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Analysis of a Wood Heat Survey

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In April 2010, the Alliance for Green Heat and Antioch University New England circulated a survey to solicit attitudes about wood heat. 885 people took the survey from 37 states. About half heated with wood or pellets and about a quarter work in the biomass industry. Thus, this survey is not in any way a scientific representative sample of the US population, wood burners or any other particular group. However, there is some diversity in the respondents: 36% don't heat with wood and 11% don't even know anyone who heated with wood. A quarter work for environmental non-profits.

We believe the survey results produced some very interesting data if you look at just the responses of those who heat with wood or pellets, for example. Or, if you look at the differences between men and women, urban and rural residents or Democrats and Republicans, you will note some very large differences of opinions. Where large differences exist, those results may reveal trends that exist in our society and could turn up in a much larger, scientifically managed survey.

The survey asked 24 questions, and produced a lot of data, only a very small amount of which we have processed and have available.
 

We received many interesting and informed comments in the comment section, which is accessible through the link above. Many people were disappointed that we did not include boilers in the survey, instead of just stoves. Many people thought some of the questions were awkwardly worded (we agree). Some people thought the questions had an anti-biomass tilt (if this is so, it was certainly unintentional). We want to thank everyone who took the time to fill out the survey, leave substantive comments and forward to it friends and colleagues. Please let us know if you have additional suggestions for any future surveys.

General Observations

  • Of the 885 people who responded, 53% use wood or pellets for heat; 30% have oil heat; 35% have gas heat and 16% have propane; 19% have electric; and 1% did not know the source of their heat.

  • Of the 885 people who responded, men (440 respondents), Republicans (93 respondents) and rural dwellers (300 respondents) were more pro biomass and women (289), and Democrats (316) and urban dwellers (176) tended to have more concerns about it.

Renewability

  • Rural residents were nearly twice as likely to think that wood heat is a renewable energy source.

  • Except for urban residents and those who do not heat with wood or pellets, all groups felt that wood was a more renewable heat source than pellets.

Emissions

  • Of the entire 885 respondents, 40% somewhat agreed, agreed or strongly agreed that EPA certified stoves negatively impacted outdoor air quality, and 60% somewhat disagreed, disagreed or strongly disagreed.

  • Women were the only group who thought that indoor and outdoor air quality may be equally impacted by wood smoke. All other groups thought outdoor air quality was much more impacted than indoor air quality.

Sustainability/forest health

  • 26% of all respondents strongly agreed, agreed or somewhat agreed that at current levels, harvesting wood for heating is likely to harm overall forest health. 61% thought otherwise.

  • If the percentage of Americans that heats their homes primarily with wood jumped from 2% to 6%, 34% of respondents thought forest health is likely to be harmed and 51% thought it is unlikely to be harmed.

Tax Incentives and Rebates

  • Almost all groups rated renewability, sustainability and cost-effectiveness higher than low emissions and low carbon, as reasons to incentivize wood heat.

  • Generally, nearly all respondents thought renewable energy systems should be given incentives and rebates in this order, from most to least: solar, wind, geothermal, wood stove, pellet stove.

  • Those who heat with pellets, Republicans and those in the biomass industry were the only groups who thought that biomass should receive incentives and rebates as often as solar, wind and geothermal.

  • Even the 317 respondents who burn wood for heat thought that solar and wind should most often receive incentives and rebates as compared to wood and pellet stoves.

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