It’s February, a time when minds turn to thoughts of sugar bushes, groundhogs and the promise of Spring, but the shortest month of the year is often also the coldest and as the temperatures drop, the heating bills rise.
Grant Rawcliffe and Katharina von Hugo, owners of Heizomat Canada in Breslau, know the struggle of trying to heat a farm without breaking the bank.
“Heating with oil, the insurance companies hate that, so you switch to propane but the costs skyrocket and they aren’t likely to come down,” Rawcliffe says. “If you’re heating a greenhouse or a barn it’s a huge cost.”
When Rawcliffe went looking for a more cost-effective way to keep things warm on his own farm, he found Heizomat, German engineered boilers that use wood chips instead of the more commonly used cord wood.
The system uses augers to funnel the chips into the boiler, saving users the time it takes to keep adding fuel to the fire. Using chips that can be delivered at a low cost saves time splitting and drying wood as well.
Rawcliffe was impressed with the European models, but wanted to test the units himself before selling them to other customers. He put a Heizomat to work for two years on his own property before beginning to promote them.
“Our focus has always been that we want to do stuff that’s good and we want to do things we believe in,” he said. “We brought them over and we wanted to make sure they did what they promised.”
While the boilers save money over time by using a lower-cost, environmentally friendly fuel option, Rawcliffe says it’s the time they give back to their owners that really counts.
“People don’t put any value on their time, they don’t think about the amount of time they spend cutting and splitting and drying the wood and then cleaning out the boiler. If they did, they would realize the cost savings are dramatic,” he said. “Plus you can go on vacation and you don’t think about the heating all the time.”
Traditional cord wood boilers need to be fed every morning and evening, making going on holiday a logistical challenge. Worrying about the heat going off while away also makes relaxing on vacation harder.
The Heizomat units connect to the internet, allowing users to monitor them from their phone. If a problem occurs, the machines send an alert to both customers and Rawcliffe’s team, letting them shut the system down remotely if necessary.
“I’m sure everyone could think of a much better way to enjoy your time,” He says. “It’s not a hobby. I’ve yet to find a farmer that considers [managing the heat] a hobby. They call it the beast.”
Rawcliffe says his customers rave about the systems, but like many businesses this year, Covid has taken its toll.
“When Covid hit last year we definitely saw the numbers go down,” he said of his sales. “This is usually our busiest time right now, but it’s definitely been a little bit slower.”
Rawcliffe says he’s sympathetic towards other business owners who are worried about how the lockdown is affecting their own bottom line and might be waiting before making any capital purchases.
In the meantime, there are other things that can be done to help bring down the heating bills.
“Nothing beats insulating your building… it’ll cut the bills in half,” he says. “But when you do it, you need to seal the building. If you have a leaky building it doesn’t matter how well insulated it is. As soon as the wind blows, all that heat goes out the window.”
For those that do decide to make a change, the staff at Heizomat are taking every precaution when doing the sales and installation work.
When Heizomat opened its doors back in 2014, they were virtual, selling coast-to-coast online. Rawcliffe says that infrastructure made transitioning employees to home offices easier.
Once customers make an online purchase, installers not only wear masks and personal protective equipment when on the job site, they make sure to stay apart from clients to help keep them safe.
“We make sure we’re the only ones in the work area. We don’t need to interact with the customer on site. We just keep ourselves very separate,” Rawcliffe said. “When it comes time to start the boiler we don’t have to go back to the site, we can do it from our computer. It’s definitely a fabulous feature to have with Covid.”
To find out more about Heizomat boilers, head to their website www.heizomat.ca or call them at 1-877-359-0191.
Written by Elizabeth Bate