Wood burning chops heating costs for Margaretville's Hanah Resort
By Julia Green
People all over the country were feeling the crunch triggered by skyrocketing fuel oil prices last year, and responded in a number of ways. Fewer sport utility vehicles peppered highways and there was a noticeable increase in hybrid vehicles. Travelers opted to stay closer to home in lieu of paying for airline tickets, the inflated prices of which mirrored the ever-growing cost of fuel. And, as heating homes and businesses became increasingly costly, many people opted to seek alternative heat sources as winter approached.
One local business that opted to explore options outside traditional fuel oil heat was Hanah Resort and Country Club in Margaretville, which installed wood furnaces to heat the entire resort.
“One of our members is using it (a wood furnace) and he said once he fills his fuel tank over the winter, he says, ‘I pay only $100 or $200 for the whole winter,’” said Hanah President Hide Kiyono. “I said, ‘Are you sure?’”
During the winter of 2007-2008, when fuel oil prices continued to climb, Kiyono estimated that the resort was spending an average of $13,000 and sometimes even as much as $15,000 a month. The outlook for continuing to heat with fuel oil was grim, and the country club opted to explore other alternatives.
This past August, they ordered 10 wood furnaces, which were delivered at the end of the year and were installed by January.
“Thirteen thousand dollars became $3,000,” Kiyono said, citing a decrease to 24 percent in cost and 43 percent in gallonage of what was being used at the same time last year. In February of 2008, a total of 4,533 gallons of fuel oil were burned, with a bottom line cost of $12,956. This past February, 1,977 gallons were used, costing the resort only $3,148.
“If they (fuel oil usage and cost) had kept rising, we could not survive,” he said. “This is big-time savings for us.”
The total overall cost of purchase and installation of the wood furnaces was roughly $300,000.
“If you do the math, in five years you’ll get the money back,” Kiyono said.
The resort is utilizing wood from its own property to feed the furnaces, beginning with trees that had fallen as a result of floods and other natural impacts, and moving on to cutting wood on the grounds.
“We are in a global recession,” Kiyono said. “One in 10 people are out of work. I can buy wood fairly cheap, but I’d prefer keeping good employees. They work very hard in the golf season. And it’s still saving, even keeping people working here; it’s still cheaper to keep people here and save energy.”
An initial challenge, Kiyono said, was finding the right type of wood to burn, as the red oak that they attempted to use initially turned out to be one of the worse types of wood to use. Since then, however, they have utilized ash, maple, and some green wood.
“If the wood furnace is working, the oil furnace is off,” Kiyono said. “If not, you hear the oil furnace kick in.”
The self-contained wood furnace is connected to the building it heats through under ground-insulated water pipes. Roughly 170 gallons of water are heated and circulate between the outdoor furnace and the existing indoor furnace or boiler, where the heat is transferred to the heating system and the hot water supply.
Hanah is the first resort of its kind to utilize wood furnaces to heat the entire facility, using five commercial units for the larger buildings like the clubhouse and the guest lodge, and smaller furnaces for the more residential structures. And, in addition to heat, the wood furnaces provide the hot water for the resort, which adds to the financial benefits. And, in addition to cost savings, Kiyono said there are other benefits to using wood heat.
“With the wood furnace, you get a natural warmth,” he said. “It’s not a dry heat. It’s nice and soft to the throat, and a nice continuous heat.”
He added that anyone wishing to learn more about wood furnaces or to see them working is welcome to visit Hanah and talk to the maintenance crew about the installation and operation.