Why tree huggers burn trees

At first blush, wood burning might not seem very environmentally friendly.  Cutting down big stately old-growth trees, sawing them up with gas powered saws and log splitters, and then throwing them into a roaring fireplace belching smoke … yeah, I see your point.

However, there’s lots wrong with that picture.  First, nobody should be cutting down old-growth timber for firewood.  There’s plenty of dead wood in most areas, and fast-growing timber on small managed woodlots can be indefinitely sustainable.  Also, cutting smaller trees or dead limbs minimizes the need to split wood, and (for the energetic) makes hand-cutting a possibility as well.  Third, fireplaces are decoration, not a heat source.  Modern air-tight woodstoves can be 80% efficient.  Combine this with a highly insulated home, and you’ve got the ultimate in renewable ‘green’ heating.

That’s our motivation for buying this woodstove.  Unfortunately, time constraints force us to buy wood from others, and bad insulation means we’ll be burning far too much the first year, but at least our Lopi Endeavor stove will ensure that it burns cleanly.  The Lopi produces only 4 grams of particulate pollution per hour, the cleanest for it size of all EPA-certafied wood stoves.  It does this by injecting fresh heated air directly into the firebox at the top.  This fresh air combines with “exhaust gases” and causes a secondary ignition.  The result is more heat output and a cleaner final exhaust.

The secondary burn is that line of fire across the top of the stove.  It looks like natural gas is being injected into the stove, but it’s actually just oxygen igniting the tars and wood alcohols in the smoke.  It only kicks in when the stove is appropriately hot (woodstoves burn most efficiently when they burn very hot).  Sometimes it can dance across beautifully, like the Aurora Borealis, or even totally obscure the viewing glass in a blazing inferno.  The result, is this:

Where there’s smoke, there’s a fireplace.  Where there’s no smoke … maybe a modern woodstove?

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2 Responses to Why tree huggers burn trees

  1. Tricia says:

    Would you recommend the Lopi Endeavor stove? Has it worked well for you? Thanks!

    • lee says:

      I’m happy with the stove overall. Beyond the initial quality issues I talked about, it’s been low maintenance and puts out plenty of heat. It burns very consistently with dry wood and we like the two tier cook surface and the controls.

      We are starting on our sixth burn season, and our only repairs have been to replace 5 roll pins which hold the secondary air tubes in place over the firebox, as they are prone to falling out. It’s probably due for a little more work. Some of the rear firebricks look deteriorated, and the removable plates which hold the bricks in place above the firebox are over half rusted through. I’m not sure how this compares with the maintenance requirements of other stoves.

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