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New tool allows cost comparisons of pellets, natural gas and heating oil

Our friends at FutureMetrics Inc. have released a life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA) dashboard that compares pellet boilers to heating oil and natural gas boilers.
By Anna Simet | July 06, 2012

Our friends at FutureMetrics Inc. have released a life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA) dashboard that compares pellet boilers to heating oil and natural gas boilers.

It’s free, downloadable, easy to comprehend and full of interesting data. What caught my eye when reading through it initially is that while the report’s authors point out that pellet fuel systems beat heating oil in most cases, they admit natural gas systems beat pellet fuel under most sets of assumptions.

They don’t assert that “most sets of assumptions” are usually accurate assumptions, however, and they make the point that in most lifecycle cost analysis papers, the assumptions used to drive the analysis lead to incorrect conclusions, which was the driving force in the release of this dashboard.

The overarching theme of the report accompanying the LCCA tool is that while natural gas may win out in some places, it’s just not the same across the board. There are significant areas within the Northeast and Midwest that just don’t have natural gas, and these are the locations where pellet boilers have the greatest cost savings potential. 

The report depicts wood pellet boiler potential in some Northeast and Midwest states homes and businesses using two bar graphs, and the number that don’t have access to natural gas is surprisingly high. For example in the Midwest, almost 2.7 million Illinois homes/businesses do not have access, followed by Wisconsin at over 1.1 million. In the Northeast, over 3.5 million New York homes/business don’t have access to natural gas, followed by Pennsylvania at 2.4 million.

Wood pellet boiler potential is not limitless, however, and the report recognizes that. At current levels of demand for wood by the pulp industry, FutureMetrics estimates that about 1.8 million locations in the Northeast and 1.4 million in the Midwest can convert and not exceed the sustainable output of these regions’ forests, or significantly impact pricing for pulpwood and pellet fuel.

And in the spirit of recognizing that there are exceptions to every rule, the dashboard allows for the ability to change all of the assumptions of utilizing a Maine Energy Systems Autopellet pellet boiler, Energy Box and an ACT Bioenergy pellet boiler compared to heating oil or natural gas. It also contains an interactive chart showing historical prices and price inflations for a variety of heating fuels. 

Anyway, I’ll stop and just let you check it out, it’s a cool tool. Access it here.