Pellet boilers now classified as conventional heating source

By Anna Austin | March 06, 2012

Wood pellet boilers are now classified as a conventional, primary heating source, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and consequently will now qualify for Federal Housing Authority Funding. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shawn Donovan announced the news March 1.

The announcement came after a request from Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, for HUD to take another look at the issue, because families in Maine are facing major financial burdens from high oil prices and cut backs in fuel assistance programs. “Maine is the most heavily dependent of any state in the nation on home heating oil, and when you see the spikes in oil prices that we’ve seen this year, and the cut backs in the low income heating assistance program, it is causing tremendous hardship for so many of our families in Maine,” she said. “It’s also very difficult because Maine has the oldest housing stock in the nation, and thus, there are a lot of homes that are poorly insulated and would benefit from weatherization projects, and that’s something we ought to invest more in, as well.”

Sen. Collins also pointed out that large swings in oil prices have causes many residents to look to alternatives, and the wood pellet boiler industry is growing rapidly in the state as a result. “[Wood pellet boilers] have the potential to help out these families to convert from oil, and also to create thousands of new jobs in our state,” she said. “Wood pellet manufacturing, boiler technology and pellet delivery systems have progressed dramatically since the days when you had to scoop pellets from small bags into a small stove every couple of hours. Now, the industry has developed boilers that don’t require any human intervention during the day. There are automatic feeds for the pellets.”

She added that HUD has been slow to consider wood pellet boilers as an acceptable primary heating source, and if they were to do so, it would help families in Maine have confidence in converting to wood without losing their eligibility for FHA funding and federal housing programs.

Donovan responded by admitting that government agencies are often behind the cutting edge in terms of new technology, and announced that HUD is in the process of updating its handbooks to reflect that decision. He said the organization has notified all of its lenders that wood pellet stoves are an acceptable heating system for homes under HUD’s insurance programs, as long as they meet the qualifications that any heating system has to make.