January 22, 2012

Wood sales hot as homeowners give boot to oil

Clarke Canfield / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Logs are moved around the wood yard at Southern Maine Firewood in Gorham recently. The company sold 3,200 cords last year, up from 2,600 in 2010.

AP/Pat Wellenbach

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Dan Stevens loads the wood stove at his home in Gardiner last Thursday. The number of households using wood as a heating source nearly doubled in Maine from 2000 to 2010, while growing by a third nationwide, according to U.S. Census figures.

AP/Pat Wellenbach

Pollution isn't considered much of a public health issue in the East, he said, because the smoke easily disperses and stoves aren't used a lot in urban areas. But out West, particularly in valleys with temperature inversions, wood stove smoke can create pollution problems, he said.

Meanwhile, firewood sales have been hot. Southern Maine Firewood, in Gorham, ran out of seasoned firewood for this winter in November. The company sold 3,200 cords last year, up from 2,300 in 2009, said officer manager Shellee Zaharis.

"Oil's so expensive, and it seems that people are worried that the 2008 oil prices are going to come back," Zaharis said.

Wood stove sales have been brisk at Rocky's Stove Shoppe in Augusta, said owner Rocky Gaslin. Sales of both firewood- and pellet-burning stoves roughly doubled from 2010 to 2011, he said. A medium-size firewood-burning stove that can heat up to 2,000 square feet costs from $1,700 to $2,500, plus installation, while a similar-size pellet stove would sell in the $2,500-$4,000 range.

"People are trying to do as much as they can to replace oil," he said. "They don't want to burn a drop of oil at $3.50 a gallon."

In the small town of Somerville, Dr. Roy Miller heats his 1,400-square-foot house with a wood stove and two propane heaters for backup. He usually spends $600 to $800 burning three to four cords of wood a year, plus another $600 to $700 for propane. Miller, a family doctor, likes being able to make his house toasty warm without feeling guilty or wasteful, the way he might if he were cranking up an oil furnace.

"If at the end of the year we use an extra half cord, that's just $100," he said. "You can do that in a couple of nights with oil."

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