Recipe #10: Renewable Heat

Sustainability Life Recipe Series...


Life Recipe #10: Renewable Heat

What practical things can we do in our daily lives to protect our living environment, save money, and contribute to good jobs for people in our community?
We’ve done the research alongside our partner Get Your GreenBack Tompkins, and these 13 steps in the areas of local food, building energy, waste reduction and transportation are a great place to start. The Sustainability Life Recipes series will focus on ways to save money, go green, and learn about resources to support your journey. Have an idea? Send us a note at

Did you know that even with unusually low natural gas, oil and propane prices, you can still cut your bills by switching to a renewable heating source, and reduce your carbon emissions and contribute to a stronger local economy?

Ask questions, get advice, & share your thoughts on the local online forum on renewable heating.


  1. Wood. While burning firewood in a stove has been done for centuries, modern wood stoves have significantly reduced the amount of air pollution and can often heat a whole home--if it's been weatherized.

  2. Wood pellets. Pellets are made from sawdust and low-quality trees, and, like wood, can be used to heat a whole house. There are many regionally-produced pellets. NYSERDA is currently offering a $1,500-2,500 rebate on pellet stoves for residences that are not served by natural gas. CCE-Tompkins is offering an additional $500 for homes that do energy efficiency improvements and purchase a pellet stove through their Warm Up Tompkins program.

  3. Heat pumps. These include air-source and ground-source heat pumps, also known as geothermal. Heat pumps, like air conditioners or refrigerators, use electricity to move heat from a cool space to a warm space, making the cool space cooler and the warm space warmer.

Air source heat pumps take heat from the outside air (even when it is cold outside). NYSERDA currently offers a $500 incentive per outdoor unit to participating installers (who may pass it on to customers). All three installers listed below participate in the program.

Ground-source heat pumps, also known as geothermal, remove heat from underground, and are more efficient than air source heat pumps. NYSERDA currently offers a rebate of $1,500 per ton for geothermal technologies.

Heat pumps can be carbon neutral if paired with solar panels, or if you purchase green energy through your energy supplier. Read more about heat pumps here.

Make sure you weatherize your home before deciding on a new heating system. This will help you reduce your heat load, and help you determine the appropriate equipment to keep your home warm all winter long.


In addition to the incentives described above, there is a Federal Tax Credit for up to $300, which can be used for any of the heating systems described above.

Local banks may be able to finance equipment. Sometimes your monthly payment can be less than your monthly energy savings. Here are some local financing options.


The local contractors provided below--all of whom have agreed to a set of good practice standards--can answer your questions and provide quotes for installation. Here is a draft guide to help you work well with them:



And don’t forget the energy efficiency contractors who can help you weatherize your home and figure out the appropriate appliance to heat your home.


Here are some considerations to help you decide.


  • Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County has a number of resources related to heating with wood. Contact Guillermo Metz, Energy Team Leader, at, or (607) 272-2292, ext 185.
  • Pose a question in the local online forum for renewable heat.
  • Check out our guide for working with local pellet heat and heat pump installers.

Wood & Pellet Stoves

  • BurnWise, an site, has a good FAQ section on wood and pellet stoves.
  • has very active national forums on stoves, and a set of articles, including this one on pellet stove maintenance.
  • Alliance for Green Heat is another good source on heating with wood and pellets.

Heat Pumps

  • The Heat Smart Tompkins site has lots of resources on heat pumps.
  • has good resources on geothermal heating.
  • Are heat pumps cost-effective in Tompkins County? This 2017 study from Taitem Engineering indicates that heat pump technology can be cheaper than propane or even natural gas!



Views expressed in News posts may not be those of Cornell University. No endorsement is implied.