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Use Wood to Create an Efficient Heating System

by | Mar 18, 2021

Winter is coming to an end, making it a great time to consider upgrades to your heating system that will improve your comfort next winter! You’ve probably heard that the state has a goal of reaching 90 percent renewable energy by 2050, but you may not have heard that part of that goal is to reach 35 percent of our thermal energy needs from wood heat by 2030. It’s true! Vermont has a long cultural history of heating with wood, and already 24 percent of our thermal energy comes from wood heat, but modern advances in wood heating technology have made it easier, cleaner, and more sustainable than ever before.

 

WOOD IS GOOD

Wood heat is good for the health of Vermont’s forests and its economy. Did you know that when Vermonters heat with fossil fuels, 80 cents of every dollar leaves the state? But when we heat with locally sourced wood fuels the opposite of that is true, keeping dollars right here circulating in our economy and providing jobs for our neighbors. If you already try to eat local, why not heat local?

Three quarters of Vermont is forested, making us the second most forested state in the country, and 80% of that forestland is privately owned. While it may seem counterintuitive at first, heating with wood helps to keep forests as forests by providing essential markets for the products of sustainable forestry which lessens the economic pressures on private landowners to fragment and develop their forestland. We’re currently harvesting less than half the net growth in the forest, and the abovementioned 35% by 2030 goal was based on a study that calculated just how much wood heat we could conservatively provide with local wood fuels without sacrificing forest health. Local wood, local good!

 

WOOD STOVES

Most Vermonters are familiar with wood stoves, but many don’t realize just how much better new, EPA-certified models are than their older counterparts. A new certified stove produces 75% less pollution than a non-certified model and uses considerably less wood to produce the same amount of heat. New stoves also have glass fronts, which means you can enjoy the coziness of a visible flame, but also means it’s easier to maintain a good, hot fire because you can see what’s going on.

Cost: $2000 – $4000 installed – before rebates

Incentives/Rebates:

 

PELLET STOVES

Another option that’s like a wood stove but requires less tending is a pellet stove. Pellet stoves have hoppers that can be loaded with pellets in the morning and then left unattended all day (or even several days), keeping your house warm without the frequent stoking that a wood stove requires. This makes them a great option for people who want to significantly reduce their fossil fuel use but aren’t ready to replace their central heating system with an automated pellet boiler or furnace. Pellet stoves can be directly vented outside and don’t require a chimney, making them cheaper and easier to install than a wood stove.

Cost: $3000-$5000 installed – before rebates

Incentives/Rebates:

 

AUTOMATED PELLET BOILERS/FURNACES

If your current boiler or furnace is coming to the end of its useful life, you have an exciting opportunity to make the switch off of fossil fuels altogether and install an automated wood pellet boiler or furnace. These can completely replace your central heating system with the same level of hands-free, thermostat-controlled convenience that you’re used to.

Cost: $18 – $22,000 installed – before rebates

Incentives/Rebates:

 

SWITCHING FROM COAL?

For homeowners still heating with coal, 2021 is a great time to switch to wood pellets. The tax credit and above rebates can be combined with an additional special coal changeout incentive from the Clean Energy Development Fund. Replace a coal stove, furnace, or boiler with a pellet stove, furnace, or boiler and receive up to 50% off the cost of the new pellet system, up to $7,000 for residential projects or $27,000 for commercial.

 

READY TO SWITCH?

To shop for a new stove, visit your local stove shop. For optimal performance and safety, you will want their professional expertise when it comes to selecting and installing a stove in your home. For a pellet boiler or furnace check out the resources at www.FeelGoodHeat.org and the list of REV members who install advanced wood heating systems.

 

Emma Hanson is the wood energy coordinator for the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation. Emma is a leading voice for advanced wood heating in Vermont. She has a unique background in working lands policy, advocacy and sales, and boundless enthusiasm for renewable energy. Upon finishing her Masters’ degree in Agriculture, Food & Environmental policy at Tufts University, she and her husband took up residence in the Mad River Valley, where they promptly removed all of the fossil fuels from their house.

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