Tuesday, April 01, 2008
From a story by Tim Damos in the Capital Newspapers:
BARABOO — With fuel oil and natural gas prices putting a hurt on consumers' wallets, wood is making a comeback.
"A lot of people tell me about their gas prices, the cost of LP and natural gas," said Amber Jay, office manager at Kosak Chimney & Stove in Reedsburg.
She said sales of pellet stoves have increased significantly since last year. The stoves burn compressed pellets of biomass such as wood, and are cleaner than old-fashioned outdoor wood-fired boilers.
Consumers have seen dramatic natural gas price increases in the last decade. And gas suppliers are hitting utilities with rates about three times the levels of the 1990s, according to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.
At the same time, yearly shipments of pellet appliances nearly quadrupled between 1998 and 2006, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association.
Bruce Stewart of Baraboo spent about $1,800 on an indoor pellet stove in 2005 because he liked the idea of heating with a renewable resource.
"It was kind of a compromise," Stewart said. "I wanted to put in a conventional wood-burning stove, but my wife didn't want me cutting wood six months out of the year and hauling wood and all that business."
He still uses natural gas to heat his home overnight, but likes having alternatives. With current utility rates, using the gas costs about 16 percent more per unit of heat than pellets, he said.
This winter, he spent about $406 for 120 bags of wood pellets. In 2006, about 2 percent of American households used wood as their primary heat source, according U.S. Census estimates. About 51 percent used utility gas, 33 percent used electricity, 8 percent used fuel oil and 6 percent used bottled, tank, or LP gas.