It’s impossible not to notice this season’s low oil prices. In the wood heat world, where the easiest way to promote a fuel switch is (arguably) to emphasize cost savings, this isn’t the terrific news it is for people whose oil bills have dropped. On the other hand, it gives us an opportunity to look at oil and wood cost trends and to highlight some of the other reasons that modern wood heat makes sense.

I recently posed this question to friends, and most of them – no surprise – said no. They don’t like the cost or distant sourcing of oil and propane, don’t like smoky old wood stoves, and don’t like the environmental impact of natural gas extraction. Heating often seems like a necessary evil for those of us in cold climates, who feel like we have to choose between “least bad” options – and yet heating systems exist that are actually beneficial to the regional economy, communities and environment.

Northern Forest Center Board member Darby Bradley blogged about the future of wood pellet use in Vermont for the High Meadows Fund, which has supported the Center's biomass program, including the Model Neighborhood Project.

Read Darby's Blog

What does success look like in wood heat? Dots. Lots of colored dots. That’s what struck me as I mapped our wood heat projects and associated infrastructure as a way to literally see where our work has made a difference.  Even though my map was not comprehensive, it easily showed the growing density of the necessary ingredients for switching the region from oil to wood pellet heating. There are more pellet boiler manufacturers, more qualified installers, more bulk delivery services, and more boiler installations than ever before, especially in northern New Hampshire and western Maine where the Center has been most active. Here’s a deeper look at how we’re approaching this major shift to heating with a local, renewable resource.