Heating a private house: why pellets are more profitable and safer than firewood and coal

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Heating a private house: why pellets are more profitable and safer than firewood and coal
Heating a private house: why pellets are more profitable and safer than firewood and coal
21 January, 10:54
Despite the plans of the authorities for social gasification, there will still be millions of houses in the country where blue fuel will not reach to. There, as in ancient times, they use firewood and coal for heating.

The project of the entrepreneur Dmitry Davydov "20 ideas for the development of Russia" offers its own ways to solve this problem.

Ivan Petrovsky

London in December, 1952.

The Great Smog Lesson in London

In 2022, the environmental community will remember the 70th anniversary of the famous "Great Smog", which happened in London on December 5-9, 1952 and claimed the lives of at least 12 thousand people, another 100 thousand acquired chronic diseases... The cause of the disaster was not the usual English fog, and the heating of houses with wood and coal.

Recall that in early December 1952, a cold fog descended on London. Due to the extremely low temperature, the townspeople began to use coal for heating in larger quantities than usual. Around the same time, the process of replacing urban electric transport (trams) with buses with diesel engines, which at that time were not equipped with either particulate filters or exhaust gas catalysts, was completed.

Locked in by a heavier layer of cold air, the products of combustion in the air reached an extraordinary concentration in a matter of days.

The fog was so thick that it hindered the movement of cars. Some townspeople, having left the house, could not find their way back; bewildered by the impenetrable smog, they could only walk with their hands on the walls of the nearest houses.

At first, the reaction of the townspeople was calm, since fogs are not uncommon in London. But in those days of the "great smog", London's hospitals quickly filled with victims with respiratory diseases, and the death rate in the city began to rise. At first, these facts did not receive publicity, but after a few days it turned out that the undertakers had run out of coffins, and the florists had run out of mourning wreaths. Ambulances did not have time to get to the sick - the whole city stood in one big traffic jam, unable to move. People were dying of suffocation.

The shock caused by this cruel lesson caused people to change their attitude towards air pollution. The disaster made it clear to the world that this problem poses an immediate threat to human life. New environmental standards have been adopted to limit the use of dirty fuels in industry and to ban soot-containing exhaust gases. Measures taken include the enactment of the Clean Air Act (1956 and 1968 editions) and a similar City of London Act (1954).

What is the danger of heating with coal and wood

The problem of non-environmentally friendly heating remains relevant in the 21st century. According to the WHO, about three million people die every year precisely because they either use themselves or live next door to buildings that smoke coal or wood stoves. Even in Western Europe, which is quite prosperous from the point of view of ecology and the state of medicine, the number of victims of obsolete heating is tens of thousands.

Usually, after a fire in a private house with stove heating, only a chimney remains.

The reason is in toxic impurity elements, which, when burning coal and firewood, are able to pass into the gas phase at the combustion temperature and are emitted with flue gases into the atmosphere. These elements, falling out with precipitation, pass into water bodies and soil, where they are included in the trophic chain "soil - plants - animals - people". Usually they include sulfur, phosphorus, beryllium, mercury, arsenic, selenium, manganese, vanadium, chromium, as well as radioactive elements - thorium and uranium.

Another problem of heating with coal and wood is the increased fire hazard. The Ministry of Emergency Situations of Russia notes that “furnace” fires are the third most common after careless handling of fire and electrical ignitions. So, in 2018, 22,857 fires were registered due to violation of the rules of operation and malfunction of stove heating.

Fuel pellets for heating boilers and fireplaces can have different shapes and be made of different raw materials.

Gasification partly solves the problem. But its level in Russia is only 71.4%, and by 2026 it is planned to grow to 74.7%. Such rates mean that in 5 years a quarter of Russians will still suffer from the negative consequences of burning coal and firewood, while 100% gasification of the country due to our distances and climatic zones is in principle impossible, since gas fuel will be too expensive at the outlet to the consumer . Obviously, it is necessary to create additional administrative and economic incentives in order to get rid of the harmful effects of stove heating in the country as soon as possible.

Heating with pellets as an alternative to wood and coal

First of all, experts advise replacing firewood and coal with pellets. Simply put, these are pressed and dried granules or "sticks" or even whole "logs" made from a variety of raw materials - from sawdust and shavings to cereal husks, reeds and peat.

Many people believe that pellets and firewood burn the same way, and the main difference between pellets is only their shape - such parts do not need to be sawn or chopped. In fact, this is not entirely true. Firewood is more humid than pellets, so when they are burned, the lion's share of the time is spent on the evaporation of excess moisture - only after that the burning of the material begins.

People prefer this method of heating their homes, because it has significant advantages:

Pellet heating boiler.
  • Pellets are made from safe and environmentally friendly materials that do not harm health.
  • Pellet heating has good safety characteristics. Granulated fuel from natural raw materials is not explosive, unlike, for example, gas.
  • In most cases, pellet heating is distinguished by low ash content (there are exceptions, for example, in the case of peat pellets).
  • In the case of using pellets, it is possible to use the ash in the future.
  • Heating of a private or suburban building with granular pellets does not require approval for connection (unlike gas-powered options).
  • To store pellets, there is no need to separate a separate building - just choose a dry room.
There are not only pellet boilers, but also pellet fireplaces.
  • Pellet boilers boast a high efficiency.
  • In most cases, pellets do not emit pungent odors when burned. In addition, they emit an almost imperceptible smoke that has no color.
  • Pellets have a high calorific value. For example, in the process of combustion of 1 ton of wood elements, the amount of energy generated is the same as when burning 1.6 tons of wood or 500 liters of diesel.
  • Boilers operating on such biofuel are very convenient to use - a person has to participate in their work no more than once a week, since all processes are carried out automatically.
Heating with pellets is cheaper.

When asked how much pellet heating costs, we found such a comparative table for a private house with an area of 100 square meters. Perhaps the prices have changed at the time of publication, but the ratio of individual types of fuel has remained the same.

It is no coincidence that pellets, as a dry, environmentally friendly renewable biofuel, have become widespread in developed countries: by 2020, global consumption has doubled in 5 years, and experts predict a twofold increase in the market by 2027. Such popularity is due, among other things, to state support.

For example, in France, a campaign was organized to promote pellet stoves and boilers: VAT on the purchase of equipment was reduced from 19.4% to 5.5%, plus a refund of up to 50% of taxes on the cost of installation services. As a result: by the beginning of 2021, 1.2 million French families were heated with pellets. In the same year, the government transformed the program, giving out bonuses for switching to a new type of fuel for heating homes.

The German government in 2008 increased the subsidy to 2,000 euros for private houses to install pellet stoves. To date, the state still allocates more than 400 million euros annually to stimulate the modernization of the heating system using pellet plants and solar panels.

Why Russia produces pellets, but does not consume them itself

But what about Russia with its limitless possibilities for the production of wood products and crops?

Well-known businessman Dmitry Davydov, the author of the Ideas for the Development of Russia project, notes a paradoxical situation:

Our country is one of the world leaders in the production of pellets, rapidly increasing turnover with a growth rate of 20% per year. But almost all production is now exported, and only about 0.5% remains on the domestic market. 70% of the world's pellets are consumed by European countries.

This, of course, pleases that domestic producers are increasing their exports to Europe. But the problem of clean air and the environment as a whole is more than relevant for Russia.

Buryatia was the first region in Russia to legally restrict coal burning. Since the beginning of the 2021-2022 heating season, the authorities of the Republic, where 43% of households are heated by coal and wood, have banned all legal entities with access to district heating from using solid fuel in autonomous boiler houses: they must either connect to the city mains or use environmental heating methods .

However, in other regions and territories of Russia, local authorities are in no way striving to replace conventional stoves with pellet boilers - there is neither incentive nor desire to switch to modern technologies.

Break stereotypes: what Dmitry Davydov offers

An analysis of the ideas offered by Davydov shows that a reasonable tactic has been chosen that is beneficial to both the regional authorities and ordinary consumers. The main thing is the need for state, legislative support for the program.

To begin with, in Russia, in parallel with the existing gasification programs, it is necessary to establish restrictions on the use of classic stove heating and stimulate the transition to alternative sources:

  1. Prohibit at the federal level the use of coal by legal entities if there is an alternative connection to the central heating or gas supply. Also prohibit the registration and commissioning of new buildings and the registration of the sale of old buildings with independent coal or wood-burning stove heating with direct access to gas or district heating. It is proposed to establish the entry into force of this paragraph one year after the adoption of the relevant law. Such enforcement measures will help accelerate the transition from coal-fired heating to safer options for society.
  2. For households living in areas not connected to gas supply, allocate state subsidies for the installation of pellet boilers. So the problem regions will be able to switch to a safer type of heating much earlier than the gas reaches them.

    Such a program can be financed from the state budget by directing part of the tax deductions from the rapidly growing pellet production sector to subsidies for the modernization of the heating system. Such a move, together with the restrictions proposed above, will stimulate the growth in the number of pellet boilers in homes and create demand for domestic biofuels in the domestic market.

The implementation of the proposals described above will bring the following results:

  • Reduced emissions of harmful substances and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere
  • The harmful effects of coal and firewood combustion products on human health will be significantly reduced
  • There will be fewer fires causing damage to citizens and the state
  • The business for the production and installation of autonomous heating systems using environmentally friendly fuel is activated, as well as the business for the sale of pellets in the domestic market

But the main effect is that the lives of thousands of Russians dying prematurely due to stove heating will be saved.

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