July 2

Is Climate Change Affected by My Wood Burner?


If you have a wood burning stove you may be concerned about contributing to climate change each time you light it but rest easy, the explanation here will explain the science.

The short answer is no, your woodburner is unlikely to affect climat change...but the question is a valid one.

Carbon dioxide (C02) is indeed released by wood burning but this carbon is biogenic, unlike fossil carbon which comes from burning coal, oil or gas. Trees, as they grow, take up carbon. It’s this carbon that is released as wood burns and is known as the Biogenic Life Cycle. No matter if the tree is felled and the wood burnt or left to decay the environmental impact will be the same. Stored carbon is released as wood is burnt, when wood is left to decay the carbon is again returned to the environment, just a little later, that’s all.

Many organisms also benefit from the carbon in decaying wood, but these organisms will in turn give up this carbon when they die. Trapped carbon in wood used in construction or manufacturing is again returned to the environment once the wood’s useful life is over.

  • Carbon dioxide (C02) from air is absorbed by trees, plants and living things as ‘biogenic carbon’
  • Trees store the C02 (biogenic carbon) in the wood’
  • Processing wood for fuel currently produces very small amounts of C02 per kilowatt of heat (even this will fall  to zero as all industry decarbonises).
  • Decomposing wood returns CO2 back to the air. Burning biogenic carbon for heating returns CO2 back to the   air and soil and the cycle begins again.

Using wood for building, burning or letting it decay will always be a repeatable biogenic cycle where carbon is continually taken up and released again, the process is inevitable, our actions contribute very little, if any, to the end result.

Is Wood a Sustainable Source?
That’s a different question off course. Largely this depends on the planting of new trees to replace those harvested. In the UK there are plenty of government commitments to replacing felled timber. Private landowners are being financially rewarded to create new forests and Foresty Commission planting is increasing each year which can only be good for sustainability.

Electric Heaters v’s Efficient Wood Stove

Currently, generating 1kW of heat from a modern stove produces 1/19th of the CO2 emissions of direct electric heating. How does that stack up?

Renewable sources account for 40% of electricity generated so 60% of fossil fuel electricity is needed to produce 1kW of heat to run an electric heater. This emits fossil fuel CO2. The CO2 produced using wood emits carbon from the biogenic cycle so is considered neutral since the carbon will eventually find its way back into the environment. The 1/19th of CO2 calculation for emissions from a stove come from the transport and processing of the wood not from burning. As transport and processing become more carbon friendly even these emissions will reduce further given time.

The Stove Industry Association has produced a document which explains the key facts regarding carbon emissions, including some interesting figures regarding heat pumps.

Mains Gas v’s Efficient Wood Stove

Government information here demonstrates that wood fuel produces 1/16th of the CO2 emissions compared to mains gas. It worth mentioning that a wood burning stove should be inspected regularly, at least once per year, to maintain optimum efficiency.

As professional chimney sweeps, we can advise and correct any malfunction to keep your stove in perfect working order.

Based on an article discussing the biogenic carbon cycle which contains links to other sources that you may find useful.


You may also like

Our New Website

Our New Website
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Get in touch

0 of 350