Berlin, N.H., incentivizes residential pellet heat

By Lisa Gibson | November 22, 2011

Through the Model Neighborhood Project, as many as 40 homeowners in Berlin, N.H., will receive subsidies to switch from heating oil systems to advanced wood pellet boilers in the next two years.

The new program is a collaboration among the Northern Forest Center, Berlin BetterBuildings, the city of Berlin, and equipment manufacturer Maine Energy Systems. It offers the opportunity to save 40 to 50 percent on home heating costs, while keeping money circulating in the local and regional economy.

“Berlin is an ideal place to demonstrate how efficient pellet burners have become,” said Mike Wilson, senior program director for the nonprofit Northern Forest Center. “We want to encourage people to switch from imported oil to wood pellets that come from the Northern Forest.”

The Model Neighborhood Project will subsidize up to 75 percent of the costs involved in the transition. The goal is to complete the first 10 system installations by February 2012. To be eligible for the Model Neighborhood Project, homeowners must participate in the BetterBuildings program, conduct a home energy analysis and target a minimum 15 percent energy savings through energy efficiency upgrades. The program is open to single-family and multifamily owner-occupied properties. To learn more click here.

Maine Energy Systems will be collecting and presenting performance data on its ÖkoFEN wood pellet heating system as part of the project, according to Maine Energy Systems director Dutch Dresser. “The system is a virtually seamless replacement for traditional oil-based systems,” he said. “Homeowners remove small bags of ash only three or four times a year through a clean quick-release system.”

The program will also strengthen the market for low-grade wood, offering opportunities to stabilize and increase forest-based businesses. The four pellet producers in Maine could support 500 additional direct and indirect jobs if they were operating at full capacity, Wilson said.

The Model Neighborhood Project is also seeking opportunities to subsidize the installation of pellet boilers in affordable housing units and municipal buildings in the Berlin region.

“Moving away from imported oil toward a local energy source will be good for Berlin and the regional economy,” said Pam Laflamme, city planner for Berlin. “The city is very excited to be collaborating on this project, and we hope Berlin residents will come forward quickly to find out if their home qualifies for this program. Reducing your heating expenses by 40 to 50 percent is a major financial gain.”