Home heating in temperate Australia

Article


Parsons, David. 2010. "Home heating in temperate Australia ." International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. 15 (8), pp. 785-793. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-010-0184-3
Article Title

Home heating in temperate Australia

ERA Journal ID41428
Article CategoryArticle
Authors
AuthorParsons, David
Journal TitleInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Journal Citation15 (8), pp. 785-793
Number of Pages9
Year2010
Place of PublicationGermany
ISSN0948-3349
1614-7502
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-010-0184-3
Web Address (URL)https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11367-010-0184-3
Abstract

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.

Keywordselectric heating; eucalypt growth rates; firewood emissions; firewood plantations; gas burning; home heating; sustainability of supply; wood burning
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020410406. Natural resource management
400803. Electrical energy generation (incl. renewables, excl. photovoltaics)
300701. Agroforestry
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Byline AffiliationsDepartment of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
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