Are you delighted? The challenges of wood heating | Weekend magazine


If you are like many Vermonters – just over a third of them – you probably have a wood-burning appliance in your house, even if it is a wood-burning stove. wood that you only use occasionally. Or you could even be one of the 15% of homes in the state that use wood as their primary source of heat. Regardless, proponents of wood heating say it is an important part of the strategy to meet Vermont’s renewable energy goals, that the benefits of wood heating are many and that Vermont is a national leader in wood burning.

There are many reasons for heating with wood: for someone, who doesn’t like to sit by a cozy fire, a hot drink in hand, while the windy weather swirls outside? Or if you’re not the romantic type, you might appreciate being able to chop your own firewood on your own land, or hand your firewood money to a neighbor who chops firewood for you, and so to use local and economical heating. fuel in your home.

Those are two of the reasons, combined with a failing old wood stove that needs to be replaced and a 26% federal tax credit on some models, that I landed on the Chimney Sweep’s sales floor. At the stove store on route 302 in Berlin, I found the new wood stove that will heat my house, and also learned that it would not be there until February. It’s a story that takes place across the state.

At the Stove Depot in North Clarendon, store owner Center Merrill said, “It might be the first of the year before we can get one.” He says stove makers are having issues obtaining parts, as well as labor shortages, which together cause a 40- to 50-day delay for stoves to arrive after they are ordered. Since the store carries a number of brands, Merrill says, some models are currently available in stock, although their installation schedule is also around a month and a half, currently.

If buyers are willing to wait for their stove, Merrill says the first step is to work with a seller to determine the square footage of your home. Next, look for a stove that is the right size to heat your home. Once you find one that’s right for you, customers can expect to pay $ 4,500 to $ 5,500 for most models, he says, before any incentive or tax credit.

The investment, both in time and dollars, in wood heating seems to be worth it, according to tables and charts presented by Emma Hanson, Vermont Wood Energy Coordinator, in a presentation that she shared it with me via email, titled “Are You Stoked?” “I laughed when I saw what she was doing there.

In his presentation there are slides showing the price increases over time of various heating fuels. When fuels are compared on the basis of heat output, or as a cost in dollars per million Btu produced, which is commercial rhetoric for a unit of heat, electricity is the most expensive heating fuel. , followed by propane and number 2 fuel oil, in that order. Over the past 20 years, the cost of petroleum and propane has also fluctuated wildly, although the general trend is upward. And then at the bottom of the graph, holding fairly stable lines over time, are the cheapest heating fuels, like heat pumps, natural gas, and wood.

Firewood, says Andrew Perchlik of the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund, ticks a few boxes: it replaces fossil fuels, supports the local economy, and is an inexpensive option for Vermonters, in addition to helping achieve the government’s renewable energy objectives. The Comprehensive Energy Plan projects that 90% of the energy used in Vermont will come from renewable sources by 2050; in particular, it predicts that 35% of the energy used for heating will come from wood by 2030.

“In general, we want to get rid of our fossil fuels for our energy needs,” says Perchlik, “cost effectively and taking advantage of many benefits.”

Today, 23% of the energy used to heat buildings in Vermont comes from wood. So there is work to be done in the years to come, such as installing thousands of other wood-burning appliances, such as pellet stoves and furnaces and high efficiency wood-burning stoves. Vermont is also already a leader in the use of wood heating in large buildings, such as schools and municipal offices; in fact, one in three Vermont children attend a wood-fired school. Installing more of these large wood-burning systems is therefore part of the strategy to meet these renewable energy targets. Achieving that goal, says Hanson, would displace 40 million gallons of fossil fuels and save Vermonters $ 1.2 million a year.

In the case of wood, advocates say what’s good for your wallet is also good for the environment. Experts point out that sourcing local firewood can help support the forest product economy, which, while not intuitive, helps maintain wooded forests. And, they argue, when firewood is harvested sustainably, no new carbon is added to the atmosphere.

An important part of this, says Hanson, is the term “high efficiency.” The wood-burning appliances on the market today, which Hanson and others refer to as “advanced wood energy” or “modern wood energy,” meet fairly strict efficiency standards, which means they use less wood to produce the same amount of heat and produce less heat. air pollution. Particulate matter, which is fine particles released into the air by burning wood, is of particular concern. These modern high efficiency stoves are designed to minimize this.

“These more efficient stoves,” says Perchlik, “mean better air quality, burn less wood and stay hotter, which means people are more likely to actually use it.”

These are the reasons why groups like CEDF and Efficiency Vermont have in the past offered incentives and exchange programs to help Vermonters replace old inefficient wood stoves with newer, more efficient models. While these programs are currently at a standstill, Perchlik says new incentives are likely to come.

Wood, says Adam Sherman of Vermont Energy Investment Corp., has long been the backbone of Vermont’s renewable energy story. And, he says, over the past five years, the technology has only gotten better as manufacturers redesigned their products to meet these new, more stringent air quality standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Sherman points out that Vermont uses a staggering amount of No. 2 heating oil, to the tune of 90 million gallons per year, and that there is no silver bullet to replace that with renewable energy overnight. . A number of strategies are needed, like weathering, which he says should be the first step, to help buildings use less energy in the first place. Another important strategy is the electrification of our energy use, as it allows more people to access renewable energy sources in a cost-effective manner. But neither of these strategies, nor thermal bridges or solar thermal projects will allow us to fully achieve our goals, he emphasizes, and wood can make up the difference.

According to Sherman: “As we all think about and take action to reduce our carbon footprint, wood is essential. “


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