well seasoned and never get smoke coming from the chimney.

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    20. Stephanus Cecil Barnard

      Town planner and freelance writer at Kalahariozzie

      In reply to Marion Wilson

      Perfect Greenie answer. I love chopping wood, it is a great work-out, my body stays strong, and i push it in a wheelbarrow to my house, all zero carbon emitting activities. The smell of wood fire many terrible in Cooma but is sure beats the smell of students in a no washing experiment.

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  1. Steve Davis

    Brian Surgeon

    Pedantic me "but I still count numerous _think_ plumes on my way home every night"

    Thanks for clarifying the problem and solutions. Within a few minutes of being lit our heater gives off no smoke. It is relieving to know it isn't a major contributor to the problem.

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    1. Reema Rattan

      Health + Medicine Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Steve Davis

      Oops! Fixed now. Thanks for being pedantic, it matters.

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  2. Murray Webster

    Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

    I also really like the feel of wood fuelled slow combustion heaters, but living in suburbia, the prospect of smoke and particulate emissions has stopped me from installing one.
    I do wonder how far design has progressed. Perhaps design could include smoke sensors and automatic flue opening/closing (closing for when the fire goes out at night).
    Good dry wood is also a problem. In Canberra years ago I knew of many deliveries of firewood that had trouble igniting and just smoked and smoked. I would like to see firewood stored in sheds with solar kiln-like design (used commonly post-sawmilling for producing high-value wood products) which would circulate and heat air, keeping the wood 'bone-dry'.
    Seems there are lots of problems yet to be solved before I get one.

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    1. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Murray Webster

      I hate to tell you........ but suburbia has no future, and you should get the hell out of there before the energy crisis gets us......

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    2. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      and go where....

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    3. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Well......... somewhere where you can coppice trees (for firewood!) is good! Somewhere that isn't connected to water and sewerage is good too. Somewhere high and dry where you won't get flooded, where the soil's good enough to grow some food and the rainfall's adequate for that and there's enough sunshine to produce enough solar electricity and hot water without ever having to worry about it.......

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    4. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Oh and I should've added somewhere cheap enough that you can afford it without going into debt so you don't have to drive to work every day to pay your debts off......

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    5. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      So if the millions of suburbanites move into the bush how are they going to get to the shops, get to school, get to work, find work, whose land will they move onto, how much of that land is currently arable, how much of that land will become further deforested?

      face it, concentrating the bulk of humanity into the cities is the only smart thing to do

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    6. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Citizen SG

      YOU remember this discussion... one day you'll be able to say "this nutter on The Conversation predicted this, and I never believed him..."

      Your world is all about to change as we head into economic, climate, ecological, and agricultural collapse.

      Worried about arable soil? Do what I did and make your own.

      And concentrating the bulk of humanity into the cities is the DUMBEST thing we ever did.....

      http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-05-28/awash-self-delusional-cornucopianism

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    7. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Mike,
      You don't have to preach to me. I have 5 acres in Tassy waiting for me.

      My point is that not everyone who currently lives in a city will be able to move into the country, access 5 acres and built a sustainable life.

      1. because there is insufficient land for everone to have 5 acres
      2. because not everyone is physically or cognitively equipped for the transition
      3. because I imagine the price of land is about to skyrocket

      What do you think the mobs of starving homeless will do when they espy YOUR 5 acres of vegetables and meat when the oil economy collapses?

      None of us are safe from anarchy if this is the fate that awaits us.

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    8. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Citizen SG

      "What do you think the mobs of starving homeless will do when they espy YOUR 5 acres of vegetables and meat when the oil economy collapses?"

      Good to see you're preparing in Tassie too............ don't you love the moat?

      Oh and it will be very hard even for Hobart people to get to my place with no petrol....!

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  3. Craig Steel

    Miner

    Rocket Mass Heater. They burn clean and the flue is horizontal through a clay/adobe bench. The bench heats up spends the next 12 to 48 hours (depending on a lot of factors) radiating heat.

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Craig Steel

      Why does every keep saying that their "Wood burns clean" - we dont accept this nonsense from the coal industry Im not sure why we would accept it here

      Coal, Oil, Wood are all fossil fuels which at some point we need to stop burning - they dont burn clean by definition, they cant

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    2. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Well seasoned wood DOES burn clean, and all the CO2 is recycled into the next crop of trees. Unlike fossil fuel emissions which just stay in the air for a hundred years or more......

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    3. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Wait what? So why has Hillary clinton spent much of her time over the last 5 years working on initiates to give cook tops to african community's in order to stop them burning wood as if we could stop everyone burning wood for cooking and heater it is an estimated 1/3 of all CO2 emmissions?

      How in gods name do you expect anyone to believe the CO2 from wood magically doesnt go into the atmosphere but it does from a car's exhaust, its insanity

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    4. Reema Rattan

      Health + Medicine Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Michael Shand

      I suspect that initiative may have had something to do with the rise of respiratory diseases in places where 'kitchens' are enclosed spaces and wood is the fule.

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    5. Kevin Orrman-Rossiter

      Research Partnerships Officer at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Michael Shand

      I agree with Reema's comment. In addition to that in the African communities where wood is burnt it is not then replanted - the land is cleared for agriculture and/or animal grazing. Therefore that carbon is released into the atmosphere - as well as being responsible for respiratory diseases as Reema has said.

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    6. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Reema Rattan

      Yes there are many factors included deforestation, inhalation of smoke, CO2 emmissions, etc

      It depends on the community they are working in, some places have problems where there are no tree's but they use wood for heating, cooking, fencing, housing

      Some Communities have lots of wood but burn it in enclosed spaces

      Some Communities have wood and open cooking spaces but the CO2 factor is what is important here, as it is with all of them.

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    7. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Errrrrrrr.................. she's working on OVERPOPULATION. Do you read ANYTHING I write?

      Africa is overpopulated. Too many people cut down too many trees too quickly, end result it deforestation. But you can't fix overpopulation by giving people fossil fuelled cook tops!

      Of course all the CO2 gets all mixed together..... I'm not a moron you know..! You just don;t understand the Carbon cycle. It's a different issue to unsustainable overpopulation. I have planted over 100 trees on my small acreage to lower my impact, something you CANNOT achieve in suburbia, OBVIOUSLY.......

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    8. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Its not just fossil fuel cook tops, its solar cook tops as well

      I am still fancinated by your claim that your wood burns clean and doesnt emmit CO2 - amazing stuff

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    9. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      FFS! I never said our burning wood doesn't emit CO2, what I said was that the CO2 we emit goes straight back into the new trees the plantation that our wood comes from take up to make new trees......

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    10. Doug Hutcheson

      Poet

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Mike, the CO₂ emitted from wood just returns carbon that was already in the natural cycle, but CO₂ from fossil fuel injects carbon that had been safely sequestered for millennia. If you grow at tree, it uses atmospheric carbon and when you burn a tree, it returns that carbon to the atmosphere - a zero sum game. Burning fossil fuels is not a zero sum game: it is adding to the existing carbon in the cycle.

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    11. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Doug Hutcheson

      PRECISELY........ thank you for explaining it better than me Doug......

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    12. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Exactly right Doug and Mike

      Of course, to make it a zero sum game you would have to replant as many trees as you burned, as well as factor in the transport factors. But. on the plus side. wood smoke is a particulate which reflects sunlight and reduces the impact of climate change.

      But none of these mitigate the need to wean ourselves off carbon emitting energies.

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    13. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      "all the CO2 is recycled into the next crop of trees" - all of it aye?

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    14. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      The case against burning wood is every bit as clear as the case against smoking cigarettes. Indeed, it is even clearer, because when you light a fire, you needlessly poison the air that everyone around you for miles must breathe. Even if you reject every intrusion of the “nanny state,” you should agree that the recreational burning of wood is unethical and should be illegal, especially in urban areas. By lighting a fire, you are creating pollution that you cannot dispose. It might be the clearest…

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    15. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      '.....The case against burning wood is every bit as clear as the case against smoking cigarettes.....To try to convince them that burning wood is harmful—and has always been so—is somehow offensive...."

      Fascinating post Michael - wonderful strawman. Can you see anywhere where I have argued differently? If you want to respond to any of my posts, would you read them first please?

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    16. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      "The case against burning wood is every bit as clear as the case against smoking cigarettes"

      "Can you see anywhere where I have argued differently" - sure

      "when I say CLEAN, I mean smoke/pollution free"

      I might suggest you also should read your posts

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    17. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      "....I might suggest you also should read your posts...."

      Michael - I strongly suggest you go back and read MY posts again. Then I will accept your apology for confusing me with someone else.

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    18. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      That's ok Michael. It's easy to get confused with 3 Michaels posting - especially if you are high :-)

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  4. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    Beautiful article, I know many people who have the same love for the fire place, although they dont give a shit about pollution or climate change so its not a problem for them. but too suggest to these people that burning wood is probably not a good idea unless its absolutely needed is equivilant to hitting their children, they are outraged

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  5. terry lockwood

    maths/media/music/drama teacher

    It takes some organisation to have your woodpile at various stages of maturity. The two year old stuff for burning, down to the recently acquired. with experience, you can gauge the density of each bit and hence its likely moisture content. I use wood from my own block. (thus it heats me three times - cutting/splitting,stacking and finally when I burn it)
    And I add small bits to the fire often, maybe every twenty minutes to reduce the thermal shock (even the driest wood off the pile when it is 4 deg outside induces a smoky fire due to its cooling effect on intermediate combustion products before they go through to CO2 and water).

    Yep, gotta get off the couch every 20 min or so. But I am doing my bit for the planet.

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    1. Sam Jandwich

      Policy Analyst

      In reply to terry lockwood

      I pre-heat the wood before I put it in the fire, by sitting it on top of the fireplace for a few minutes...

      I agree that there is a large element of romance, and of reluctant semi-suburbanite yearning for the illusion of self-reliance, sustainability and historicism associated with the use of wood heaters. For some like myself (I back onto a national park and so have a ready supply of free wood) it is also a difficult thing to argue against on economic grounds. Still, that evidence from Launceston…

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  6. David Thompson

    Science Communications at Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (UWS) at University of Western Sydney

    There's a huge difference in burning freshly bought wood versus seasoning it for few months. Buy your wood (if you must) in say October or November and dry it over summer. I find that it burns hotter, more easily, less smoke and you don't have to split it so fine to get it good and hot.

    They really do sell absolutely wet crap wood for the most part so it has to be dried.

    I still think sustainably sourced firewood has to be better than the equivalent electricity (extract coal, transport, dry it, burn it, send down wire, convert back into heat....pay bill)

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to David Thompson

      Is burning wood better than burning Coal?

      It is so depressing that these are the only 2 options you could think of

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    2. David Thompson

      Science Communications at Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (UWS) at University of Western Sydney

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Way to miss the point. CSIRO's news today is that 90% of today's energy probably comes from coal, so my post is about relative differences between, yes, just two options.

      Of course they are not the only options but for most of the population, this discussion is about wood versus the next most probable option which is electricity which is derived from fossil fuel.

      http://csironewsblog.com/2013/05/30/the-240-billion-cuppa-2/

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    3. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      I just thought I'd cut in here........ there ARE more than two options! We don't HEAT our house with firewood (we use the sun http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/mon-abri/) we merely cook with it, and heat our water when we have rainy weather like now............ there is some excess heat warming the house a bit, and that doesn't go astray sometimes....

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    4. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to David Thompson

      I agree with that but we live in australia where most of the population are suburnan

      ie. they have access to gas heating, to ground heat pumps, to solar panels and solar thermal heating

      There are no excuses for most of the australian population to burn wood

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    5. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      And what happens when the gas runs out.........?? And what happens when the price of gas triples over the next three years?

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    6. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to David Thompson

      You see David, as soon as one takes responsibility for one's actions (stocking/ageing properly sourced firewood) and starts doing the right thing, they discover that convenience goes out the window......!

      And you are right about the emissions of "extract coal, transport, dry it, burn it, send down wire, convert back into heat", because every kWh of electricity "burned" = 10kg of CO2, and a heat pump running for ~6hours would go through about 12 of those, or 120kg of CO2 emissions. Yet in one single day of continuous use, my stove consumes around 28kg of firewood which emits about 75kg of CO2, with which I get some room heating, all the water heating I need and then some, plus the world's best ovens to cook in.......

      Add in the "pay bill" bit, where one usually drives to work to earn the wages to pay the bills, and suddenly the whole unsustainability equation comes to life. I haven't even started my car for three days.......

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    7. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Solar Thermal is what happens

      The case against burning wood is every bit as clear as the case against smoking cigarettes. Indeed, it is even clearer, because when you light a fire, you needlessly poison the air that everyone around you for miles must breathe. Even if you reject every intrusion of the “nanny state,” you should agree that the recreational burning of wood is unethical and should be illegal, especially in urban areas. By lighting a fire, you are creating pollution that you cannot…

      Read more
    8. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Yeah........ I can see a solar thermal power station from my window.... oh hang on, my WHOLE HOUSE is solar thermal, I don't even have to look out the window, and wood is concentrated solar energy too... we're saved!!

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    9. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Ohh your right and Oil is solar thermal as well, and so is gas

      Therefor we can continue to burn oil and gas and wood as they are all solar thermal right? awesome logic, right up there with "My wood burns cleanly and doesnt pollute"

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  7. Chris O'Neill

    Retired Way Before 70

    "the immediate costs are beyond the reach of many families"

    If they don't pay then someone else will pay with their health if the choice is woodfires. There surely can't be too many families who couldn't afford one of those cheap heat pump systems that I've seen stocked at Aldi. Tasmania's electricity has a far higher proportion of renewable sources than mainland Australia, so there's no excuse for woodfire heating to continue.

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    1. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      I'm planning to move to Tassie, and build a house that requires ZERO heating, except that which we will harvest from the sun.......

      BUT, I will continue cooking with firewood, it's the most sustainable way if you do it properly......

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    2. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Naah Mike , I use wood, and like you hardwood offcuts and black wattle etc, (I store it for one year) but I'm considering gas from poo for heating and cooking and the car. I have homework to do because I don't know enough yet about how to do it, how much gas we could produce etc. I don't like the forestry industry I buy the wood from in general, and think there are alternatives. But at this time of year I can imagine having a couple of nice little gas heaters powered by my waste and being happy. I'm sick of my chainsaw

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  8. Ruth Conway

    retired

    Dsiclaimer - I have a wood stove, which is fueled partly by wood from my property, and partly from bought wood.

    Isn't there a regulation banning the selling of green wood (that with a high moisture content? It is impracticable to expect consumers to buy wood and store it for several years until it is suitable for burning - the firewood suppliers should be required to test the moisture content of their product and only sell dry wood, that is fit for its intended purpose.

    Secondly, people need…

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    1. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Ruth Conway

      You are wrong about smouldering fires releasing CH4 and CO, BOTH of which are combustible! These gases would burn instantly in a stove......

      I too use a wood stove (a 60 yr old AGA converted from coal to wood), and it can smoulder all night long and not cool down much because it is so well insulated. Well seasoned wood in a continually hot firebox burns just right, and the proof is that whenever I sweep the flue, I get almost NOTHING out of it......

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    2. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      The case against burning wood is every bit as clear as the case against smoking cigarettes. Indeed, it is even clearer, because when you light a fire, you needlessly poison the air that everyone around you for miles must breathe. Even if you reject every intrusion of the “nanny state,” you should agree that the recreational burning of wood is unethical and should be illegal, especially in urban areas. By lighting a fire, you are creating pollution that you cannot dispose. It might be the clearest…

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    3. Dorothy L Robinson

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      This is wishful thinking. You don't like to think you are harming the climate so you ignore the scientific evidence. CSIRO measured the amount of CH4 and CO coming from the chimneys of domestic wood heaters, both under normal operation in the home, and in the laboratory - see analysis at http://environmentprogress.com/?p=7724

      The lab studies also measured PAH pollution. As Fay Johnston said. "Even if we achieved consistently prefect operation, I knew that other heating choices would be better…

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  9. Paul Prociv

    ex medical academic; botanical engineer at University of Queensland

    Michael Shand wrote: "Coal, Oil, Wood are all fossil fuels which at some point we need to stop burning". He's sadly deluded, as wood falls well short of being a fossil, and therein lies the critical difference: it is sustainably replaceable, soaking up CO2 in the process.
    The comments of Mike Stasse to me come across as being the most sensible and well thought out ones in this string. One major reason Hillary Clinton wants women in Africa (and elsewhere) to have better cookers is that the most…

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Paul Prociv

      Seeing as we are now officially past 400ppm.....Is burning any carbon source really sustainable? It's only sustainable in theory, in practice we are screwed

      My main complaint is the claim that peoples wood burns clean....what the hell does that even mean in the face of catastrophic climate change bought on by CO2 release?

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    2. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Thing is Michael........ we ARE screwed. And NOTHING we do is sustainable. Humanity hasn't been sustainable of 10,000 years, but now it's all coming to a head, because 7 billion people all wanting to stay warm/cool, well fed, with water coming out of taps, and the ability to go where they want when they want points to collapse.

      In fact, collapse IS the solution.

      By 2100, I'd be surprised if global population exceeds 1 billion. Maybe a lot of those who died will have died of smoke poisoning! but I expect starvation and freezing to death will be more likely......

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  10. Russell Walton

    Retired

    Wood heaters shouldn't be allowed in urban areas, I have to keep my house airtight on still days because of the smoke from my neighbour's wood heater.

    It's passive smoking--the fact that the smoke is produced by a wood fire rather than a nicotine addict's cigarette doesn't make any difference.

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    1. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Russell Walton

      Keeping your house airtight on a cold day is good......... it keeps YOUR heat inside where it belongs and reduces the need for you to heat at all.......

      As I keep saying, there is zero excuse for smoky fires.......

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  11. Doug Hutcheson

    Poet

    "We replaced our heater with a less polluting alternative. It’s a bit less evocative but does come on at the flick of a switch." So you are using electricity generated from a hydro-electricity plant, with no fossil fuel component? Tazzie must be about the only place in Oz where the electricity is totally carbon free. Anywhere not fully electrified by renewables, like PV, wind, hydro or geothermal, must be consuming fossil fuels and, by definition, adding to the CO₂ problem. Not a good choice for most of Oz.

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Forgetful Orange

      I loved this article, Sam Harris is great sometimes

      "And yet, the reality of our situation is scientifically unambiguous: If you care about your family’s health and that of your neighbors, the sight of a glowing hearth should be about as comforting as the sight of a diesel engine idling in your living room. It is time to break the spell and burn gas—or burn nothing at all."

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  12. Porters Produce

    logged in via Facebook

    Hi everyone
    I have been working some 6 years now on bio-mass fired (including timber) fireplaces. Current emissions is 1.2g/kg (USA standard for high polution areas is 2.4g/kg or less) using hight temp pyrolitic combustion. The design uses common materials and simple common construction methods. We should have them available in the next couple of years and they are also between 90 and 99% effecient.
    Craig

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  13. Mike Legge

    Retired surgeon

    It seems that burning wood is CO2 neutral if burnt efficiently except for the energy used getting it-i.e. chainsaws and transport. It puzzles me that the 'masonry stove' is not mentioned. I believe that in Aspen these are the only wood burners that are allowed due to the lack of particulates. They rely on an intense fire up to 2000F. Their chimney may not need cleaning for many years. The 'rocket stoves' have greatly reduced the amount of wood burnt in Africa. The 'Prof. Richard Hill' boiler works on the same principle. The carbon condensate was 3200ppm of which 5ppm was inorganic carbon. Gas chromatography and infrared photospectroscopy showed stack sample to have CO 0.21% and CH4 0.00%. Should one use coppicing with a saw and barrow a good feeling of green superiority could be engendered
    compared to gas or brown coal fired electricity.

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Legge

      Here is what we know from a scientific point of view: There is no amount of wood smoke that is good to breathe. It is at least as bad for you as cigarette smoke, and probably much worse. (One study found it to be 30 times more potent a carcinogen.) The smoke from an ordinary wood fire contains hundreds of compounds known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic, and irritating to the respiratory system. Most of the particles generated by burning wood are smaller than one micron—a size believed…

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  14. Henk van Leeuwen

    author, philosopher, greenie

    Why is no one remarking on the effects on health from the smoke of prescribed burns? Here in Gippsland in the autumn we have to endure many weeks of smoke filled air. All for the sake of the dubious benefits of so-called fuel reduction. If we are to be subjected to such air pollution, there should be very good reasons to do so. I do not believe that for broad scale burning there is such evidence. The 5% fuel reduction target is a disaster both for human health and for ecosystems.

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  15. Shirley Birney

    logged in via email @tpg.com.au

    A survey by WA’s Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) indicated that air pollution from wood heaters and open fireplaces in Perth accounted for:

    • 16 premature deaths each year:
    • four extra cases of lung cancer;
    • 905 extra hospital admissions; and
    • 73,000 extra reduced activity days.”

    Wood smoke is associated with health problems such as asthma, chronic lung disease, heart problems and premature births and deaths.

    Wood smoke can contain the following air pollutants…

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    1. Murray Webster

      Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      thanks for the contribution Shirley. just in case others don't read it I have copied the conclusion below

      Seems we need far more efficient/complete combustion wood heaters ( of which a few are referred to by contributors here) and better use of timber offcuts and "low quality" wood which may otherwise be just burnt.

      ". Conclusions
      Claims that wood heating is greenhouse neutral are incorrect.
      Table 2 shows that global warming from methane emissions of a
      wood heater in the living room (weighted…

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    2. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Murray Webster

      I'm completely baffled by some of these statements........

      Methane, CH4, is Natural Gas and would burn instantly in any fire.

      Carbon Monoxide, CO, is Town Gas and would also burn instantly in a fire.

      Furthermore CO is NOT a greenhouse gas. It so resembles O2 as a molecule, that the body is fooled by it absorbs it exactly as if it WAS Oxygen, thus poisoning anyone breathing it.......

      Which only makes me wonder about the veracity of ANYTHING that this report comes up with.

      For the record, I'm 100% against SMOKE. People with smoky fires should be fined. There is no excuse for a smoky fire unless you're starting it and the paper you're using to start it smokes.......

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    3. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      There are 2,118 prescribed industrial facilities obliged to report their carbon monoxide emissions to the National Pollutant Inventory:

      http://www.npi.gov.au/npidata/action/load/facility-source-result/criteria/year/2012/destination/ALL/substance/20/source-type/ALL/subthreshold-data/Yes/substance-name/Carbon%2Bmonoxide

      CO is a product of incomplete combustion and escapes the burning process. CO is a precursor to tropospheric ozone (O3). Tropospheric ozone is a major component of urban smog. It is also a significant greenhouse gas.

      The UNEP and the WMO advise that "the threefold increase of O3 concentration in the northern hemisphere during the past 100 years has made it the third most important contributor to the human enhancement of the global greenhouse effect, after CO2 and CH4."

      http://www.wesleyan.edu/ees/JCV/ozone%20basic.pdf

      http://www.atmosp.physics.utoronto.ca/people/loic/chemistry.html#4.

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    4. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Carbon monoxide (CO) is only a very weak direct greenhouse gas, but has important indirect effects on global warming. Carbon monoxide reacts with hydroxyl (OH) radicals in the atmosphere, reducing their abundance. As OH radicals help to reduce the lifetimes of strong greenhouse gases, like methane, carbon monoxide indirectly increases the global warming potential of these gases.
      Atmospheric concentrations of carbon monoxide vary widely around the world and throughout the year, ranging from as low…

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    5. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Mike, your link also stated that:

      “Today more than half of carbon monoxide emissions are man-made……. Biomass burning and fossil fuel use are the main sources of man-made carbon monoxide emissions.”

      Further, CO oxidises to give carbon dioxide and despite the increased installations of scrubbers and electrostatic precipitators to capture the flue gasses in Australia’s industrial facilities, emissions of CO, NOx and PMs, appear to be significantly increasing in some facilities. I see no logic in recommending wood burners for residential heating, thus adding to the A/climate change dilemma.

      It's not about your personal skills at wood burning; it’s about seven billion people getting in for their chop (pun intended) and lighting fires for residential heating.

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    6. Susan Costello

      Public Servant

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Do you really think seven billion people are about to change over to lighting fires for residential heating?

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    7. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Susan Costello

      Yes I do......... fossil fuels are fast running out and getting more and more expensive. I believe in a collapse state, the world's forests could be severely damaged until people die off........

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    8. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      The key here is "Australia’s industrial facilities"......... our fires don't even compare to what industry is doing to the planet.

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    9. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Two wrongs don't make a right and the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggests there are around 1.1 million heaters in-service in Australian homes.

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    10. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Susan Costello

      Your question is overly selective, nevertheless according to WHO, around three billion people already cook and heat their homes using open fires and leaky stoves burning biomass (predominantly wood then animal dung and crop waste) and more than 1 million people a year die from chronic obstructive respiratory disease (COPD) that develop due to exposure to such indoor air pollution.

      Wood for home heating is being promoted as an emissions-free energy source and with the PR machine of the home…

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    11. Susan Costello

      Public Servant

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley, the amount of wood you are quoting for Hobart residents seem very high to me however I accept you have gathered those figures from a reliable source. You say the figures are for home heating, we use our jet master and go through about three tonne of wood a year for two people, not per person and that is lighting the fire every evening. On those few very cold days that we enjoy in Hobart, we might leave the fire burning all day.

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    12. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      And at that very point with the burning of the igniting paper the damage can be started for your neighbour.

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    13. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Susan Costello

      Susan, my bad, a result of extracting data in haste.

      The paragraph should read:

      Hobart residents burn some 8.3 tonnes of wood per household per year for certified heaters while the balance of Tasmania’s households burn an average of 10 tonnes per year (See Page 48). The overall wood heating costs for Tasmania is $1540/per household/per year (See Page 15):

      http://www.scew.gov.au/strategic-priorities/clean-air-plan/woodheaters/pubs/woodheaters-cris-april2013.pdf

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  16. Chris Saunders

    retired

    Thank you for this article Fay, sometimes you feel like the only one living on this planet and seeing what is happening around you.
    Did anyone else have trouble accessing the link in "There’s absolutely no doubt about the harm woodsmoke does" ?
    Sure, I moved into a regional pristine valley thirty and some years ago, away from the smog of the city where my children could breathe clean air into clean lungs. The original houses were all electric with coal-fired power stations some 40ks away. As…

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  17. John P Morgan

    Physics teacher (ret).

    Here is another alternative.
    Go back to square one, design and build a house that is heated only by the radiant energy from the sun.
    This is 100% sustainable and is emissions free.
    No running costs either!

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    1. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to John P Morgan

      Yes, I believe that is feasible. I remember working in a 600 square metre factory building with 15 to 20 metre high ceilings and frosted glass windows down each side. The sheer volume of air possibly kept that place at a reasonable constant temperature throughout the seasons regardless of certain windows not being able to be closed in winter and heat tunnels and other heating machines going full blast in summer. I’m not sure how this concept could or should be translated into a small domestic building.

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  18. Judith Olney

    Ms

    Its interesting, all these arguments about wood burning, pollution, etc etc, but ultimately useless for many people I know, as they can't afford to heat their homes at all. Gas and electricity prices mean that many simply can't afford heating, and wood burning is only available to a few that have access to fire wood, (if you can't gather your own because you don't have transport, you are elderly or not physically capable of chopping wood), wood is expensive to buy.

    For me, and many others on low…

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  19. Mark Goyne

    Lawyer

    This is the latest issue the Greenies are carrying on about. There is nothing wrong with wood heating as long as the wood is dry etc.

    How about discussing the fact that the price of gas heating could be 3 times that of now in 2016. Many pensioners who have been encouraged to switch to gas from wood heading will be freezing then. The Greenies never concern themselves with this.

    My main form of heating is gas now but in 2016 and onwards my wood heater will be used.

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    1. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Mark Goyne

      Why not switch to a heat pump, they have a 3-4 times efficiency ratio? That is, one kilowatt in to achieve 4 kilowatts out.

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    2. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Mark Goyne

      You shouldn't make generalisations like this. I'm as green as they come, and I still think burning wood CAN be the most sustainable form of heating.

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    3. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      That's not entirely accurate. Heat Pumps have a Coefficient of Performance (CoP) of 3 to 4 which is constantly confused with efficiency of 300 to 400% which is of course impossible as it overturns all the laws of thermodynamics.

      Heat pumps still need electricity, which in 90% of cases means COAL...!!

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    4. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Of course you are right about the misuse of the word efficiency and you are right about the use of coal, however the heat pump uses a third to a quarter of the coal or wood or gas used in other forms of heating.

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    5. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      I don't know if you are right about burning wood being the most sustainable form of heating, but I do know it is one of the most unhealthy. So you save the earth, but there are none of us left to enjoy it.

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    6. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Mark Goyne

      Currently Taswegians' estimated cost for wood is $1540/per person/per year (Source: National Environment Protection Service Council). Can you give an estimate of how much wood will cost you in 2016 when you switch from gas to your wood heater?

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    7. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Chris Saunders

      Let me ask you this.......... which is the unhealthiest, burning wood, or freezing to death? Because one day, THAT will be your dilemma...........

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    8. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      I can get a tonne of wood for $20.................... I do have to pick it myself, and unload it, but it's almost dry enough to burn when I buy it and I only need to season it one more year to achieve smokeless burn.

      And I'm not telling!

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    9. Mark Goyne

      Lawyer

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Well last year my gas bill was $2500, for 2. Lets assume, cost of gas by 2016 costs 3 times more so say $7500. Based on wood prices where I live at the moment say $4500 for wood. It really is a no brainer, wood then will be for me. For most low income people they are just struggling to have a warm house let alone worrying about issues that the Greens indulge in.

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    10. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Mark Goyne

      "Well last year my gas bill was $2500"

      Mine was $600 in Melbourne. Where do you live? Macquarie Island?

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    11. Chris Saunders

      retired

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Mike, at the moment I'm not freezing, but neighbours' wood burning and burn-offs are killing me. There's no dilemma in it.
      And your dilemma, in the future when you are freezing, will you burn a hunk of coal?

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    12. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Mark Goyne

      I didn't ask for an estimate of your overall gas bill. I asked for an estimate of your home heating costs.

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    13. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Mark Goyne

      "Bills of this amount are very common in Canberra"

      So where are you going wrong?

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    14. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Mark Goyne

      There should be severe penalties for anyone who runs up a $2500 bill for home heating for one winter.

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    15. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      That's very emotive........ what if he plants several new trees for every one he cuts down?

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    16. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Does the miner (Craig Steel) have an authorised clearing permit?

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    17. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      "he plants several new trees for every one he cuts down"

      Does he wait for them to grow before he cuts down any more?

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    18. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      "I can get a tonne of wood for $20......And I'm not telling!"

      Your tonne of firewood for $20 sounds hot to me - like where there's smoke there's fire - like illegal?

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    19. Craig Steel

      Miner

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      How much timber do you think a wood fire burns? Anyway, my 37 acres - being mostly eucalypt - has a lot of sticks and branches lying around and any small wind storm will knock off enough branches to last for months. Do a minimum of research on Rocket Mass Stoves and Heaters and you'll find they use about one quarter of the timber needed for an open fire. I've already had a discussion with wifey who wanted an open fire and me who refused to build one because they are wasteful and polluting - even though I like the look and feel of an open fire.

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    20. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Absolutely not........ all scrap waste from the local sawmill. I don't even have to cut it or split it!

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    21. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Silly you........ I wish I had 37 acres! You'd NEVER go through all those trees in a hundred years, so the seedlings would be very large fully grown trees well before you'd cut the last one.

      And besides, ever heard of COPPICING...???

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    22. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Clearing? Are you serious? A fully grown gum tree must weigh 8 tonnes, so one tree per annum will do very nicely...

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    23. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      So why is the location of the sawmill confidential? A few pensioners could benefit from a tonne of wood for $20 but you ain't "telling," eh? Sounds like a dodgy deal to me.

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    24. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Like most of the world's resources that DO matter, they're in short supplies, and there's not enough of that firewood to go around, so this pensioner is keeping this little secret to himself........... I've got enough stockpiled now to keep me going until the winter rush stops. The heap at the sawmill grows to mountainous proportions over summer, but completely disappears in winter... there's probably none left already as I write. People are too stupid to work out the time to buy is autumn before it gets cold and the wood's already been out in the hot sun for six months!

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  20. Garry Stannus

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    I see three issues in burning wood: economic, environmental and social.

    The social issue is what I picked up on in this artice. What do our fires do to our neighbours' health? Fay Johnston did the right thing. Launceston has an ongoing problem with air quality due to its location at sea level in what becomes a drainage basin for foul air. Efforts over years, through a heater buy back program and more recently, a 'Burn Brighter' initiative, have resulted in improvement in air quality. But…

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  21. John P Morgan

    Physics teacher (ret).

    The longer this thread goes on, the more clear it becomes that despite the nostalgia and the 'heritage' value of a wood fire, the reality is that burning wood is going to have to stop.
    Hence my earlier suggestion about going back to square one and designing a house that doesn't need a heater at all.
    We did that and it works.
    It is based on that well known 19th century concept, the second law of thermodynamics so it is not even nearly 'rocket science'.
    We regularly have visitors to see how it is done so hopefully more will do it this way.
    As mentioned, no emissions of any kind and no heating bills.

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    1. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to John P Morgan

      We've done it too. Our stove does NOT heat our house up. If it did, we would probably overheat...... but it sure is handy in winter when we get a week or more of straight cloudy weather and our solar hot water system stops working...! And we have another whole week of this ahead of us. And besides, cooking in an AGA makes every other kind of cooking obsolete...

      We have reduced our consumption of EVERYTHING to such low levels, I don't care about our wood emissions. Our daily electricity emissions are barely 20kg/day, and even with the extra 100kg of CO2 emanating from our stove, that is STILL less than half the average daily CO2 emissions for Qld households........

      We don't have any bills either, we spend about $60 a year on firewood, and $75 on gas....... and we hardly drive at all.......

      http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/oil-limits-and-climate-change-2/

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    2. Mark Goyne

      Lawyer

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      As you said many of the zealots here would prefer pensioners to freeze.

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    3. sean hughes

      logged in via email @skylineenergy.com.au

      In reply to John P Morgan

      A little more info on your house design PLEASE!

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    4. John P Morgan

      Physics teacher (ret).

      In reply to sean hughes

      The house is a 9 star design and uses reverse masonry veneer structure. The inner shell is concrete blockwork and it is surrounded by a heavily insulated timber shell. The inner shell is heated during the warmer months and stays comfortable during winter.
      (Note that the slab has very little or no role as thermal mass - despite what the books say).
      The house is 'off grid' and all services (incl cooking) are done electrically. Our gas cooker has never been used.
      In the depths of winter we use some LPG to boost the solar water heater but I expect our revegetation program covers the CO2 emitted then.
      There is usually some generator backup required in winter as well.
      In some locations a wind turbine might be a suitable backup.
      The house has no architectural merit but is is comfortable at negligible cost.

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    5. Mike Stasse

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John P Morgan

      (Note that the slab has very little or no role as thermal mass - despite what the books say)

      Sorry........ but the books are RIGHT! You should walk bare feet all over our slab at this time of the year, and you'd change your mind. But our house is 10 stars! BTW..... we never boost our SHWS with fossil fuels. On rainy winter days we boost with a wood stove via a wet back, but then we also cook in it, there's a soup in the warming oven 24/7 this time of year, and I bake bread daily, etc etc...

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  22. Bob Holderness-Roddam

    University Associate at School of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania

    Certainly a major health issue in some locations.
    However, my concern with wood burning fires is the provenance of the timber. Anyone approaching Greater Hobart, or using the major roads, at this time of year would have seen multiple assorted trucks and trailers piled with firewood for sale. Where is it sourced from? We really don't know, but suspect a fair amount is illegally removed from private property and reserves. There is an urgent need for legislation requiring anyone sourcing, transporting or offering firewood for sale to be licensed. Their licence number must be clearly displaced on any vehicle or trailer, and on newspaper ads. and websites, etc.

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