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Affordable housing embraces automated wood heat

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Source: Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation

Vermont Business Magazine Not that long ago, the Hollister Hill Apartments on Austin Road in Plainfield were a rather bleak example of 1970’s architecture that had seen better days. The Housing Foundation, Inc. had a vision to rebuild them, rendering them into comfortable, affordable, and functional units for their tenants to call home. They did so in part by embracing renewable energy in the form of a central wood pellet boiler.

This is the third location where The Housing Foundation has installed a pellet boiler for their units, the others being Colonial Manor Apartments in Morristown and Fairground Apartments in Moretown, with hopes for future projects. Krister Adams, Development Specialist with the Vermont State Housing Authority, said, “Wood pellet boilers are a relatively simple heating system. We have found them to be cost effective and reliable. Plus, using wood as a heat source is environmentally sound and helps our local economy.”

The organization feels it is important to do their part to help Vermont reach its goal of 90% renewable energy by 2050, but also, the bottom line just makes sense. “Renewable fuels are cheaper and less volatile than fossil fuels. That’s essential when your residents rely on affordable rent for the long term. We can’t ask them to absorb a spike in oil prices,” said Adams. They also considered air source heat pumps for this property, but the economics of a pellet system made more sense.

According to Andrew Perchlik, Director of the Clean Energy Development Fund, “The Housing Foundation is one of several affordable housing groups that has embraced wood heating. These organizations see pellet heating not as a possibility, but as the default top choice, with oil or propane as ‘alternative’ heating. They have realized it is the best option not just ecologically, but economically as well.” These units join more than 500 other affordable housing units across the state that are heated with wood pellets.

For this installation, Lyme Green Heat installed a 191,000 Btu/hr Maine Energy Systems PES56 pellet boiler along with a 15-ton silo to hold pellets which are delivered in bulk by Bourne’s Energy. The pellet boiler provides heat and hot water for two buildings with a total of 16 apartments as well as hot water for the common building which has meeting space, laundry room, and kitchen. The boiler system was funded in part by a $16,000 custom rebate from the Clean Energy Development Fund.

The apartments are about two-thirds occupied so far and will be fully occupied by the end of June. The Housing Foundation is planning an open house at the end of June as a celebration and will welcome visitors at that time who would like to check out the pellet boiler.

Wood pellets are small, evenly-sized granules of 100% compressed sawdust. They are made from low-grade wood or sawdust from saw mills. They have a very low moisture content that allows them to burn very clean, and because they are small and even in shape they can be fed into automated systems, such as a pellet stove or boiler for a home. The pellets being delivered to the Hollister Hill apartments are from Vermont Wood Pellet in Clarendon.

Currently, an estimated 12% of Vermont households heat at least in part with pellets (either bagged or bulk); a figure that’s expected to rise as more homes install automatic pellet boilers.

Modern wood heating incentives are available for home and business owners:

For more information on these and all other current incentives on modern wood heat in Vermont, visit: is external)

For more information on wood heating in affordable housing, download the Practical Guide to Modern Wood Heating: Successful Conversion to Wood Heating for Affordable Housing in Vermont here: is external)

Source: Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation 4.30.2018