Wood is a very versatile fuel and can be burned in many different forms and in a number of different appliances. It can be burned to heat one or more rooms, the whole house, to produce hot water and to cook on or a combination of all or some of these.
To produce heat for one or more rooms logs can be burned on an open fire. These look nice, but tend to have low efficiencies - about 80-85% of the heat goes up the chimney. A more efficient alternative is a wood burning stove, which have efficiencies in excess of 70%. With the right wood burning stoves wood can be burned in a smokeless zone. Some stoves can also be fitted with back boilers to heat one or more radiators or domestic hot water.
Logs can also be burned in a ceramic stove. These have extensive internal flues and can retain heat for up to 24 hours after the last firing. They can be around 90% efficient and some can be used in smokeless zones.
Another option is a range. Ranges can be used for cooking, hot water and central heating.
There are also many domestic scale log and wood-chip burning central heating boilers available. Using wood to heat commercial and public buildings is common in countries such as Austria and Sweden. Pellet stoves and boilers, using pellets made from waste wood are another possibility. They can be purchased new or the necessary adaptation equipment retrofitted to an existing coal or oil boiler. If a central heating system is currently running on oil or LPG or if rooms are currently heated with electricity, then using wood to run the central heating system is often a cheaper option although the initial cost of the boiler will be more than a conventional one.
How to Burn Wood
Like other fuels, wood needs plenty of air to burn well. It is best to allow a fresh change of logs to burn freely until they almost turn to charcoal and only then to 'damp' down the fire by reducing the air supply. Filling a stove with logs and damping it down straight away, stops the 'volatiles' from burning and generates a lot of smoke and tar that is bad for health and the environment.<
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