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Corn/wood pellet vs gas stove?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by ktutak, Mar 17, 2006.

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  1. ktutak

    ktutak New Member

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    Hi I am a newbie to your forum... My husband and I are currently looking into putting a freestanding stove in our basement. We would need something that would be able to be directed vented out the wall since we do not have a chimney.

    Here is some info on our house. It is just under 3000 sq feet. It is a one story rambler with basement. We would be placing the stove in the basement. We do have an open staircase at the opposite side of the room from where the stove would be located...that stairs is also at the west end of our house. We live in Minnesota, so the winters can be cold. Our current heat is just a 6 year old furnace (installed when the house was built and is fairly efficient), but we only have one zone of heat....so in order for our basement to be warm our upstairs is hot.

    What we ultimately would like to do is warm up our basement as well as save money in our heating bills. We looked at a pellet stove (both Harman and Quadrafire), but are concerned the pellets will cost us more monthly than gas does. We also looked at corn, but I am not sure if I want to deal with the mess and storage issues. Then there is gas....with gas prices going up, I am concerned that would also bite us in the rear in the end.

    Any insights? Or resources to help us.

    Also any recommendations on what brand and type of stove would be appreciated.

    Thanks in advance!
    Kelly

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  2. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    Pellets will typically cost more then gas, you can go to http://www.pelletheat.org/3/residential/compareFuel.cfm to imput your local fuel rates. Your power company will typically have a web site that post there price per therm. Pellets have to go through a manufacturing procees to be produced. It take gas to make them and desiel to get them to ya. Pellets are a renewable resource, gas isnt. Pellet stoves are more maintance then gas stoves and cost more to operate. You can save heating bills by zone heating with relativly low btu output stoves then whole house furnaces. Zone heating is the key, it doesnt matter if its pellet gas or wood. They all will save you money.
    Ryan
  3. Mo Heat

    Mo Heat Mod Emeritus

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    Not sure how many wood stoves you'll find that are direct vented, but maybe you could run a chimney out the wall through a thimble. You may need some help deciding on the right wood burning product for your application.

    I agree with MSG. Zone heating is the key. Like you, I have one (forced air) furnace zone and was paying around $300/month before I started getting zone creative. By adding a wood insert in my masonry fireplace, adding electric space heaters to two locations (Mother Mo Heat's room and her seat in the kitchen) I was able to dial the whole house thermostat back 3 degrees and the gas bill went down about 33% (two months in a row now). By adding some compact florescent light bulbs and various other electric saving efforts, my electric bill stayed the same.

    My basement setup sounds similar to yours with stairs across the room (5 ft staircase). I wouldn't count on a whopping amount of heat making it upstairs if your basement is pretty big, has mucho windows, or is poorly insulated. But adding the wood burner down in the basement makes it toasty warm when I'm down there in the evenings. I sit right in front of it so I don't have to keep a blaze going and warm the whole big room (900+ sq ft) unless there's company.
  4. pinetop

    pinetop New Member

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    kelly irecently replaced a gas fireplace with a wood stove but seriously considered a corn stove my reason for opting for wood was mostly aesthetics but i know a few people who have older corn stoves and get great heating results from them one has a log house two stories about 3500 sq. ft. and has shut down his in floor radiant for most of the last three winters he said the newer corn stoves are more user friendly and better looking by the way this is in minnesota also 80 miles north of mpls iguess the mess would come into play if you were purchasing corn in bulk rather than per 80 pound bag i do know the moisture content has to be between 12 to 15 per cent for efficient burns
  5. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    Basement Wood installs can be tricky. They work well as long as you dont have any major negative air pressure issues down there. Sometimes a gas or pellet is more praticle simply because of the savings on the chimney. Basement installs are EXPENSIVE. It will take some time to recoup the costs of that chimney. I usually advise direct vent gas or power vent pellet for basements. Not saying wood installs dont have there place, there just not for everyone.
    Ryan
  6. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Thanking myself once again for having that second flue installed in the basement when they built this place. Charged me two hundred to add it then. Probably would cost four our five thousand to add it now.
  7. Sandor

    Sandor Minister of Fire

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    At this point, I cannot see installing auxillary heating that is based on a non-renewable fuel.
  8. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Agreed Sandor. Pellets can be more expensive than natural gas (for now) in some areas. In other areas it isn't. If your gas source is propane, than pellets may be a better bargain. They certainly are for us in the Pac NW. But when I bought our pellet stove 5 yrs ago, it was about break-even. For us to put propane into the fireplace was a hassle. I could install the pellet stove myself and got a good price on it. Since then, local propane cost has trippled and pellets are about the same. Check local costs and availability for pellets first. Both stoves you've mentioned are excellent. There are lots of threads here on pellet and corn stoves. Try searching for "pellet" or "corn".

    Are you in an urban, suburban or rural locale? Is your expectation to heat just the basement room (what sq. ftge.)? Or are you hoping to heat some of upstairs? Often basement heaters do only a so-so job of heating upstairs. Ramblers inevitably will be cold at the end away from the stove. Though it may seem a lot of hassle, I would at least strongly consider installing a metal flue inside a boxed chase, up through the first floor (or an insulated exterior flue) and going with wood. Or perhaps install the stove on the first floor in the great room if the floorplan is open. 3000 sq. ft is a lot of sq. ft. and you are going to get a lot more btus with locally renewable wood than from either a gas or pellet stove.

    Last, though perhaps this should be first. What is the age of the house and how well insulated is it? How are the windows? This should be your first priority.
  9. drizler

    drizler Minister of Fire

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    Most pellet people with stoves in the basement aren't happy. Put it in the upstairs where spot heating appliances belong. I keep crowing multifuel but everyone is nuts for pellets. Corn is better than pellets and exactly half the price for 20% more heat which in itself should deflect you from the pellet only thing. Its cheaper yet if you live in the midwest or anywhere near there. Another reason for multifuel is the development of grass pellets which is in the pipeline. They should end up the cheaper for most of us if they ever get off the ground. You may be able to burn them in a pellet burner but I can't say for sure just like the ratio of corn you can burn in your pellet stove as it varies. Its in your best interests to be as versatile as possible in the upcoming future as its going to be quite a ride. There aren't too many multifuel stoves out there and the only ones I know of are the Countryside ( Magnum) I have and the Dell Point but I am sure there are others. There are a lot of boilers making the scene but you want to check them out by word of mouth carefefully as they seem to have a lot of problems, burn a lot of fuel for the heat generated and are often fraught with problems. Its been said recently that some of the recent ones are just remakes of the companies existing stove. One I know if is the AEI Magnum boiler which I have heard a couple guys on the group bitching about a lot. My countryside works fine but the boiler version, well I would wait and see. Also no matter what the make boilers are damned $$$$$. With 3000' in ranch config you probably need 2 stoves as I manage to heat 1400 from one end of the house but I can live with 58F in the bedroom while most people can't. You might be better served by 2 small cheaper stoves like the Englander sold at Lowes. They have a corn model that is new but based on their tried and proven older pellet models. They are also about 1/3 cheaper while having about the same failure rates and use common off the shelf parts which are cheap to replace, ( many stoves do that). There is an England stove rep who lives at the Yahoo pellet stove group and he is very helpful no matter what stove you have, his name is Mike Holt or holton I forget which. You won't find all the bells and whistles on many of the corn or multifuel stove and ( for me at least ) need them either. Autostart really doesn't factor in as burning on low setting just keeps things nice as opposed to off and on ect. You can always open a window a crack too.
    Take a look at the best pellet / corn burner site I know of iburncorn.com and go to the forums. These guys are the best when it comes to corn and have a pellet section that is first class. Yahoo groups ( pellet stove) ( corn fuel) . Get in there and join up and all will become clear...........................................................ABOVE ALL WATCH OUT FOR THE ONLINE SALES!!!! I used that option and saved a bundle but that was before the shortages of last season. Don't pony up without some contract to bail out if they don't deliver in a set period giving you and opt out option and the same goes for ordering from a local dealer. Don't wait till next Fall either as it will all happen all over again. Are you confused yet? Good luck.
  10. Mo Heat

    Mo Heat Mod Emeritus

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    Hi Driz,

    Good info. Good links. Thanks.
  11. ktutak

    ktutak New Member

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    Thank you everyone for your input. I should have added that my basement is a finished basement with 2 bedrooms that my children use. So I need to get some more heat down there....so putting the stove upstairs, doesn't solve my cold basement issue. Also we aren't interested in a wood stove, one reason is we don't want to put in a chimney and second we don't want to deal with the ash cleanup. We are in town, so don't have tons of outdoor storage room for cords of wood etc. So pellets, corn or gas would be the best solution for a stove in our house.

    I think we have definitely ruled out a gas stove. We are just bouncing back and forth between corn and pellet. Does anyone know if there are any good multi-fuel stoves out there? I know Harman has a corn stove, that can burn pellets... Are there others?
  12. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    I hate to cloud an issue but with a finished basement a gas stove could be just the zone heating appliance you need. It will contribute heat to the other parts of the house and will not be using fuel when not needed, and will contribute some after it is turned off. And give you an inexpensive venting solution.
  13. dad4479

    dad4479 New Member

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    Hi Kelly,

    I have a QuadraFire that can burn up to 80% corn to 20% pellets. So you can pick and choose on what type of fuel you can burn more of. Like this year, corn was alot cheaper than pellets due to the large supply of corn here in WI. Maybe next year pellets will be cheaper, then I will burn more pellets. And so on and so forth, it gives people a little more flexability. So far I've been running it 24/7 with no problems, my first year with stove.
    Stove is in a finished basement of a bi-level house. I am really pleased with the results so far. Compared to the year before without the stove, the basement was always cold even with the furnace vented to the basement. So we really didn't use the basement much, now with the stove we are down there so much more. It's such a nice warm heat compared to gas, and the gas furnace never kicks on anymore:)

    Chad
  14. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    Kelley I do not want to rain on the parade, but as an inspector, and thinking on safety as the issue. Please be advised Solid fuel burning appliances are not permitted for use in bedrooms. This is a big unless, listed and tested by the manufacturer to be installed in bedrooms.

    Even if considering gas they too have to be listed for bedroom installations
  15. Xena

    Xena Minister of Fire

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    Our St Croix Prescott is rated by the MFG to burn a 50/50 corn/pellet mix, which we have been doing
    all winter without a problem. If corn is available at a decent price in your area then it's well worth it.
    I sat down and did the math and am saving about 125 dollars per month which I am happy about
    despite the added work of using this stove over oil.
    No problem installing one of these in a basement, long as it isn't in a sleeping room which
    I'm sure your entire finished basement has more space than just the two bedrooms you mentioned.
    Here's a link to the St Croix line, and good luck whatever you choose!
    http://www.eventempinc.com/stcroix/stoves/stoves.html
  16. Homefire

    Homefire New Member

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    I find that both corn and pellets do not put out enough btu's to heat when the temp drops below 25.
  17. MountainStoveGuy

    MountainStoveGuy New Member

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    Homefire, whats up with that? Is the stove not working properly? Is the space to big for the stove's capacity?
  18. ktutak

    ktutak New Member

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    The stove would not be in the bedrooms. It would be placed in our family room in the basement. The bedrooms are off of the family room
  19. Xena

    Xena Minister of Fire

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    Not sure what your experience is, but this statement is totally untrue of our St Croix Prescott...
    Single digit temps this winter and our 1400sf home was a toasty 70-74F with the
    stove set on #2 setting (stove has #1-5 settings). In fact, it would have to go well
    below zero for us to have to push it up to higher settings!
  20. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Same for our house. Not the stove's fault, btus lost are btus lost no matter what's heating the house. In an old, 2000 sq.ft. farmhouse like ours with too many windows retrofitted into it, it will take XXX btus to heat. We're working steadily on tightening it up, but when the temps get cold, the wood stove and pellet stove are sometimes both running. The pellet stove can handle it if it burns 24/7 on high. But we prefer to have the woodstove going as primary when it's cold as long as someone is home to tend it.
  21. pinetop

    pinetop New Member

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    this suggestion runs somewhat contrary to this forum ...but if you are only interested in a heat scource to efficiently heat your basement without any inconviences you might consider electric storage heating units. Generally electric utilities in Minnesota give you a much lower kilowatt hour rate under their off peak or dual fuel programs. The one "hitch" with this option would be the second meter installation which is the home owners burden..this also allows the electric supplier to shut off the electric feed during high usage times .. by adding a second water heater (60 gal. cap.?) you can also utilize the off peak rate this program is only available to you if you have a second heat energy source .
  22. ktutak

    ktutak New Member

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    We are on the "off peak" program right now...though the one we are on they cannot turn off our electric...we just pay more per kilowatt during the peak usage times 9am-9pm and tremendously less on the off peak. So I do most of my laundry etc at night.

    We had looked into that type of heat....but really would like to get a stove of some sort that has real flame. I grew up with fireplaces and miss that. :)
  23. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Pellet flame is not the same as wood stoves. Best to think of a pellet stove as a furnace. It has a blasting flame that doesn't dance or lazily follow convection currents. It blasts. Not very romantic, but quite practical.
  24. pinetop

    pinetop New Member

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    like begreen said corn stoves that i have seen only have a central flame in the burn pot while wood stoves with baffles have some very active "its a pleasure to watch" patterns. Personally I am very glad i chose the wood stove over the corn stove for that characteristic my stove is in a main living area and is a focal point with that said i know i saw one model of corn stove or possibly pellet that had some type of log insert for a more flame like appearance but i cannot recall the brand but you could find it on the web sites
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