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What is the Most "Environmentally Friendly" Way to Heat a Home? Looking for FACTS!

Post in 'The Green Room' started by Whimfield, Sep 21, 2008.

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  1. Jerry_NJ

    Jerry_NJ Minister of Fire

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    I, who do burn wood, upcoming winter with an EPA Insert for the first time, think the green heat claim for wood burning is an oversimplification and self-serving statement by would-be environmentalists. Ouch, that's what 80% of this forum is all about.

    My simple existence, I have a geothermal heat pump (a.k.a. Ground Source) driven about 50% from nuclear driven electricity) not an oil furnace, is that if one plants trees/etc. to offset oil burning hydrocarbons, they are just as green as the wood burner. I take this one further, the oil burner could just simply let the many live trees cut down for fire wood to simply continue to grow.

    True geothermal, wind, solar all come to mind as the cornerstones of clean energy in my mind. Hydro and nuclear are runners up in my mind.

    Edit: I see I skipped all the post on the last page when I made the... I've been in many times on the discussion on the label Geothermal, and that's what I call, as does the manufacturer, my ground source heat pump. The advantage I see of limiting the term Geothermal to mean drawing heat (never cold) from the earth to directly heat or drive generators (for example) helps us communicate in fewer words. Speaking of more words, the "ground source" heat pump is also a "ground sink" heat pump, and most use water (with antifreeze) as the intermediate transfer agent. Boy, it sure is easier to say Geothermal, still I respect the benefit of using more exacting language.

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  2. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    I see what you are saying, but the fact is that even if the same amount is sequestered as is liberated, we establish a new equilibrium with a net higher carbon content in the atmosphere. So- if you define "carbon neutral" as "not increasing the atmospheric carbon level", then we are not.

    If you define it as "producing carbon at no higher a level than is sequestered at equilibrium"- then I may be wrong- but I don't think we are that either. That is merely another way of stating your "time" arguement, but I would counter that we do not know what the ultimate human induced global equilibrium level will be. Calling this "carbon neutral" is much akin to being in a plane that's going down, picking up speed and the pilot coming on and calmly saying "Don't panic, the plane will stop. We'll be on the ground shortly" :)
  3. MarcM

    MarcM New Member

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    What I'm saying is there is not a large scale production of carbon dioxide going on. We've got about as much as we started with before there was any life on Earth. Petroleum is mostly made from algae and plankton, which both derived energy from photosynthesis and carbon dioxide and water. Coal is mostly the result of terrestrial plant life which also absorbed carbon dioxide in the process of photosynthesis. So instead of decomposing fully and releasing all of the carbon dioxide it absorbed of the life of the plant, it mixed with some mud, got buried, absorbed geothermal heat and pressure which gave it some higher energy bonds, but the atomic content remained mostly the same.

    What it sounds like to me is there was a bunch of carbon dioxide drawn out of the atmosphere out over millions of years, and now we're releasing it all at once, which is the real issue. Certainly I could be misunderstanding something in the process of the cycle, I've done that before.
  4. Adios Pantalones

    Adios Pantalones Minister of Fire

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    "What it sounds like to me is there was a bunch of carbon dioxide drawn out of the atmosphere out over millions of years, and now we’re releasing it all at once, which is the real issue. "

    That is the- theoretical- issue. It was buried, now it's being put into the atmosphere. That is a net increase in the atmosphere- "carbon neautral" implies "no carbon increase". The equilibrium shifts to a higher carbon compound increase in the atmosphere. More carbon in the atmosphere- not carbon neutral.
  5. oconnor

    oconnor Minister of Fire

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    Some info from the Government of Canada that I have used in my decision to burn wood for heat.

    From the publication "A Guide to Residential Wood Heating", published by the forestry folks, the best key message is that when burned in a clean burning appliance, wood heating doesn't contribute to the problem of climate change the way fossil fuel use does. But wood fuel is truly renewable only if it is produced by using sustainable forestry practices

    http://www.canren.gc.ca/prod_serv/index.asp?CaId=103&PgId=576

    That said, the government environment folks have the following to say

    Wood Heat Facts stolen from http://www.ec.gc.ca/cleanair-airpur/Wood_Heating_Facts-WS87C5EE65-1_En.htm


    • In Canada, residential wood heating is responsible for 29% of the fine particle emissions associated with human activities. This makes it the third most important source overall.
    • Wood smoke contains over 100 pollutants. These pollutants not only negatively impact the environment but are also linked to a wide range of health problems.
    • Residential wood combustion is a major contributor to winter smog.
    • Burning wood in a conventional wood stove for 9 hours emits as many particulates into the atmosphere as a certified stove does in 60 hours or as car traveling 18000 km.
    • Spending money on the insulation of your home rather than on fuel is better for the environment and your health.
    • Certified wood stoves produce less emission and are more energy efficient. They consume up to a third less wood!
    • The combustion of treated and salvaged wood causes the formation of dioxins, furans and other extremely toxic substances.
    • If you're using clean, dry wood and there's still a lot of wood smoke, your appliance is not functioning properly or you are not using it correctly.
    • When you buy logs from commercial dealers you may need to split some of the wood again. The pieces sold commercially are often larger than needed for advanced stoves.
    • Storing wood inside your home can cause mould and mildew to develop. Only bring in enough wood for your immediate (day's worth) use.
    • Insulating basement and attic walls can reduce your energy bill by as much as 30%.

    Whimfield

    I notice from your profile that you are in PEI. How is the forestry side of the issue seem there? I would assume that cutting down the trees left on the Island for heat is not seen as a favourable idea? Is this the main source of debate you are trying to confront?

    I also note the "help me prove my point" vice "help me educate myself and others' discussion, and am approving of the educate perspective.
  6. Duetech

    Duetech Minister of Fire

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    Well at least it has been brought to our attention but perhaps the term is "more positively/negatively carbon effected based on current reading standards." By the way has anybody looked at the cause/source and atmospheric effect of sulfur dioxide. Carbon takes a very back seat to sulfur dioxide which is much more directly in vogue with weather pattern swings than carbon but last in the latest opinion popularity polls. Whoodathunkit...Cave2k
  7. Duetech

    Duetech Minister of Fire

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    [quote author="Whimfield" date="1222054034"]I'm a writer, and I facts from a reputable source[/b] that I can quote from.

    Biogas is an up and coming technology that has lain dormant since the beginning of the industrial age. India and China are using biogas as sources for heat and electrical energy plus motive energy supplies. Soil re-nutriation and waste problems and energy problems are addressed in one cyclical process. Waste products are used to fertilize fields which produce foods and plants for energy products. Foods when prepared and used produce waste which are then placed in a methane enzimatic production tank which produces methane for energy purposes. When the enzimatic process has depleted enough the now converted wast product (called a slurry) is used to fertilize crop production fields. This process is in progress in China and India while our government talks of alternative fuel/energy sources. People generate electricity and gas to cook and heat with and generate electricy all for the cost of around $300 dollars. More sophisticated methane collectors are used to store methane for automobile usage. The process there is beginning to escalate. Think of the saved energy costs that are not being spent for creature comforts. Our lifestyles would change for the better if we were able to adapt so well. I wouldn't mind using a methane production tank to heat my home with a methane boiler as I reach further towards old age. Of course not splitting wood might make me grow older earlier because I'm enjoying too many creature comforts and not getting the exercise I need...yadayada..ya...Cave2k
  8. Duetech

    Duetech Minister of Fire

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  9. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Sometimes we make things so hard....a great green sol'n exists today....

    In most places in the country you can buy wind-power electricity (for a small premium, $0.025/kWh where I am)

    AND

    in most places in the country you can get most or all of your space heating from a properly-sized, recent vintage
    heat pump.

    The decision to go air-source vs ground-source is a detail--with wind power both are carbon neutral, convenient, and
    pretty cheap to run. Of course, the ground-source will be cheaper to run, but the final choice will depend on your
    climate, your geology, the size of your pocketbook, and your interest in long-term investments.

    When the air-source gets pricier to run (during your coldest weather) fire up the new stove and wood you bought with
    all the money you saved not buying a ground-source.
  10. renewablejohn

    renewablejohn Member

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    French nuclear power has a very negative sting in the tail with ever increasing pollution problems caused by leaking reactors into the subsoil. Future generations will wonder why we ever allowed nuclear reactors to be built when we do not have the technology in place to operate them safely.
  11. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    Build it south of Miami.
  12. ccwhite

    ccwhite Member

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    I cut wood on only approximately 8 acres of a 15 acre trac of land and heat 2 homes entirely and supplementing a third home. I rarely cut down a live tree. I cut dead fall and wind blown trees and then cut dead stands (trees that are still standing but dead). I only cut live trees if they are in the way for some reason or it is a hazard of some sort. The plain fact is green (live) wood takes a long time to season. If it's dead and has no branches or even bark left on it I can cut it and put it right into the furnace.

    Wood is a easily renewable resource. I can't think how it could not be considered environmentally friendly or "green". Heating with electricity is the same as heating with coal as coal is burned to make the electricity. Solar is great but pricey same with geothermal or even ground source.

    You also must consider what is involved in the manufacture of any technology. Take solar panels for instance. I know they work, but how are they made? Just my $.02.
  13. PeteD

    PeteD New Member

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    With respect to the OP, this is a very complicated question that cannot be answered easily. You really need to look at a bunch of factors to get the answer. This type of stuff is the subject of theses and consulting projects (life-cycle cost/environmental impact assessments).

    As a SMALL example of the questions that need to be answered:
    How much energy does it take to produce the components of the system?
    What pollutants are released during the entire life cycle of the components (cradle to grave)?
    Are sensitive ecosystems damaged by the operations needed to produce the heating system?
    What are the values of those ecosystems (if they are damaged)?
    The list goes on and on.

    Keep in mind these answers can vary greatly by geographic location and other other variables.

    If I were you, I would focus on the benefits of wood burning as discussed often here and not try to make overly grandiose, unsubstantiated statements about how good it is compared to other "green" options.

    Pete
  14. Techstuf

    Techstuf New Member

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    The answer, of course, depends greatly upon latitude, and in more than one sense of the word. I mean, ask an Eskimo and the answer seems obvious.....body heat and lots of insulation....ask an equatorial native and get a puzzled look. In most latitudes with seasonal heating requirements, as previously extolled, passive solar can readily fill the bill. Evacuated solar tubes are enjoying increasingly wider success because of their high efficiency and viability for even the northern latitudes. Any heating system which requires matter to energy conversion including wood heat, obviously, diminishes resources. The future of home heating systems will gravitate towards highly efficient energy to mass, energy to energy, transfer systems such as molecular friction devices, the hydrosonic pump, and the new 'cheap solar' systems, with exceptions being the greater exploitation and upscaling of John Kanzius' microwave hydrogen gas generator and other high efficiency mass to energy systems. As materials science really gets down to the 'nitty gritty', so to speak, our understanding.....referring to that of the general public, is being prepared for upheavals of the technological kind. The programmed financial meltdown now occurring on a world scale will have a decisive impact on the distribution and generation of energy on various fronts, home heating among them.



    Regards,


    TS
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