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The AHHA believes that it serves a valuable social function in Australia in addition to the benefits of direct employment. Over 900,000 thousand Australian households use firewood for heating. This provides an important social benefit through low cost heating and improved thermal comfort. In most rural areas and smaller towns firewood offers the lowest cost energy source for domestic heating. The industry also provides about 9,500 jobs, many in areas of high unemployment.
The AHHA believes that it serves a valuable social function in Australia in addition to the benefits of direct employment. Approximately 900,000 Australian households use firewood for heating. This provides an important social benefit through low cost heating and improved thermal comfort. In most rural areas and smaller towns firewood offers the lowest cost energy source for domestic heating. The industry also provides about 9,500 jobs, many in areas of high unemployment.
In most rural areas, split, dry firewood is available from your local fuel merchant at a reasonable price. If people collect their own firewood, the cost is simply their own time and perhaps some fuel for transport and a chainsaw. Thus, the efficient wood heater offers people throughout rural Australia, including towns and small cities, a chance to heat their homes economically, at running costs far below any other energy source. The health benefits of the improved thermal comfort that this allows are difficult to quantify, but are almost certainly large and should not be overlooked. Colder homes mean more sickness.
In the large cities, only natural gas and heat pumps offer heating with running costs comparable to firewood, and this is because of the high price of firewood in these areas. Heat pumps have a high capital cost and so are only available to some sections of the community. The majority of families cannot afford initial costs of $5000.00 to $10,000.00 for home heating. For the section of the community with access to lower cost firewood (outer urban areas), this offers the lowest running cost even in large cities
Wood heaters deliver low greenhouse emissions and cheapest running costs for domestic heating in Australia. Contrary to what many people believe, wood heating provides the cheapest form of domestic heating and also delivers the smallest green house footprint.
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) system was recently revised to set a lower greenhouse gas emission rating for residential wood-fire heating.
The improved rating for wood heaters in the BASIX system follows the results of research conducted by the CSIRO, which found that firewood produces less greenhouse gas than all other domestic heating options. CSIRO’s finding was backed by accepted national and international protocols for assessing greenhouse gas emissions from biomass.
The CSIRO reports have confirmed that wood forms a natural part of the cycle for carbon and therefore is considered renewable.
The Australian Home Heating Association (AHHA) strongly promotes, through a range of education campaigns, the use of low emission Australian Standards compliant wood heaters and the correct use of wood fuel when running them.
Supporting Landcare & Forests
The AHHA recommend consumers use firewood sourced from sustainably managed forests and plantations. When sustainably managed, firewood recycles carbon from the atmosphere, leading to zero carbon emissions.
Firewood plantations can also serve other ecologically desirable functions such as wastewater treament, salination reduction, erosion control, wildlife habitat and aesthetics.
It is more energy efficient to use firewood in the home than fuel an electric power station with biomass and then use the electricity to heat the home.
Realising the importance of trees, not only as a fuel source and sink for atmospheric carbon, but also for the wide range of environmental, social and economic benefits they provide, the Australian Home Heating Association is a major financial support of Landcare Australia.
The Landcare program aims to revegetate Australia to replace the estimated 20 billion trees removed since European settlement. Landcare groups have planted millions of trees, laid thousands of kilometeres of protective fencing, introduced sustainable farming techniques, removed hundreds of thousands of tonnes of weeds and volunteered countless hours to the land care ethic.
The AHHA supports the activities of Landcare Australia by contributing to farm forestry and regeneration projects. Firewood plantations also provide alternative financial opportunities for farmers and local government, with fuel being one of the multi-uses of the tree plantations.