Every household considering a wood burning stove or fireplace will have two questions:

  • How safe is this for my family?

  • How good is this for the environment?

The first point has been roundly answered by experts, who state precisely how to safely prepare, light up and maintain a wood burning stove. The second one is widely discussed, but there are plenty of strong ecological benefits of a using a wood burning fireplace - some are common sense, and others quite surprising.

Carbon Neutral

When you burn wood, carbon dioxide is released into the air. While this sounds like the antithesis of anything environmentally friendly, bear in mind that this is CO2 that would have been released had the tree died naturally and been left to rot away.

49% of dried wood comprises carbon which has been accumulatively stored during the plant’s lifetime. This means that another tree will presumably absorb the gas released by the older tree, with a release delay of around 25 years.

Providing the wood has been harvested from a sustainable source, where the amount cut weighs up to the amount grown (more on that later), then your wood burning stove should be carbon neutral.

Benefits of the Ashes

Wood ashes have a variety of advantages that you wouldn’t get in a gas stove. They are a useful soil amendment, meaning they can raise the ph levels in soil and supply potassium - a vital plant nutrient.

The same applies to compost. adding potassium will make the mulch far better for plant growth, flowering and fruiting. It must be done in moderation however. Any more than a rate of one batch for six inches of compost pile could damage plants when it is applied.

Similar to crushed eggshells, ash is a great source of calcium in your garden. The high levels of calcium carbonate make it ideal to sprinkle (sparingly) over calcium dependent plants such as apple trees, celery, carrots, tomatoes and lettuce.

How to make your wood burning stove eco-friendly

The important caveat to these arguments is that you need to prepare a wood stove properly. Our top tips for doing this are:

Source properly

You should always by your firewood from a local logger. Not only is this more environmentally advantageous than if you were to choose gas or oil shipped from overseas, it helps your local businesses, allows you to assess for sustainable growth and creates more demand for properly sourced firewood.

Don’t let the heat go to waste

There’s nothing wrong with using a few logs to keep you and your household warm, but it’s far more sensible to install a back boiler that will allow you supply hot water and heat to a radiator system in other areas of your home. You could even source it for your cooking needs, and keep the whole system as a reliable backup should there ever be a power outage in your area.

If you would like more information or advice keep an eye out for First Choice Fireplaces Facebook page, Twitter and Google+ pages for updates.