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An Interview with Morton Bailey of Lyme Green Heat
Lyme Green Heat of Lyme, New Hampshire, has been in business since 2008. It provides central heating solutions and wood pellet heating fuel to residential, commercial, municipal, and institutional customers in Vermont (primarily eastern and central Vermont), New Hampshire, and Northern Massachusetts. The company offers sales, service, and bulk pellet deliveries. Morton Bailey is Lyme Green Heat’s founder and president.
What got you into the business?
Morton Bailey: I’ve always been interested in renewable energy. Some years ago, I was working at an organic tomato farm in the Valley and I learned it used $100,000 a year just for the propane to grow the tomatoes. I thought, “There must be a better way to create heat.” I looked into how things could be done differently, including the European method of bulk pellet delivery. Later, I worked for Tarm Biomass on residential pellet boilers as a technician and started a side business selling bagged pellets. My turning point was when I went to a trade show in Germany about bulk delivery—I saw OkoFEN boilers from Austria, and came up with a way that I could put it all together in the U.S. as a viable business.
Is most of Lyme Green Heat’s business residential or commercial?
MB: The majority of our work is for residential households and light commercial (1 million Btu or less). We haven’t moved into the large industrial market. We’re probably at 70/30 residential to commercial, but the commercial side is growing every year. We have two 10-ton trucks for residential deliveries and two 30-ton tractor-trailers for pellet transfer and for commercial deliveries. This means we have the ability to have 120 tons on pellets on the road at any one time.
What misconceptions do people have about pellet heat?
MB: There’s still a major lack of information about it. We provide a lot of education to potential customers. The one thing people do “know” about wood pellets is they come in a 40-pound bag. So we have to counter that. The concept of bulk delivery and bulk storage is still new to them.
How does bulk delivery and storage work?
We typically put an enclosed fabric “bag” (a big filter sac made of a GoreTex-like material) in the customer’s basement that is filled from outside by our delivery drivers. As the pellets are used, the bag changes shape. When it’s getting low, a proximity sensor sends an email to us, and to the customer, noting that it will be time for a refill soon.
How are pellets transferred from a bulk bin to a boiler?
MB: There are two methods: using a spiral auger to pull the [1/4" by 1"] pellets directly into the boiler, and using a vacuum system to move pellets into a “day hopper” and returning the air back to the bin. It’s a closed system. We like to use the vacuum system because it’s both more efficient and more flexible—you can have up to 80 feet of vacuum line between the bin and the boiler. For instance, we recently installed a system at the Montshire Museum in Norwich, Vermont. The boilers are in the basement of the building and the pellets are stored in a silo outside. Pellets are a solid fuel you can convey like a liquid.
How do new customers find you?
MB: It’s a mix. Grassroots marketing, traditional marketing, word of mouth. It’s challenging; any business doing something unique finds generating new leads a challenge. By far, Web searches are our best lead generator. We have always had a comprehensive website (lymegreenheat.com) and kept it up to date, and we tend to come up pretty high on web searches for pellet heat or for bulk delivery systems.
How does Efficiency Vermont, specifically membership in the Efficiency Excellence Network, benefit your business?
MB: Efficiency Vermont has adopted wood pellet heating as part of its overall energy plan for the state. We’ve relatively recently begun working more closely together. At first Efficiency Vermont just offered rebates directly to customers, so we didn’t actually interact much. Now our relationship is growing, and we are working together to help educate customers.
Being in the Efficiency Excellence Network helps us on the commercial side, with engineering systems. Efficiency Vermont offers rebates along with technical assistance, providing guidance to customers so it’s not just us making a sales pitch. It is a trusted resource and has status as an expert in the field. We hope Efficiency Vermont continues to use its status, strength, and competence to promote this technology, showing customers that pellet systems represent a smart energy move for them.
Where do you see your business going in the future?
MB: Our plan is to keep doing what we’re doing. Install more boilers, deliver more pellets. We want to get the business to a point of sustainability. We want to get to a point where the technology is well accepted and we’re growing the market for the systems and the bulk deliveries. We want to keep customers comfortable and warm. When it comes down to it, we are in the comfort business.
Making Vermont more energy efficient is a collaborative effort, and would not be possible without a strong network of independent contractors. In 2014, Efficiency Vermont created the Efficiency Excellence Network in order to better support and encourage Vermont contractors to provide energy-efficient solutions in the field. There are currently 204 member contractors, including Lyme Green Heat of Lyme, New Hampshire. Interested in becoming a part of Efficiency Vermont’s Efficiency Excellence Network? Visit contractors.efficiencyvermont.com/efficiency-excellence-network to learn more about the participation requirements and to register for upcoming contractor trainings.