Renewable Energy – Living a Greener Life

Heating is one of the many ways you can live a greener, more environmentally friendly lifestyle. Heating a home can create a significant carbon footprint – especially so if your energy is sourced from fossil fuels. Around 20% of the UK’s carbon footprint is from domestic heating, and so heating alone represents a massive opportunity for the more environmentally friendly among us to life a greener, more sustainable life.

In this article we look at ways you can reduce your carbon footprint and heat your home in a more sustainable, environmentally friendly way. We also look at the role wood plays as a key element to sustainable heating in the home.

Possible Off Grid Heating Options. Although this is not practical for all, going off grid, especially if you live in an isolated area, can be a great way to lower your carbon footprint.

Below are a number of options for consideration:

Biomass Boilers: A biomass boiler is run by burning a range of things including logs, pellets and wood.

Biomass boilers are highly environmentally friendly and so great for reducing your carbon footprint. If they have the appropriate exemption certificates they can also be used in smoke control zones too, which adds to their practicality. There are three types of wood fueled heating systems available:

1. A boiler that provides heat and hot water for the entire home
2. A stand-alone stove that provides heat to specific rooms
3. A stove with a back-boiler that heats the room directly and also provides hot water, and may also run radiators in the rest of the house.

Heat Pumps: A heater pump works like a fridge in reverse! They extract energy from the ground and air and turn it into a form, which can be used to heat a home. It’s not totally carbon neutral, as you do need an electrical source to power the pump – although it certainly is considered environmentally friendly. You also need a large amount of land to bury the pipework too.

Solar Heating – Solar power can provide around 50% of hot water needs for a home, mainly thanks to the British weather. However, it can be topped up with another alternative energy source to create a truly sustainable, green heating option for a home.

The Growth of Renewable Energy:

 Renewable energy usage grew by 20% between 2014 and 2015 and is now over six and a half times the level it was at in 2000. This growth is huge, and is a clear sign that there is a move towards a cleaner, more environmentally friendly future.

Bioenergy vs Fossil Fuels – The Main Difference:

Fossil fuels and biomass are similar in so much as they are both made from organic matter. However, fossil fuels are not renewable and reserves are quickly dropping.  Also, the cost of fossil fuel extraction is very costly, compared to biomass, which, by comparison is very cheap. The cost of sourcing fuel is cut out totally if you are directly managing a renewable energy source, such as wood from a specially managed forest.

The wonderful thing about Biomass is that it takes carbon out of the atmosphere while it grows, and returns it, when it is burned. A truly sustainable source of heating – unlike fossil fuels.

Wood as a Heating Source:

In this article we have looked at a range of heating options, and there is one element, which emerges as a favorite, an element which is key in so many of the sustainable heating options, which of course is wood. However, many people still think of wood as a secondary energy source, ideal for a stove in your lounge, but not as a main energy source.

The fact is that domestic heating, as mentioned already, accounts for around 20% of the UK carbon emissions. It is here you can make the most significant impact towards a more environmentally friendly, sustainable way of heating your home.

Although wood is environmentally friendly, there are different types to consider. As environmentally friendly wood may be, not all are the same!

Below is a list of the best wood you can burn:

 – Ash is one of the very best woods for burning. It produces a steady flame and a great heat output. Ash can also be burnt when green, but like with most wood ash burns at it’s very best when it is dry. This wood tends to have a very low moisture content when live, which is the main reason why you can burn it when it is green.

Beech – Similar to ash, beech burns very well. However, it has a higher moisture content when live, and so needs to be dry before burning.

Hawthorn – This type of wood has a slow burn rate, and a good heat output.

Rowan – Similar to hawthorn, rowan, also known as Mountain Ash has a very good heat output that burns slowly.

Thorn – Thorn produces very little smoke, which makes it an ideal wood where excessive smoke could be a problem. It also is a great wood due to it having a slow burn rate, and it provides an impressive heat output too.

Oak – It makes great firewood. It burns slowly and makes a smaller flame. It burns best when seasoned for over two years.

Yew – Yew produces an intense heat output. Yew is poisonous however, so be careful.

Pine – The resin sap can cause deposits in a flue, which can increase the risk of a chimney fire. It does product a very good flame however.

Cherry – It is an easy wood to split, so this makes an ideal wood if you have to cut up your own logs, and you don’t fancy the additional work of cutting up tougher wood. On a wood burning stove cherry can spit and crackle a little.

In Conclusion:

The world is moving towards a more sustainable future, and we are all thinking more about the environment. However, there is still a long way to go, and there are still lots of ways we can all do out bit. Not everyone is going to want to, or be able to live a highly sustainable life. However, taking a few hints and tips will at least help point us in the right direction.

By Rob Morgan of Charlton & Jenrick – Best of British fires, fireplaces & stoves