Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wood Briquettes Eco and Eco-nomic Solution


Heat or Eat
The Cost of Heating
An Ecological Solution? 
This post has been partly updated

A large part of the Irish population still relies on open fires and stoves as the main heat source. It is generally the more vulnerable and elderly that fall into this category and will be the ones most adversely affected by the Carbon Tax increases.

The Irish government really needs to think this one out a bit more carefully. At the very least, they could drop the 13.5% VAT on wood and biomass heating products. They would also need to promote their use as most people do not know much about them or how to properly use them.

Coal and peat products, including peat briquettes, will go up in price by about 10% in the New Year when the government imposes an extra carbon tax. The carbon tax with have the 13.5% VAT placed on top of it, so that is how the 10% comes about.

An €18.50 Euro bag of smokeless coal will become a €20.35 bag of coal, and a €3.99 bale of peat briquettes will be priced at €4.39.

Wood the answer?

Wood is carbon neutral and a 100% renewable source it does not have a carbon tax placed on it. Eco friendly wood products do however have a 13.50% VAT placed on them.

Lump wood, like logs and blocks, is not the most convenient fuel to use. Also, the wood blocks that are touted door to door in fertiliser bags are VERY poor value for money. That is because of two things:

(1) They are generally soft wood - which has low heat output.
(2) Those block are not kiln dried and carry up to 30% moisture in them.

Wood that has more than 20% moisture uses a lot of the heat just to get rid of the moisture, and some very damp wood hardly gives any heat output at all!!

Wood Briquettes, on the other hand,  are VERY LOW moisture only about 5%. This is especially true of the baked / cooked dark ones.

Wood briquettes are 100% wood and therefore DO NOT carry any carbon tax and will not be going up in price in the New Year. The price increase in fossil fuels will mean that the Eco friendly fuels like wood briquettes will become much more price competitive.

Peat and Wood Briquettes similar heat output

Kilogram for kilogram Peat Briquettes and Eco Wood Briquettes give about the same heat output. The differences are:

1.    Eco Briquettes burn better.
2.    Eco Briquettes leave much less ash.
3.    Eco Briquette ash is clean and a great garden fertiliser.
4.    Eco Briquettes do not cause the destruction of the last few bogs in Ireland.

Good quality coal has perhaps a 20% higher heat output to wood briquettes. However, coal leaves a lot of ash and clinker, which is partially toxic to nature, try sticking it on you garden! Coal is a dirty substance and the smell of burning coal is horrible. Burning wood smells really nice.

There are a number of suppliers for the good quality wood briquettes in Ireland. If you want a price that competes with coal on a heat value per Euro basis, you will need to purchase a large quantity.

Different Types and Qualities of Wood Briquette

These are the good type - They come in several shapes but all have a similar look

In my last post I discussed wood briquettes briefly and said that I would avoid the type that looks like a block of sawdust or a lump of chipboard.

 This is the not-so-good chipboard block type of briquette

The chipboard type of sawdust block does not burn very well when compared to the highly compressed and heat treated type. Buy them only if you get a very very very good price!!

 A better type above has a dark colour and fine texture - not like chipboard

The type of wood briquette are usually 100% hardwood briquettes which are dark in colour because they have been "Cooked". They are very hard and burn very well. The give way more heat than any type of logs you care to mention. The do not spark or spit. They burn fully down to a very fine ash.


The briquettes with a hole in the middle burn way TOO QUICKLY. While they are superior to the "sawdust" blocks, and to the hammer-mill layered sawdust briquettes - they still are by no means ideal.

Only one type of wood briquette can replace coal - that type is so hard you could hardly hammer a nail into it - it also is solid - no hole in the middle - so the burn is more like lumps of coal. This type I have written about are generally not available in Ireland. See my articles do a search for HERMANSON BRIQUETTES.



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