Quality is key when it comes to choosing the right wood fuel for woodburning stoves, explains Helen Bentley Fox.
With woodburning stoves estimated to account for 10% of the Government's carbon reduction targets by 2020, the efficiency of modern heating appliances is at the forefront of both the industry's and consumers' minds. Yet, while manufacturers continue to develop new products to improve efficiency, it is the critical issue of the quality of the woodfuel that is used is often overlooked.
Today, modern heating appliances and biomass boilers are highly engineered, efficient pieces of technology that do a fantastic job – but they can only do so much if the fuel burned in the appliance is not the right quality wood fuel. Even the most sophisticated of appliances could be relatively ineffective when it comes to reducing carbon if the user isn't burning the right wood.
Think about it, if you bought a super clean energy-efficient car, would you choose to fill it with a fuel that you were unsure of? While modern heating appliances are not as complex as car engines, the same principles apply. Poor quality woodfuel leads to smoke and a poor fuel economy.
A healthy wood fuel industry partly depends on consumers being informed on the different fuel types, correct standards and processes. For wood pellet appliances we are approaching the same position as gas and oil, where the European standard is recognised in the marketplace. The ENplus quality scheme is a benchmark for pellet quality and sign that the product allows for CO2-neutral heating with the highest energy efficiency," said Helen. All applications from UK based pellet producers and traders must be made through HETAS.
However, a benchmark is yet to be recognised for logs and other wood fuels. As it stands, the supply chain is made up of many types and sizes of supplier. It is possible to purchase wet wood for seasoning, recycled wood (which should be a clean product that has not been chemically treated), wood that has been carefully chosen and ready to burn.
Woodsure advises ensuring burning properly sourced wood (hardwood timbers such as ash, birch and beech) and making sure it is around 20% moisture content. If seasoning at home, a moisture content meter is an extremely helpful tool for monitoring this.
Wet woodfuel is very inefficient as it demands a lot of heat to boil off the water before the appliance can give out the proper level of heat to the room, hot water or heating systems. Burning wet wood also creates a lot of smoke which damages the chimney and blackens the appliance.
Installers dealing with wood burners or biomass boilers will know that if it is not operated properly it will need extra servicing, maintenance and repair. Ultimately it will cost more for the user to run, the benefits will be fewer and the environment will be harmed.
In order for consumers to reduce carbon emissions, they must be given the right information and understand how to get the best from their appliance. Using clean, quality wood fuel is key to improving air quality and is a better use of our wood fuel reserves and forests. At the same time as keeping their conscience clear, consumers can enjoy fuel independence and the benefits of modern wood burning.
Helen Bentley Fox is Director of Woodsure - a UK wood fuel quality assurance scheme.