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Converting to wood-based fuel

A Huge Jump in Recycling

The South Lewis Central School in Turin, New York used to run on oil. It converted to a wood-product boiler system in 2011. “We did it just to save money,” said Richard Poniktera, Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds, when speaking of the district’s new boiler. “That was our primary goal.”

“We’re saving about $100,000 per year,” said district Business Manager Barry Yetty. “You can save a teaching position and a half with that money.” Almost as important as the savings is the predictability of cost for the creation of the district budget. Oil prices are notoriously variable. “We wanted to reduce our dependence on petroleum products,” said Yetty. “The cost of oil and the fluctuations in prices can really kill our budget.” “We’ve decreased our usage of oil by about eighty percent,” added Yetty. “And we’re dealing with a lot less variation in pricing.” The wood comes from local timber companies, supporting the local economy. “Besides us realizing the savings that we do, we’re a good neighbor too,” said Yetty. “This is a nice bit of business for the local timber companies.” Not only is the new system saving money and making the budgetary process easier, it is also easy to operate. “Overall we don’t have to spend much time on it,” said Poniktera.


“There is no time allotted for its maintenance,” added Yetty. “During its operational season we probably have a custodian check it for about twenty minutes for every eight hour shift. It’s so computerized, you’d be shocked how little labor is involved in running this. It’s crazy.” The boiler, which was manufactured by Messersmith Manufacturing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is also surprisingly clean. “We burn about four to five truckloads of chips per week during the cold season, and our byproduct is about a half a garbage can of ash,” said Yetty. “We just bag it up and put it out with the rest of our trash.” And, while cost savings was the motivation behind the district’s switch from oil to wood chips, people are noticing the environmental benefits too. “I like the concept of it,” concluded Poniktera. “It produces no toxins or anything like that, and overall it’s a very green means of heat.”

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