Carbon Beneficial
How It Works

See how an outdoor furnace works (including an informative video) and how it can heat multiple buildings using a home's existing heating system.

Carbon Beneficial

As a tree grows, it absorbs carbon from the the atmosphere. When it dies or is burned, it gives back the carbon. The cycle repeats for each tree that grows and dies.

The Payback

In addition to the carbon beneficial aspects of wood heat, there are numerous others…

Modern Wood Heat

For many people, thinking about wood heating conjures images of puffing chimneys or a glowing hot, smoky wood stove.

Carbon Beneficial

How is burning wood for heat carbon beneficial? Trees are part of a cycle that absorb carbon while the trees grow and give back the carbon when the trees die (decomposing on the forest floor, for example) or are burned for heat. Using wood for energy releases carbon stored in the wood as carbon dioxide; new trees absorb carbon as they grow while giving off oxygen. This carbon is known as biogenic carbon. When fossil fuels like natural gas, coal or fuel oil are burned, they also release carbon in the form of carbon dioxide. This carbon is known as geologic carbon and has been stored in the Earth for millions of years.

Through photosynthesis, trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and store it as carbon, a process known as sequestration.  Forest regrowth is a form of carbon sequestration in which the forests themselves serve as carbon sinks. A carbon sink is simply a "reservoir" that retains carbon and keeps it from entering Earth's atmosphere until the tree dies.

With forest management practices, the cycle of harvesting wood for heat, planting new growth and recapturing the carbon from the Earth's atmosphere can be sustained indefinitely.

According to the U.S. EPA:

  • U.S. forests have been historically and are currently a net sink of carbon; in 2015, the forest sector offset approximately 11.2 percent of gross U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
  • U.S. forested lands currently remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than they emit
  • Use of biomass for bioenergy (like burning wood for heat) can support the management of U.S. forests and can lead to increased carbon sequestration from U.S. forests over time.

It is important to note that information provided on WoodHeating.com is related specifically to burning wood for heat in modern wood heaters. There are contrasting views regarding the use of wood for generating electricity in which the carbon benefits are much less clear. By contrast, burning wood for thermal (heating) energy is much higher efficiency.

WoodHeating.com Carbon Beneficial billboard.

The general consensus is using wood for heat is carbon beneficial or carbon "better" than using fossil fuels like oil or natural gas for space heating.

The Payback

In addition to the carbon beneficial aspects of wood heat, there are numerous others:

  • Energy independence - many self-reliant people enjoy providing their own energy for heat
  • Increases domestic energy production, reducing dependence on foreign supplies
  • Diversifies our energy supplies and reduces dependence on fossil fuels
  • Provides jobs to rural communities and keeps energy dollars local
  • Improves quality and value of our woodlands
  • Improves soil and water quality
  • Reduces wildfire risk
  • Pest management
  • Stable, lower prices – fossil fuel prices rise and fall dramatically
Modern Wood Heat

For many people, thinking about wood heating conjures images of puffing chimneys or a glowing hot, smoky wood stove. While nostalgic, visible smoke is in fact symptomatic of an inefficient combustion process. Technological advances have led to cleaner-burning, extremely efficient, automated modern wood heat appliances. Modern wood heat is:

Versatile - Modern wood heat systems are available in all sizes and for all kinds of applications. There are wood stoves that can efficiently heat a room and outdoor wood boilers that can heat entire homes, additional buildings and even domestic water.

Convenient – Pellet systems are available with hoppers of varying sizes (some can even be installed outside with large hopper bins for extended operation). For cordwood applications, outdoor boilers are available today with extremely advanced, computer controls that automatically determine when to add air for efficient combustion. Some can even connect to the internet and provide operational and other information on a smartphone or computer.

Clean – Modern wood heaters are engineered to comply with EPA standards. EPA-certified wood-burning appliances are up to 50% more energy efficient than non-certified appliances. That saves you money, time and resources. These highly-efficient wood burners can use a third to a half less wood fuel for the same amount of heat.

Highly intense flame in the Reaction Chamber

Efficient – Modern wood outdoor hydronic heaters (also called outdoor wood boilers or outdoor wood furnaces) are typically gasification units and must meet EPA guidelines for emissions. They are engineered to more completely burn combustion gases than earlier wood burners. The most efficient models also are manufactured with quality insulation to prevent heat loss.


WoodHeating.com encourages and advocates burning wood for heat when used in highly efficient primary heating systems. Doing so can reduce or eliminate the carbon emissions from fossil heating fuels and, with good forest management, ensure that forest lands remain forests after harvest.

WoodHeating.com is a service of Central Boiler, Inc.

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