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An engineering economic assessment of whole-house residential wood heating in New York
Loughlin, Dan AND R. Dodder. An engineering economic assessment of whole-house residential wood heating in New York. C.P. Mitchell (ed.), BIOMASS AND BIOENERGY. Elsevier Science Ltd, New York, NY, 60:79-87, (2014).
In light of the advantages and disadvantages of residential wood heating, federal and state environmental agencies are asking questions such as “Will the past decade’s resurgence of residential wood heating continue into the future?”, “Which wood devices are likely to dominate the market?”, and “What are the emissions and health implications of different scenarios involving the use of wood heating devices?” Understanding the economics of residential heating is a critical step in developing answers for these questions.
Wood devices are being selected increasingly for residential space heating by households in New York State. Motivations for their use include energy independence, mitigating climate change, stimulating local economic development, and reducing exposure to high and variable fuel costs. The objective of this study was to examine how factors such as fuel prices and device costs and efficiencies may be influencing the competitiveness of whole-house wood heating with alternatives such as boilers and heat pumps. Heating demands for a 2500-square foot house in Syracuse, New York, were used. First, the lifetime costs of the alternative whole-house heating technologies were calculated and compared. Next, the combinations of the wood price and wood device cost and efficiency at which wood heating is competitive with its most likely competitors were identified. The results suggested that fuel costs drive competitiveness to a far greater extent than up-front capital and installation costs. At typical market prices of wood, natural gas often is the least expensive heating option. Many rural areas do not have access to natural gas, however, and high-efficiency wood-heating devices can be very competitive with heat pumps, propane boilers, and fuel-oil boilers. Further, a supply of low-cost or free wood can make wood-heating devices the least expensive option. When considering competitiveness, additional factors must be taken into account. Even “free” wood is not without cost when the equipment, labor, space and time required to prepare and store firewood are considered. Further, the efficiencies of wood-heating devices and their pollutant emissions can differ greatly, depending on design, configuration, and operation. High emission rates have led to policies that restrict the use of such wood-heating devices in some states and localities. In light of these factors, improved information and tools should be made available to consumers so they can evaluate the suitability of wood heating more effectively for their particular situations.
Record Details:Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Organization:U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
NATIONAL RISK MANAGEMENT RESEARCH LABORATORY
AIR POLLUTION PREVENTION AND CONTROL DIVISION
ATMOSPHERIC PROTECTION BRANCH