Unplugged Energy Independence

Setting the Wood Stove Standard

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Wed,May 07,2014 @ 01:25 PM

WoodMaster Commercial SeriesRed Lake Falls, MN – Northwest Manufacturing, the builder and distributor of WoodMaster wood-burning furnaces, is pleased to announce that it has been awarded an H stamp from ASME, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The H stamp signifies that ASME has carefully reviewed Northwest Manufacturing's wood-fired pressurized boilers and certifies that they are built in strict accordance with ASME's exacting standards for safety and performance. Northwest Manufacturing is the only company in Minnesota that is ASME-certified to build wood-fired pressurized boilers. Almost every single pressurized boiler manufactured in the United States is ASME approved, and now there is a safe wood-fired boiler option built in Minnesota.

“ASME has set the bar for manufacturing boilers and pressure vessels for almost 100 years,” says Bruce Gagner, co-founder of Northwest Manufacturing. “We're extremely proud to say that our wood-fired pressurized boilers have been tested and found to meet that standard.” WoodMaster's boilers can heat buildings from residential to larger commercial sizes, and all boiler models offer complete combustion for low emissions. Their three-pass boilers increase heating efficiency and provide a British thermal unit (BTU) output as high as 6.8 million Btu/hr with the option of burning wood pellets or chips.

ASME certification opens up the potential savings of using wood-burning boilers to people and businesses that currently use fossil fuels to heat their buildings. Wood can be a much less expensive fuel option compared to typical sources of energy, saving big money for those who replace fossil fuels or electric power. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, residential propane prices have trended upward since 2000, and spiked to nearly $3.50 per gallon during the past winter. “With the price of propane and other fuels on the rise, burning cheap, renewable, locally sourced wood just looks more and more attractive,” says Gagner.

And now a reliable, Minnesota-built and ASME-certified option to do exactly that will be widely available. 

About ASME

ASME is a not-for-profit membership organization that enables collaboration, knowledge sharing, career enrichment, and skills development across all engineering disciplines, toward a goal of helping the global engineering community develop solutions to benefit lives and livelihoods. Founded in 1880 by a small group of leading industrialists, ASME has grown through the decades to include more than 130,000 members in 158 countries. ASME is the leading international developer of codes and standards associated with the art, science, and practice of mechanical engineering.

About WoodMaster

WoodMaster furnaces are manufactured and distributed by Northwest Manufacturing of Red Lake Falls, Minnesota. Since 1989, WoodMaster has built industry-leading outdoor furnaces, continually finding innovative uses of natural energy and alternative fuel sources. The company is now the first to manufacture bioenergy flex fuel furnaces.

The company's growing network of dealers and contractors helps consumers find the right WoodMaster furnace for their heating requirements. All WoodMaster dealers carry a full line of parts and accessories and provide attentive, expert service at installation and throughout the life of each furnace.

Northwest Manufacturing also provides underfloor heating, water distribution systems and snow and ice melting systems, as well as other HeatLink solutions.

Topics: commercial boiler, commercial boilers, Commercial Series, woodmaster, pellet furnace, Pellet furnaces, renewable fuel, WoodMaster boiler, renewable energy, wood pellet heating, WoodMaster Commercial Series, affordable heating

Amid soaring propane prices, a rising interest in alternatives

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Tue,Feb 11,2014 @ 10:40 AM

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While sky-high propane prices are causing hardships for many businesses and homeowners, they’re also helping generate interest in renewable alternatives such as wood, solar and geothermal.

Companies that sell solar thermal, geothermal and wood furnaces are reporting an uptick in phone calls and inquiries over the past few weeks as propane customers in the region suffer through near-record prices and localized shortages. (photo courtesy Solar Skies)

The evidence is only anecdotal at this point, and most said the buzz hadn’t yet translated into new sales, but at least one shop is ramping up production in anticipation of new orders.

Northwest Manufacturing, which makes wood-fired furnaces under the WoodMaster brand, started offering overtime this week to workers at its factory in Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, as it attempts to double production. It also plans to make up to six new hires.

“It’s been just a blur since [three weeks ago],” said Todd Strem, the company’s sales and marketing manager. “It’s definitely affected us in a positive way.”

This is typically a slow time of year for heating system sales, Strem said, but WoodMaster’s dealers are reporting a steady stream of people stopping in to ask about the furnaces. The company’s website traffic has more than doubled in the last month.

At Strandlund Refrigeration Heating & Cooling in Mora, Minnesota, salesman Rod Herwig said they’re fielding more calls than usual from people curious about geothermal systems.

“I can’t say it’s overwhelming, but to be honest, yeah, there’s more interest right now than there has been for a bit,” Herwig said. “And now is usually our quiet time.”

Herwig estimated that they’ve received six or seven phone calls in the past two weeks from people seeking quotes or other information about geothermal systems. During busier months, it’s typically only four or five per month.

It’s too soon to say whether that interest will translate into new sales and installations. Herwig suspects that will depend on what happens to propane price in the coming weeks.

“We’ll know six months from now,” Herwig said.

It’s the same story at Solar Skies Manufacturing in Alexandria, Minnesota. The company manufacturers solar thermal systems for hot water and space heating.

“We can feel the interest level has picked up in the last two weeks,” said CEO Randy Hagen. “It’s too early to convert that into new orders yet, but our quoting level for those types of customers has definitely increased — a lot.”

A solar thermal system won’t entirely eliminate a home or business’s heating bill, but a typical system might cover 65 percent of water heating or 30 percent of space heating.

The price for a system varies significantly depending on the size, features and location, but an average cost for a residential system is around $10,000, Hagen said. Some of that cost can be offset with state and federal incentives.

However, amid a spike in propane prices, the payback time on solar thermal, geothermal, and wood heating systems looks much better today than it did at the start of winter.

Northwest Manufacturing sold a WoodMaster system to a school in northeastern Minnesota that was previously heated with propane. Strem said the original payback time it calculated for the school was around six or seven years.

If propane and wood pellet prices were to stay where they’re at — a big “if” — Strem said the school district could break even on their investment in as little as two years.

The Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, a Minnesota nonprofit that manufactures and sells subsidized solar furnaces to low-income families, isn’t yet sure how the propane pinch will affect its program, but program manager Shannon Wheeler said it certainly underscores its importance.

“It makes that work all the more necessary,” Wheeler said. “Our families that are on propane and also have a solar air heat system … are not going through their propane as quickly and hopefully don’t have to refill with these higher prices.”

How long propane prices stay high will likely determine how much of this winter’s interest in renewable alternatives can be converted into new installations later in the year.

Said Strem: “It’s going to make for an interesting year if this continues.”

Article written by Dan Haugen from Midwest Daily News.

Topics: woodmaster, pellet fuel, pellet furnace, Pellet furnaces, renewable fuel, alternative energy, alternative heating, alternative fuel, natural energy, WoodMaster boiler, renewable energy, wood furnace, wood pellet heat, wood pellet heating, WoodMaster Commercial Series

NH Introduces Non-Residential Wood Pellet Rebate Program

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Tue,Dec 31,2013 @ 11:27 AM

WoodMaster Commercial SeriesNew Hampshire has released a rebate program for commercial and industrial bulk fuel fed wood pellet central heating systems.

Key Components of the Rebate Program:

  • The rebate will cover 30% of the costs of purchase and installation, up to a maximum of $50,000, for investments in non-residential bulk fuel fed wood pellet boilers and furnaces of 2.5 million BTU or less.
  • An additional rebate for 30% of the costs of thermal storage tanks, up to a maximum of $5,000, is also available.
  • The budget for this program is $629,000 for state fiscal year 2014, ending June 30, 2014.
  • The new program also requires rebate recipients to "benchmark" the energy performance of the building that will house the new heating system to demonstrate opportunities for additional efficiency improvements.

Read the full description of the rebate program here.

Read the terms and conditions of the rebate program in Step 1 of the application form here.

Topics: energy-efficient fuel, alternative energy sources, wood pellets, commercial boiler, commercial boilers, Commercial Series, woodmaster, energy-efficient heating, renewable fuel, alternative energy, alternative heating, alternative fuel, natural energy, renewable energy, wood pellet heat, wood pellet heating, WoodMaster Commercial Series, alternative home heating

European biomass technology manufactured in Minnesota: An interview with WoodMaster

Posted by Kelsey Loeffler on Thu,May 23,2013 @ 10:11 AM

Forced air new logo resized 600Joel Haskard with CERT's had a chance to chat with WoodMaster co-founder and President Chuck Gagner about their biomass boilers and furnaces, and the industry here in Minnesota. Read on to hear what he had to say!

Joel Haskard: How do you see the health of the biomass industry here in Minnesota and nationally as well?

Chuck Gagner: I feel over the past couple years the residential market took a dip due to the economy and low propane prices. This is making a good rebound now. A strong interest recently is the farm industry: poultry and turkey growers, greenhouses, etc. Wood pellets offer low and stable pricing, compared to fossil fuels which tend to be more volatile. In fact, pellet prices are pretty much the same as they were ten years ago when adjusting for inflation. A good way to understand the price benefits of pellet fuel is to compare it against other heating fuels. See for yourself here. Wood chips can range from $3-$5 per million Btu, being the most cost effective source of heat.

Joel: Many of the WoodMaster products seem to be based on European technology but are manufactured right here in Minnesota. What attracted you to these specific kinds of boilers?

Chuck: Having worked with EPA for several years on a test method for our product and understanding the low emissions levels that were being discussed, we felt that the technology that Europe offers is very advanced and is a more sure way to meet the EPA projected emission levels. Another positive was that the product was time tested and proven for durability and reliability. These were the main reasons for teaming up with European technology and building the product right here in Minnesota.

Joel: How do they perform with the EPA guidelines?

Chuck: The WoodMaster Flex Fuel Series is Phase II EPA qualified and is currently the cleanest product listed on the EPA’s Burnwise website. This clearly explains that the technology within the furnace is extremely advanced.

Joel: There was one specific unit that seemed to have real potential for poultry, turkey, and greenhouses. Could you tell us more?

Chuck: The WoodMaster Commercial Series pellet and/or chip hot air furnace is a great fit for poultry and turkey farms and greenhouses. The size range is .5 million – 1 million Btu/hour. Using this hot air furnace would give the quickest return on investment. This is a much dryer heat than, for example, propane and has a very positive effect on the growing conditions.

Joel: Have any of these units been installed here in Minnesota?

Chuck: Currently a small amount of units have been installed in Minnesota, larger amounts in other states. The results are extremely positive and we are anticipating a lot more units to be installed in the upcoming months.

Joel: Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share with folks interested in biomass?

Chuck: I would like to encourage people to look closely at the new biomass technology that is offered. Great features, primarily with pellet and chip boilers and furnaces, include being fully automatic, self-cleaning, reliable and dependable. Burning wood produces no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions while reducing U.S. dependency on foreign oil supplies and brings jobs and revenue back into our local economy.

Want to learn more? You can see photos below from a recent NW CERT tour of Northwest Manufacturing, makers of WoodMaster products. You can also click here to visit their website.

Topics: alternative energy sources, commercial boiler, commercial boilers, Commercial Series, woodmaster, alternative heating, alternative fuel, WoodMaster Commercial Series

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