Unplugged Energy Independence

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!

Topics: woodmaster outdoor wood-burning furnaces, affordable fuel, woodmaster furnace, alliance for green heat, affordable heat, affordable heating source, affordability of wood heating, EPA, outdoor wood heat, woodmaster, affordable heating, energy independence, outdoor wood furnace, outdoor wood furnaces

Buy local (energy included)

Posted by Kelsey Gagner on Wed,Nov 09,2011 @ 10:52 AM

The holidays are just around the corner. Do you typically buy your holiday presents from local vendors? Do you care if a product is made in your community, state or country?

Many people do.

Why is it that we often look down on consumer products made overseas, while we don’t think twice about purchasing fossil fuels from across the world?

Local energy is possible.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 57 percent of U.S. oil is imported. Importing foreign oil negatively affects our economy, security and environment.

Shipping in oil from the Middle East is not our only option. Alternative residential heating sources, such as wood burning, exist.

Wood can come from your local community—or even from your own backyard. By fueling with local wood, you’re not only preventing sending money overseas, but also contributing to your local economy. This giving back propels local industry, jobs and economic stimulus.

Local energy can be affordable.

Heating with wood is a wise choice with excellent ROI. However, we realize the upfront costs of switching to wood may be too much for lower income families. That’s why we offer incentives, like cash back and financing plans. By switching to an independent energy source, low-income families may no longer need assistance with purchasing expensive fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, sometimes incentives and financing plans aren’t enough to help families with very low incomes change to wood heating. This is where we need governmental policies in place. Partially funded by the US Forest Service Wood Education and Resource Center (WERC), the year-long study Transforming Wood Heat in America: A Toolkit of Policy Options explores the existing and potential policy options for incentivizing more efficient and clean burning residential wood heat.

The goal of the study was to discover ways for Americans of all socio-economic groups to use wood heat and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. John Ackerly and Tatiana Butler of the Alliance for Green Heat co-wrote the report.

Wood is the resource that has always been here, always will be here, and is truly sustainable, dependable and local.

Topics: Wood furnaces, wood heat, expensive fossil fuels, alliance for green heat, affordable heat, affordable heating source, U.S. energy administration, residential wood heat, local energy, woodmaster, Flex Fuel, wood master

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