WASHINGTON, D.C. — Under questioning Thursday by Sen. Susan Collins, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shawn Donovan agreed to update federal guidelines to classify wood pellet boilers as an “acceptable” primary heating source for the purpose of Federal Housing Authority financing.
Until now, HUD has not considered a wood pellet boiler system as a conventional primary heating source, which Collins says has made it hard for homeowners to obtain FHA financing and has discouraged homeowners from considering alternatives to heating systems that rely on fossil fuels.
“Maine is the most heavily dependent of any state in the nation on home heating oil,” Collins told Donovan. “When you see the spikes in oil prices we have seen this year — and the cutbacks in the LIHEAP — it is causing tremendous hardship for so many families.
“Many families are looking for reliable affordable alternatives. The wood pellet boiler industry is growing quickly and it has the potential to create thousands of new jobs in Maine,” Collins said.
Collins said wood pellet manufacturing, boiler technology and pellet delivery systems have progressed dramatically since the days of scooping pellets from a plastic bag into a small stove every couple of hours. Industry leaders indicate that newly developed pellet boiler systems can reliably maintain a constant level of heat in a home without direct human intervention.
To that end, she said, “It is appropriate for HUD to update its regulations and consider wood pellet boiler systems as an acceptable conventional heating source.”
Donovan said Collins was “absolutely right” and said HUD will update its rules based on the improved technology.
“There are moments when the federal government, and government in general, can be a little bit behind the cutting edge in terms of new technology,” he said. “I’m happy to report that wood pellet stoves are an acceptable heating system for homes under our insurance program as long as they meet the qualifications that any heating systems has to meet.”
The updated regulations can be seen at HUD’s website at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=aprval.pdf.