Throughout our schooling we hear about transitions. I remember particularly well the vivid picture my school history teachers painted of the differences in the American culture that resulted from the Industrial Revolution. Such revolutionary scale changes make the history books, but smaller, interesting, transitions occur all the time.

These changes are easy to see in hindsight, but we don’t always recognize what’s happening during transitions. We’ve become accustomed to the blistering rate at which innovations occur in the technological world; new gadgets with new capabilities appear on the scene weekly, it seems. Only after time has passed and an aggregation of these technologies has worked its way into a population do sociologists and others begin to reflect upon their collective impact on our culture.

Over the past few years, something interesting has been happening in the local energy business. When Maine Energy Systems first began distributing wood pellet central heating appliances, most oil dealers sold and installed oil-burning appliances and delivered only heating oil.

With increasingly volatile oil prices and favorable propane prices more and more of these oil dealers became oil and propane dealers. As we began distributing an increasing number of pellet boilers, a few regional oil and propane dealers bought bulk pellet delivery trucks and began selling wood pellets along with their other fuels. Somewhere along the line, The Maine Oil Dealers’ Association changed its name to the Maine Energy Marketers’ Association.

Recently television advertisements in Maine show traditional vendors of heating oil, then heating oil and propane, then heating oil and propane and wood pellets, also beginning to sell electricity. It is clear that we are living through some sort of significant transition in heating in the Northeast.

This transition has a large number of precipitating factors that we can all see. The dramatic increase in the price of oil over the last decade has become incapacitating for many home and small business owners. Some are alarmed about the consumption of a non-renewable resource. A growing number of people are showing personal concern over the apparent global warming trend.

However, not all of the reasons for the differentiation of heating technologies in buildings in the cold Northeast are a result of fleeing from the once ubiquitous oil heat. More and more modern alternative heating technologies are becoming common and ordinary options to be considered when replacing old heating technologies or building new structures.

In the case of those who are adopting wood pellet central heating, there are two strong economic drivers for the change: personal and regional. Personally, those using the equipment buy loose bulk delivered pellets for just about half the price of #2 oil for equivalent energy content. Their personal savings are significant and immediate.

Regionally, pellets are best sold and consumed close to the point of manufacture. Therefore, spending heating dollars on fuel grown, milled, and distributed right in your economic region is extremely healthy for the local economy. As significant numbers of homes and businesses in an area begin using renewable, locally produced, fuel, the region adds jobs and enjoys heightened stability in its economy.

We are experiencing a heating transition in the Northeast. Heating options are available to today’s home and business owners that weren’t available less than a decade ago. Many of these options, including pellet central heating, reduce our cost of heating, reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, reduce our carbon footprints, and bolster the economy of our home state. These heating options are fast becoming the most common heating choices among people in the Northeast.

Harry “Dutch” Dresser is the Managing Director of Maine Energy Systems, a manufacturer and distributor of automatic pellet boiler systems.