Real Coop Energy, Year 2

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Wed, 11/04/2009 - 18:11.

It is an amazing feeling heating your home with wood. You are able to survive in the harshest of weather, with nothing but mother nature on your side, and no gas bills... and, you may cook and heat water while you heat your environment.

Quite clever, really... invented by cavewomen, I believe.

This is our second year living in a home with nothing but a wood burner in the living room. It is not able to put out enough heat for the entire 3,000 square foot house, when the outside temperature drops below freezing, but it keeps the core living areas warm even below 0. When the temperature is 40 and above, it creates plenty of heat for the whole house.

So far this year, since late September, we have burned one cord of wood, at a cost of $270, delivered. We should have gathered up and split wood over the summer, in which case our fuel would be nearly free. Next year...

Free heat... I love that idea.

Cord of Wood

Burning wood makes you very aware of the amount of fuel you consume, the heat you use and waste, and your relationship with the environment. It feels very different manually going through a cord of word, from a tree service in Willoughby, than silently burning 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas from wherever.

Wanting to burn less wood, and conserve more heat, our focus is now on Demand Side Management - we are improving insulation around windows, and are about to pump insulation in the walls. We shall see how that improves the conservation in the house, with just the wood burner going.

Shortly, we expect to install a gas furnace, for full house heating, and we hope to add a whole house wood burner to that, in the future.

Wood burning is carbon-neutral, but it may release particulate pollution. We bought our current wood burner used, on Craig's list, and it is a fairly current model that burns efficiently, and with lower pollution than most, but there is lots of interesting science and technology to something as simple as burning wood, with new innovations on the horizon.

And, lots of local, green jobs may be created by creating and conserving energy at the individual home level.

Local energy production and demand side management are industries barely reflected in our regional workforce analyses, and green job creation playbook, yet these jobs offer the most immediate, direct, and physical benefits to residents.

In the future, how many driveways in East Cleveland should be filled with wood, for wood burners, and who will sell, install and maintain the wood burners, and cut, split and deliver wood to residents, at that price? The answer to those questions is worth $ millions, to the right people in this community, here and now.

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Bush heating

  I am interested to know if you went with Mark Bush.  He has a house off the grid in Pennsylania and he is still probably your best local option for a boiler system in NEO. 

I wish I could get some solar panels to offset my electric needs.  I had a milli-volt system (static electricity drove the themostat) coal-converted boiler, before I got taken by an unscrupulous furnance company.  My old asbestos coated boiler kept the house toasty warm and was not dependent on the electric grid.   I miss it.  I wish I had the old Franklin stove option, in case of the inevitable blackout....

my opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer, my spouse, my cat, my neighbors, my extended family or anyone I happen to acknowledge on the street, bus, etc.

wood burning and asthma

 Wood burners really aggravate the asthma of people living near them (I am one). Is there a way to filter the smoke?  Is this worse for children with asthma? The asthma rate of inner city kids is really high. Is there any info on the impact of wood burning and ways to prevent harm to already impacted lungs?

it would be nice if local "green" experts provided such answers

Different wood burners and ways of burning and venting wood smoke impact the amount of pollution. While I am not an expert, the higher levels of particulate matter seem to result from low temp burning, where there is not complete combustion. Our wood burner has a chamber above the wood box where the smoke is further combusted, reducing emissions... and they are getting better at controlling pollution for home wood burners...

Good question - it would be nice if local "green" experts provided such answers

Are there any?

Disrupt IT

burnwise - lost on Ohio?

How timely. Yesterday the NYTimes has a little video about fireplace inserts. They note:

There's a link called where you live - click on Ohio - the disclaimer says you might have to look under "air toxics" in some states. But if it is there, I cannot find it. Oh, oh... search burn, burn wise, fireplace - nope - nada.

There's a link for resources for states. It links to a federal highway site - here: "It All Adds Up Initiative - A public education and partnership-building initiative developed by several federal agencies for the purpose of informing the public about the impact of their choices on air quality."

OK - then click on Ohio or select Ohio in the drop down box and click enter - Nope "The page cannot be found"

So, EPA has suggestions and even says there's a tax credit. I guess the Ohio EPA just hasn't noticed that people in Ohio still burn wood. I guess mostly the EPA's are focusing on rural areas. Dear Ohio EPA - newsflash - due to the foreclosure crisis and unemployment - Cleveland is fast becoming a "rural area".






 When I looked at the FAQ at this EPA website, it reminded me of the cash for clunkers program. Same principal but to qualify, the participant has to use a certified technician. When we worked on the crematory issue this past winter, we found that the US EPA defers air quality concerns and regulation of "small polluters" to the Ohio EPA. The Ohio EPA defers to local governments on this, and the local governments are reactionary rather than proactive for a number of reasons. This means that we can not use the US EPA or the Ohio EPA to find answers to questions about these local concerns.

hokey video offers tips for heating home with wood

This hokey video from Canada's EPA offers tips for heating your home with wood: Wood Stove Operation (click through for the video).

Also, despite not being able to discover much about the burnwise program in Ohio via th EPA site, Lehman's Low Voltage Hardware does have info about the $1,500 tax credit on wood-burning stoves.

NOACA's 2007 report on air quality and recommendations to improve it suggest that the region secure funding for a voluntary changeout program for wood burning units such as the one that changed out 83 units in Dayton several years back. With the burnwise program in place, does NOACA have to seek funding or do they just need to provide instruction on how the program works in NEO?

"Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful... and since there's no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow." Soon we will smell and see smoke rising from chimneys. Chestnuts will be roasting on open fires. Jack Frost is already nipping at my nose and toes.

I sent an email to the site with the broken link asking that they fix it, if possible, so that Ohioans can get information about wood-burning for home heat. In the meantime, the video linked above may offer some helpful tips to those of us who are burning wood - some as simple as top-down fire starting and not adding wood regularly, but instead allowing the wood to burn down to coals before reigniting, what sort of wood to burn for what efficiency of warmth.

I don't have a wood burning stove, nor do I heat my home with wood, but some in NEO do. I'll post an update when and/or if I hear back from the Ohio EPA.

Are there enough people involved in residential wood-burning for heat to warrant a call to action? Here's a summary of the changeout program nationally: EPA Wood Stove Changeout Summary (2009) (PDF).

If you're considering heating with wood, here's another positive point about wood stoves - there is no apparently monopoly among that sector's manufacturers - You'll have your hands full shopping for a stove.