Unplugged Energy Independence

Do gasification boilers work?

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Wed,Sep 10,2014 @ 10:17 AM

Flex Fuel furnaceIt depends on how you define work. Work in terms of saving money? Work in terms of efficiency? Work in terms of producing heat? The answer is yes, to all of those. Mike Greason once told a joke about heating with wood; he said, "You want to get warm from the fire, not from running back and forth to the wood pile." I think we've accomplished what Mike set us out to do, in more ways than one.

We heated with oil and have a few oil fired boiler, along with a large older home. Our hot water is electric and we use a lot of it with a teenage daughter. We installed a WoodMaster Flex Fuel furnace about a year ago. Our decision to try the Flex Fuel furnace comes on the heels of $5,000 and $7,000 a year heating oil bills that are just too high for our family. "Thermostat Anxiety" I like to call it.

The Flex Fuel choice was based on my cousins's nudging, he has an outdoor wood boiler. He has a similar old home that cost just too much to heat. I was torn between choosing the convenience of pellets and the free wood from thinning our woodlot to heat our home. My decision was made when I saw the Flex Fuel. I no longer had to be torn between my frugal side and enjoying the convenience of pellets. It burns wood or pellets.

I have a never-ending desire to be more responsible in my use of energy. Years ago, I had an eye opening conversation with a fellow on a plane who had a unique insight into the future of global energy that is not available to the general public.

This past winter I was on business in the Midwest and took a detour up to WoodMaster in Minnesota, to learn about the Flex Fuel furnace before I purchased it. The two days I was in Minnesota the air temperature was minus 37 degrees both days. I had never been to Minnesota, it is a very flat open area. We drove for two hours on a country highway as straight as a ruler without hitting a stop sign before finding WoodMaster's corporate office in an industrial park. There was a sea of outdoor wood boilers around their offices. I was surprised to see how many there were. Thousands of them lined up like little soldiers in the arctic air.

We met the WoodMaster staff, which is mostly family, are very inviting, and really love what they do. Warren and Lynn took me through a two day adventure with the Flex Fuel furnace. It is a very advanced piece of heating equipment. It is computerized, and is European technology they are producing here in the USA. Before learning about the furnace, we had to learn about our homes BTU loss and what we would be heating. Lynn and Warren insisted we have the facts before we jump into the furnace.

The Flex Fuel boiler is much smaller than I expected, it looked more like a new car in a showroom. Inside there is a large circuit board with a lot of connections. It's called the Flex Fuel because it can burn wood and pellets, and can be programmed or installed in many different ways to fit any installation. It can heat a home, water, hot tubs, garages, outbuilding and driveways.

Flex Fuel furnaceWe purchased a 30kW Flex Fuel and installed it at our home. We built a shed for the Flex Fuel. I also figured I'd be bringing wood from the woodlot to the house and I didn't want to track in the dirt that comes from firewood. The shed is 10 feet by 10 feet. This left a little extra room for some pellets and wood to be stored. I even built the roof a little long with an overhang to have a place to store wood out of the rain and weather. I also added lighting to allow us to get to the shed easily in the long dark days of winter. After building the shed it was time to set the boiler. I had to use our log truck to set the boiler in place, it weights 1,400 pounds. There was some work inside the house adding plate exchanges to the boiler and water heater.

After we finished the install, we could not wait to try the boiler. We went right up to the woodlot and found a standing dead ash tree, which was our first source of heat. The ash tree burned very well. We'd been burning wood in the boiler for a month or so before a business trip took me away again. What was I to do? The boiler needs to be loaded almost every day depending upon the outside temperature. Ask my family to load the boiler? I decided to throw some pellets in the bin and see how this boiler runs on pellets. Away I went, nervously trusting the Flex Fuel and an untested bin of pellets. I have a family member next door who agreed to check the house and make sure it was warm. I returned three days later from my business trip with a fully heated house and some pellets left in the bin. Success!

I learned I really enjoyed the convenience of pellets. They burn evenly and I only have to visit the shed about every 3-5 days. This is important for me. I travel quite a bit and did not hve time this year to stockpile wood. I did however find time to help my cousin Billy store up 14 cords for his outdoor stove! When I was burning wood, I found we only needed about 4-5 pieces of standard firewood a day to heat our house. I liked burning a mix of pine and hardwood. Our buffer tank is large, so burning the pine works well for us. We have lots of pine and I hate seeing it go to waste. Burning hardwood produces more heat, but again, I have endless pine thinning.

The Flex Fuel heats our water too. This is where we noticed unexpected savings. Our electric bill is down about 30% every month. We found this added benefit to be the most delightful part of using the boiler. The hot water never runs out. We can shower, run laundry and do dishes without ever having to think if we have enough hot water.

I love pellets, they are easy, burn well, and leave me to do other things. Next year, I'm sure I'll burn more wood, as my schedule is not as full as it was this past year. It is work to pick up bags of pellets and load the bin, but certainly less than gathering, splitting and stacking wood. We are contemplating installing a large grain bin and auger to get a truckload of pellets for next season. That remains to be analyzed on the dollars and cents though. I am very proud we only ordered a hundred gallons of heating oil for emergency use. When we got stuck out of state in a snow storm this winter season, our emergency oil came in handy. Our oil boiler kicked on when the pellets ran out. I don't miss the huge oil bills and calling around to find the best price for oil.

Do gasification boilers work? We certainly are saving money in the long run. I estimate we will save about $4,900 a year in oil costs and about $225 a year in electric costs. It will take us about four years to recover our investment and begin saving the money we are spending. We will keep the thermostats wherever we want them and the hot water will run as long as we want. I find that buying the pellets and splitting wood involve some physical work, but it feels good physically, and in my soul. We certainly have not found an overall permanent energy solution for our country. Until then, I'll do my part right here, in my little corner of it.

Article written by Charles Bulson. Charles Bulson is a proud NYFOA member.

Topics: affordable fuel, alternative energy sources, affordable heat, affordable heating source, residential wood heat, expensive winter heat, woodmaster, flexfuel, high efficiency furnace, woodmaster flexfuel series, pellet furnace, Pellet furnaces, WoodMaster FlexFuel, EPA qualified furnace, EPA qualified, Flex Fuel, alternative energy, alternative heating, alternative fuel, renewable energy, wood pellet heat, wood pellet heating, wood master, home heating, alternative home heating, gasification boilers, gasification boiler

Mass. Residents and Businesses to save big on pellet boilers.

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Wed,Apr 10,2013 @ 01:42 PM

pellet The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center announced that it is launching a $475,000 incentive program that will help residents install high-efficiency wood pellet boilers in their homes or small businesses.

The grants in this program will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis. Here are some qualifications:

-The installed boiler or furnace must be used in a year-round residence or small business where the building occupant pays into the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust.

-All applicants will need to provide MassCEC with a copy of an electric bill for the project site at the time of application so that MassCEC can verify eligibility.

 -Property owners may submit an application for a property that they own, even if it is not their primary residence or place of business, however the project site must be occupied year round.

 -Grants can be combined with any other local, state or federal incentive, and applicants are encouraged to do this where possible.

Grant amounts will be determined on the following basis, with further details available in the program manual, which can be found below.

Base Grant

Value

Wood-Pellet boiler and furnace central heating units (bulk storage required)

$7,000

Adders

 

Automated conveyance of fuel

$3,000

Thermal storage

$2,000

Solar thermal hybrid system

$1,000

Moderate Income Adder OR Moderate Home Value Adder

$2,000

Maximum Grant

$15,000


It’s possible to get back up to $15,000, though rebates will begin at $7,000 and the average is anticipated to be between $10,000 and $12,000. According to the MassCeC, new wood pellet boilers typically cost around $20,000, fully installed.

Massachusetts residents can learn more about the program, download the program guide and application by visiting the Clean Energy Center website.

Topics: woodmaster, flexfuel, energy-saving boiler, high efficiency furnace, energy-efficient stove, energy-efficient heating, pellet fuel, woodmaster flexfuel series, energy-saving stove, pellet furnace, Pellet furnaces, WoodMaster FlexFuel, EPA qualified furnace, EPA qualified, Flex Fuel

Homeowners Investing in Energy-efficiency

Posted by Kelsey Gagner on Mon,Apr 09,2012 @ 02:35 PM

According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 61% of homeowners say they are unaware of any current tax rebates and/or incentives for energy-efficient home upgrades in their area.

If you are in this category, there are many resources available to help you out.  One of the best we have found is DSIRE.

DSIRE is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency.  Established in 1995 and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, DSIRE is an ongoing project of the N.C. Solar Center and Interstate Renewable Energy Council.

With two easy ways to search for incentives in your area, this site is very user-friendly. 

Go to http://www.dsireusa.org/ and use one of the following two options to find incentives in your area:

    1. Click on your state.  A list of incentives for your state will be brought up.

    1. Click on the ‘Search DSIRE’ box and fill in the information that pertains to you and a list of the incentives available will be brought up.


 To find a WoodMaster dealer near you check out our dealer locator.

Topics: eco-friendly, woodmaster stove, clean burning, wood stove, woodmaster, flexfuel, energy-saving boiler, high efficiency furnace, energy-efficient stove, Flex Fuel, alternative heating, wood master, northwest manufacturing, WoodMaster Dealer, affordable heating, carbon footprint, energy independence, clean burn, home heating, heating systems, alternative home heating, lower heating costs, outdoor wood furnace, clean energy, outdoor hydronic heater, outdoor wood furnaces, green technology

AHR Expo Sets Attendance Record

Posted by Kelsey Gagner on Tue,Feb 21,2012 @ 02:48 PM


describe the imageThe International Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Exposition (AHR Expo) blew into Chicago on Jan. 23 and provided big crowds, hot topics, and a plethora of new products.

The expo set an all-time attendance record with nearly 40,000 registered visitors at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The previous record for visitors was 38,534 in New York City in 2008. For the 2012 expo, when you add in the exhibitor personnel and other attendees, more than 58,000 HVACR professionals participated in the event.

The 2012 show was also the largest in terms of space as nearly 430,000 square feet of exhibit space was used for display.  That made the show 5% bigger than the 2006
Chicago show.

“We are delighted that we have established new all-time records for both the size of event and the best visitor attendance,” said Clay Stevens, president of International Exposition Co., which produces and manages the AHR Expo. “We hope this is an indication that the economy is on the upswing and will continue to approve.”

Stevens also attributed the new records to the many new energy-efficient technologies and products in the marketplace, as well as pent-up demand for new equipment.  In addition to seeing the new products that were on display at every turn, attendees spent a great deal of time at the show discussing news that broke as the industry as the industry was in Chicago. Recent developments with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considering a faster phase-out of HCFC’s got a lot of attention from contractors and manufacturers alike.

But the greatest amount of talk centered around the size of the expo and the number of new products being showcased.

A total of 1,968 exhibitors from 35 countries showcased their products and technologies, nearly tying the record of 1,989 companies that exhibited at the 2006 Chicago show.  In addition to the thousands of new products and technologies exhibited on the show floor, more than 100 educational sessions were offered by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and many other industry associations.

Topics: BioMax boiler, biomax commercial boiler, AHR Expo, 2012 AHR Expo, woodmaster, high efficiency furnace, Flex Fuel, wood master

Why we are not the only ones burning wood

Posted by Kelsey Gagner on Tue,Jan 31,2012 @ 02:51 PM

WoodMaster knows wood is an energy-efficient fuel source that can lower your heating costs.

But don't just take our word for it.

Derrick Bender, agricultural and natural resources educator at the University of Maryland Extension, is in the midst of a case study comparing the use of wood, wind and sun as alternative energy sources. In a recent article in the Cumberland Times, Bender said his in-progress case study has revealed a wood stove is the best investment of the three, hands-down.

If you’re looking to save both money and energy, the most reliable, renewable and affordable fuel may be in your own backyard.

Topics: wood stove, Wood furnaces, reliable fuel, affordable fuel, energy-efficient fuel, woodmaster, high efficiency furnace, Flex Fuel, renewable fuel, alternative energy, wood master, lower heating costs

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

9 reasons why we're fired up about the WoodMaster Force 20

Posted by Kelsey Gagner on Thu,Oct 13,2011 @ 11:12 AM


WoodMaster Force 20We’re excited to announce the release of a new furnace that fresh off the production line: the WoodMaster Force 20. This compact and efficient furnace is ideal for garages, workshops, homes and more. Here are 9 reasons why we’re fired up about the new Force 20 furnace:

    1. The Force 20 maintains a steady temperature and requires almost zero maintenance.

    1. Ignition is fast—because of its high efficiency Renovator 20kW burner with automatic ignition.

    1. A built-in thermometer allows the burner to be easily adjusted to the desired temperature.

    1. The burner also has an optional automatic air cleaning system, making clean-up a breeze.

    1. The Force 20’s fan starts automatically when the air has reached 140 degrees and provides warm air to the heated area.

    1. The fan is also controlled by a PT100 sensor, which regulates fan speed from 0 to 100 percent.

    1. Chimney connections are easily accessible on the back of the unit.

    1. Warm air can be discharged from either the left or the right side.

    1. For larger heating appliances, the Force 20 furnace can be connected in modular systems.


View the Force 20 in the production line.
Force 20 in production

The WoodMaster Force 20 retails for $5,195.

What features of the new WoodMaster Force 20 are you most excited about?

Topics: eco-friendly, clean burning, Chuck Gagner, compact furnace, Force, forced air furnace, Force 20, woodmaster, high efficiency furnace, pellet furnace, alternative heating, wood master, northwest manufacturing, WoodMaster Dealer, affordable heating, clean burn

EPA: Why it matters to you, Vol. 1

Posted by Kelsey Gagner on Wed,Sep 28,2011 @ 11:16 AM

Together let’s keep our resources clean, safeEPA: what’s that?

The EPA has been around for 31 years now, and we’ve all heard it mentioned a time or two, but what is it exactly? Born in 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aimed to “consolidate in one agency a variety of federal research, monitoring, standard-setting and enforcement activities to ensure environmental protection.”

From the start, EPA acted primarily as the nation’s environmental watchdog, ensuring that industries met legal requirements to control pollution. Later, EPA developed theory, tools and practices which allowed them to not only control pollution, but also prevent it from happening.

Today, EPA aims to “make sustainability the next level of environmental protection by drawing on advances in science and technology to protect human health and the environment, and promoting innovative green business practices.”

WoodMaster is EPA-savvy.

For hundreds of years, Americans have burned wood as a primary source of heat. Even though it’s the cleanest way to produce heat, burning wood does still affect the carbon footprint. Through the Hearth, Patio and Barbeque Association (HPBA), WoodMaster works closely with EPA on new testing standards and with state and local governments on appropriate regulations to encourage cleaner burning outdoor furnaces. WoodMaster and other responsible manufacturers are ensuring furnaces are properly installed to produce clean, safe heat.

Often thought of as a regulatory agency, the EPA enforces legislation pertaining to the American environment. Any potentially pollutant-emitting industry is subject to EPA regulation and inspection, and myriad industries work with the EPA to maintain high environmental standards. At WoodMaster, we fit into this category.

Measures like the Clean Air Act, Burn Wise Program and Outdoor Wood-fired Hydronic Heater Program are all EPA-enforced. WoodMaster products must meet the strict emission standards and offer consumers industry-leading efficiency. So, for us, staying updated on EPA standards and regularly testing products are important.

Picturing the future

Clean air. Clean water. Safe places to live and work. A beautiful natural environment. The EPA works to reduce overall pollution and unsafe practices in the U.S. so that future generations can continue to enjoy these luxuries.

‘EPA: Why it matters to you’ will be a continual series on Unplugged. Our goal is to teach you about the ‘who, what and why’ of EPA, how to make ‘cents’ of all the information out there and help you reach energy independency. 

 Up next: learn what it means to become EPA-Qualified.

Topics: eco-friendly, clean burning, Chuck Gagner, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, woodmaster, flexfuel, high efficiency furnace, EPA qualified furnace, EPA qualified, Flex Fuel, wood master, northwest manufacturing, carbon footprint, clean burn, home heating, green technology

Why buy a high efficiency furnace?

Posted by Todd Strem on Mon,Jul 25,2011 @ 11:21 AM

WoodMaster Flex Fuel 180x300Purchase any outdoor hydronic heater and the earth will thank you. You’ll be saving precious fossil fuels.

However, purchase a high efficiency outdoor hydronic heater, like the WoodMaster Flex Fuel, and your wallet will thank you. Over time, you’ll be saving precious cash.

We’re the first to admit: WoodMaster furnaces are an investment. But sometimes it’s worth it to pay a little more upfront. Investing in a high efficiency, clean burning, Flex Fuel hydronic heater is a smart choice. Here are some of the top advantages of the batch-burn-thermal-storage philosophy of wood burning:

    • Refueling savings. Traditional outdoor hydronic heaters (OHH) efficiencies generally range from 40-64 percent, depending on the manufacturer. According to the European testing method 303-5, WoodMaster’s Flex Fuel furnace earns a rating of over 93 percent efficiency burning stick wood. This means one of two refueling savings: either you’ll spend less time, energy and money in getting your wood or you’ll have less cost in purchasing your wood.

    • Clean(est) burning. Many outdoor hydronic heaters burn wood cleanly, but only one high efficiency furnace burns wood the cleanest, and that’s the WoodMaster Flex Fuel, according to the EPA’s Burn Wise website. With a Flex Fuel furnace, you’re being as eco-friendly as possible.

    • Clean burn = long life. The cleaner the burn, the longer your heater’s lifespan. By monitoring the oxygen level in the emissions, we can adjust the air, giving WoodMaster Flex Fuel's a perfect burn. Eliminating most of the creosote build up helps the high efficiency furnace materials last even longer.

    • More time. With a clean burn, you get a clean machine. With the Flex Fuel, you’ll spend less time cleaning and maintaining your high efficiency furnace. Because of the self-cleaning heat exchangers and no need to rotate ash (because of the complete burn), cleaning out the ash chamber is all you have to worry about. Depending on the demand, it could be once a week or every other.

    • Remote storage. Outdoor hydronic heaters have always had thermal storage; it’s just been built in with the heater. WoodMaster’s innovative Flex Fuel furnace allows you to move the storage to the best and most convenient location. For instance, the Flex Fuel could be in a remote building while the storage is installed in the home. This way, if any heat is lost off the storage tank, it’s really not “lost” at all. The extra heat will serve a purpose by heating your home. As an added bonus, with the remote thermal storage, you can now add solar to assist in your heating needs.

    • Freedom to switch. One of my favorite Flex Fuel features is its ability to switch fuel types anytime. If, for whatever reason, you choose to heat with pellets instead of wood, you can. This is an added flexibility that’s entirely possible with the Flex Fuel high efficiency furnace.


These are just a few of the many wallet-friendly advantages to owning a Flex Fuel high efficiency furnace over a traditional outdoor hydronic heater.

Have you ever spent more upfront on a quality product that eventually saved you money in the long run? Please share your purchase story.

Topics: eco-friendly, clean burning, OHH, woodmaster, flexfuel, high efficiency furnace, Flex Fuel, wood master, northwest manufacturing, heating systems, outdoor hydronic heater

Welcome, wood masters.

Posted by Kelsey Gagner on Tue,Jul 19,2011 @ 11:22 AM

You’re the master of your home. You build, you fix, you do.

This is your chance to unplug.

Take off your work boots and relax for a minute. Here, we’ll share tips and tricks for living independently and heating your home efficiently. We’ll keep you informed on EPA regulations, energy prices, energy efficiency and alternative fuels. We’ll also mix in product comparisons and stories from dealers and WoodMaster enthusiasts.

The purpose of this blog is to provide everything you need to know about heating your home, conserving energy, living independently and saving money at the same time.

We’ll do this work so you can get back to doing your work: the fixing, the building, the doing – because that’s what you’re the master of.

Topics: Wood furnaces, woodmaster furnace, woodmaster, high efficiency furnace, Pellet furnaces, Flex Fuel, wood master, northwest manufacturing, WoodMaster Dealer, home heating, heating systems, lower heating costs, outdoor wood furnaces

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