Warmed by Crematorium

Homes in the Swedish town of Halmstad, the hometown of soccer star and former men’s underwear model Freddie Ljungberg, will soon be using excess heat from the town’s crematorium to stay warm each winter.

“Officials in the western Swedish town came up with the idea,” the Telegraph reports, “after a recent environmental review concluded that the crematorium’s chimneys were pumping far too much smoke into the air. Inspectors said the crematorium would have to buy new ovens in order to meet basic environmental standards.”

“It was when we were discussing all these environmental issues that we started thinking about the energy that is used in the cremations and realised that instead of all that heat just going up into the air, we could make use of it somehow. It was just rising into the skies for nothing,” said Lennart Andersson, the director of the cemetery in the town of Halmstad. “For starters we will heat our own premises. But I hope we can connect to the district heating network in the future.”

A bit more on how it would work:

When a body is cremated, toxic materials are released from the corpse. For example, fillings in the teeth, when heated to high temperatures, release mercury. In order to filter out the toxic materials before they are released into the air, the crematorium must cool the smoke from around 1,000ºC to 150ºC. But, with the heat now directed into the public heating system, the smoke will already be much closer to 150ºC and the crematorium will spend less on materials, including water, to cool it down.

This might be the most obvious – and least interesting – thing I could say right now, but this sounds an awful lot like the premise of a film – starring Paris Hilton, say – in which joy-riding teens stumble upon an idyllic small town in northern Vermont, or perhaps Minnesota, only to realize that all the homes around them, including the nice B&B in which they’ve booked a room, are warmed by an underground labyrinth of pipes and tunnels… that gets all its heat from burning corpses. What sound like distant screams coming in through the bathroom air vent at 2 in the morning leads one of them to explore…
But what constitutes a morally acceptable source of alternative energy? Who decides?

(Thanks to John Devlin for the link!)

9 thoughts on “Warmed by Crematorium”

  1. Hell, we burn fossilized corpses and dead plants all the time. You could just as well ask what constitutes a morally acceptable source of conventional energy, but we’ve done a pretty piss-poor job of answering that question, haven’t we?

    I guess that Shell and ExxonMobil could boost their alternative energy cred by building new crematoria and enlisting their private paramilitary forces in places like Nigeria to feed the ovens. I don’t think that that movie would suit Paris, though – maybe Brangelina are available?

  2. Also, to be clear, it’s not the energy stored in the bodies that’s doing the heating. Crematoriums use fuel to burn bodies at very high temperatures so as to not leave any fleshy bits behind. So these houses _are_ being heated by “conventional” fuels, except that there happens to be a body in the way.

  3. What a wonderful holiday story.

    The idea is a bit creepy, but I am all for the sharing of resources beyond property lines

  4. My thesis project was exactly this. It was a crematorium with a furnace that also fired a kiln for a ceramics studio, and heated water for a gym/spa. Needless to say, it was a controversial and highly criticized concept, but did generate a lively discussion with a critic who brought his little puppy to the presentation. But I digress.

  5. This is a GREAT idea! We are too darn puritanical about our bodies in this world. Before we got hung up on embalming and entombing our dead for the next millenia, we buried folks in pine boxes out in the dirt, where they eventually became energy to heat our towns via the biological cycles that lead to trees, anyway. I would go so far as to say let’s not even create more greenhouse gas by burning bodies, but create a big methane-producing digester co-plant! That would cause some controversy for sure 🙂 Leave it to the practical types from Scandanavia to go ahead with this.

  6. Hi. Just found this amazing blog, i really like it – thanks! Just an add to this topic, since i’m a Swede and work with similar questions.

    There are actually several crematoriums already connected to the public heating system in several cities in Sweden (Parts of Stockholm, Kristianstad etc.), and there are more to come. The moral debate is one thing, the oter is the environmental movement which is quite huge in Sweden at the moment (as in other places). The church of Sweden (national) is actually behind much of this idea and are also launching other climate related suggestions for their parishes. Parishes all around in Sweden use about 40-60% of their yearly budget in heating churches; using old, energy-insufficient and expensive heating systems (electrically heated radiators, Oil-based systems etc.) Since Sweden is quite cold during winter, new more energy sufficient systems have to be installed for the parishes to have their economy to spin. One way of doing this is by crematorium-heating. I don’t think the typical Swede (myself incl.) is having a problem with this.

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