Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Heating your home this winter
'Tis the season for soaking in the last few color splashes of fall and welcoming the familiar smokey fragrance of a wood burning fireplace with a deep breath. Ahh the crisp scent of an approaching winter... and how wonderful to know that your neighbors are heating their homes the old fashioned way. I mean, that's the most eco-friendly way, right?
Actually, no. It's better to heat your home with gas than with trees. Slate's Green Lantern answers the question, and makes me feel much better about flipping the switch on the pho-fireplace that came with our home, in his most recent post. Here are some highlights:
There's some debate about how to figure the carbon footprint of burning wood: After all, a tree releases carbon when it decomposes anyway, so it's conceivable that putting wood in the stove is more or less carbon-neutral. On the other hand, if we cut down trees faster than they are replaced, there's a net reduction in carbon sinks that sequester carbon dioxide. And when a tree decomposes, some of that carbon is absorbed by the soil; when you burn wood, virtually all of it will end up in the atmosphere. Still, as long as your firewood is farmed sustainably, heating by wood is less likely to contribute to heating the earth. Researchers estimate that, in total, wood may produce between three times and 10 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions per unit of heat than other energy sources... So, is wood worth it? Taking everything into account, the Lantern doesn't recommend switching over to wood for environmental reasons. If you want to cut down on your greenhouse gas emissions, there are better ways of doing it—from changing your transportation habits to your diet—that won't involve pumping those other pollutants into the air. Instead of changing your source of fuel, you may want to think about how you might get by with less heat to begin with; to start, you can turn down the thermostat by a few degrees or improve your insulation.
*Beautiful image is from rjsparrow's Ireland 2007 album on flickr