Model Neighborhood Project helps install wood pellet boilers in Farmington

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FARMINGTON — Richard and Crystal Wilde spent $300 in January to heat their home with a new wood pellet boiler system.

It was a $268 savings from what he would have paid for oil heat in January, he said.  He expects to save about $1,200 this year.

Tor Goettsche, owner of a three-unit apartment building in Farmington, believes he’ll save about half of what he paid for oil — around $9,000 for the 2,200 gallons of oil needed per year — by switching to a pellet system.

The homeowners were the first to have wood pellet boilers installed in December as part of the Model Neighborhood Project in Farmington and Wilton, said William Crandall of Western Maine Community Action.

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They opened their homes Friday for an explanation of the pellet system and the program and incentives for switching from fossil fuel to Maine-produced wood pellets.

The program expects to help about 20 homeowners and a few light-commercial buildings in Farmington and Wilton make the switch within the next two years, Crandall said. 

WMCA has partnered with the Northern Forest Center on the program, which offers a $3,000 subsidy toward the purchase and installation of a wood pellet boiler for approved homeowners.

Since October, the state has provided a $5,000 rebate. That’s a total of $8,000, to help with the average $17,000 cost for a pellet system, Dana Fischer of Efficiency Maine said. The boiler and installation cost range is normally $14,000 to $20,000.

The goal of the Model Neighborhood Project is to move away from dependence on fossil fuel to a local energy source that creates jobs and supports the forest economy, Mike Wilson of Northern Forest Center explained.

From woodsmen to pellet manufacturing, chain saw suppliers to boiler sales and installers, the switch represents use of local expertise and employment, Wilson said. 

It makes a large economic impact with fuel monies staying here in the community, he said. The project is expected to generate a $23 million economic impact for the area over the life of the pellet boilers installed, as participants avoid purchase of more than 3 million gallons of heating oil, he said. Heating cost savings are 40-5o percent from switching to pellets from oil.

The pellets are carbon neutral, made in Strong and support the local economy, factors that supported Goettsche’s decision to switch.

“I have nothing against Saudi Arabia, but I like my neighbors more,” he said.

The automatically fed pellet boiler supplies heat and hot water for the Wildes. The new boiler is efficient, clean and easy, Richard Wilde said. There are no bags of pellets to deal with because a storage bin allows for bulk delivery at a cost of $249 a ton.

On a cold day in February, the system used 99 pounds of pellets, he said.

With the Kedel system, installed by Heutz Oil & Premium Pellets of Lewiston, Wilde can figure exactly how much he’s using. So can President Tim Heutz, who is able to keep track of customers online.

Wilde expects the savings to pay off the new system in about seven years. The system is expected to last 30 years.

The payoff for Goettsche is probably shorter due to the high use needed for the three apartments, said Jared Mulliner of Maine Energy Systems who supplied his MESys AutoPellet system, built in Bethel.

Goettsche saves about $4,000 a year, and with the $8,000 in rebates, he should have it paid off in three to four years, Fischer said.

“It’s the convenience of liquid fuel at the cost of wood,” Mulliner said about the ease for homeowners.

More information about the program is available at www.wmca.org or by contacting Crandall at wcrandall@wmca.org or 860-4451 and online at www.northernforest.org/model_neighborhood_project.html.

abryant@sunjournal.com

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