• Stuart Burgess

Wood VS Coal - The big debate!

Updated: May 18

When we burn wood or coal, we are effectively releasing the sun’s energy into our living rooms. However, we are also releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which we know to be a major contributor to global warming. So, is there a better choice of the two? At Greenflame, we believe there is, and we believe it is wood. Let’s take a look.

Less fuss

Firstly, the coal we burn today is millions of years old and can take in excess of 200,000 years to be replaced. A tree can be harvested for wood-fuel after a relatively short period of time, depending on the species and where it is grown. You are certainly looking at a mere 60 years and up. So, it can be produced sustainably.

There's no smoke without fire

Wood only releases carbon dioxide that it has locked away during it’s lifetime, which can make it almost carbon neutral. However, you have to take into account the forestry and processing which adds a carbon “cost” to wood-fuel. To compare the two, it is estimated that coal releases 1.018kg of harmful carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour (Kwh), whereas burning the right

wood only releases about 100g per Kwh. What do we mean by “the right wood”? Well, that is a whole other topic, but basically, we mean dry or seasoned wood. For wood-burning stoves that means wood that is less than 20% moisture content. This can be checked with a relatively cheap moisture content meter. Burning wet wood can be as bad for the environment as burning coal. It’s also pretty bad for your stove too. Coal and wet wood burnt in the UK produces about three times as many harmful particulates into the atmosphere as all road transport.

How to make the least impact in the UK

It's important to source your wood-fuel from sustainable forestry activities where replanting is necessary to actively circulate

our carbon dioxide within the carbon cycle. We recommend looking for the Woodsure label, that way, you'll be sure you're making the best and most efficient fuel you can.

Of course, there is the argument that coal burns hotter. This is true to an extent. However, coal, softwood and hardwood have a very similar heat to weight ratio. It just so happens that coal is on average twice the density of hardwood which in turn is twice the density of soft woods. Which basically means we need to burn twice the volume of hardwood to get the same heat as coal and twice the volume of softwood to achieve the same heat output as hardwood.

Choose the cleaner and greener path...

Coal is a dirty fuel. It is often very dusty and takes longer to light than wood and it smells awful. Whereas well-seasoned wood-fuel burnt properly burns very clean, leaving very little unburnt matter. Also, if you have ever had the pleasure of cooking with different species of hard woods, you will have experienced that beautiful smoky aroma in the food you have eaten.

So, in conclusion, responsibly sourced, well-seasoned wood is a clean, sustainable source of heat for your house. Oh, and did I mention, how watching a lovely log fire in your stove, warms your heart as well as your home?

You’re welcome,

The Stove Guy