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Old 09-22-2009, 11:04 PM
 
Location: At the local Wawa
538 posts, read 1,618,433 times
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With winter approaching, and nights here already in the low 40's, I'm researching a way to heat my home with a stove. I currently heat with electric baseboard and it runs me $600 a month in winter. I have a central location in my living room that can fit a stove that must be vented through the ceiling. I live in a rural area with no natural gas, and big box stores like Lowes are 1/2 hour away. The way I see it:

Pellet: High heat, cheap to run, but useless if the power goes out. Also I hear that pellets are a commodity that can be expensive if there is a shortage. I have little flat room on my property (mountainous) to store a ton of pellets.

Gas: Propane would have to be installed (how expensive is this?), but they seems to give off a lot of heat and are the most maintenece free of the three. Some people tell me that propane costs as much as electricity.

Woodstove: Easy to find people selling cords of wood around here. Lots of heat. Must store the wood. Not safe to keep running when no one is home.

Which is the best alternative? I'm leaning toward gas right now. Does anyone have a gas fired stove (propane) and how much does it cost to heat a small house with this?
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Old 09-23-2009, 01:55 AM
 
22,860 posts, read 17,252,944 times
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Well I linked to calculator in that other thread but here it is again. It's an Excel spreadsheet so you can just save it to your machine locally and work with it. If you don't have Excel download Open Office to use it.

FUEL COST CALCULATOR!!! - Energy, Coal News and Discussion

The cost of each fuel is going to vary depending on the area so you need to find out what the local prices are where you live and input them into the calculator.


The heat output will be determined by the BTU/h rating of the unit regardless of what the fuel source is. I know you mentioned quite a high electric rate @ $.018/kwh , pellets would cost you about half assuming $325 a ton for the pellets. How it relates to other fuels would depend but as another example if you could get oil in the $3 a gallon range you're not going to save much at all. Use the calculator and find out what it costs in your area, it's the only way you can get reliable numbers to compare.

To figure out total costs since each home is quite different you could base it on your current electric usage or use a heat loss calculator.

Couple of points, all of those fuels are subject to market prices except maybe wood which might not be effected as much.

Pellets must be kept dry.

Wood stoves need a lot of maintenance, most only go for about 5 hours on average so unless you intend on getting up at night to refuel it you might want to consider something else.

As i mentioned in the other thread you should seriously consider coal, it's cheaper, less work, safer than any of them, less space needed to store the fuel, it can be stored anywhere including right on the ground in the open and the price is about as stable as it gets. As the cost of other fules were going through the roof last year anthracite saw a modest increase and that mostly due to increased cost od diesel. Wood or wood pellets only have one advantage over coal and that's less ash.
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Old 09-23-2009, 03:47 AM
 
Location: Ohio
2,178 posts, read 5,067,256 times
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Coal would be the cheapest.
Propane in the last few years has been high.
Anytime electric is used to heat a metal element the little wheel in the meter spins like crazy.
A coal stove can be banked at night to maintain some heat.
You put in coal, adjust the chimney flue and the air inlet plates on the stove to make a slow burn instead of a fast heat burn.
When I was a kid my parents had a Warm Morning coal stove. Best heat there was for getting warm real quick.
If you go with coal, try to find an older heavy cast iron stove with a shakeable grate.
You have to shake the clinkers out to make room for more coal.
I still remember that old stove. Best heat there ever was for the money and we didn't have to chop wood.
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Old 09-23-2009, 07:40 AM
 
Location: Sometimes Maryland, sometimes NoVA. Depends on the day of the week
1,501 posts, read 7,688,152 times
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A ton of pellets will be much easier to store than a cord of wood. A ton is 50 bags and they come shrink wrapped on a pallet. We just picked up a ton yesterday ($265/ton). At that price, its a wash with current oil prices (1 ton pellets = 120 gal oil), but we like to use both so its not about saving money this year. Many pellet stoves have battery backup options or can be hooked up to a car batter for power outtages.

We researched wood stoves, and found the price to install the required chimney was astronomical. I don't recall all the details, but it was something about the special pipe (high temp rating than pellet I think) and the fact we'd have to go up two stories plus above the attic and so many feet above the roofline. Definitely look into that.

As for propane, call your local gas company. I think some of them will set you up a tank for free/minimal cost when you sign up for delivery services. I've never had gas ( )but my in-laws converted to a gas furnace, had a propane tank put onsite, and loved it.
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Old 09-23-2009, 10:08 AM
 
22,860 posts, read 17,252,944 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robhu View Post
A coal stove can be banked at night to maintain some heat.
You put in coal, adjust the chimney flue and the air inlet plates on the stove to make a slow burn instead of a fast heat burn.
When I was a kid my parents had a Warm Morning coal stove. Best heat there was for getting warm real quick.
If you go with coal, try to find an older heavy cast iron stove with a shakeable grate.
You have to shake the clinkers out to make room for more coal.
.
They do make automatic stokers which are similar to pellet stoves or all the way up to full stoker boiler than can be purchased up to 1 million BTU.

"Clinker" is a term used to describe a mass which forms within the fire that will look like a molten mass of metal and be just as hard because of the volatile matter. It can make using soft coal quite inconvenient because at that point it need to be removed manually. It is nearly non existent with anthracite coal except when burned really hot and it has a lot of volatiles. The ash of anthracite in most cases will burn up to nearly powder or chunky consistency that can easily be broken by hand.
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Old 09-23-2009, 10:25 AM
 
8,300 posts, read 22,185,990 times
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I don't understand the safety concern about using a woodstove while unattended. We've used sealed firebox woodstoves for many years, and they are safe and effective heating units. Have used a number of waterford/stanley, jotul, vermont castings, and several others with confidence ... and many will hold a fire of hardwood overnight. We usually stoke the fire around 10 PM and have a sizable bed of coals remaining at 7-8 AM the next morning, suitable for poking around to drop the ash into the lower pan and adding more wood for the beginning of the day.

If firewood, especially hardwoods, are the least expensive source of local fuel for you, I don't see choosing other fuels unless the process of obtaining wood and sizing it for the firebox is too daunting a project. You'd be paying a price for convenience with propane, although having a thermostat and a ventless unit could be very attractive in terms of efficiency and ease of use ... friends just installed a Rinnai ventless unit, and it doesn't take up much space and is very convenient, although they comment that it runs almost all the time where the older vented stove used to cycle on/off. Coal takes you back to having to maintain the fire and clean out ashes/clinkers, much like a wood stove, although not as frequently. Pellet stoves are a convenient way to use wood, but again require that you haul in fuel to add to the hopper and have the drawback of requiring electricity to function.

I'd suggest you look at the Vermont Castings line of woodstoves as a benchmark of performance, although they're not necessarily a price leader. I really like the soapstone stoves, they are very pleasant with a large radiating surface. There's a number of equally good domestic manufactured wood stoves that aren't quite as fancy but perform just as well. Jotul stoves are good ones, too ... although I've not been too thrilled about some of their recent styling.

Last edited by sunsprit; 09-23-2009 at 11:00 AM..
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Old 09-23-2009, 11:17 AM
 
Location: At the local Wawa
538 posts, read 1,618,433 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
I don't understand the safety concern about using a woodstove while unattended. We've used sealed firebox woodstoves for many years, and they are safe and effective heating units. Have used a number of waterford/stanley, jotul, vermont castings, and several others with confidence ... and many will hold a fire of hardwood overnight. We usually stoke the fire around 10 PM and have a sizable bed of coals remaining at 7-8 AM the next morning, suitable for poking around to drop the ash into the lower pan and adding more wood for the beginning of the day.

If firewood, especially hardwoods, are the least expensive source of local fuel for you, I don't see choosing other fuels unless the process of obtaining wood and sizing it for the firebox is too daunting a project. You'd be paying a price for convenience with propane, although having a thermostat and a ventless unit could be very attractive in terms of efficiency and ease of use ... friends just installed a Rinnai ventless unit, and it doesn't take up much space and is very convenient, although they comment that it runs almost all the time where the older vented stove used to cycle on/off. Coal takes you back to having to maintain the fire and clean out ashes/clinkers, much like a wood stove, although not as frequently. Pellet stoves are a convenient way to use wood, but again require that you haul in fuel to add to the hopper and have the drawback of requiring electricity to function.

I'd suggest you look at the Vermont Castings line of woodstoves as a benchmark of performance, although they're not necessarily a price leader. I really like the soapstone stoves, they are very pleasant with a large radiating surface. There's a number of equally good domestic manufactured wood stoves that aren't quite as fancy but perform just as well. Jotul stoves are good ones, too ... although I've not been too thrilled about some of their recent styling.
Several people have mentioned to me that I should get a ventless gas stove. The logic of ventless doesn't make sense to me: how can you vent a combustion byproduct into your house? But people swear that they are safe and they are legal in every state except CA. I know people have gas stoves and they vent into the house, so I know that the ventless salespeople use that logic as a basis for saying that they are clean. Plus they claim to be 99% efficient and put out boatloads of BTU's. The cost of installing a ventless is certainly appealing (no chimney to install). Honestly, are they safe or not?

I've researched wood and coal, and I don't think they will work for us. Just too much maintenece and I just don't want to use any of my flat land to store the stuff. Pellets I can store in my basement, but I wouldn't store coal or wood down there. So I'm down to pellets and gas (vented or ventless).
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Old 09-23-2009, 12:23 PM
 
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Ventless is not something I would consider, for a little bit more you can properly vent it.

Quote:
Plus they claim to be 99% efficient and put out boatloads of BTU's.
They would be, actually 100% as all the heat stays in the house. Efficiency ratings are based on how much heat you get out compared to how much energy you are putting in. Electric baseboard is also 100% efficient but as you are awre that doen't translate to savings. Coal stoves and other vented appliances are going to range from 70 to 90%. Atypical coal stove is 80% or better but they do make one coal boiler that is almost 90%. They can't make them any more efficient because you need to maintain a draft. Going back to the calculator I linked to one input it allows for is efficiency.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Phish Head View Post
I've researched wood and coal, and I don't think they will work for us. Just too much maintenece and I just don't want to use any of my flat land to store the stuff. Pellets I can store in my basement, but I wouldn't store coal or wood down there. So I'm down to pellets and gas (vented or ventless).

A coal stoker is less maintenance than pellets. As I mentioned a stoker stove is quite similar to a pellet stove, it's automatic. Pour coal in the hopper and take ashes out of the other end. If anything the pellet designs are based on coal stokers since they have been around for more than half a century. The only maintenece involved with a coal stoker is end of the season cleaning. You need to take the flue pipe off and clean the fly ash out it. At most you're looking at few hours each year. You still have to deal with creosote with pellets but not as bad as wood.

A hand fired stove would be more work compared to pellets because you still need to manually add fuel and shake it down twice a day but the benefit there is it requires no electric.

If you'd store pellets in the basement there's even less of a reason not store coal there. That's where most people put it for convenience. Is there reason why you wouldn't want to? It's impervious to combustion outside of the stove and you have no concerns about critters deciding to make it home. Basically it's like putting rocks in your basement except they burn when in the right environment.
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Old 09-23-2009, 03:44 PM
 
Location: At the local Wawa
538 posts, read 1,618,433 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thecoalman View Post
Ventless is not something I would consider, for a little bit more you can properly vent it.

They would be, actually 100% as all the heat stays in the house. Efficiency ratings are based on how much heat you get out compared to how much energy you are putting in. Electric baseboard is also 100% efficient but as you are awre that doen't translate to savings. Coal stoves and other vented appliances are going to range from 70 to 90%. Atypical coal stove is 80% or better but they do make one coal boiler that is almost 90%. They can't make them any more efficient because you need to maintain a draft. Going back to the calculator I linked to one input it allows for is efficiency.





A coal stoker is less maintenance than pellets. As I mentioned a stoker stove is quite similar to a pellet stove, it's automatic. Pour coal in the hopper and take ashes out of the other end. If anything the pellet designs are based on coal stokers since they have been around for more than half a century. The only maintenece involved with a coal stoker is end of the season cleaning. You need to take the flue pipe off and clean the fly ash out it. At most you're looking at few hours each year. You still have to deal with creosote with pellets but not as bad as wood.

A hand fired stove would be more work compared to pellets because you still need to manually add fuel and shake it down twice a day but the benefit there is it requires no electric.

If you'd store pellets in the basement there's even less of a reason not store coal there. That's where most people put it for convenience. Is there reason why you wouldn't want to? It's impervious to combustion outside of the stove and you have no concerns about critters deciding to make it home. Basically it's like putting rocks in your basement except they burn when in the right environment.
I hear ya, coalman, but keep in mind that I have a wife that I have to keep happy. Storing sealed bags of pellets would be less of an issue for her in a mostly finished basement than storing coal (or rocks for that matter).

If I had my dream fishing cabin in the woods, there would be a coal stove in it. But until then, gas or pellets it will have to be, even if it costs more.
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Old 09-23-2009, 04:44 PM
 
212 posts, read 442,935 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phish Head View Post
With winter approaching, and nights here already in the low 40's, I'm researching a way to heat my home with a stove. I currently heat with electric baseboard and it runs me $600 a month in winter. I have a central location in my living room that can fit a stove that must be vented through the ceiling. I live in a rural area with no natural gas, and big box stores like Lowes are 1/2 hour away. The way I see it:

Pellet: High heat, cheap to run, but useless if the power goes out. Also I hear that pellets are a commodity that can be expensive if there is a shortage. I have little flat room on my property (mountainous) to store a ton of pellets.

Gas: Propane would have to be installed (how expensive is this?), but they seems to give off a lot of heat and are the most maintenece free of the three. Some people tell me that propane costs as much as electricity.

Woodstove: Easy to find people selling cords of wood around here. Lots of heat. Must store the wood. Not safe to keep running when no one is home.

Which is the best alternative? I'm leaning toward gas right now. Does anyone have a gas fired stove (propane) and how much does it cost to heat a small house with this?

To Phish Head from Dead Head,
Pellet,...I see lots of negatives.Number one you are an addict with a dealer.Lots of these were sold and there was a shortage of pellets with these stoves sitting cold and useless.Try making your own pellets with a microscopic ice cream scooper and a pile of sawdust.Can i say LOL. Oh,...and i forgot about the dust in the house from the pellets as you dump them,and the other dust from the burnt pellets in your house and all around outside.Plus you can't let them get wet at all.So inside storage Useless,...move on to other options.
Propane,...Nice and easy,but again you have a dealer.If gas and oil go up so does propane and it is not cheap to have the big tank installed and a supply line trenched to the home.
Wood,....Lots of wood around and your neighbors and locals supporting themselves this way.Start buying when it warms up in april,may,june and it's a poor persons stock market.Buy low and burn high.It can be stored outside and doesn't desintigrate?sp in water.Tarps are cheap.Might i add that you can make this fuel yourself.With electric backup set low,loading in at night what would you spend in electric?There is nothing that gives the hipnotizing effect of wood burning even without a good phish jam on the stereo system.Plus you save the need for a shredder for sensitive document disposal.
I purposely avoided reading the other replies first and will check them out now.One other thing,...if you get a coal/wood stove you can burn wood and be able to burn coal if needed.A wood stove will melt if you try to burn coal in it.
Don't you let that deal go down,......
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