The Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative is proving the efficiency and economic benefits of heating with local wood. Focusing on specific communities, the initiative provides financial incentives to qualified participants to install high-efficiency wood pellet boilers. A pellet boiler system is an automated, thermostat-controlled, and highly efficient way to heat with wood.

Model Neighborhood participants in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York are increasing demand for this renewable heat source that supports the local economy. Wood fuel sourced from the region and manufactured locally keeps 100 percent of the money spent on heating fuel circulating in the local economy. Demand for pellets creates jobs for local manufacturers, truckers, loggers, and foresters. It also creates an important market for lower grade wood, which helps landowners keep forests as forests.

Demonstrating Success

The Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative creates dense clusters of pellet boilers in homes and non-residential buildings, making bulk delivery of pellets more efficient and providing a base of business for new installers and technicians. Each installation is an important step toward realizing the vision of an energy economy that brings substantial economic benefits to rural communities, reduces dependence on heating oil, cuts net carbon dioxide emissions over time, and supports healthy working forests.

The Center and its partners document the savings, ecological benefits, and economic impact of using wood pellets instead of heating oil and share the results across the region to encourage more people to convert to wood pellet heat.

You can find information on the full list of Northern Forest Center incentives available here.

Berlin NH Model Neighborhood

The initial Model Neighborhood Initiative in Berlin NH has created the highest local concentration of wood pellet boiler users in the nation. The program helped 40 homeowners switch to wood pellet heat, as well as the Berlin Housing Authority’s Welch Apartment building, St. Kieran Center for the Arts and Notre Dame Apartments.

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It makes me really happy to know that our heating budget is supporting local workers in today's forest industry.

—Mary Jo Landry, Executive Director, Berlin Housing Authority

These conversions alone – not considering their regional ripple effect – are giving the local economy a substantial economic boost: we estimate that over the boilers' 25-year lifespan, heating with wood pellets and saving money on fuel bills will contribute $5.3 million to the local economy.

Though we’ve met our goal of installing 40 residential boilers in Berlin, we continue to support wood pellet heat in New Hampshire by advocating for continued public rebates, supportive state policies and wider recognition of wood pellets as a reliable and beneficial heating fuel. Project partners included Berlin BetterBuildings, the City of Berlin and Maine Energy Systems.

Maine Model Neighborhood

The Center launched its second Model Neighborhood Project in Farmington and Wilton, Maine in June 2013, in partnership with Western Maine Community Action. We helped convert 23 residences and 10 non-residential buildings to modern wood pellet heat. Projects include a dairy farm, 4 churches, a physical therapy office, a worm farm, and a University of Maine Farmington building.

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“We switched to wood pellet heating to better support the local economy, to be more environmentally friendly and, of course, to save money. The Model Neighborhood Initiative provided an incentive, and we decided it was a good investment to use our endowment to cover the cost of the new system. We’ll use the $8,000-a-year savings to repay our endowment, and after that it will be pure savings.”

—Dale Bardo, treasurer and trustee of Old South Congregational Church, Farmington, Maine

Over the 25-year lifetimes of the pellet boilers installed in Farmington and Wilton, the project will contribute over $9 million to the local economy.  

The project is part of a broader initiative to help the Northern Forest region move away from dependence on imported oil toward a local, sustainable, cost-effective heat source that will create jobs, strengthen the forest economy, and retain wealth in the region.

Vermont Model Neighborhood

The Vermont Model Neighborhood Project is providing incentives to building owners in the Northeast Kingdom to install high efficiency wood pellet boilers. Building on similar projects in Berlin, NH and Farmington, ME, the project will help the Northern Forest region move away from dependence on imported oil toward a local, sustainable, cost-effective heat source that will create jobs, strengthen the forest economy and retain wealth in the region.

The program is available to towns, schools and some nonprofits. Numerous homeowners and the Burke Town School, Sanderson's Wooden Bowls, and other businesses have already taken advantage of the program. Our residential program has concluded.

“This is the high-tech way to heat with wood—a lot less work, you can’t beat it! The experience with the Northern Forest Center couldn’t have been better. The staff gave timely, informative responses to our questions and concerns throughout the whole project. I think the Center is great and very needed organization in the Northeast.”

—Joe Peters, homeowner

Over the 25-year lifetimes of the pellet boilers installed in the Northeast Kingdom, the project will contribute over $6 million to the local economy.


Participant selection is based on diversity of building stock, suitability of existing heating infrastructure, willingness to help advocate for the project and share the experience, and other factors.

Participation details and application

Thank you to the foundations, agencies and individuals that have helped fund the Model Neighborhood Initiative in Vermont!

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Adirondack Model Neighborhood

The Adirondack Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative is providing incentives to building owners in the Adirondacks to install high efficiency wood pellet boilers. We are helping to convert 20 residences and 10 municipal buildings to wood pellet boilers.

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The program is available for homes in and around Saranac, Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake. It is also available for municipal buildings in Clinton, Essex, and Franklin Counties. Participant selection will be based on diversity of building stock, suitability of existing heating infrastructure, willingness to help advocate for the project and share the experience, and other factors.

“Our new boiler is up and running and I believe it's a very positive step for the town. Without Northern Forest Center funding, we'd still be heating with fossil fuel.”

—Town Supervisor Joe Gerardi

Over the 25-year lifetimes of the pellet boilers installed in the Adirondacks, the project will contribute over $8 million to the local economy.

 

Participation details and application