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Carbon Negative Heat

Posts: 6663
Location: South Central Kansas
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This is my attempt to summarize Alan Booker's excellent webinar on the topic.
Watch the full presentation here:



This is a framework for a heating system that results in Carbon negative operation, meaning that the amount of Carbon that is dynamically sequestered within the local ecosystem is significantly more than the amount of Carbon that is released into the atmosphere.

*The four overarching components of such a system include:
1) Hyper-efficient biomass combustion with a low exit temperature
2) On-site or hyper-local biomass growth and harvest
3) Efficient building envelope and insulation
4) Thermal mass

A lot of discussion in the green building arena has moved towards zero combustion and full electrification as the ultimate goal. However, a specific type of biomass combustion system actually turns out to be a superior option in a sizable number of cases.**

The irony here is that, while expensive and industrially-intensive methods get a lot of attention in this space due to their sizable funding, Carbon-negative heaters are currently in use in hundreds or potentially thousands of instances.  The methods employed are a synthesis of some old, or even ancient technology (like thermal mass combustion masonry heaters and coppice groves) and new understanding of contextualized ecological impact.

A Carbon Negative Mass Heater is a complete building heating system that integrates a high-efficiency biomass combustion core with a thermal mass to create a heating system that provides net sequestration of Carbon, removing more from the atmosphere than it releases.**

In order to make a direct comparison between two different heating systems, one must consider the embodied energy and the embodied pollution inherent to the system, inclusive of materials acquisition and processing for not only the operation of the system, but also the manufacture and installation of the system.  This is a challenge not easily overcome by proponents of many high-performance heating systems of the green industry, where mining, transport, processing, use, and ultimate disposal of materials amount to significant energy expenditure and Carbon footprint.

Energy Use Intensity - Site EUI versus Source EUI
From an operating perspective, the most common metric for comparing different heating systems at this time is by calculating the Energy Use Intensity (EUI) of each.
The problem with most of the data presented in the discussion of conventional methods is that the data is often "Site EUI," rather than a more accurate and comprehensive "Source EUI."  

Site EUI only factors in the energy it takes to run a system at the point-of-use, disregarding embodied energy in manufacturing and loss of energy in transport via transmission inefficiencies.  When Source EUI is taken into consideration, a Biomass Combustion Core with a Thermal Mass outperforms all other heating systems in terms of carbon sequestration and energy use - usually by orders of magnitude.

Comparison to Alternatives

• Much more efficient than any other wood-fired alternative.
• Much lower technology and embodied energy/pollution/carbon footprint than geothermal options.
• Electric heat pumps require electrical infrastructure, with the energy, pollution, and embodied Carbon that brings.
• Solar PV powered electric options have the problem that power generation is often lowest when heat is most needed.**

Carbon Negative Mass Heater System Flow Diagram

**Quoted text is taken directly from Alan's presentation material.
*All of these system requirements are met by a Rocket Mass Heater in a properly built structure within a biomass-generating ecosystemic context
Doody calls. I would really rather that it didn't. Comfort me wise and sterile tiny ad:
rocket mass heater risers: materials and design eBook
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