Wood is a plentiful and accessible fuel for many Marylanders. Wood burns relatively cleanly and comes from a renewable resource — the rural or urban forest. Coal and oil supplies are limited, are not renewable, and the cost of these fuels continue to increase. Heating costs consume a significant percentage of earnings of low‐ to moderate‐income families. Heating with fuelwood can greatly reduce utility bills for these households.
Wood can be used as cut and split firewood, which can be purchased from a firewood seller or can be cut yourself. Wood can also be consumed as pellets, which are made from compressed sawdust, purchased by the bag and burned in specially‐made pellet stoves.
Many people think that burning wood produces dirty smoke that will cause problems and pollution. However, new EPA‐approved stoves built after 1988 have minimized these problems. These stoves are typically more than 70% efficient, and the wood stove industry continues to make improvements in efficiency and in reduced particulates emissions. Burning dry wood with efficient combustion results in clean burning with few particulates. Combined with good fuel preparation systems, burning firewood can be safe, efficient, and save significantly on heating costs.
If you own a woodlot and apply timber stand improvement practices, the residual wood can be cut for firewood. On a good growing site, your trees should grow at the rate of about 1/3 cord per year per acre. Even a three-acre woodlot can provide about a cord of wood per year. During power failures or national emergencies, wood heat provides a guaranteed source of heat that requires no electricity.
Additionally, recent advances in woody biomass-fired boilers have increased opportunities for commercial applications. A growing number of commercial facilities, including schools, factories and hospitals, have replaced their fossil-fuel-fired boilers with systems fueled by biomass.
The Woodland Stewardship Education program has a wide variety of resources available for individuals or businesses interested in wood energy. These include publications, webinars, and workshops.
WSE initiatives are supported by funding from the USDA Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA). To learn more about the RREA, visit this site (external link).