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NY wants to help you buy a high efficiency wood furnace


still somewhat far off. But North Country residents who burn wood to
heat their homes are already stacking cords for seasoning.

to state figures, 3 percent of New Yorkers use wood as a primary source
of heat, but that number jumps in the rural North Country. Fourteen
percent of homes in St. Lawrence County use wood, 11 percent in Clinton
County and 8 percent in Jefferson County.

Those numbers are higher than they used to be as more people have turned to wood as a renewable resource and to save money.

older wood stoves and furnaces, even more recent outdoor wood boilers
that have become very popular, are major sources of pollution, including
tiny particles that are bad for the environment and people’s lungs.

Governor Cuomo announced  a $27 million initiative to encourage more people to trade in their old wood furnace and buy a new highly efficient one. Cuomo said the program, called Renewable Heat NY, will also boost a growing industry to produce everything from the new boilers to wood pellets and other feedstock.

David Sommerstein spoke with the program’s director, Mark Watson, and
with John Rhodes, president of the New York State Research and Energy
Development Authority, or NYSERDA, which will run the program.

“Both for the people with existing inefficient stoves and boilers and
for the people that are contemplating switching to wood boilers,” says
Rhodes, “if we go from high emitting, low efficiency to low emitting,
high efficiency, we reduce those particulate matters as well as giving
the customer benefits in terms of affordability.”

David Sommerstein: So let’s turn now to Mark Watson
who is the program manager for environmental research for NYSERDA to
talk a little bit more on the nuts and bolts of this program. Hi Mark-
let’s say I’m a rural resident in the North Country, I have an old wood
furnace in the basement or an old woodstove or a less-efficient outside
wood boiler and I’m interested in upgrading and finding something more
efficient. How do I go about doing that and what are the incentives
available to me.

Mark Watson: Well if you go to our website,
renewableheatny, you can get step-by-step instructions on how to
participate. The actual support that we can provide to residential
customers who have existing wood boilers or woodstoves typically runs
about 20% of the cost of a new advanced technology, a cord wood unit.
But also, in addition to the 20% of the installed cost of that, you can
get up to $4,000 to actually retire and recycle the existing outdoor or
indoor wood-boiler. So a residential customer, depending on the size of
the unit that goes in, actually could get $8,000 towards the new unit
and the retiring of the older unit

DS: Let’s talk a little bit about outdoor wood
boilers that have become increasingly popular across the North Country
and rural parts of the state. Environmental officials in New York have
been concerned about these units because they smolder, there can be high
emissions of particulates. Can you talk a little bit about that?

MW: Sure. Many of the colder units, and the older
outdoor wood boilers and some of the older indoor wood boilers are very
inefficient. Some of them are only about 20-30% efficient, so you’ve not
getting much heat out of the wood that you’re putting into them. And
they do actually emit an awful lot of pollution, especially particular
matter. Now the technologies
that have been developed recently are much
more efficient and emit far fewer particulate emissions. These
technologies are more complex, in that they use a two stage combustion
process to help have much more complete burning. And another thing that
is a required part of this program is that these units have thermal
storage associated with them too. What that is, is simply an additional
water tank. So when your cordwood boiler, your advanced cordwood boiler
is making heat, and the house is calling for heat it will provide it,
but when the house doesn’t need heat, the boiler can continue to operate
at peak efficiency and heat up the water in that storage tank and
completely burn down. Later on, when the house starts cooling and needs
heat again, the heat will be drawn from that water tank. And that really
helps, not only with the efficiency, but with reducing those emissions
as well.

DS: We’re going to go back to John Rhodes, president
and CEO of NYSERDA. This is sort of a carrot approach to incentivizing
people to upgrade the way that they’re burning wood in rural New York.
Is there a stick approach that is coming down the pike, where there will
be legislation on what kind of wood burning sources are going to be

John Rhodes: We’re not there, in terms of
anticipating a stick approach. We at NYSERDA, and under the governor’s
leadership are really focused on here and now, creating and making this
carrot approach work, giving good reasons to the customer to make the
switch. And I just have to reiterate, also giving good reasons to our
private sector partners, the woodpellet manufacturers, the forestry,
feedstock suppliers, to invest in their business. And we’re extremely
confident that that approach, working with the consumers and working
with the industry, will add up to a lot of progress on this front and
get us a long way to our state’s energy goals in terms of affordability,
pollution production. You know, making homes and small businesses
comfortable and healthy here.   

Rhodes says people can save up to $8,000 on a wood furnace or boiler through the program.

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