Price vs principles – again

woodburner for sustiainable heatI don’t mind admitting, Mr Green and I are feeling a bit depressed at the moment. We made the decision 8 years ago to install a wood burner.  We did a lot of research and figured this would be the most eco friendly way of heating our home.

As we live in an forest area we believed we would be able to get as much wood as we needed for next to nothing.


Wood around here is like gold dust. I think many people have thought the same as us; living in a forest provides plenty of wood. Also, with increased awareness of rising oil prices more and more people are switching to a more sustainable way of generating heat in their homes. Ironically, it’s illegal to go into the forest and take wood – you can apply for a brushwood permit, but you can only take wood as thick as your wrist. Anyone with a 12kw wood burner will know how ridiculous this is.

Last week we ordered a load of wood. It was beautiful wood – seasoned beech and it burned like a dream – it hardly produced any ash, produced lots of heat and stayed in overnight. The load costs us £65 and it lasted a week!

£65 to heat our home for ONE WEEK! We sat and did the maths and figured out it would cost us less to use electricity.

That’s so wrong isn’t it? I don’t mind backing up my principles with money, but we cannot afford to heat our home at that price on a long term basis.

So this week, we’re doing an experiment and I hate every moment of it. We’re putting an electric heater in our living area and ten minutes before we go to bed we’ll switch a heater on in our bedrooms for a while to take the chill off the room. I have no doubt that this will cost us less than burning wood, but the cost on the environment and our health – what will that be?

Over the past few months we’ve been drastically reducing our reliance on electricity. In fact I think we have halved it since last September. We were feeling really proud of this and believing we were making such a difference. Now I feel as though a hope has been dashed. Sometimes we strike lucky and we get free wood, but nowhere near enough to run the woodburner for an entire season.

According to the biomassenergycentre the CO2 emissions from materials such as wood are significantly less that other fossil fuels. Correctly managed, biomass is a sustainable fuel that can deliver a significant reduction in net carbon emissions. Figures of <0.00612kg CO2/kWh are typically quoted, well below gas, electricity, oil and coal.

But now we find ourselves in a situation where we have to compromise because of cost.

This post is part of Small Footprint’s “Change the World Wednesday” challenge. For the past month we’ve been looking at reducing our energy use. Until this week we’d been doing brilliantly; but that lookss set to change. Apart from buying a piece of land we can coppice I’m not sure what the answer is right now. What do you think? Have you found yourself unable to put environmentally friendly changes in place because of prohibitive costs? Have you found ways to cut your electricity consumption?


  1. Ben on January 11, 2010 at 4:32 am

    That is too bad. The wood burner looks awesome!

  2. Small Footprints on January 11, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    You’ve hit on the one thing that is the hardest for me … balancing a “green” life with other things (cost, health, etc.). In my mind, we do the very best we can with what we have. For example … I totally believe that eating organic, local produce is the best … but I can’t always afford it. I would love to only wear clothing made from sustainable products but, again, I can’t afford it.

    We, too, have used electricity to heat our home this winter … typically we just don’t heat it and, instead, bundle up. But this year’s severe weather brought the temperatures down … way down. So, we had to make a decision … do we compromise our health or do we use a little electricity. We turned on the heat. But, that doesn’t mean we turn it up high and leave it on all the time. Nope … like you, we use the bare minimum.

    I think that living green means that we try to make the least possible impact on the earth. Simply by being alive means that we make an impact. It’s always a balancing act and sometimes the scales tilt in the wrong direction … but … we do the very best that we can. So … don’t feel depressed … you’re still doing an amazing job of walking gently!

  3. Mrs Green on January 21, 2010 at 8:04 am

    @Ben: It does indeed; it’s 12kws and heats 7 radiators and the hot water. Too bad people want so much money for a load of wood 🙁

    @Small Footprints: The balancing of knowing what is ‘right’ with financial limitations is very hard. We just have to do our best and I’m know you do that too. It does teach us to search for our priorities in life, which I guess which is a good thing as we learn more about ourselves in the process.

  4. James on July 20, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    It’ll be interesting to see if the Renewable Heat Incentive that begins April next year will apply to boiler stove installations such as yours. It’s all still quite vague at the moment, but the information published here – – suggests that installations such as yours could potentially allow you to claim something towards the cost of wood. As I mentioned, its all still quite vague about what it will and won’t cover, but definitely worth keeping an eye on how it develops as it could make this more environmentally friendly form of heating more financially viable.

  5. Mrs Green on August 7, 2010 at 6:51 am

    @James: Thank you for sharing the information, James. I never knew about it covering wood stove installations; so I will definitely keep ontop of progress – thanks so much!