Home heating in temperate Australia

Parsons, David (2010) Home heating in temperate Australia. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment , 15 (8). pp. 785-793. ISSN 0948-3349


Background, aim, and scope: Home heating is an important component of life in inland temperate Australia, and firewood remains a common and relatively inexpensive fuel. However, supplies of firewood are becoming scarce, and excessive smoke pollution is becoming a problem in some places, partly due to poor management of fires. The alternative energy sources are electricity and gas, and the aim of this study is to compare the relative merits of these three energy sources for their impacts on the physical environment.
Materials and methods: Data were compiled about the physical appliances used in the home for electric power, and for gas and wood burning. Data about the production of electricity, gas supply and burning was available in Australian databases. The inputs and outputs for the growing of firewood in plantations in the drier, cooler parts of inland Australia were compiled from various sources and supplemented by measurements of typical tree growth. Information about emissions from wood burning was obtained from several sources, and all data were entered into SimaPro life cycle assessment software. The Eco-Indicator 99 (E) method was then used to assess the impacts of a range of heating scenarios including two different gas heaters, three different wood burners and a variety of wood growth rates and burning conditions.
Results: Overall results show that, as expected, using coal-fired electricity for heating had a significantly larger impact than the other forms of heating. The older, less efficient wood burning appliances were also significantly inferior to modern appliances mainly because of their inefficiency. There was a significant lessening of impact when wood was burned in a modern appliance under well-managed conditions compared to poor management. The comparison between gas and wood burning showed significant advantages for each with wood being preferable from a resource and climate change perspective, and gas being preferred from a health and ecological perspective. Discussion: The results suggest that using electricity for heating should be discouraged as should the use of inefficient, older, wood burning appliances. The impact of wood burning depends very much on how fires are managed but is acceptable and could make a major contribution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions if users can be educated to reduce emissions by managing fires better. Sufficient firewood could be grown on plantations even though the rate of growth is slow but would require a significant area of land. The big advantage of doing this is that wood is a renewable resource. So the two alternative heating sources at the moment are gas and wood burning, and the decision about which to use will depend on the ability to reduce emissions from wood. Recommendations and perspectives: It is recommended that electricity use for heating be discouraged in the future and that gas be considered as an alternative, at least in the short term, while we depend on coal burning to produce electricity. Wood should continue to be used, but more community education about managing fires is needed as is a move towards growing firewood on plantations.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to published version due to publisher copyright policy.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Engineering and Surveying - Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Engineering and Surveying - Department of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering (Up to 30 Jun 2013)
Date Deposited: 02 Feb 2012 07:18
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2014 05:02
Uncontrolled Keywords: electric heating; eucalypt growth rates; firewood emissions; firewood plantations; gas burning; home heating; sustainability of supply; wood burning
Fields of Research (2008): 05 Environmental Sciences > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management
09 Engineering > 0906 Electrical and Electronic Engineering > 090608 Renewable Power and Energy Systems Engineering (excl. Solar Cells)
07 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences > 0705 Forestry Sciences > 070501 Agroforestry
Fields of Research (2020): 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410406 Natural resource management
40 ENGINEERING > 4008 Electrical engineering > 400803 Electrical energy generation (incl. renewables, excl. photovoltaics)
30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3007 Forestry sciences > 300701 Agroforestry
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): D Environment > 96 Environment > 9607 Environmental Policy, Legislation and Standards > 960702 Consumption Patterns, Population Issues and the Environment
Identification Number or DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-010-0184-3
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/20704

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