Unplugged Energy Independence

Alternative home heating solutions, plus 5 tips to save this winter!

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Tue,Jan 13,2015 @ 10:36 AM

"More Shivery and Shovelry" are the words the Farmer's Almanac chose to describe their prediction of this winter. I don't know about you, but after last years long, brutal winter those are words I didn't want to hear. That leaves most of us wondering, could it be as bad as last year?

According to the 2015 edition of the Farmer's Almanac, the winter of 2014-2015 will see below-normal temperatures for about three-quarters of the nation. The most frigid temperatures will be found from the Northern Plains to the Great Lakes. Over the eastern third of the country, expect an active storm track with a number of storms delivering copious amounts of snow and rain.

alternative home heating solutions

Millions of Americans do not currently use alternative home heating solutions and rely on fossil fuels and their volatile pricing. The propane shortage last winter affected around 14 million Americans and it was very difficult for them to pay the inflated prices.

Interest in alternative home heating solutions seems to be growing immensly after last winters unexpected fossil fuel prices. Many Americans are searching out these solutions so that they have a stable home heating for this chilly winter ahead of us.



EIA is predicting a likely 9-13 percent increase in heating costs this winter. Whether you use an alternative heating method to heat your home now or haven't yet jumped on that band wagon, here are 5 tips to keep warm and help you save this winter.

1. Plug leaks and drafts.

Take simple steps like caulking windows, sealing leaks around chimneys and recessed lighting, and  sliding draft guards under your doors and you can save up to 20% on heating bills.

2. Maintain your HVAC system.

Make sure to clean or change your furnace filter regularly. A dirty furnace filter will slow down air flow, making the system work harder to keep you warm and costing you more money.

3. Let your thermostat think for you.

Don't waste money heating an empty home. Install a programmable thermostat and schedule your homes heat to lower when you are away or asleep.

4. Invite the sun in.

Yes it feels like the sun has abandoned us during the winter, but that doesn't mean we should abandon it during these shorter days. Open curtains and allow sunlight to naturally heat your home.

5. Use LED's.

LED light bulbs save you money year round but especially during the holiday season when you are lighting up your lawn with the most colorful display possible. During the holiday season, LED lights use up to 90% less energy and can last up to 40 holiday seasons.


Whether you use an alternative home heating solution or not, we wish you the best on staying warm and saving money this winter!

I'll end this post with a quote from the Farmer's Almanac; "All of us at the Farmer's Almanac suggest you stock up on firewood, sweaters and hot cocoa. It certainly looks like another long winter of shivery and shovelry is on tap."

Topics: woodmaster stove, affordability of wood heating, affordability of heating with wood, wood home heating, energy-efficient heating, alternative energy

Alternative home heating solutions, plus 5 tips to save this winter.

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Mon,Oct 06,2014 @ 11:39 AM


"More Shivery and Shovelry" are the words the Farmer's Almanac chose to describe their prediction of this winter. I don't know about you, but after last years long, brutal winter those are words I didn't want to hear. That leaves most of us wondering, could it be as bad as last year?

According to the 2015 edition of the Farmer's Almanac, the winter of 2014-2015 will see below-normal temperatures for about three-quarters of the nation. The most frigid temperatures will be found from the Northern Plains to the Great Lakes. Over the eastern third of the country, expect an active storm track with a number of storms delivering copious amounts of snow and rain.

alternative home heating solutions

Millions of Americans do not currently use alternative home heating solutions and rely on fossil fuels and their volatile pricing. The propane shortage last winter affected around 14 million Americans and it was very difficult for them to pay the inflated prices.

Interest in alternative home heating solutions seems to be growing immensly after last winters unexpected fossil fuel prices. Many Americans are searching out these solutions so that they have a stable home heating for this chilly winter ahead of us.



EIA is predicting a likely 9-13 percent increase in heating costs this winter. Whether you use an alternative heating method to heat your home now or haven't yet jumped on that band wagon, here are 5 tips to keep warm and help you save this winter.

1. Plug leaks and drafts.

Take simple steps like caulking windows, sealing leaks around chimneys and recessed lighting, and  sliding draft guards under your doors and you can save up to 20% on heating bills.

2. Maintain your HVAC system.

Make sure to clean or change your furnace filter regularly. A dirty furnace filter will slow down air flow, making the system work harder to keep you warm and costing you more money.

3. Let your thermostat think for you.

Don't waste money heating an empty home. Install a programmable thermostat and schedule your homes heat to lower when you are away or asleep.

4. Invite the sun in.

Yes it feels like the sun has abandoned us during the winter, but that doesn't mean we should abandon it during these shorter days. Open curtains and allow sunlight to naturally heat your home.

5. Use LED's.

LED light bulbs save you money year round but especially during the holiday season when you are lighting up your lawn with the most colorful display possible. During the holiday season, LED lights use up to 90% less energy and can last up to 40 holiday seasons.


Whether you use an alternative home heating solution or not, we wish you the best on staying warm and saving money this winter!

I'll end this post with a quote from the Farmer's Almanac; "All of us at the Farmer's Almanac suggest you stock up on firewood, sweaters and hot cocoa. It certainly looks like another long winter of shivery and shovelry is on tap."


 

Topics: woodmaster stove, affordability of wood heating, wood home heating, energy-efficient heating, alternative energy, alternative home heating

Getting gouged by propane prices?

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Thu,Jan 30,2014 @ 09:54 AM

alternative heatingGetting gouged by propane prices? If so, you're not alone. Some 14 million Americans who rely on propane have been shelling out more and more to heat their homes while the strong demand has outpaced the already low inventories, energy officials say.

Now is a better time than ever to switch to alternative energy. Free yourself from the rollercoaster of fluctuating fossil fuel prices.

Don't just take our word for it. Here are some recent articles from around the U.S

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Scott Walker declares state of emergency on propane shortage.

Citing another wave of frigid weather bearing down on Wisconsin and dangerously low supplies of propane, Governor Scott Walker has declared a state of emergency. Walker directed all state agencies "to assist as appropriate" in helping residents deal with the propane shortage, which has sent prices soaring and left some users struggling to find a supplier who will provide fuel.

Nearly 250,000 Wisconsin homes heat with propane, many in rural areas not served by natural gas lines.

The shortage — attributed to a colder-than-normal winter, the shutdown of a key supply pipeline earlier in the season and heavy use of propane by farmers to dry grain last fall — has sent prices for many customers well above $5 a gallon. Read the full article here.

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Midwest faces propane emergency as more cold weather moves in.

Millions of residents in the Midwest and Northeast who rely on propane to heat their homes are facing a severe shortage and spiking prices as another wave of freezing weather heads east. Now, states across the region are deploying emergency resources as a result.

Blame for the propane shortage lies with the wetter-than-usual fall, which meant that farmers used more propane than usual to dry corn crops; an unusually cold winter; and a temporary shutdown of a major pipeline for maintenance this year.

As a result, propane prices are setting new records. The average price of a gallon of residential propane for the week ending Jan. 20 hit $2.96, according to the Energy Information Administration, up 60 cents from mid-October, the highest price ever recorded by the agency. Prices in the Midwest are even higher; on Friday, prices ended at $4.30 a gallon in the Midwest, down from a peak of about $5 a gallon. Read full article here.

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Propane shortage slams farmers.

A propane squeeze caused by January’s bitter cold has put the hurt on Minnesota’s livestock industry, as farmers scramble to find costly fuel to keep their animals warm.

Some turkey growers are being told by suppliers that the propane spigot might get turned off if the cold keeps up over the next week.

Shortage worries are particularly acute in the ­turkey industry, and Minnesota is the nation’s leading turkey-producing state, with about 250 growers.

Fuel suppliers have told some farmers that they have “five days left of propane,” said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. “The big concern is availability.”

Farmers — along with propane users of all stripes — are paying huge premiums for the fuel these days. Wholesale spot prices in Minnesota have gone from about $3.75 per gallon a few days ago to just south of $5 a gallon. Last fall, the propane price was $1.55 per gallon, and most of the run-up since then has occurred this month. Read full article here.

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U.S. propane shortage hits millions during brutal freeze.

Millions of Americans are feeling the pinch of a propane shortage this week as brutal cold exposes the supply vulnerabilities of a fuel that heats homes, schools and businesses across wide swathes of the United States.

Prices of the fuel, a liquefied petroleum gas, have rocketed to all-time highs in Midwestern states, distributors are rationing supplies, and some schools have shut due to a lack of the fuel during this year's second bout of Arctic weather.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued emergency orders suspending the limits on the amount of time truck drivers can spend on the road for 10 Midwestern states and 12 Northeastern states, a rare regional order. Read full article here.

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Prolonged cold blast worsens propane shortage across Midwest.

America’s chronic cold is creating a significant propane shortage across the Midwest — leading Wisconsin to become the latest state to declare an energy emergency in advance of more arctic air blasting eastward this week.

Some 14 million Americans who rely on that type of fuel have been shelling out more and more to heat their homes while the strong demand has outpaced the already-low inventories, energy officials say.

Twenty-four states, including Ohio, Illinois and Alabama, have already declared energy emergencies — which helps to loosen transportation rules so that out-of-state truckers can drive longer hours to make needed propane deliveries. Read full article here.

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Now is a great time to research alternative heating products. Take the time to learn about the products available to you and the changes the EPA will be making to the wood burning industry.

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When to Choose Wood Heat

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Fri,Jan 25,2013 @ 10:50 AM

wood burning outdoor stoves

Every winter, those who choose to heat with wood devote time into cutting up logs, and every spring they split the logs and stack them in rows to dry in the hot summer sun. Why do so many households choose to heat with wood? Because firewood is a homegrown energy resource that helps families stretch their household budgets, strengthen their local economies and continue a generations-long tradition.

The Pros of Wood Heat

During tough economic times more people turn to heating with wood. The U.S. Energy Information Administration date released in October 2012 projects that more than 2.6 million households will heat their home with wood this year, which is a 3 percent increase over last year.

Wood as a Renewable Energy Resource

These days, there is plenty of debate over what to do about climate changing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. But firewood literally grows on trees, and the ability of a woodlot to regenerate is the secret to its status as a renewable energy source. Wood is about half carbon by weight, but its use as a fuel is almost carbon dioxide-neutral, because trees absorb CO2 as they grow. When trees fall in the forest, the same amount of CO2 is emitted when they decompose as is released when they are burned for heat.

Benefits and Costs of Heating with Wood

"Net Energy" is the usuable amount of energy left after extracting, processing and transporting the energy commodity to market. Natural firewood has a very high net energy ratio compared with most other options because it needs little processing, much of which can be done with human labor. This is why firewoods price is stable. Price stability is not likely for fossil fuels, because the net energy goes way down and the retail prices goes way up as easily accessible deposits are depleted. Declining net energy is the biggest reason oil prices are so high now.

Considering the rising cost of conventional fuels, households can save a lot of money by heating with a wood burning outdoor stove. A household that heats with wood trades its own labor for big savings in home operating expenses. Depending on climate zones and other available fuel options, a household that produces its own firewood supply can save $2000 or more each year.

Buy Local Fuel

A woodlot owner who produces and sells firewood provides employment and income to the area. If a household buys its winter fuel supply from a neighbor, the transaction has a multiplying effect by keeping the money circulating within the community, increasing local incomes and creating jobs.

Most people recognize that wood is humanity's original heating fuel. Heating with wood today is dramatically better than it was in the past. The efficiency of the average wood burning outdoor stoves has roughly doubled to about 70%. The EPA-qualified indoor and wood burning outdoor stoves have even higher efficiencies, some into the 90% range. 

Heating with wood burning outdoor stoves is about much more than home heating. Wood is the ultimate energy resource- and the most easily accessed and affordable of all renewable energies. People who purchase firewood create jobs close to home and strengten their local community. Those who utilize wood burning outdoor stoves know more about the cause-and-effect relationships of energy production and consumption than those who simply pay utility bills. And families that use wood burning outdoor stoves will find that the act of heating with wood is its own reward.

Topics: woodmaster outdoor wood-burning furnaces, affordable fuel, alternative energy sources, affordability of wood heating, affordability of heating with wood, wood heating, wood burning outdoor stoves, wood burning outdoor stove, alternative energy

U.S. Government Winter Fuels Outlook Includes Pellets and Wood

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Tue,Oct 23,2012 @ 01:59 PM

According to the Alliance for Green Heat, EIA Administrator Sieminski says wood pellets represent a "significant opportunity" for consumers to save money.
October 10, 2012 - The U.S. government released its annual assessment of prices and availability of heating fuels today and for the first time it included information on pellets and firewood. After gas and electricity, wood is the third most common heating fuel in America, but the annual Winter Fuels Outlook had never discussed it prior to the 2012-13 heating season.

The Winter Fuels Outlook is put out by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), an independent statistical and analytical agency within the Department of Energy. Reports published by the agency are the premier source of energy information in the country and are used to guide economic policy and educate the public.

During today's press conference, EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski mentioned the "significant opportunity" for consumers to supplement their oil heat with wood pellets, as well as with electricity.

The inclusion of wood and pellets in the Winter Fuels Outlook came after over a year of discussions and meetings between the EIA and a coalition of wood and pellet groups. Senator Shaheen (D-NH) also raised the importance of pellets as an alternative to oil in New England with Administrator Sieminski.

According to the EIA, wood and pellets now produce more residential heat in the US than propane and nearly as much as oil. Wood produces 0.5 quadrillion Btu (quads) per year, propane 0.49 quads and oil 0.6.

EIA projects that average household expenditures for heating oil and natural gas will increase by 19 percent and 15 percent respectively over last heating season. The agency expects the country will experience colder temperatures compared to last year's mild winter, with oil and gas prices remaining virtually the same.

In terms of wood and pellets, the report said:
Wood consumption in homes has risen over the past 10 years, reversing a trend seen in the last two decades of the 20th century. In 2009, U.S. households consumed about 0.5 quadrillion Btu (quads) of wood. Household fuel oil consumption, by comparison, was only slightly higher at 0.6 quads. In homes across the United States, wood is most commonly used as a secondary source of heat and is second only to electricity as a supplemental heating fuel. Twenty percent of New England homes (1.1 million) used wood for space heating, water heating, or cooking in 2009 (EIA, Residential Energy Consumption Survey, 2009). This is nearly twice the national rate. Almost half of all rural households used wood in this area of the country. In contrast, only 12 percent of urban New England households used the fuel.
According to data previously published by the EIA, the average American household heating with wood consumes two cords of wood per year. This number includes homes that use wood or pellets as a primary, secondary or occasional heat source. The EIA also documents that consumption in rural areas is more than twice that of urban areas. The EIA estimates that 91% of homes that heat with wood use firewood, 8% use wood scrap and 6% use pellets.

Wood use also trends strongly with income level, according to EIA survey data, with households making $20,000 or less using more than twice the amount of wood as households making $120,000 or more. 

"The EIA's focus on wood and pellets is an important and timely step in the right direction," said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat, a non-profit consumer organization based in the DC area. "The next step is for states to start including the price of pellets in their monthly fuel price reports," Ackerly added.

 

Topics: affordable fuel, alternative energy sources, alliance for green heat, affordable heat, affordability of wood heating, affordability of heating with wood, woodmaster, Pellet furnaces, alternative energy, alternative heating, alternative fuel, wood pellet heat, outdoor wood furnace, outdoor wood furnaces

Do Electric Rates Impact Outdoor Wood Heat?

Posted by Kelsey Gagner on Tue,Aug 21,2012 @ 11:49 AM

outdoor wood heatWhen the price of oil goes up, it goes up for everyone. But electricity rates vary by state with residents of some states paying half of what people living in other states pay. New York and Connecticut are saddled with the highest electricity rates in the country, which may have contributed to the rapid rise of wood heating in those states. In the South where electricity rates are the cheapest, the use of outdoor wood heat decreased in most states between 2000 and 2010.

Electric heating has surged in recent years, though not as fast as outdoor wood heat, in part because of efficient heat pumps. The economic disadvantages of fuel oil and propane as heating fuels are often discussed, but electricity is a more complex story.  More than a third of American homes use electricity as the primary source of heat (US Census) and another 24% use it as a secondary heat source (EIA).

An electric boiler costs an estimated $35.05 per million Btu, according to EIA, and an electric space heater, a common appliance used for secondary heating, costs an estimated $34.32 per million Btu.  An EPA certified indoor or outdoor wood stove running at 72% efficiency, in contrast, is estimated to cost only $12.63 per million Btu.      
Consumer rates in Alaska, California, Maryland, New Jersey and Washington DC are on the high side at 14-17 cents per kWh (an average of $41-$50 per BTU for electric heating). The majority of homeowners in the South, West, and mid-West pay 9-13 cents per kWh, which works out to be $26-$38 per BTU. That is a much cheaper rate than some states, but still twice the cost of heating with wood.
Check out the Alliance for Green Heat to read the full article and to view a map of the United States electric rates.
Learn more about outdoor wood heat and see how much money you could save by switching to this renewable, alternative energy heat source.
$800 OFF Summer Promo!

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Choose Wood Heating.

Posted by Kelsey Gagner on Wed,Jun 13,2012 @ 11:14 AM

Outdoor Wood Heating SystemWith the ever-increasing price of oil, natural gas and electricity, many homeowners are now considering using wood to heat their homes and workshops. Along with the potential cost savings that an outdoor wood heating system or other type of efficient wood stove can provide on home heating bills, using wood as your home heating fuel of choice is great for the environment - here's why:

1.Wood Is a Renewable Source of Energy

Any type of wood can be used for heating including trees that are storm damaged, diseased and unsuitable for other uses like furniture production. Trees grow quickly, require minimal care and new trees can be planted immediately after existing trees are harvested. Trees that are used for heating fuel are often grown in areas that would otherwise be unusable for any other purpose including traditional agriculture, housing or commercial development.

2. Burning Wood Is Carbon-Neutral

As a tree grows it acts as a natural air filter, absorbing carbon dioxide from the environment and in turn releasing pure oxygen back into the air. When wood is burned in an outdoor wood heating system or other appliance, the carbon dioxide the fire creates is equal to the amount of carbon dioxide that the tree absorbed during it's life, a process that is commonly referred to as the "carbon cycle". The same thing happens when a tree dies and decays naturally: the carbon dioxide it absorbed while growing is slowly released back into the environment as the tree breaks down and rots.

3. Wood Is Locally Sourced

Unlike other heating fuels like oil, natural gas and coal which are often shipped thousands of miles across international borders before reaching the consumer, wood that is burned for heating is usually sourced close to where it will be purchased and used.

Traditional fossil fuels are nonrenewable, costly to extract and transport, and require a complex system of distribution to get the fuels to the end user, the customer. By contrast, wood is 100 percent renewable and getting the fuel to the end user is usually a very simple, straightforward process that can be as easy as cutting down a tree in your own back yard or buying the wood from your local firewood dealer.

4. Outdoor Wood Heating Systems Can Heat Your Household Water

In addition to providing an eco-friendly and affordable source of home heating, an outdoor wood heating system can serve double-duty as a water heater. Many models of outdoor wood furnaces are hydronic which use hot water to transfer heat to a home. That same hot water can be captured and used for your household hot water needs with the installation of a simple heat exchanger, eliminating the need for a gas or electric water heater.

If you already burn wood, do you know where the type of wood you burn ranks? Using good, seasoned wood is an important part of getting high efficiencies out of your outdoor wood heating system, and in turn, saves you even more money.

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Oil prices continue to rise in Northeast, pricey winter projected

Posted by Kelsey Gagner on Tue,Oct 25,2011 @ 10:55 AM

From 2003 to 2010, the cost of heating oil in the Northeast Census Region has more than doubled, from $1.45 to $3.38 per gallon. And 2011 doesn’t look any less expensive, with a record-breaking $3.71 per gallon, as projected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Oil prices continue to rise in Northeast, pricey winter projectedIf that’s not enough to make you invest in some serious blankets and footed PJs, get this: residential heating oil prices are expected to set a new record this winter, averaging $26.77 per million BTUs, an increase of 10 percent over last winter!

Natural gas isn’t far behind, with an anticipated five percent increase from last winter’s costs.

Why the steady rise?

Heating oil prices largely reflect crude oil prices. For example, the average cost of crude oil to U.S. refiners increased from an average of $24 per barrel in 2003 to $99 per barrel in 2011. Depending on others for our fuel gives us no say in the price.

How to avoid expensive winters

Well, we have a simple solution: use an alternative heat source that doesn’t require fossil fuels to run. WoodMaster wood furnaces are an investment, but they pay for themselves in a matter of years. You’ll be doing the earth—and your wallet—a favor.

Interested in saving fuel dollars this winter? Purchase a WoodMaster Flex Fuel Furnace by the end of November and receive a $2,000 rebate! Let’s talk.

Topics: Wood furnaces, expensive winter heat, affordability of wood heating, independent heating option, rising heating fuel cost, affordability, inexpensive heating option, woodmaster, high efficiency furnace, Flex Fuel, wood master, energy independence

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