Eco-friendly wood fuel – what to look for

Eco-friendly wood fuel – what to look for

25 July 2022

Eco-friendly wood fuel – Wood pellets and wood briquettes are the most eco-friendly wood fuel

What’s the most sustainable fuel to use in your wood-burner this winter? What makes wood pellets and briquettes the most eco-friendly wood fuel? And as we are using more biomass boilers and wood-burning stoves than ever before, are they as eco-friendly as we think they are?

Are wood burners eco-friendly?

In the UK, domestic boilers and stoves are very popular and as the trend of wood-burning stoves as a luxurious addition to central heating grows, there is public concern about eco-friendly wood fuel sustainability.

The wood-burning stove craze started around 2009, when gas companies started increasing bills. The option of owning a wood burner was marketed as an eco-friendly and efficient heating alternative. Aficionados love them because of their ease of use and the cosy atmosphere they create. And they save on heating bills, since wood has a lower and more stable price compared to gas – especially this year.

Even with hefty price tags, wood burners attract fans for different reasons; they come in both old and modern versions, they adapt to different tastes, are highly efficient, are easy to use and clean.

The UK has a large rural population and for these households, oil and mains gas central heating is often impossible or intermittant. Most rural properties have a wood burner or a stove.

In rural communities, power supply is frequently cut off and without wood-burning stoves these communities would have no heat at all during long power cuts.

Wood-burners are often a far cheaper source of heat in many of our poorly-insulated rural homes.

New wood-burning heating systems have recently started becoming popular in town homes as well. Almost 200,000 wood burners are installed in Britain every year, with sales increasing as much as 40% annually.

More than a million British households are now equipped with wood-burning stoves, which are loved by owners but sometimes criticised by health and environmental organisations.

But why should we worry about them?

It’s all about what you burn in them. Every kind of fuel that burns produces smoke and smoke means particulates – some of which can be harmful when breathed in. One of the benefits of burning Woodlets fuel is that there is very little smoke because there is little or no moisture in our wood pellets or wood briquettes.

Using unseasoned wood in your wood burner is now illegal in the UK. If the wood sizzles even slightly when it burns then you know that is hasn’t been seasoned sufficiently – if there is too much moisture the wood fuel will create a lot of smoke and will therefore create more particulates.

eco-friendly wood fuel vs coal?

Wood will always trump coal as the more sustainable fuel for your fire. There’s plenty of logic to this view.

Coal is a finite resource whereas responsibly-sourced wood is sustainable. Dried to the right level, wood produces far fewer pollutants when burned. Combusting any fossil fuel ‘unlocks’ carbon (as carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere – until this point it has been held underground for millennia.

Wood is considered a carbon neutral fuel – growing trees absorb as much carbon dioxide as the burning logs release.

Burning timber only releases carbon dioxide that is already actively circulating in the carbon cycle, thereby does not add to the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. In fact, burning a piece of timber doesn’t release any more carbon dioxide than if it were allowed to biodegrade on a forest floor. This is why wood is often viewed as a “carbon-neutral” fuel.

However, the wood must originate from a sustainably-managed plantation otherwise any hope for carbon neutrality will simply go up in smoke.

Burning Woodlets products creates 25g CO2e/KWh, while coal produces a whopping 375g CO2e/KWh. (CO2e = Carbon dioxide equivalent)
Woodlets products are 100% sustainable, environmentally friendly and have an energy guarantee of 4800kWh/t of heat.

Put simply:

Woodlets products release up to 94% less carbon dioxide than coal, due to higher heating efficiency. This means less wood fuel is required to heat a typical room during the course of a year compared to coal, resulting in lower annual emissions of carbon dioxide.

Coal can never hope to compete with wood as a sustainable fuel. But of course the source of the wood is vital.

Hardwood or softwood?

Hardwoods burn well because they are dense and have less sap. But hardwood comes from broad-leaved trees, which are slow-growing and which support greater biodiversity. They also take longer to replace so are less sustainable.

Softwood, ie conifers, spruce pine, support much lower levels of biodiversity but are not as efficient for your stove and burn very quickly if all the moisture is not removed.

Trees that are removed because of wind damage, end of life, or for safety reasons, are perfectly sustainable. Well-managed woodlands are productive, healthy and bio-diverse.

Home-grown vs imports

As wood-burning stoves become increasingly popular, the UK’s ability to produce enough wood fuel to meet demand could become problematic. So to meet this shortfall, the UK has to import wood fuel from Europe.

But wood that is imported has to travel a long way by both road and sea. This obviously increases its carbon footprint. And there are potential plant health concerns with importing wood. There are diseases and insects that can be inadvertently imported with the wood which can cause serious problems for UK woodlands. Stringent checks need to take place by anyone importing wood.

Land Energy is the largest manufacturer and distributor of home-grown wood pellets and wood briquettes in the UK. Its local supply chain ensures constant production.

Woodlets fuel is made from all the parts of the tree that are left behind on the forest floor once the sawmills and timber merchants have taken the premuim timber away.

And did you know that the bigger and older the tree the less C02 it absorbs – that’s why we only take away older trees.

What is your carbon footprint? Find out here….

And here’s a thought…

The pallets on which the pellets and briquettes are delivered are unfortunately not returnable – but they make good kindling if you can spend some time taking them apart and splitting the wood into usable sticks.