Consider the Merits of the World's Oldest Fuel

At the Wood Heat Organization, our role is not to promote wood heating, but to speak up for the families that choose to heat with wood responsibly. We also make an effort to define and encourage responsible wood heating.

Responsible wood heating starts with a safe, code-compliant installation of an advanced combustion wood stove, fireplace, furnace or boiler. Responsible users burn only seasoned firewood and use burn practices that result in little or no visible smoke.

Wood is not a perfect fuel, but there really is no such thing.

Wood is the most accessible and affordable renewable energy resource for home heating in much of North America. Its use can help us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because its net carbon dioxide emissions are far below those of all other fuels. It provides heating security during electrical power failures. Its use strengthens the rural and small town economies where wood heating is most prevalent. Wood that is cut and used locally means money does not leave the community to pay for oil and gas.

Wood heating is as much a lifestyle choice as it is a heating fuel option, so wood heating is not for everyone.

Wood is not a perfect fuel, but there really is no such thing. All fuel burning, indeed all energy use, causes environmental impacts. The most often cited impact, is from old-style wood heating, visible as smelly smoke curling from chimneys. The new advanced technology wood stoves, fireplaces and furnaces that are certified low emission by the US Environmental Protection Agency can burn with no visible smoke and ninety per cent less pollution than appliances of thirty years ago.

When various energy sources are assessed according to their environmental impacts, the entire fuel cycle must be considered. The serious environmental impacts of fuel oil and natural gas consumption are largely ignored, partly because most occur upstream during production, refining and transportation. The greenhouse gases released when houses are heated with oil and gas are easy to ignore because they are invisible.

Although wood is a good fuel with advantages for individual families, it is not a good fuel for all families in all regions. For example, wood is not a good fuel for serious heating in multi-family dwellings or in the downtown core of our large cities. Wood is best used as a fuel outside cities, in small towns and rural areas, where the cost of firewood and population density are lower.

Wood heating is practiced on a small scale, the fuel is usually harvested from a local resource, and the users gain a more complete understanding of their impacts on the environment than users of other energy sources. As environmentalists have suggested, these are some of the very features needed for economic and environmental sustainability. Families who heat their homes with wood responsibly should be recognized for their contribution to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a sustainable energy future.

You will find more good reasons to heat with wood in the articles in the menu list to the left.