Heating With Wood - Pt 3

Posted on 26th January, 2011

Sustainable Forestry & Buying Wood

OK, you might have realised, heating with wood is not for everyone and is not regarded as a universal energy source, but if managed correctly will make sound environmental sense. Urban dwellers might not find it a great choice unless they use a high-efficiency system that produces minimal smoke. There are also certain council areas (in NI anyway) that ban all smoke-producing fuels – but strangely allow oil. Firewood also takes space to season and store. The parts of the country which are relatively close to forests would be the ideal areas to use wood as a fuel. Farms can also set aside a few acres to sustainably produce timber as a rotational crop. Most estimates say that 2 hectares (or about 5 acres) is enough for a household to grow timber for fuel. This could well be less where the species is fast-growing, the wood-burning appliance is efficient and the dwelling is well insulated. As an alternative, you could join or form a wood-buying group to get discounts for bulk buying and also maybe share storage. Email transition@landmarkdesigns.org.uk for more information.


Tips for Growing Timber Sustainably:

  • Take professional advice on which trees to plant
  • Harvest selectively from different aged trees
  • Do not ‘clear crop’ the woodland like the commercial forests
  • Use prunings for firewood as the trees mature
  • Thin the denser stands of trees
  • Take out the poorer quality trees first
  • Leave seed trees of all existing species
  • Select areas to permanently preserve
  • Select some trees to pollard for fence posts, willow fencing, etc
  • Plant more new trees than you take out every year


I planted a few acres of trees about 16 years ago and they are already producing fuel through pruning and thinning. The areas which I retain untouched also provide an excellent habitat for wildlife and shelter our house from the prevailing winds, so there are much more benefits to be had than merely growing trees for fuel.

Try the Woodland Trust website for more information: http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/en/plant-trees/Pages/create-woodland.aspx

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