Cut heating costs and help the environment
How and why pellets are good for family budgets, the climate and the economy
Gas is still the main source of energy used to heat Italian homes: it is utilized by over 70% of families. However, wood is also very popular. According to figures from Istat (the Italian National Institute of Statistics), more than one in five Italian families use wood for energy purposes, while just 4.1% use pellets. Although they are not yet in widespread use, pellets present a very sound alternative. They are less expensive than fossil fuels and more environmentally friendly, even compared to firewood. Let’s find out why.
PELLETS ARE GOOD FOR FAMILY BUDGETS
It has been calculated that families can save more than €220 a year if they replace a gas heating system with a pellet-based one, just under €800 if they switch from oil to pellets and more than €1,200 a year if they go from LPG to pellets.*
*AIEL (Italian Agroforestry Energy Association) figures based on a 150 m² home with average insulation (12 MWh of primary heating needs, which means 1,200 Nm³ of gas, 1,200 litres of oil or 2,550 kg of pellets).
Italy is a leading international player in pellet technology, which has taken huge leaps forward. The products that are currently on the market (stoves, fireplaces and boilers) are increasingly efficient and fuel consumption is consistently low. In addition, there are products available to cater to a vast range of needs: from small stoves that can be used occasionally in the spring and autumn or in homes with low heating needs, to mini-systems that can heat whole homes effectively and even provide hot water.
PELLETS ARE GOOD FOR THE CLIMATE
Heating with natural fuels such as pellets – which are made exclusively from virgin wood waste, with no glue or varnish – makes an important contribution to the fight against climate change. Pellets release ten times less carbon dioxide than traditional fossil fuels. If you heat a 150 m² house with pellets instead of gas or oil, you will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by more than 2,400 kg a year.
Of course carbon dioxide is not the only factor in air pollution. Pellets also come out on top when it comes to the dreaded “particulate matter”, especially if they are certified and used in modern systems. This is because combustion takes place in a more controlled atmosphere with minimum human intervention and the composition and moisture levels of the pellets are standardized. Pellets used in these conditions release at least ten times less particulate matter than firewood. According to recent studies, a significant reduction in PM10 (more than 80%) would be possible if open, wood-burning fireplaces and obsolete stoves were replaced with innovative pellet-boiling boilers or stoves.
PELLETS ARE GOOD FOR THE LOCAL ECONOMY
Unlike imported fossil fuels (which only contribute to the economies of their countries of origin), local pellet production has a very positive impact on the surrounding area. It has been calculated that 60 tonnes of pellets that are produced and used locally create 200 hours of work a year, compared to 10 hours for the gas required to produce the same amount of energy.
The world’s top manufacturers of pellet equipment can be found in Italy, but the country is only just beginning to produce the fuel. There is vast potential for expansion due to both the growing demand and the amount of land covered by forests in Italy, only a small proportion of which is used to produce fuel. For instance, take Austria and Germany, which are big pellet and timber producers. 70-80% of the annual increase in wood supplies comes from their forests, whereas in Italy the figure does not even reach 25%.
Finally, let us dispel a myth. It is not at all true that using forests to produce timber plays a part in deforestation. On the contrary, as shown by the examples of Austria and Germany, forests that are profitable will be protected and carefully managed in order to keep them that way. If this were not the case, no form of intervention would be economically sustainable, so the forests would tend to be abandoned or turned into something else.
The widest range of pellets will be on display during the next edition of Progetto Fuoco, from 19 to 22 February 2020, Verona Exhibition Center.