The use of wood pellets and chips for heat in the Northeast is on the rise. That’s a good thing, because using modern wood heat instead of fossil fuels can build a new energy economy for the region that benefits our communities and our environment.
Every dollar we spend on wood pellets stays in the Northern Forest economy, creating jobs in forestry, logging, pellet manufacturing, and trucking. In contrast, 78 cents of every dollar we spend on imported fossil fuel (currently $6 billion annually) leaves the region. Modern wood heating keeps money in people's pockets and supports healthy managed forests.
That’s why the Center advocates a “buy local” strategy for heating homes and buildings with modern wood heat. Our Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative is leading the way, helping to install high-efficiency wood pellet boilers in community clusters.
We’re also increasing public understanding of new wood heating technologies and financing options, providing technical assistance for commercial-scale installations and community-scale heating projects, and advancing supportive public policy.
The biggest thing is that we’re completely off oil and using the resources in our community—trees—and helping our community find jobs….It’s been a blessing all the way around.
Don’t confuse modern wood pellet boilers with smoke-belching outdoor wood boilers. Today’s systems are clean-burning, convenient, central heating systems that enable users to heat with local 100% wood pellets, benefiting both our environment and our economy. Find out more by reading further and checking out the links on this page.
Learn about Modern Wood Heating
Wood pellet boilers are highly automated and efficient, unlike pellet stoves and outdoor wood boilers that must be filled almost every day. Pellets arrive by truck into a holding bin or silo and feed directly to the boiler when the thermostat calls for heat. Maintenance may be as simple as emptying a small container of ash onto your garden or lawn every month or two.
Wood pellet boilers offer the convenience of fossil fuel heating systems while reducing net carbon dioxide emissions over time as compared to burning oil or propane. Modern wood heat supports local businesses, and substantially reduces heating bills. It is good for the environment, for the local economy, and your bank account!
We’ve developed answers to Frequently Asked Questions to provide more information about modern wood heat, including discussions about its environmental and public health impacts. We also recommend these three videos:
Video 1: Biomass Energy Resource Center
Video 2: NH Wood Energy Council
Video 3: Maine Energy Systems
Financial Incentives for Homeowners
The Northern Forest Center offers financial incentives to homeowners in specific communities, and each state offers some assistance. In addition to the table below, please see Model Neighborhood Applications for criteria and program details.
Financial Assistance for Communities, Nonprofits & Businesses
The Center offers financial incentives and technical assistance to help municipalities, nonprofits and commercial enterprises in specific communities shift to modern wood heat. State incentives may also be available.
State Wood Energy Teams
The Center participates in New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire State Wood Energy Teams, funded by the U.S. Forest Service. These groups may be able to provide education and funding for feasibility studies. Contact information:
- New Hampshire: NH Wood Energy Council.
Grant Writing Support
The Center has a strong record of securing resources to help building owners and entrepreneurs install modern wood heating systems or develop a related business. Contact Maura Adams, Energy Program Director, to request grant writing assistance.
Center staff often respond to general questions about modern wood heating and how to advance residential or community-scale projects. We also work with a broad network of experts and installers who can offer additional assistance as needed.
Ongoing & Completed Projects
The Center has supported over 100 modern wood heat projects to date. Here are some of our most notable programs and installations.
Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative (ongoing)
The Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative creates real world examples of the value and viability of advanced wood pellet heating systems as a way to help the Northern Forest region move away from dependence on imported oil toward a local energy source that creates jobs and strengthens the forest economy.
The Center launched its first Model Neighborhood Project in Berlin, New Hampshire in 2011. Additional projects began in Farmington and Wilton, Maine in 2013, the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont in 2014, and the Adirondacks in 2015. See our Berlin Dashboard and Maine Dashboard for the latest economic and carbon reduction results of these projects, which we update monthly based on participants' actual pellet usage.
Windham Wood Heat (ongoing)
The Center is partnering with several organizations to deliver the Windham Wood Heat Initiative, a $1.6-million-program that will help Windham County, Vermont, convert heating systems in municipal and school buildings from oil to locally sourced, renewable wood heat from high-efficiency systems.
Windham Wood Heat’s near-term goal is to switch at least 20 schools and public buildings to wood heat, while its long-term goals are to make the county a hub of advanced-wood heating technology and strengthen the local forest economy.
The switch to local wood heat will reduce heating costs for these publicly supported buildings and keep money circulating in the county. By converting schools and public buildings to local wood fuel for heat, Windham Wood Heat expects to retain well over $500,000 each year in the local economy.
Town of Saranac, NY (completed)
The Town of Saranac installed a state-of-the-art wood pellet boiler in fall 2014 to heat its Town Hall, which is expected to cut heating costs by over $1,000 per year on heating costs. The boiler was paid for in part with funds from the Northern Forest Center.
“I think the Adirondacks is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and everything I do in my public service is to make it a better place to live and a less expensive place too. Using modern wood heat will create jobs, reduce the cost of heating and keep our working forests working. It ties back into using our historic resources, maintaining traditional jobs and keeping the heritage of the region alive and well.”
Dummer, New Hampshire
The Town of Dummer installed a modern wood pellet boiler in its Town Hall in spring 2014, thanks to the leadership of the Dummer Energy Committee. The Center, the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Division all contributed funds for the project. The new system displaces nearly 1000 gallons of oil per year.
Oxford County, Maine
The Center provided modest incentives for 20 homeowners to install qualifying wood pellet boiler through a special program called Northeast Affordable Heat.
The Center has helped convert more than 100 buildings to modern wood heat, including those listed below. Check out our interactive map to see projects by state or across the region.
- Burke Town School, West Burke, Vermont
- Notre Dame Apartments, Berlin, New Hampshire
- Tullando Farm, Orford, New Hampshire
- University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond, Bryant Pond, Maine
- Berlin Housing Authority, Berlin, New Hampshire
- St. Kieran Community Center for the Arts, Berlin, New Hampshire
- Bethel, Maine Town Hall
- AHEAD Affordable Housing, Franconia, New Hampshire
- Gilman Housing Trust Affordable Housing, Lyndonville, Vermont