Bioenergy for planet, people and profit
Fire away with domestic
wood-fuelled heating systems!
Wood is a clean, renewable energy source and is one
of the oldest forms of fuel. The use of w ood as a fuel
source declined over the past 200 years with the
increase in the use of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and
gas.But today,wood fuel is making a comeback because
wood fuel heating systems are now available which
provide the same level of comfor t, convenience and
reliability as oil or gas boiler systems.
Why use wood as a fuel?
Using wood fuel has a number of important benefits
but the main ones relate to the environment and
■ Wood is renewable. It is formed in 3 to 70 years
compared to thousands or millions of years for
fossil fuels coal,oil and gas and so is a sustainable
fuel choice.
■ Heating our houses and water accounts for over
80% of energy use in our homes, so greener heating choices make a big contribution to sustainabil-
■ Modern wood fuel systems have a high degree of
controllability, require limited re-fuelling and produce minimal amounts of ash, bringing a high
degree of convenience to the wood fuel choice.
■ Using wood as a fuel does not contribute to net
greenhouse gas emissions because trees remove
carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they
grow. (See IrBEA's leaflet on Climate Change for
more detail).
■ Sustainable forestry, where for every tree felled
one is planted or where trees are coppiced,
makes a positive environmental contribution.
■ Using indigenous wood fuel reduces the amount
of other fuel that we have to import into the country and therefore increases our self-sufficiency.
■ Wood fuel industries create long term jobs, many
of which will be in rural communities currently
suffering social and economic decline.
Space Heating 57%
Water Heating 25%
An information
leaflet by IrBEA
Cooking 7%
Lighting /
Appliances 11%
Table 1 Wood fuel versus coal and peat
Fuel source
Energy value Ash
CO2 emissions
(kg CO2)/tonne
1 - 3%
2 - 15%
3 - 70
5 - 50%
15 - 400 Million
Domestic Sector
Breakdown of energy consumption by end use in EU
residential buildings (Thermie ATLAS project report, 1997).
*Practically zero net emissions as wood is carbon neutral
Source: Irish Energy Centre, Renewable Energy Information Office
Years to form
Bioenergy for planet, people and profit
What is
Size and shape
Logs and sticks are the most familiar form
of wood fuel, but are not the only choice.
Systems have been developed to use
wood fuel in a variety of forms:
chopped using a wood chipper (typically
25mm square)
high density pellets produced from sawdust or ground-up wood (10-30mm in
length and 5-15mm in diameter).
larger versions of wood pellets, similar in
dimensions as firewood.
logs (up to 100cm long and 15cm thick)
Wood by its very nature is a variable material. There is no set standard for firewood in
Ireland at present but the most important
points to remember are the moisture content and the type of w ood.
Tree type: Equal weights of wood from different kinds of trees (at the same moisture
content) contain the same amount of fuel.
However, trees differ in density. Oak is
denser than pine, which means that a pine
log contains less fuel than an oak log of the
same size and moisture content. Also, some
trees produce much drier wood than others. Freshly felled ash produces very dry
wood, 33% moisture content, compared to
fresh poplar which can be up to 60% moisture content. As a result ash can be burnt
with little seasoning while the poplar
would need to be stored for at least a year.
Although there are no major suppliers of
these types of wood fuel in Ireland at present, there are inte rn ational standards
which should be met to ensure good quality and efficiency. These standards relate to
size, shape, moisture content, ash content
etc. All of these will effect the efficiency of
the heating system.
For a guide to these standards, contact the
Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) or see
Moisture content (m.c.): It is vital that firewood is seasoned for at least one year (two
years is preferable).A freshly felled tree can
be made up of over 50% water. Reducing
the moisture content means energy isn't
wasted e vaporating water in the fire. You
can either purchase pre-seasoned wood or
else season it yourself, but remember that
seasoned wood must be kept dr y.
Wood briquettes
Sourcing wood fuel
Fire wood may be freely available in your
area,but please ensure that you are using it
sustainably and that a new tree is planted
for each tree used as fuel,or that the trees
are managed as coppice.
Wood chips
Fresh wood 1 year
Seasoning Time
2 years
Alternatively, wood fuel can generally be
purchased from your local fuel merchant.
In most regions there are a number of suppliers who gather fire wood from local
to use
as a fuel
This is best stored under cover in an airy
place, which allows for steady drying of the
wood. Typical places would be a lean-to at
the side of a building or an outhouse.Wood
left uncovered will dry quickly in the sun
but will regain moisture in wetter conditions.
These need to be protected from rain and
frost to prevent deterioration and loss of
Burning wood fuel
Wood burns best when it has plenty of
air circulating around it.
In stoves or open fires it is best to let the
wood burn freely until it is reduced to charcoal, then reduce the air flow and 'damp'
the fire down. The charcoal will then burn
well like this for many hours. By simply filling a fire with logs and 'damping' it down
straight a way you generate lots of smoke
and tar, which wastes fuel,causes pollution
and results in soot build up in the chimney.
Systems that use these forms of wood fuel
burn them quickly in a small,efficient fire.
These systems work in the same manner as oil
or gas boilers.The only labour input required
is topping up of the fuel store and ash
removal and even these can be automated.
How much wood fuel
do you need?
The wood fuel requirement for a typical
family home with 150m2 (1600 sq. feet) floor
space and a 12 kilowatt (kW) heating requirement is approximately 300kg per week
during the heating season,which is about
50 logs of firewood per week. This will vary
depending on many factors - the size of
the house, how long you want the house
heated, how hot you want it, the type of
wood that you use and the heating system.
Choosing a
wood fuel system
The wood fuel heating system that you use
will vary depending on the size of the house,
the wood fuel available and storage space.
Stoves and fireplaces: Logs can, of course,
be burned in place of coal and turf in traditional fireplaces. Far greater economy and
efficiency are achieved if a modern closed
fireplace or stove is installed. A wide range
of high efficiency fireplaces, stoves and
ranges are now available from traditional
to hi-tech. Dedicated automatic log burning boiler systems are also available for
larger buildings.
All of these types of system can be used to
provide hot water heating and room heating
through radiators or warm air circulation.
Au to m atic systems: Wood chips and
wood pellets lend themselves to being
used in automated systems as they are
uniform in shape and can be handled by
conveyors. This means that wood fuel can
match oil or gas in terms of convenience to
the user.
Wood Fuel System
Heat Storage
Including a boiler in your wood fuel system
means that you can store surplus heat as
hot water. A back boiler will increase the
efficiency of a traditional fireplace, while
some stoves can provide heating for
domestic hot water and several radiators.
Masonry wood stoves store the heat in
their stone structures.
Wood fuel heating is ideal in combination
with solar heating systems. The solar collector provides sufficient hot water during
the summer, while in the winter its storage
tank can be used to store the water heated
by your wood fuel system.
How much do wood
fuel systems cost?
The purchase costs of wood fuelled systems
range from under £300 for a manually-fed
log-burning enclosed wood stove, to several
thousand pounds for automatically-fed
wood-chip or pellet systems.
Who do
you contact
to find out
So fire away with wood!
The use of wood as a fuel is becoming
more and more popular with an increasing
awareness of its major environmental benefits. A wood system to suit your needs is
available – so why not make good use of
wood as a reliable, comfortable and clean
fuel? Fire away with wood!
For more information on wood fuel and
wood fuelled heating systems, contact the
Irish Bioenergy Association,the Renewable
Energy Office (N.I.) or the Irish Energy Centre,
Renewable Energy Information Office.
The Irish Bioenergy
The Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA) was
launched in M ay 1999. It has been formed
to promote the bioenergy industry and to
develop this potentially important sector
in the Republic of Ireland and Northern
The aim of the Association is to promote
biomass as an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable indigenous
energy resource and also promote its nonenergy related benefits.
The organisation is a self-governing association of voluntary members and is affiliated to Aebiom, the European Biomass
Association, which has member associations
from nineteen other European countries.
This leaflet was produced to promote the
use of wood, a clean, renewable fuel source,
one of the many sources of bioenergy. The
leaflet was produced with the support of
the EU Altener II programme, Aebiom, the
Renewable Energy Office (N.I.) and the Irish
Energy Centre,Renewable Energy Information
Office. Please do not hesitate to contact
IrBEA if you would like to know more about
For further information
Information on bioenergy:
Irish Bioenergy Association,
Thurles, Co. Tipperary.
Tel:0504 28105 • Fax:0504 28111
Email: [email protected]
Aebiom (European Biomass Association),
Information on renewable energy:
Renewable Energy Office (N.I.),
1 Nugents Entry, Off Townhall Street,
Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, BT74 7DF.
Tel:02866 328269 • Fax:02866 329771
Email: [email protected]
Irish Energy Centre,
Renewable Energy Information Office,
Shinagh House, Bandon, Co. Cork.
Tel:023 42193 • Fax:023 41304
Email: [email protected]
To contact your local Energy Agency:
Association of Irish Energy Agencies,
c/o City of Dublin Energy Management
Agency (CODEMA), Paradigm House,
Dundrum Office Park, Dublin 14.
Tel:01 296 4072 • Fax:01 296 2484
Email: [email protected]
Renewable Energy
Office (N.I.)
EU Altener programme
European Biomass Association
Printed on Recycled Paper • Irish Bioenergy Association,2000
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