AGW in general > Walking the walk

Heating with wood or pellets ? and air heat pump ?

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It's winter time again and we have all these articles saying how terrible wood heating is, even pellets oven would be a catastrophy because of the soot and other small particles that would be sent in the air.

Well, there is a study of the GISS saying that the soot of organic carbon doesn't have an effect on climate, which is not the case for the black carbon (from petrol or coal) :

I also believe that small particles are not all equal when talking of health hazard. When smoking was allowed in pubs in Luxembourg, you could enter in rooms where there really was a smoke cloud. I am pretty sure that if the room would have been filled with the same amount of small particles coming from a diesel engine, nobody would have survived such a frequent exposure.

I agree that wooden fire, like any technical process, needs to be done in good condition (dry and hard wood, efficient stove, not a low burning fire…), but I don’t believe that it is a major issue if smoke enters in the room each time that you have to open the stove to add some wood. There really is an issue regarding the stove quality because many people (like my parents and my parents in law) use very old  or broken stove.

I often have the feeling that people against wood heating are not so objective. The article that were presented to me just mix everything without giving any virtue to wood heating. Looks like there would be some hidden interests behind.

What is your feeling about it ? I ask the question because my wife wants to try one week without wooden fire to see if it changes something in our house.

I also have a comment about the air heat pumps. I always recommend to people installing such a system to have an extra pellets stove because the heat produced by the heat pump is equal to the electricity consumption of the compressor added to the heat absorbed in the air. When the air is very cold, you almost get an electrical heater. Furthermore, the pellet stove could work with batteries if needed.

Thanks for your comments, best regards,


My feeling is that in a large scale wood burning is not sustainable. Too many people - on an industrial scale if demand becomes too great, wood pellets will be made from native wood (trees) instead of wood use byproducts (scrap) like the ones that are sent to UK from US to power big "biofuel" burning power stations.

On a smaller scale, depending the location and the source of wood, heating with wood can be more efficient and less carbon intensive.

Tor Bejnar:
20+ years ago I lived where winters are cold and used a fairly efficient Amish-made wood cook stove to heat my home (that it did very well) (fed by wood cut from property - a disease was causing mature beech trees to split, so there was lots of 'dead' wood to harvest).  I wasn't particularly aware of breathing wood smoke, but when I moved south, my persistent cough ended.


--- Quote from: DrTskoul on January 04, 2017, 01:54:37 PM ---if demand becomes too great, wood pellets will be made from native wood (trees) instead of wood use byproducts (scrap) like the ones that are sent to UK from US to power big "biofuel" burning power stations.

--- End quote ---

That's a big question that I have. If forests had been harvested for wood pellets around Fort MacMurray, would it have reduce the size of the forest fires ?

Best regards,


I have a wood burning fireplace in the basement and have played with woodstoves and wood heat for a long time. In my experience, the key factors in reducing smoke are

1) fireplace/stove design
2) of course, dry hardwood fuel
3) careful initiation of flame

There are volumes written on 1), and in my view the key feature is the firebreak around which the updraft curls as it enters the chimney. 2) is quite obvious, and 3) is often neglected. Too often i see fires in well built stoves and fireplaces smoulder for up to an hour before burning clean, while a little thought before lighting the fire can reduce this period to minutes.

There are some very nice woodstoves available from Amish manufacturers, and I heartily recommend the ones with water jackets for those using water head in hydronic slabs or radiators. Especially since water heat can be supplemented with solar hotwater setups very easily.

There are versions available with air injection which reduce smoking, but maintenance seems problematic. The smoke problem can be addressed with better technique, always providing design of firebox and chimney is adequate.



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