Automated Wood Heat
- Category: Automated Wood Heat
Subsidies will help you switch to local, renewable heat!Join the Northern Forest Center at the Burke Town School from 6-8pm on October 4 to learn more about modern wood heat and subsidies available for wood pellet boilers/furnaces. You’ll be able to tour the school’s pellet boiler, chat with vendors, and check out a demonstration boiler. All attendees will be entered into a drawing for a ton of premium wood pellets from Renewable Fuels of Vermont! Light refreshments will be served.
Homeowners in the Northeast Kingdom can receive $8,000 in subsidies towards installing a wood pellet boiler or furnace. Generous subsidies will soon be available for commercial and public buildings as well. These systems are efficient, clean, convenient, and cost-effective, and use a renewable, local fuel that supports the local forest economy.
When: Tuesday, Oct. 4th 6-8pm
Where: Burke Town School 3293 Burke Hollow Road, West Burke
To learn more about local, renewable heat with wood pellets, visit our Modern Wood Heat page.
These incentives are a part of the Northeast Kingdom Model Neighborhood Wood Heat Initiative. Learn more about the subsidies here.
Here are some answers to Frequently Asked Questions.
- Category: Automated Wood Heat
Modern wood pellet boilers are an economical, highly-efficient, and convenient choice for heating your small commercial space or home. “Heating local” with Northern Forest pellet retains wealth instead of sending it elsewhere—heating with oil sends 87% of wealth out of the region. Over time, heating with a pellet boiler will reduce your impact on climate change and helps keep forests as forests.
Pellet boilers are virtually seamless replacements for traditional oil-based systems. Minimal changes to the home heating system are required (depending on distribution system), and your oil boiler can remain in place if flue space allows. This graphic from the German Renewable Energy Agency shows a typical installation:
What are the main advantages of modern wood heat?
- Local Economic Benefits: “Heating local” with Northern Forest pellets retains wealth instead of sending it elsewhere (78% of money spent on oil leaves the region) and creates or sustains jobs.
- Fuel Cost: Premium wood pellets currently cost about 40% less than heating oil.
- Fuel Resource: The forest resource is renewable and locally available, and provides a more stable source compared to imported fuels traveling through global transportation networks.
- Consumer Convenience: Modern wood pellet boilers are automatically fed by contained storage bins and refilled by bulk delivery trucks on a regular basis – no pellet handling is involved, and maintenance is minimal.
- Particulate Emissions: Replacing an outdoor wood boiler or wood stove with a modern pellet boiler dramatically reduces a household’s particulate emissions.
- Local Pride: Just as consumers have endorsed local food in recent years, they are beginning to understand the value of local heat as well. Many northern communities have a rich forestry legacy and residents feel proud to support it.
- Carbon Footprint: As discussed below, using wood heat instead of fossil fuels leads to a net reduction in carbon dioxide emissions over time.
What are the downsides of heating with pellets, and what’s being done to address them?
- Burning wood releases air pollutants, but high-efficiency modern systems emit just marginally more particulates than oil or gas heating systems. See below section on air quality.
- Forest resources are limited. Conservative estimates suggest that only 18.5% of the Northeast could be sustainably heated with wood, but we are nowhere close to that level and the region’s forests are currently growing more than they are being harvested.
- The carbon impact of wood heat is variable. Accurate carbon accounting must consider factors such as time, land use change, forest management practices, and the type of fuel being displaced by biomass. Biomass can be a low carbon fuel when harvested sustainably from land that is managed well over time, but it’s not guaranteed.
- Category: Automated Wood Heat
Using wood pellets and chips for heat instead of fossil fuels benefits our communities and our environment.
Every dollar we spend on wood pellets stays in the Northern Forest economy and supports local jobs—and strong markets for low-grade wood helps sustain healthy managed forests.
That’s why the Center advocates for Automated Wood Heat across the Northern Forest. Since 2011 we've been providing incentives for high-efficiency wood pellet boilers, offering technical assistance for larger projects, increasing public awareness of Automated Wood Heat, and advancing public policies that support this technology.
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.
Today’s Automated Wood Heating systems are clean-burning, convenient, central heating systems that use locally-made, 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 Automated Wood Heating
Automated Wood Heat provides all the benefits of heating with wood without the inconvenience of feeding and cleaning wood stoves by hand. Pellets arrive by truck into a hopper or silo and feed directly to the boiler when the thermostat calls for heat.
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.
We’ve developed answers to Frequently Asked Questions to provide more information about Automated Wood Heat, including discussions about its environmental and public health impacts. We also recommend a couple videos:
Video 1: Biomass Energy Resource Center
Video 2: NH Wood Energy Council
Residential Financial Incentives
The Center has provided financial incentives to more than 100 homeowners over the past five years, creating clusters of installations in what we call "Model Neighborhood Projects." Those projects are complete, but each Northern Forest state offers financial incentives for wood pellet boilers.
Financial Assistance for Communities, Nonprofits & Businesses
The Center has provided financial support since 2011 for 40 commercial-scale wood pellet boilers to warm schools, senior housing, office buildings, town garages, and more. We can occasionally offer technical assistance such as grant-writing to help building owners shift to Automated Wood Heat. State incentives may be available.
Grant Writing Support
Center staff often respond to general questions about Automated Wood Heating and how to advance residential or community-scale projects. We also work with a broad network of experts who can offer additional assistance as needed.
The Center has supported over 150 Automated Wood Heat projects to date, mostly through Model Neighborhood Projects—clustered installations that demonstrate the value and viability of these heating systems. We've completed Model Neighborhood Projects in Berlin, NH, Farmington and Wilton, ME, and the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, and a project in the Adirondacks is ongoing. Clustering the installations makes it easy to spread the word about Automated Wood Heat, organize tours and events, and track outcomes, and makes bulk pellet delivery more economical.
Through the end of 2017 we've supported five installations in New York, 39 in Vermont, 50 in New Hampshire, and 57 in Maine. That includes 111 single-family residences and a diverse collection of other projects, including:
- Municipal buildings in Dummer, NH; Saranac, North Hudson and Bellmont, NY; West Burke and Lunenburg, VT; and Bethel, ME
- Four churches in Farmington, Maine, and another in Colebrook, NH.
- A bike shop in Norway, ME
- A dairy farm in Orford, NH
- A movie theater in Lancaster, NH
- An auto repair shop in Lyndonville, VT
- An independent school in Lake Placid, NY
We're always happy to introduce people considering Automated Wood Heat to those who've already made the switch—contact us if you'd like to make a connection!
- Category: Automated Wood Heat
The Center's Model Neighborhood Projects are proving the efficiency and economic benefits of Automated Wood Heat across the Northern Forest. The Model Neighborhood Projects are 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 technicians.
Each installation is an important step toward realizing the vision of an energy economy that retains wealth within rural communities, reduces dependence on heating oil, cuts greenhouse gas emissions, and helps keep forests as 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.
Berlin 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.
It makes me really happy to know that our heating budget is supporting local workers in today's forest industry.
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. Berlin Model Neighborhood Project partners included Berlin BetterBuildings, the City of Berlin and Maine Energy Systems.
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.
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 Automated Wood Heat. Projects include a dairy farm, 4 churches, a physical therapy office, a worm farm, and a University of Maine Farmington building.
“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.”
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.
Vermont Model Neighborhood
Our Vermont Model Neighborhood Project stretched across the state's Northeast Kingdom, adding dozens of new Automated Wood Heat demonstrations to the region.
“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.”
Adirondack Model Neighborhood
“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.”