A new generation of pellet heat is making it easier and more affordable for Mainers to heat their homes.

“Every morning when I went to milk, I filled the wood burner, and when he went down at 9 o’clock at night for night chores, I’d go out and fill it again,” Theresa Hardy, of Hardy Farm, said.

That was the daily routine for Hardy to heat her home until she switched to a wood-pellet boiler.

“Lots of people like pellet stoves. They do a really nice job of heating relatively small areas. Boilers, on the other hand, are automatic devices that generally live in the basement,” Dutch Dresser, of Maine Energy Systems said.

Dresser said pellet boilers can heat the entire home. It is fully automated, running on 3 tons of pellets. That is the equivalent of 360 gallons of heating oil, Dresser said.

“This is the computer that does the work, so this tells the boiler what the water’s like outside, what it’s like in the boiler vessel,” Dresser said.

The pellets are delivered the same way heating oil is delivered. While oil prices have fluctuated, the price of pellets have been the same for about 10 years.

“So that stability in pricing is what our customers are banking on for their own personal economics,” Maine Energy Systems COO B.J. Otten said.

Otten said most of the pellets are sourced from local mills.

“We know that the dollars we spend on this specific type of fuel stay in the local economy. Using an indigenous fuel and keeping those dollars rolling around helps everybody,” Otten said.

Efficiency Maine has up to $5,000 in rebates for pellet boilers and furnaces. Groups like Northern Forest Center offer rebates, too.

“In Farmington and Wilton we have two or three residential incentives, and anywhere in Franklin and Oxford counties we have larger incentives for nonresidential projects,” Maura Adams, of the Northern Forest Center, said.

It’s part of Northern Forest Center’s model neighborhood project, which is converting 23 homes.

“We then decided we need to do something. So we did some weatherization things and then looked more into how do we spend less money on heating oil,” homeowner Jennifer Civello said.

Civello said her family pays for a few deliveries of pellets each year, and the conversion has saved money.

There have been concerns in the past about the availability of wood pellets throughout the winter. Maine Energy Systems said pellets for boilers are sourced differently than pellets found at retail stores, and there should be no problems making deliveries.

http://www.wmtw.com/money/pellet-stoves-get-money-saving-makeover/36257154