The Australian Home Heating Association (AHHA) believes that wood heating serves a useful social function in Australia as well as offering the benefits of direct employment. It’s estimated that over 900,000 homes now use firewood for heating and this lowers the cost of heating for many people. In many smaller towns and rural areas, firewood is the most economical choice for home heating. The wood heating industry provides approximately 9,500 jobs, and many of these jobs are in areas of higher unemployment. Let’s take a closer look at two main benefits to the wider community when you switch to firewood for heating.
1. The Social Benefits
In many poorer, rural areas, dry split firewood is available for very reasonable prices from a local fuel supplier. If a person wants to collect their own firewood, the only outlay is time, a chainsaw and some fuel for their vehicle to haul it away. A modern wood heating is extremely fuel efficient, a little firewood can go a long way, and the affordable prices make it a viable choice for economical heating. When indoor thermal comfort is improved sickness is reduced, and this puts less strain on doctors and other health services.
In larger towns and cities only heat pumps and natural gas can offer heating with running costs that are comparable to wood heating. This is only because firewood is more expensive in these areas where the wood has to be transported in, and there is no ready supply of free firewood to source and collect. A heat pump has a higher initial cost, and so it’s only a viable choice for certain members of the community. So, for many urban dwellers, the slightly higher costs of firewood are still an attractive and affordable alternative source of heating fuel. 2. The Environmental Benefits
Modern wood heaters are known to deliver low greenhouse emissions, and they have the cheapest domestic running costs for Australian residential heating. This runs contrary to popular opinion, but back in 2014, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s Building Sustainability Index or BASIX was revised to show a lower greenhouse gas emission rating for wood heating.
This improved BASIX system rating came after extensive research carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). They discovered that firewood produces less greenhouse gas than any other available domestic heating options. As wood is biomass and it’s a natural part of the carbon cycle, it’s considered to be a renewable energy source.
The AHHA is promoting the use of wood heaters that meet Australian low emission standards for home heating. It’s recommended that consumers only use firewood from managed forests that are sustainable. These plantations offer other environmental benefits, such as erosion control, wildlife habitation, salinization reduction, and wastewater treatment. Firewood plantations also offer employment and investment opportunities for local farmers and residents.
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