Friday, December 17, 2010

Wood Stove Tax Credit Slashed

One-year extension reduces cap from $1,500 to $300 and makes it harder to qualify

Last night, the House voted 177 to 148 in favor of the $858 billion Tax Cut Compromise Package of 2010 which reduces the biomass heater tax credit to 10% with a $300 cap. The bill now goes to the White House for the President's signature. Another significant change that further restricts the tax credit for biomass appliances is that Congress removed the lower heating value measurement and only allows the credit towards the purchase price and not for installation.

Energy efficiency provisions were shortchanged even further by a clause that says the $500 tax credit is a lifetime maximum, meaning that if a homeowner has used this credit anytime since 2005, it cannot be used again. During the past 2 years, the credit up to $1,500 could be used regardless of whether the family has used the credit between 2005 and 2009.

[Update: the tax credit expired on Dec. 31, 2013 and has not been extended as of June 2014.]

The reduction to 10% tax credit affects all energy efficiency measures that had enjoyed 30% credit for the past two years. Many members of Congress felt the 25C tax credit program had cost the government too much money and should not be extended in its current form at 30% up to $1,500.

This setback for incentives for wood and pellet heating systems is a result of biomass appliances being considered an energy efficiency device instead of a renewable energy system. Solar, wind and geothermal systems still enjoy the full 30% tax credit with no maximum and are not set to expire until 2016.

"This creates a terrible double standard for incentives between renewable energy systems favored and affordable by the wealthy and systems favored and affordable by average American families," said John Ackerly, President of the Alliance for Green Heat. "Fortunately, we understand that Congress will be revisiting these tax credits again in 2011 and advocates for cleaner and more efficient biomass appliances need to be prepared," said Ackerly. Instead of using tax credits based on a percentage of purchase and installation costs, Congress is likely to consider performance-based credits.

Initially, it was unclear if the 25C energy efficiency tax credit would be included in the tax deal worked out between President Obama and Senate Republicans. On December 9, a group of Senators (Collins, Snowe, Wyden, Merkley, Shaheen, Bingaman and Harkin) mainly from northern states wrote a letter urging inclusion of 25C into the package, but they did not ask that it be kept at 30%.

American Council of Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), National Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) were among the large groups pushing for extension of 25C. With more than a dozen renewable energy and energy efficiency provisions, 25C did not seem to be the highest priority for many groups. ACEEE wanted changes to 25C and NRDC pushed for allowing everyone to qualify for the credit, regardless if they had used it in the past. Alliance to Save Energy urged the House to pass the bill but did not mention that the credits had been slashed to 10% on home energy improvements.

The original intent of the 25C tax credit program was to advance home energy-efficient appliances and upgrades to existing homes by providing a modest tax credit. In the 2010 package are provisions limiting window incentives to $200, oil and gas furnace and boiler incentives to $150-200, and water heater and wood heating system incentives to $300. As part of these amendments, Congress is loosening the qualification for window incentives (ENERGY STAR windows now qualify) and tightening the specifications for oil furnaces and boilers and gas boilers to 95% efficiency, up from the 90% efficiency in current law.

Yesterday's vote in the Senate was 81 to 19 in favor of the package. The Tax Cuts Compromise Package of 2010 extends numerous other renewable energy programs, including some very controversial ones that made groups like NRDC oppose the bill, such as incentives for ethanol and liquid coal. Other incentives were the energy-efficient new homes credit, a 30% investment tax credit for alternative vehicle refueling property and the Section 45M tax credits for U.S manufacture of energy efficient 'white appliances.' Of the eleven energy related provisions being extended in this Tax Cuts Compromise Package, only three provided direct benefits to homeowners. The others were corporate tax credits and incentives.

Section 25C timeline:

2005- Non-business Energy Property Tax Credit (25c) was added to the Internal Revenue Code by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 with a 10% credit not to exceed $300 for any item of energy-efficiency improvements (defined as any energy efficient building envelope component meeting the criteria set by the 2000 International Energy Conservation Code) and a total credit capped at $500.

2007- Section 25c expired.

2008- Section 25c is revived by the Energy Improvement and Extension Act, a part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA) rescue package by President Bush. EIEA clarified the original Act by specifically including biomass stoves and boilers under energy-efficient building property.

2009- American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, expanded the scope of the earlier 25c and increased the credit up to 30%, and capped it at $1,500. The efficiency standard for biomass boilers was defined as over 75% efficient appliances as measured using a lower heating value.

2010- Section 25c is extended for one year by re-instating the credit as it existed before 2009- lowering the credit to 10% capped at $300. Biomass stoves and boilers

Friday, December 10, 2010

Push Congress to keep 30% biomass tax credit!

Biomass Tax Credit to Drop to 10%

"The Existing Home Retrofit Tax Credit" (Tax Code Section 25C) that will expire on December 31, 2010 is likely to be extended but at a lesser amount. Over the past two years, individuals have been able to get a a 30% tax credit up to $1,500 for wood and pellet stoves and boilers that are 75% efficient, using the lower heating value. The draft tax bill that reflects President Obama's deal with Senate Republicans currently has this for wood and pellet stoves:

  • 10% tax credit
  • Cap of $500
  • Eliminates use of "lower heating value"
  • Expires December 31, 2011.
If this passes, it will in effect create a double standard for the renewable energy equipment favored and used by ordinary Americans - the wood and pellet stove - and the equipment favored and used by rich Americans - solar, wind and geothermal. Solar, wind and geothermal enjoy at 30% tax credit with no cap and it does not expire until 2016.

The cleanest and most efficient wood and pellet stoves and boilers on the market today deserve more parity with solar, wind and geothermal. Some types of renewable energy are not a luxury "green" add on for wealthy families. Wood stoves often enable low-income families to affordably heat their homes in the winter and still have money for food and other necessities. They deserve the opportunity to upgrade their old inefficient and polluting stoves with modern, high tech units that do not emit any visible smoke.

2010 is not the year to reduce the tax credit on the most common and popular piece of renewable energy equipment in America. We urge you to contact your member of Congress and ask them to restore the 30% tax credit for high efficiency wood and pellet stoves and boilers.

Find your congressperson here:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Free pellet stove repair for low-income families in New England

Scott Williamson, who owns is offering to repair pellet stoves of low-income families and individuals this winter free of charge. To be eligible, the person must either be currently approved for state heating assistance or some other low-income program and live within his southern New England service area. The Alliance for Green Heat is urging hearth dealers and pellet dealers to help identify low-income families for this generous offer.

Like many hearth professionals who repair and install wood and pellet stoves, Scott often sees the faces of poverty. He was moved to help low-income families after seeing scores of families last winter that were living on the edge with a stove as their only heat source. Single mothers, the elderly, and unemployed are especially vulnerable in winter and face stark choices between heating and feeding themselves and their kids.
Scott is offering to repair about 3 pellet stoves a week or about 6 hours of labor - free of charge - but needs assistance to identify people who are already enrolled in a recognized low-income program such as Medicare, Medicaid, LIHEAP, food stamps, HUD subsidized housing, etc. Hearth stores and pellet dealers in southern New England can contact Scott directly to refer an eligible low-income family. Hearth dealerships and pellet suppliers can also nominate repair candidates simply by making a judgment call of their own.

This assistance covers labor only and not materials needed for repairs. It does not include installations or annual service cleanings. 
Scott’s service area is a 120 miles radius from Rehoboth, Massachusetts: Rhode Island, eastern Connecticut, eastern Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire, southeastern Vermont and the southern tip of Maine. For a more detailed map of the service area, click here

Please feel free to post this notice and distribute it to other hearth stores.

Since 2003 Pellet Stove Service have been dedicated to servicing pellet burning stoves, pellet boilers and pellet furnaces. 

To contact Scott: (508) 507-9201or

Friday, December 3, 2010

Alliance Fundraiser Brings Supporters and Goodwill to Cause

The Alliance for Green Heat ran a fundraiser this fall that brought in $6,863 as well as many interesting and valuable offers of support. Scott Williamson of Rehoboth Massachusetts, who runs a pellet stove repair company, offered to repair stoves of low-income families free of charge. And Jim Kane who runs Project Green Heat, a Vermont based non-profit that delivers free wood and wood stoves to low-income veterans, is working with the Alliance now to try to expand his capabilities this winter.

The winners of prize drawing were Ben Preble, or Merrimack, New Hampshire who won first prize stove and Corey Schrock of White Pigeon Michigan who won second prize. Ben chose the Jotul wood stove which is he giving to his father in order to upgrade the older Jotul stove he had.

As promised, there were very good odds in this drawing: we had 230 people enter and 376 outstanding tickets. Thanks again to the companies who donated the prizes: Quadrafire, Jotul, Blaze King, Earth’s Flame and, and to all of you who donated; We hope you will participate again next year. Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


On November 17, NEBTWG Steering Committee Members Charlie Niebling and John Ackerly hand delivered the working group's sign-on letter to Robert Bonnie, Special Advisor on Energy to USDA Secretary Vilsack.  Signed by more than 180 individuals, organizations, and businesses, the letter urges USDA to recognize the use of biomass heating fuels in reducing reliance on foreign oil within its "National Biofuels Strategy.”

To read the letter, click here

EPA's BACT Guidance Confirms Biomass Climate Change Role

As Reported by Biomass Magazine; Biomass supporters recently celebrated the release of EPA guidelines for Best Available Control Technologies (BACT) which they claim will help cement the role of biomass in mitigating the effects of climate change. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack specifically praised the benefits that wood and switchgrass based biofuels can bring to rural communities through supporting local economies. The EPA is still deciding on the extent to which Biomass related emissions will be included in GHG calculations.

For the full story, click here

For the BACT Guidelines, click here

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Help needed with graphic design!

We need help redesigning the graph below to be more visually interesting while retaining the information it currently holds. We would like it to be as graphically engaging as this graph, and if possible have it incorporate our logo.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

How can 17.7 million tons of carbon from fossil fuels be avoided through wood stoves?

The 17.7 million tons of carbon is a rough estimate based on 10 million wood stoves in operation today in the US.   We use the estimate of an average of 1.9 cords of wood being used in each wood stove, based on national studies.  For the estimated 3 million EPA certified stoves, we calculated that 1.9 cords of wood would reduce carbon from fossil fuel heating sources by an average of 1.9 tons per year.  For the six million older, uncertified stoves, we calculated that those stoves would only reduce carbon from fossil fuel heat sources by an average of 1.5 tons based on the lower efficiency of those stoves. For pellet stoves, we used 3 tons of pellets as the average amount for the 1 million pellet stoves in operation today.  We calculated that they reduced 3 tons of fossil fuel carbon.  We did not attempt to calculate how much fossil fuel usage indoor and outdoor wood and pellet boilers avoid, but it is safe to say the annual total would likely be over 20 million tons. 

We also did not subtract any carbon released by stoves because we believe that cordwood for residential heat is an extremely low carbon fuel.  Cordwood is typically gathered or harvested from trees that are already dead and/or down, or from incredibly local, small-scale harvest.  A small percentage of cordwood is from larger scale, commercial harvesting which is likely to have a slightly higher carbon footprint. Those larger commercial operations are likely to be geared to the kiln-dried, small bundle market that is more for fireplaces, and not for wood stoves.

The table below shows our calculations and a comparison with residential solar panels.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

AGH Board Members Detail Home’s Carbon Footprint

To understand carbon impacts of residential heat, it helps to get get personal. Three Alliance for Green Heat (AGH) board members and one AGH supporter - Jon Stimling, John Ackerly, Josh Elmore and Peter Caldwell - calculated the carbon footprint of their homes in order to better understand home heating carbon impacts. Each household employs at least one form of renewable energy. The four individuals emitted between .92 and 3.8 metric tons of carbon per year to heat their homes, which is well below the national average and even further below their respective state averages. 

Postscript: Ten years later, one Board member is nearly fossil fuel free in his house and cars.  And it was easier than many people may expect.

The lower-than-average emissions are due in part to the fact that each household uses wood or pellet stoves to provide some portion of their heating needs. The calculations were reached using the carbon calculator website;, a well regarded program that assigns .18 metric tons of carbon for a ton of wood pellets or a cord of wood. The average American home produces about 12 tons of carbon a year, according to most authorities and 40 to 60% of that on average is used for heating.

The EPA estimates approximately 4 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person per year (about 17% of total U.S. emissions) are emitted from people's homes. The individuals featured here all have household footprints of 3 to 7 metric tons, but if calculated using the EPA per capita average, these homes would emit 8 to 20 tons metric tons. The home with the lowest carbon impact from heat has a pellet furnace that can meet 100% of the home’s heating needs. One Board member has solar panels, which covers 100% of his electric load and another buys 100% wind power. Some variance in CO2 output can be attributed to how electricity is generated in each household’s particular state.

House #1: 
A 1,900 square foot home occupied by four people in Maryland has a total average output of 6.95 metric tons of CO2 a year. After purchasing 100% wind power, the footprint drops to 2.85. Natural gas, used as a backup heating fuel, is the largest contributor, totaling 2.49 metric tons of CO2 a year. The combustion of 2 cords of wood in an EPA certified LOPI Patriot circa 1995 accounts for the other .37 metric tons. The wood is obtained from the urban wood waste stream through local tree services working in the neighborhood.

Metric tons of C02
Total Household
Total W/ Electricity
Total Heating Only
Natural Gas
Wood Cords
Size of House
1900 Sq/ft
Number of Occupants

House #2:
A 1,800 square foot home occupied by five people in Colorado. This household emits 3.08 metric tons of CO2 a year on average. The largest contributor to this impact is due to the reliance on propane as a back up heating fuel. It is 2.90 metric tons of the total emissions. The remaining .18 metric tons of CO2 is attributed to the single cord of wood burned per year in an EPA certified 2002 Jotul. The wood is either self harvested or purchased from people hired to thin local forest for fire suppression. 100 percent of electricity is from solar panels installed near the house.

Metric tons of C02
Total Household
Total Heating Only
Wood Cords
Size of House
1800 Sq/ft
Number of Occupants

House #3:
A 2,650 square foot home in upstate New York occupied by two people. The household’s total CO2 footprint is 7.59 metric tons a year. This result is a combination of the home’s electricity consumption (9,733 kwh/yr), which contributes 3.79 metric tons of CO2 to the total, and heating oil (back-up fuel) which is responsible for 2.52 metric tons of CO2 a year. Finally, the combustion of 7 cords of wood a year in a Vermont Castings stove results in 1.29 metric tons of CO2 being released. The wood is self harvested and split by hand.

Metric tons of C02
Total Household
Total Heating Only
Heating Oil
Wood Cords
Size of House
2650 Sq/ft
Number of Occupants
House #4:
A four person 2,500 square foot household in New Hampshire emits 7.02 metric tons of CO2 a year. The largest contributor to this total was electricity consumption (15,000 kwh/yr on average), which resulted in 4.65 metric tons of CO2 being released. Propane for cooking and hot water contributed 1.45 metric tons to the total. With the remaining .92 metric tons released through the combustion of 5 tons of wood pellets in a Harman PF100 furnace each year.

Metric tons of C02
Total Household
Total Heating Only
Wood Pellets
Size of House
2500 Sq/ft
Number of Occupants

These four households demonstrate the wide array of energy saving measures and methods to offset CO2. There is no blanket, cure-all strategy to reduce fossil fuel consumption, however this group shows how relatively small measures like running a wood stove can help to decrease heavy CO2 emissions. Everyone in the thermal biomass or energy efficiency sector should consider doing their household carbon footprint as well as getting a home energy audit to get a more tangible understanding of these issues. Understanding your carbon footprint in comparison with other Americans is also useful. Finally, understanding the potential of strategies to offset CO2 from fossil fuels, like using a modern wood or pellet stove in your home, is the building block for appreciating how we as a society can intelligently leverage this technology.