An energising experience
There was a remarkable range of products on view at the recent Energy Show, a popular event now held annually at the RDS in Ballsbridge, Dublin.
The improvements in technology and the advances in providing affordable heating, insulation and lighting systems are quite astonishing.
Log gasification burners remain very popular, as do the more traditional domestic stoves, with or without a back boiler. But most impressive are the wood chip and wood pellet burning units that have developed to the point where they operate with the minimum of maintenance and are genuinely cheap to run.
It was good also to see the number of Irish firms that now manufacture many of these products or supply and provide a reliable back-up service for imported units.
For normal sized homes, the wood burning stove remains one of the best buys going as they are relatively low cost, simple to install in an existing fireplace, and give out around 70pc extra heat for approximately 50pc less fuel compared to the open fire they replace. It is well worth spending that bit extra on a stove that contains quality cast iron and a good air wash system.
It was interesting also to note how the manufacturers of all wood burning systems now stress the need for only using genuinely dry wood fuel; and while dry logs are now widely available, I am told that it can still be difficult to source good wood chip with the appropriate moisture content.
There has been a massive increase in the number of homes and businesses countrywide that are installing wood chip/pellet/log gasification units, as well as domestic stoves. As a result, the market for wood fuel just keeps on growing despite the current low cost of oil.
This is great news for me and underpins the value of my own woodland as well as providing an outlet for other farmer-owned hardwood and conifer plantations. Demand is so strong that even some sawlog is being diverted from sawmills for use as wood fuel. At the same time we are importing boat-loads of chip and pellet.