Alliance for Green Heat, Sept.
25, 2013 - According to recently released U.S. Census statistics,
63,566 more families used wood or pellets as a primary heating fuel
in 2012 compared to 2011, which amounts to an increase of 2.6%,
making wood again the fastest growing heating fuel in America.
From 2000 to 2010, wood and pellet
home heating grew by 34%, faster than any of the other heating fuels,
including solar and natural gas. Oil and propane use declined
between 2000 and 2010, and the decline continued in 2012.
Today, 2.1% of Americans use wood or
pellets as their primary heating fuel, up from 1.6% in 2000. An
additional 7.7 % of U.S. households use wood as a secondary heating
fuel, according to the 2009 EIA Renewable Energy Consumption Survey.
Nearly 2.5 million households use
wood as a primary heating fuel, making it, by far, the dominant
residential source of renewable energy in the United States. In comparison,
only about 500,000 of U.S. homes have solar panels and less than 50,000
use solar thermal heating. Solar thermal heating dropped by 2% in
2012 from 2011, according to the new Census numbers.
The states with the biggest growth in wood heat from 2011 - 2012 are Delaware (35.1%), Rhode Island (29.6%),
Nebraska (24.6%), New Hampshire (18.5%) and New Jersey (17.7%).
However, other states experienced declines. Among the important wood
heating states of Washington, Oregon and California, the decline was
very small, but there were more significant declines in Illinois
(5.2%), Idaho (5%) and Colorado (4.8%). Over a 12-year period, the
prevalence of wood heating has increased, often very significantly,
in every state except Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and Hawaii.
Since the U.S. Census Bureau started
tracking heating data in 1950, wood heating has had wide swings.
Starting at 10% of the population in 1950, it dropped to 1.3% of the
population in 1970, an all-time low. By 1990, wood had climbed back
to 3.9%, only to drop back to 1.6% in 2000. The biggest growth story
in heating fuel is electricity, which went from under 1% in 1950 to
The environmental costs of using
electricity for heating is high in most states, where the majority of
electricity is still made with coal. The environmental cost of
drilling and transporting other fossil fuels like oil and gas can
also be high. Wood heating has an environmental cost from the particulate
matter in the smoke, particularly from older stoves in more densely
inhabited areas, and, in some states, from growing numbers of outdoor
wood boilers. The EPA has proposed stricter emission standards for
wood and pellet stoves and boilers and the Office of Management and
Budget is reviewing them now.
Some of the growth in wood heating
can be attributed to households that already had stoves, but now use
them as primary heaters, instead of a secondary ones. Other
households may have bought and installed stoves they found on the
second hand market, which is legal in all states except Washington
The trend towards greater use of
wood and pellets is mainly due to the lower operating costs compared
to oil, propane and electricity. Three states New Hampshire,
Massachusetts and Maine have provided generous rebates for pellet
boilers to help residents replace costly oil heating systems and keep their heating dollars local. Maryland recently established a rebate for the cleanest wood and pellet stoves for rural homes that do not have access to natural gas.
For more info on 2012 U.S. Census data and on trends from 2000 - 2010, and more details about wood heat in the 2000 2010 Census.