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Any updated Pellet pricing now that we're into August?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by PutnamJct, Aug 3, 2006.

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  1. Jerry

    Jerry New Member

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    I just hauled 3 tons of Lignetics ( My Favorite) home for $160. ea. On Sale. I will probably need another 1/2 ton to get through winter. I like to buy different kinds, by the bag, to try out new brands. Y'all Mart usually has a few different brands during the winter at great prices. The neighborhood grocery store usually has Eureka pellets at a good price. They are a pretty good pellet too.
    My heating bills are about a push with pellets and NG. The difference is, with pellets I can actually keep it nice and warm in here for the same money.
    It's good to be warm!

    Other prices in Eastern WA:
    Lignetics (Sandpoint, ID)~ $170-$180
    Armstrong SPF (imported from Canada)~ $150-$160. Last year were $139
    Atlas Premium all Red Fir (Coeur d'Alene, ID)~ $140 from the mill. $150 local

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  2. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Pellets at $210 a ton are roughly the same as oil at $2.00 a gallon. Any other savings you see is based on a number of factors including lower temps in other parts of the home and the advantages of "space" heat (whatever the fuel).....and, of course the big one, wishful thinking!

    Adding in the stove cleaning, pellet hauling and orginal installation price, the equiv. would change to be ever closer.

    Fuel Cost Calculator

    Note: I upped the Pellet Stove efficiency to 75% for my calc above.
  3. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    I'll be certain to put it through some abuse!

    I met Mike Haefner, the founder and Prez of this manufacturer, many years ago at one of the first "nethead" parties that we had at the yearly trade shows. We'd (Hearth.com) rent a room/suite, get some donations and beer - and next thing you know we'd all be networking!

    Anyway, he is one of those good Hearth Industry stories - the hard working, hands-on guy who started small and pretty much stayed small....but now is getting bigger due to the popularity of biomass (pellet/corn) stoves. He had the first stove nationally certified to burn corn and his current models claim to burn just about everything...they have some kind of a round, rotatiing firepot (at least one model does)...<plug here> .Mike has recently become a GOLD sponsor of Hearth.com, which is an amazing committment for a small manufacturer. He always believed in the power of the net, but now he is putting his money where his mouth is! (or at least where my mouth is!). All kidding aside, a sponsorship of Hearth.com is what makes stuff like this board available for everyone - and it also benefits the manufacturer and their dealers greatly <end of plug>

    He also makes some central heating units that burn pellets/corn and various other biomass fuels.

    One thing that I am fairly certain of - the future will favor stoves that can burn higher ash pellets, corn and other biomass as opposed to those which only like the best fuel. It's one thing if you like in the western forests, but for the rest of us I think fuel flexibility will be a plus.
  4. PutnamJct

    PutnamJct Member

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    No wishful thinking for me. The oil companies around here send lock in letters and leave the price blank until you call them. Then they want you to prepay the whole years worth up front. They add the threat that if you don't lock in, "they are not responsible" if they run out (and you freeze your a** off) As the prices stand today, I'll save well over $1000 this season and don't have to cringe when the tanker pulls down the driveway. The numbers don't lie and I keep the house at 70 degrees 24/7. My set up is probably unique but it works.
  5. HarryBack

    HarryBack New Member

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    you know what, Putnam, Ive found the same thing! I keep reading how oil's cheaper but:

    I used to burn 1300 gals oil/year. Now, with the pellet stove, I burn 300 gals. Lets do some simple math:

    my pellets cost me $250/ton, because I dont procrastinate......5 tons at $250/ton = $1250.
    my oil costs me $2.43/gal (today)......I save 1000 gals/year now that I burn with pellets......thats $2430 dollars.

    $2430 - $1250 = $1180! So, Im saving $1180 dollars at todays prices burning pellets. At least thats what my checkbook tells me, and that assumes the prices of oil being constant, all winter, at $2.43/gal......if it goes down, Ill save less, but if it goes up, I'll save more. Also, yea, pellets are more work than oil, but still ALOT less work than wood, and I think Ill use the same argument the wood scroungers use...the work is therapeutic! ;-P
  6. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    It's time to call out the mythbusters!

    And, from all people, an Engineer.
    Now, let me see if I understand your calcs.....

    You are claiming that 5 tons of pellets =1000 gallons of heating oil.
    That is 200 gallons per ton.
    Pellets contain about 16,000,000 BTU per ton.
    Oil contains about 28,000,000 BTU for 200 gallons.

    To replace 1000 gallons of oil with Pellets, you would need 140,000,000 BTU's of Pellets (almost 9 tons). There are no if, ands or buts.

    So, you are burning almost 1/2 the amount of BTU's, but magically getting the same heat?

    One of the constants I have seen in this industry is the old "I heat my house with two logs for 24 hours in my Buck Stove" mentality. Now that we are all mature and know a bit more about the way heat works, isn't it time to be accurate about BTU to BTU comparisons? How can we expect an educated consumer if we in the trade don't use basic science and math in our comparisons.

    While I have no doubt that the stories you tell about your experience are true, they are not an accurate picture. For instance:
    1. Did you try installing a freestanding gas or oil stove in the same place as the Pellet Stove? Maybe you are saving money because of space heat as opposed to Central Heat.
    2. Was the entire house at the same temperature as with the oil?
    3. Was your central heater old and inefficient?
    4. Did you do anything to tighten up the house or improve any facets to lower heat load?

    Not looking for answers, but these are SOME of the questions that the "personal experiences" do not always answer.

    In summary, a BTU is a BTU. There is no way around it. Certainly there are many other factors which go into a heating decision, but I would hate to think that a bunch of hearth shops are out there claiming a ton of pellets beats 200 gallons of oil. Honesty is always the best policy, and if it sounds too good to be true - it usually is.
  7. Mike Wilson

    Mike Wilson New Member

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  8. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    That is why I hate to part with my old stove. I will have to use that extra log every day.
  9. HarryBack

    HarryBack New Member

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    hey, what can I say, Craig!? Built the house in '88....burned oil till 2001, almost always the same amount of oil/year. Bought the stove, burned 5 tons/yr for 4 years now.
    for your questions:

    1. Nope....the only gas available here is bottled.......expen$ive.....didnt do that OR a freestanding oil stove....why would I? In 4 years in supposed to chuck 2 stoves in the interest of science? naw.
    2. Basically, the house is WARMER than with oil. two zones, upstairs and downstairs with the oil, kept upstairs at 65 degrees, downstairs at 68 degrees with oil. Now, with pellets, downstairs is 75, upstairs 65 (have to get downstairs to 75, so I can get upstairs to 65)
    3. Heater, 1988, new, furnace cleaned every year (system is baseboard hot water).
    4. NO changes to the home to change the heat load.

    I guess it IS magic! All I can tell ya is the above Craig.......overanalyze it all you want, but it is what it is. maybe winters are alot warmer now that i have my stove?!
  10. PutnamJct

    PutnamJct Member

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    No. The only gas I can get in this area is from eating at Taco Bell. Wouldn't even consider oil due to the price increase over the past few years.
    In my case I think that has ALOT to do with it. Pellet insert is in the den, heat travels on its own to the whole living space. The only space that is not getting heat from the pellet stove that was getting heat from the forced air oil furnace is a downstairs storage room.
    [/quote]
    Actually stayed closer to 68 with the oil so it is warmer now.
    Older horizontal forced air furnace with those little vents in the floors through out the house (1 or 2 in each room). I've only been in house 6 years, and it has service stickers on it going back into the early 90's.
    No but I plan to.

    I don't think my results can be considered "typical" but according to the bottom line of ye olde balance sheet, I'm saving big money for the "inconvenience" of running a vacuum once a week and dragging bags of pellets in every few days. The pellets aren't magic or made out of plutonium, but for me they are a heck of a lot cheaper then #2.
  11. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    I think craigs point is zone heat. zone heat is zone heat, and if you burn the cheapist fuel in your zone heater, then you will be saving the most amount of money. You can figure the cost per btu and multiply by the efficiency factor of the stove pretty easily, if pellets are the cheapist fuel per btu, the pellets win. In my area, gas is almost half as much as pellets.... go figure
  12. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Harry, I had to pour a slab here - 6 inches thick - 400 sq. ft.

    That's 200 cf or a little over 7 yards of concrete....

    But, amazingly enough, one concrete company told me I only needed 4 yards. They brought the "special" concrete and sure enough, it filled the shop to 6 inches thick!

    Well, you see what I am getting at. This is a silly story. You can't use 4 yards of concrete to replace 7!

    There is no magic or nuclear pellets. I will argue that point until the end of time. You can tell your experiences and others can tell their "tales", but I say it can be misleading to a customer because you are the expert and must know the actual BTU to BTU comparison.

    I have made it clear that there are additional factors other than the BTUS. BUT, these factors apply no matter what the fuel is. Calling a simple price comparison "overanalysis" seems stretching it. Why not just sell the products on their merits? I think an educated customer is best.
  13. HarryBack

    HarryBack New Member

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    well, then, by that same logic, arent all automobiles the same as well? They burn the same fuel, right? So, the Yugo will do the same as the Maserati? I dont think you can just look at the fuel and compare systems. We arent comparing heat delivery, efficiencies, etc. By analyzing the fuel, all we can really do is compare AVAILABLE energy from the system. Nuclear pellets?.....Hmmm......
  14. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Certainly we are - we set 75% as the efficiency of both.

    Two cars that get the same MPG will use the same amount of gas to go approx the same mileage...

    Now, there are exceptions to that....if one guy loads up 7 people in his car and another is driven by a lone jockey.

    Now, there is also another factor involved which we have not discussed. That is how much money is made on a sale. There is no such thing as a salesperson who is not affected by the urge to make a buck....in fact, that is often the definition of a sale person. But the same urge can lead some to try too hard....and that is where used car folks get their reputation. When buying a used car, which is the better story?

    1. Salesman says "My Aunt has one of these babies and it went 200,000 miles without needing any work". "It's the safest car on the road".
    or
    2. Consumer Reports repair history, taken from 40,000 cars, which shows it will cost you $1700 a year to keep that hunk on the road...combined with the insurance institute which gives it 2 stars out of 5.

    Now, I suppose you would call #2 overanalyzing, but that information should be available to the customer.

    It is up to you, as a specialty dealer, to educate the customer. Holding back important information (such as the cost per mile, or cost per BTU) is certainly legal and perhaps even ethical, but it is not the way I would do business. The interesting thing is that such information will make for a happier customer with realistic expectation.

    Certainly thre are a lot of dynamics in selling and buying. As a salesperson, you just ARE NOT going to tell the story of the guy who took his pellet stove to the dump because he could not get parts for it. You are going to rather tell your tale of saving $1000+ a year.

    Better be careful or we'll bring David_v back in here!
    :coolgrin:
  15. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Thanks Craig for the sanity check here - I absolutely agree. The claim of equivalency is absurd in this case.

    My guess would be an oil furnace poorly maintained making the oil number much much worse, a poorly designed oil heat system, or extremities of the house are in fact not half as warm as the centrally located thermostats indicate.

    I know in my house, while a wood stove keeps my living room warmer than with oil, the far reaches of my upstairs are quite a bit cooler than what I had with oil, even though all my thermostats are reading temperatures higher than my historical oil numbers. It's also very easy for an oil furnace efficiency to deteriorate considerably compared to target efficiency.

    -Colin
  16. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Unfortunately this is correct. You know those majical first test effeciency nunbers will never be reached again Once the heater box firing element and carbon in the exhaust effeciency goes down hill even tunning and cleaning you may never reach the effeciency numbers again So you oil burner claims up to 86% effeciency it test 85 ans retest a year later after tune up at 83. This is the norm.
    Things installers or manufactures do not tell or publish
  17. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    And I suppose a Pellet Stove gets lower as flyash builds up in the heat exchangers. All in all, I think using 75% as an AFUE (total efficiency including excess air pulled out of house, etc.) for BOTH pellets and oil (and corn for that matter) is fair. Sure, some are higher and some are lower, but this is a average you'll find in actual real world conditions.

    Never discount the "cool gadget" factor....or the "don't want to think I spent big money on a turkey" factor. These truisms have been proven over and over again. Heck, most Americans still think Saddam had something to do with 9/11 (That's the "Don't want to spend 500 billion on a turkey syndrome).

    The power of suggestion is extremely powerful. Here are some stories from my drug-induced and business past:

    1. When I was 15 and hanging out at the beach, some kids told me they had a pot farm and that, for $15, I could pick all I want. Having never seen either a farm nor a pot plant, I rounded up some friends and trash bags. We picked a bunch and stuffed the bags into the trunk.....and, of course, rolled up some dry leaves and started to smoke.

    Well, next thing you know we are nice and high, and the police pull us over. Of course, this is like "Up in Smoke" cause when the windows are rolled down, the smoke pours out. We are brought in along with our stash.....

    Ha Ha, they tested it and it was not pot at all. They let us go!

    2. One year at the VC dealer meeting/dinner, they had a motivational speaker. The man left a string, washer and a piece of paper with a target on it on each table. We tied the string to the washer and he had us hold it in the air over the center of the target.

    Then he made suggestions such as "look, the washer is swinging left and right" or "look, it's rotating around the center of the target" - and, guess what? It did! And 700 people were personally watching this happen at the same time. I tried to grab my wrist and make it stop, but it would not....the power of suggestion was too strong!

    So, when the customer buys a legendary stove from a top dealer, gets the good pellets and spends a lot of money - he or she is very heavily invested in the machine. A typical stove owner will say "That thing paid for itself the first time I sat in front of it and warmed myself".

    There is also no doubt that people feel good about heat that comes from renewable sources. This warms the heart.

    Space heat, in my opinion, saves as much as 1/3 or more over central heat - whatever the fuel.

    So, taken together, this represents a very positive experience.

    The biggest "Emporers New Clothes" story in the hearth biz was the original Dutchwest. Horrible stoves, ugly and poor quality. I would give them 1 star if a hotel or 3 out of 10 on a 10 scale. Yet they were outselling VC. Why? Three factors:

    1. They were having a "sale" all year
    2. They were spending incredible amounts of money to promote them
    3. Once a customer had one...and they usually had no experience with anything else, they were not likely to admit they had a turkey. After all, that means admitting that you'd been had.....

    I guess all I am promoting here is that customers and dealers should be educated and professional hearth stores should not withold important information from shoppers. Of course, shoppers should ask....if someone walks in the door and says "I want a Pellet Stove, which one should I buy". the retailer is not about to start from scratch.
  18. Shane

    Shane Minister of Fire

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    Dont ask dont tell heh? I cannot say for sure but I think I've lost atleast three sales this year due to my honesty in the cost of NG to pellets/corn. Some competitors pellet stoves have that magical efficiency. When I do fuel cost comparisons for my customers I don't even bother with efficiency. I say this is the amount of btu's/unit of said fuel and this is what it costs. I usually do a table showing 20,000-50,000 Btu's in 10,000 btu increments. If the customer asks I'll factor in AFUE for them. And 75% is a fair estimate for sure. Also my pellet stove has a physically noticeable difference in heat transfer efficiency when the exchanger gets really dirty compared to when it's freshly cleaned.

    I heat my house with pellets I like the "to the bone" heat that solid fuel provides compared to forced air or in my case electric baseboards. Though I will admit, as I have many times before, that I'm considering a NG/Wood mix in the future depending on the price and availability of pellets. Corn is also an option at a 50/50 mix in my stove but I will only burn corn if pellets are in short supply.
  19. smirnov3

    smirnov3 Feeling the Heat

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    What's the temp differance in your basement? with my oil heat, the basement stayed only maybe 5-10 F cooler than the rest of the house.
  20. PutnamJct

    PutnamJct Member

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    My checkbook doesn't lie. Period. If you want to call it a myth that's your right. I don't sell stoves nor do I tell people that my savings are typical. But I'm keeping the house warmer for less money. No calculators real or imagined can change that.
  21. smirnov3

    smirnov3 Feeling the Heat

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    Well, this will be my first year heating with pellets. last year, I did a room by room survey of the minimum temp reached with my Oil heat set normally (I used a hand-held digital thermomter that records min/max temp). The only room I didn't test was the basement, but I was very comfortable going down there in shirt sleeves to change the litter boxes.

    Next spring, I will know how the pellets compare.

    But again, my set-up is unusual - my oil heat is from a retrofit coal furnace that distributes via gravity feed (ie the 'hope & pray' method). It had to be replaced

    (though it's nice to have as a back-up: it has no moving parts except for the ignitor, so it's pretty reliable)
  22. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Craig's point, and mine, is that your checkbook doesn't tell you the integrated heat of your entire home to the rooms furthest from heat source, it doesn't tell you how well your oil furnace is performing relative to pellets, etc... all factors that can explain the basic thermodynamic fact that the BTUs don't add up. I have no doubt you're keeping the living room toasty... but something else would give if audited. Your checkbook can't beat the laws of thermodynamics without help from somewhere else.

    -Colin
  23. PutnamJct

    PutnamJct Member

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    Oil furnace has not been on since the pellet insert went in. The whole house is warm (70-75 in the den right next to the stove 69-70 in the upstairs bedrooms) except for a downstairs storage room that gets down to 55-60.
    The house is a just under 1500 SF split level. I have said repeatedly that my floor plan is NOT typical. It's a funky split level house. The lowest level is a storage room that used to be a garage. The second level is an open six or seven hundred square feet (with the den containing the stove/fireplace) and the upstairs is the bedrooms bath, etc. The roof at the wall over the stove is about 7 feet high and runs up on an angle to the second floor before leveling off. The heat naturally rises in here to keep the upstairs warm.
    I kept digital thermometers on all 3 levels to get an accurate sense of the temperature and set the thermostat on the Quad accordingly.
    I can't convince you that the house was warm when the temp outside was in the 20's and it cost me way less then oil so we'll have to agree to disagree.

    The reason I even bought the pellet stove was a friend of mine has a much much larger, open floor plan house that he heats with pellets. He closes off a few rooms (extra bedroom, sun porch, etc) and the room the stove is in is probably 80 degrees in order to keep the rest of the house at 68 or so. I totally get you guys point that pellets are probably not the answer for many people but they work for me and are a heck of alot cheaper then paying the oil ticks......
  24. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    My goodness....see what happens when reality hurts!

    I have no doubt folks are saving money over LP or electric with Pellets. Whether they are saving big over efficient oil or natural gas is another story. The only way you can dispel the "myth" is to install a Monitor freestanding oil unit and see what that uses compared to the Pellet stove.

    Back to my point - simple - a BTU is a BTU is a BTU is a BTU. A Harman BTU is the same as a Travis BTU is the same as an oil BTU and an LP BTU.

    In fact, I'm thinking of writing a book called "You and a BTU" - the entire concept could be laid out on one page.

    Heat is Heat
    a BTU is a BTU
    Every Fuel contains a certain amount of BTU's and these can be verified in a lab (and they are).
    The cost per BTU of various fuels can be compared by using the BTU content and the efficiency of various fuels.....

    I think that covers it.

    As far as tales and myths, the problem there is as Shane mentioned....one dealer starts with "A ton of pellet is equal to a cord of wood" (what wood species?) - Next thing you know it is TWO CORDS (Yes, I have heard this) - we've also heard from Harry that it is 200 gallons of oil - even through the figures are clear that it is not. So what do we use to make decisions? What the dealertells us? What our friend tells us (that he heard from the other dealer)......we are not selling self help or yoga....you cannot will or think yourself into getting more heat from a fuel.

    I say we use the BTU content and efficiency......that's my story and I am sticking to it.
  25. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Putnam, I understand what you are saying. It works for you - great.

    There are a LOT of people who save money using ELECTRIC space heaters, even though the fuel is 4X the price of some others.
    People save money with LP space heaters - again, the fuel is more expensive than most.

    My point is simply that a BTU is a BTU. A Pellet stove will deliver approx 6.000 BTU's to the room for every pound burned - period. What happens after that involves other factors which have nothing to do with the fuel.
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