Archive for the ‘Home Energy’ Category

$300 Tax Credit Reinstated for High Efficiency Wood Boilers

With the passing of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, the tax credit for biomass stoves (i.e wood furnaces and wood boilers) has been retroactively renewed through the end of 2013. So, any qualified equipment purchased from January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2013 is eligible for this credit. The tax credit is now set at $300 for high-efficiency biomass stoves that use “plant-derived fuel available on a renewable or recurring basis, including agricultural crops and trees, wood and wood waste and residues (including wood pellets), plants (including aquatic plants), grasses, residues, and fibers)”.

To learn more about the tax credit and what is eligible please visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE). The tax credit is also limited to a $500 “lifetime limit”, so you will want to consult with your tax preparer. The federal tax form required is located here.

It may be helpful to understand the differences between a tax credit and a rebate. Perhaps the best way to illustrate the difference is use an example:

Let’s say that you purchased a wood furnace that cost $10,000 and the appliance had $300 rebate. Rebates are often provided at the time of sale, so your effective price would be $9,700. Contrast this with a $300 tax credit for the same $10,000 appliance. You would pay the full price for the appliance and then complete form 5695 and send it with your federal tax return. The $300 would be applied against your tax bill, increasing your return or reducing the amount you need to pay the IRS.

Either way, it is more money in your pocket.

EIA Predicts Significant Increases in Wood Heating this Season

According to the January issue of the EIA’s Short Term Energy Outlook, the number of homes using wood heat will increase significantly over this heating season.

The report indicates that during the 2012-’13 winter 598,000 households in the Northeast are expected to heat with woody biomass, a 7.7 percent increase. In addition, the EIA is predicting a 3.4 percent increase in the Midwest with an additional 662,000 homes are expected to use wood fuel. In the South, 620,000 homes are expected to heat with woody biomass, a 1.7 percent increase. In the western United States, the EIA expects 752,000 homes to be heated with woody biomass this winter, a 0.3 percent increase. Overall, a total of 2.64 million homes are expected to use wood as their primary heating fuel this heating season, a 3 percent increase over last year.

EIA: Expect 20% Increase in Heating Bills for 2012/13 Winter

According to the EIA (U.S. Energy Information Administration), the average US home heating with fuel oil will spend almost 20% more this year on heating as compared to last year. In their annual Short-Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook Report, they indicate that the return of normal winter conditions and increases in fuel prices will spur the sharp the increase. The largest increases will be in homes using fuel oil (19%), followed by natural gas (15%), propane (13%) and finally electricity (5%).

The report also indicates that the use of wood fuel for home heating has increased over the last decade, reversing the trends of the 80s and 90s. The EIA estimates that U.S. households consumed approximately 500 trillion Btu of wood, which is only slightly less than the 600 trillion Btu of heating oil used during the same period.

The team at Biomass Magazine have dug deeper into the report and have uncovered some interesting data on the use of wood for heating — in summary, wood heat is not going away. Rather, more homes are being heated with wood than in the past with a 7.7% increase in the past year in New England where 20% of homes use wood for space heating, cooking and water heating. Across the United States EIA is estimates that 2.6 million homes will heat their homes with wood this winter, a 3% increase over 2011. For more insightful details please visit Biomass Magazine.

Will Old Man Winter Make a Return this Winter?

Over the past year we have seen an incredible warm spell – during both the winter and summer months. So, I bet you are asking yourself, what do we have in store this coming winter?

Well, to help answer that question, Caleb Weatherbee, the venerable forecaster for the Farmers’ Almanac, recently released his winter outlook. In his opinion,

… the eastern half of the country will see plenty of cold and snow. By comparison, the western half will experience relatively warm and dry condition. In addition, they predict that real winter weather will return to some areas, specifically from the Great Lakes into the Northeast. Finally, most eastern states – as far south as the Gulf Coast – will see snowier than normal conditions and cooler temperatures.

So, if you live in the upper Midwest and Northeast, get your house in order and brace for a return of Old Man Winter!


Greenwood Frontier CX Wood Boiler Receives Washington State Certification

It is not that often we blow our own horn on this blog, but this announcement is kind of big deal, so we are going to break from tradition. Last week we announced that the Greenwood Clean Energy’s Frontier CX wood boiler is the first and only log wood boiler certified for sale in Washington State.

So, why is this a big deal?

Well, up to this point in time, you couldn’t legally buy a wood boiler in the State of Washington due to very strict air quality regulations. In fact in the hydronic heater category, Washington State regulations are 75% stricter than the EPA standard (4.5gm/hr vs 18 gm/hr). The state also requires the use Douglas Fir as the test fuel source, since that is the predominant fuel in the region, although homeowners can use any variety of a locally available seasoned log wood.

So what does this mean to you?

If you are Washington State resident, you now have a way to heat your home and water using a locally available and renewable fuel source – wood. If you live outside Washington, you can rest assured that you are purchasing one of the cleanest and most efficient wood-fired central heating appliances on the market today.

If you would like to learn more about the announcement please visit the Greenwood press room on our website, or if you would like to find your local Greenwood dealer, please click here.

Oil increases to highest level since 2008

This past week, oil prices reached their highest level since 2008 and peaked at over $128 per barrel. Much like the increases last year, the concern with supply disruptions sent prices higher. This time it was concern with Iran, last year it was Libya — in the not-too distant future, we’ll be hearing about the growing demand in China putting pressure on oil prices. It is a never ending cycle.

Prices may go down temporarily, but historically, they continue a steady climb. Unfortunately, in a flat economy, these increases are especially painful. Oil prices affect so many things from food prices to consumer goods to gasoline. If we are concerned about gasoline prices that approach $5 per gallon, we should be thankful we are not in Europe where gas prices are twice as high in many places.

So what are we doing about it? Well, from our perspective — not enough.

We could digress into a political discussion about the positions of each party on the topic, but I won’t. The bottom line is we need an energy policy that considers all forms of renewable energy that reduce our dependence on oil.

We are in the bio-thermal or wood to energy business and our customers are people who want some aspect of energy independence. If you have purchased one our appliances (or another manufacturers) — thank you for making a difference. This political season, we encourage you to ask your candidates what they are going to be doing to help move our country toward greater energy independence.

Wood: The Fastest Growing Heating Fuel in the United States

Data from the 2010 US Census shows that wood heat grew faster than any other heating source in the last decade. The use of wood fuel grew 34% compared to the 26% increase for electricity.

Wood heat grew fastest in the Northeast and the Great Lakes regions with Michigan and Connecticut seeing the largest increases at over 120% each.  Other states which saw significant increases in wood heat penetration over the decade, include high-density states New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio with increases exceeding 65 percent.

The rise of wood and wood pellets in home heating is often driven by a need for homeowners to reduce their heating bill with lower cost fuels like wood that are used in wood stoves, wood boilers and fireplace inserts. Over the last ten years, wood heat has been driven by the climbing cost of oil, the economic downturn and the movement to use renewable energy.

According to the EIA, residential wood heat accounts for 80% of residential renewable energy, solar 15% and geothermal 5%. By contrast, the only part of the country where wood fell in use were the warm weather states of the South, with Florida seeing the highest decline at 21 percent.

John Ackerly, with the Alliance for Green Heat, stated it most clearly, “Heating with wood may not be hip like solar, but it’s proving to be the workhorse of residential renewable energy production.”

For more information on heating fuel, visit here.

High Fuel Oil Prices Squeeze Money From Tight Budgets

According to Boston Globe, this past summer, Massachusetts households experienced the highest summer fuel-oil prices of the last three years. In fact, prices averaged $3.73 a gallon last month, over a $1 more than the same time last year.

If these prices remain, it would increase the average Massachusetts home heating bill by $225, effectively pulling an additional $200 million out of their pockets.

No one knows where oil prices are going — some say over $100 barrel (currently the mid-$80’s) and others see it easing a bit. The bottom line is simple — if you are on a tight budget or fixed income, you don’t like the uncertainty.

In addition, there has also been serious talk about cutting the LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) by as much as 50 percent, adding to an already difficult situation. Even at the current cap of $1000, this provides participants a tank of oil — enough fuel for up to half a heating season. Any cuts and this benefit is reduced.

This never-ending spiral is what leads many homeowners through the doors of our dealers. They are tired of the vicious cycle and the strain it place on their lives. They want to take control of home expense that can be as high as $3500 a year or more.

Operating a wood boiler is not for everyone, it requires some tending every day. The good thing is that today’s advanced wood gasification boilers take away much of the hassle of traditional wood boilers — little or no smoke, less maintenance — and in the case of Greenwood Frontier less work since you don’t need to split the wood. In all cases, these appliances are convenient and are run from the home’s thermostat.

The one thing that all wood heating appliances have in common is that they decrease the operator’s heating costs and reduce the exposure to increasing fuel oil prices. With the ability to lower a heating bill by over 70 percent, year-in and year out, the question I continue to struggle with is a simple one:

With today’s clean, high-efficiency systems why aren’t we using wood-fired central heating and why isn’t our public policy moving those best suited to use wood heat to wood as fuel for heating their homes?

New Hampshire Improves Pellet Boiler Rebate Program

The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (NH-PUC) has announced improvements in its Residential Bulk-Fuel Fed Wood-Pellet Central Boilers and Furnaces rebate program for automated wood pellet boilers and wood furnaces.

The program allows consumers to get a rebate of 30% up to a maximum of $6,000 on the purchase and installation of a qualifying heating system. To qualify, the installation must receive authority approval and include an efficient and automatic feeding wood furnace or pellet boiler. The appliances must installed before February 2012.

The two modifications to the program enable more systems to qualify:

  • the overall efficiency rating has been lowered to 80% (from 85% or greater), and
  • systems now qualify that require routine cleaning for each ton of premium pellets used. (Systems that automatically clean the burn chamber and the heat exchanger still qualify.)

Educating Children on Fire Safety

Once in a while, you come across a good idea that really stands out as a winner. Here is one from the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) and Scholastic that fits that description.

The NFPA has partnered with Scholastic to create Fire Prevention Week (October 9 – 15) classroom kits for teachers and students from pre-K through grade 5.  The free, standards-based lessons and printables teach and reinforce crucial fire-safety skills with children, including the importance of testing smoke alarms and what kids should do when the alarm sounds.

NFPA is providing all the program materials free to download. If you are a teacher, or have small children or grandchildren we encourage you to take a look.

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