In an effort to understand how humans impact the Earth, over the next few posts on Your Wild Home, I’ll be examining the pros and cons of different energy sources. I’ll be covering coal, oil, gas, solar, wind, and geothermal energy. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment!
It’s all about balance. You love your serviceable flannels and wools, but sometimes a girl just needs the smooth feel of light cotton and a bit of indulgent silk in her at-home downtime wardrobe arsenal. You care deeply about the environment, yet windowsill-planted herbs and mindful empty container recycling embody the totality of your current green living practice.
Then there’s the fundamental balance of budgeting. Hard-earned cash spent overwhelmingly on the basic need for home heating seems unnecessarily expensive.
Where to search for a solution? Should you switch heat sources? The properties and efficiency of coal have remained well studied over time due to its wide utilization, and coal remains one of our most abundant natural energy resources. With that in mind, here are the pros and cons of using coal heat.
The most common type of coal used for home heating is anthracite, the hardest type of coal. Anthracite’s dense composition results in high energy efficiency. It burns hot and long, producing 13,000 to 15,000 BTU’s per pound. To put this figure in perspective, that’s almost twice as much as you could get from burning wood.
Coal production remains on the rise and is keeping up with current demand. As a result, you should have no problem finding a consistent source of your heating supply. If you happen to live in the Western U.S., coal production is slated to increase within the next few years. Because coal production is a mature industry, its predictability is substantial.
The cost of coal varies depending on where you live, but its price tag remains relatively stable compared to other heating sources. Fuel calculators can help predict your real-life cost comparatively. Because anthracite coal burns efficiently, your stove will provide more hours of heat with less fuel than if you were using other sources, such as wood.
Burning coal in your home is as simple as acquiring a stove and maintaining your system. If you can load a washing machine and empty out dryer lint, you already possess the required skill set!
Some stoves utilize an already existing chimney, which lowers start-up cost. However, stoves which do not require a chimney simply plug into your electric outlet. Many come with self-loading and automatic stoke options which add to efficiency and ease of use.
Coal is a finite natural resource. Because it lies deep in underground beds, any determination of present amount inevitably requires guesswork. Annual coal production figures predict current coal reserves will last less than 300 years. The use of coal as an energy source burdens the environment in a non-reversible manner.
Ash that results from the burning of coal contains harmful heavy metals including arsenic, lead and mercury. Careful consideration of coal ash is important because you will be handling it regularly and disposing it, at least temporarily, in or around your home. Coal ash requires mindful supervision. It is so caustic it can corrode pipes and steel.
On a larger scale, heavy metals that can seep into the ground can infiltrate water sources. Because of our planet’s hydraulic cycle, these heavy metals evaporate into the ozone then rain back down on us, a phenomenon known as acid rain. Acid rain directly affects all aspects of our ecosystem. Make no mistake, ingested in larger than trace amounts, heavy metals are toxic.
Coal energy conversion results in the release of carbon and sulfur dioxide. Coal’s high carbon content makes it the number one contributor of environmental CO2 emission. High among the ranks of damaging greenhouse gases, carbon and sulfur dioxide hold atmospheric heat to the progressive effect of global warming.
Carbon dioxide is an atmospheric guest that outstays its welcome. Simply put, CO2’s emission effect will last thousands of years. No amount of windowsill gardening can counteract that.
The earth undergoes excavation to acquire coal. Mountains become razed, and artificial underground fissures form. Abandoned mines pose a variety of dangers, including steep unpredictable cliffs and the formation of underground water pits. Active mines tap into, and release, pockets of poisonous methane gas. The full impact of mining’s human-made alteration to our planet’s environmental evolution is still undiscovered. But one thing remains immediately clear. Mining industrialization directly tips the natural ecological balance.
The pros and cons bring us back to balance. You’ll notice that coal heat pros are directly beneficial on a personal level. Coal is relatively inexpensive, efficient, easy to use and abundant. The cons of coal heat and use, however, are more global and long-term in nature. A nonrenewable caustic energy resource, the production and use of coal inflicts immediate harm to our planet.
In weighing the pros and cons for coal heat, in what direction does your balance tip?