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Electricity Savings of Operating Wood Stove vs Forced Air Electric/Heat Pump

Post in 'The Green Room' started by Scout_1969, Dec 28, 2010.

  1. Scout_1969

    Scout_1969 New Member

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    VA
    Well, I got my first electric bill (Nov. - Dec. period of 28days) since burning wood 24/7 with electric heat/pump turned off. It's been a little colder and windy that I can remember in past nov - dec periods.
    BTW-
    <2100 sf well insulated ranch, wood stove in finished basement, vented through supply ducts, return air to stove room
    <16 year old 4 ton heat pump with electric resistance backup heat
    <Stove/chimney is in my signature
    <wood costs only my time, tools and other expenses

    I used 1185 KWH/KW less than last year. Taking out fixed costs for electric service, my variable cost is $0.053247 per KWH/KW, for a total of $63.10 or $2.25 per day.

    I feel this is probably highly conservative due to recent low temps and will keep tracking the costs and hopefully will have more of a $ return.

    Does anyone have any data to share, thoughts or maybe a link to a similar thread?

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  2. ColdNH

    ColdNH Minister of Fire

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    I just got my electric bill

    (i love getting it now)

    Our house is 100% baseboard electric heat.

    The stove was installed last march.

    Check out the bar graph, this makes me a very happy man!

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  3. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa Minister of Fire

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    Lemme see if I understood right... you only saved $2.25 per day on your electric bill? I assume that doen't factor what it cost to heat with wood. At that rate of return what is the real ROI?

    In many areas heating with electricity is much higher than heating with gas and the capital outlay for a heat pump is high. I have a gas furnace which I supplement with wood and when gas is cheap as it is now, it is harder to justify burning $100 cords of wood, given all the work and mess associated with wood burning. For me, it's more of a lifestyle than saving money. Of course, having a backup in case of power failure is a must too. The cost of gas could always change as well.
  4. ColdNH

    ColdNH Minister of Fire

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    for me, if i was to purchase wood at 250$ a cord it would NOT be worth it. Since i scrounge all my wood and enjoy the process of gathering/splitting/stacking and burning it IS worth it, plus my house would never be 70-80 degrees in the dead of winter with electric heat! the warmest we ever had the house with electric heat was probably 68.
  5. ddddddden

    ddddddden Minister of Fire

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    Hi Scout, In my part of the state, the rate is ~ $0.10 / KWH. The only part of that I would consider fixed is the ~ $7 minimum for "distribution." There are similar threads, mostly comparing wood with NG, or $ / BTU of all types of heat. Search for stuff like "NG Cheaper than Wood."
  6. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    I think if you look at that bill again you will find that the delivery charge is based on KWH usage also and that your savings are probably close to double what you calculated. May not be, but I bet it is.
  7. Scout_1969

    Scout_1969 New Member

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    ColdNH-

    Your 2009 usage was just alittle above mine now, what size home do you have?

    Also it looks like you're at 52% and I'm at 45% less than '09

    LLigitfa-

    You are correct, no factor for wood expenses. It's a new lifestyle for me so far, I was just hoping for a little more ROI. Yes the whole backup is how we started with the stove.

    Den/BB-

    That's about what ours is total. Even using the total it's about $116/28 days or $4.14/day I called the power company to get a clarification of fixed and variable costs. The Basic Consumer Charge and Power and Energy Charge are fixed. Although the P&E charge fluctuates by the cost of their fuel cost, not my consumption. The variables are; Variable Distribution Charge, Level Purchase Power Facilities and taxes/surcharge.

    ----------------

    So far I'd say if I had to purchase wood at any price it defintely wouldn't be worth it. Right now I'm burning around a cord per month, at variable electric costs my wood is $63/cord, total electric costs $116/cord. Not to mention my time and costs. I'm starting to think of the old Luskins cheapest guy in town commercials :)

    I'm going to keep tracking this and try to nail down the variable costs and see if there are other things I'm missing.
  8. Cate68

    Cate68 Member

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    My furnace is forced air, gas...

    My gas budget went from $70 to $20, burning about 18 - 20 hours a day since November.

    Wood is free. Only electric being used is to run the blower on the insert and a small fan to help circulate through the house.

    I've not noticed a change in my electric bill worth mentioning...

    Pretty sweet.
  9. ColdNH

    ColdNH Minister of Fire

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    1650 sq foot cape, im guessing i burned about 3/4 a cord of wood in December, and my electric bill was about 180$ less then it would have been with the electric heat. so yah, the savings is not huge, but we were a hell of alot warmer, which is what the stove is all about for me. the next 2 months We will see better savings


  10. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    That is very cheap power. Are you sure that it doesn't go up after exceeding a set kw level of consumption? A high-efficiency heat pump is pretty marvelous. So is a nice warm fire. Our heating bills have dropped so much that I'm happy as a clam, running both.
  11. Lighting Up

    Lighting Up Feeling the Heat

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    I don't understand this...you saved MONEY...you have warmer heat then your heat pump gives you and you may not use your stove because you did not save enough?

    Hummm. to me I only needed to save a penny from my elect co to convince me to heat with wood. I did the same comparison but with NG and I saved but mainly the HEAT was so much WARMER then the gas furnace the thought never crossed my mind to stop heating with wood.

    Staying warmer
    md
  12. KB007

    KB007 Feeling the Heat

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    To me, the fact that my LR is often now 80F or more and the rest of the house is easily 75F in the winter makes me way happier than when we were using propane (or before that oil!) to keep the house at 67F and 64F at night. The comparison of previous cost to current cost doesn't really take into consideration the additional cost you would have spent if you really ran the furnace/heat pump / baseboards or whatever at 75F throughout the house. It becomes a bit of an apples to oranges comparison, but there's n way I'd ever want to pay to have propane heat me to 75F (even tho I would like to if it wasn't so damm expensive).
  13. DBoon

    DBoon Minister of Fire

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    In many cases, electricity rates drop during the wintertime. This time of year is when the power companies have more generation capability than demand. In summer, especially in VA, that is not the case, so rates are higher.

    IF your variable rate is really 5 cents/kWh, then I could have predicted that you wouldn't save that much. Plus, in Virginia, heat pumps work pretty well since temperatures are more moderate.

    However, this December has been much colder than last December, at least in the Northeast. I think that if you compared heating degree days (www.degreedays.net) for the two Decembers, you would find that it might have been a pretty warm December last year, and that if you had to run your heat pump during this December, you would have used a whole lot more electricity.

    Still, as a previous poster mentioned, and as someone who used to use a heat pump for winter heating, that is about the worst kind of heat I can imagine - lots of pseudo-warm air at 78 degrees blowing dust through the house nearly 12 hours a day. Not my idea of great winter heat.
  14. Scout_1969

    Scout_1969 New Member

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    ColdNH- Thanks, I may need to replace my 'smoke dragon'. I 'm pretty sure it's typically colder where you are and you used 1/4 cord less than me.

    BeGreen - Not sure about the cost going up after a certain level, I'll check into that. Yeah I read somewhere that the heat pump's efficient temp is 40 degrees plus. They're predicting 50+ for the next few days so I'll probably us it during the day and see how low it goes at night.

    LightingUp- I guess savings is in the eye of the beholder :) At least there was a savings right? If I had to pay for wood, like another member said (I think $250/cord) it wouldn't be worth it. Right now I'm selling mine to myself for around maybe $63/cord. But that's a preliminary estimate.

    I thought gas heat was pretty warm the few homes I've been to that had it, they had LP gas so I understand it's expensive. It felt better than my electric forced air, but I personally can live with the electric forced air heat feel.

    DBoon- Yeah, I can get the house to 75 plus with the wood stove, but our comfort temp is 72-73. This is about the same as we kept the house with electric forced air now its wood forced air and a little convection.
    Thanks for the degree days link. So far our Decembers have been at 844/853/963, I'll wait for the Dec. '10 data for comparison.

    Off topic- I too have a 4.5 lb lowes maul and like it. Have 8lb standard maul that's hardly used. I had a chance to be around a 16lb monster maul, that's a man killer. Reminds me of Toby Keith's song verse a few years back.. 'I'm as good once as I ever was', cause that's about all I wanted to swing it. ;)
  15. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    There are a lot of older style heat pump systems that are not really effective below 40F. But the newer generation units can do much better. Our (Amer. Std. Heritage 16) works to about 25F before it looses steam. It's 36F outside now and it is working fine. We had company last night and by the time they left I was ready to go to bed so I let the fire die out overnight. I woke up to the heat pump running and warming up the house from the nighttime setback temp of 63F. While the fire got resurrected from coals I measured the air temp at a register as 106F.

    In our area I have been watching many mini-split systems go in this year due to tax and local incentives. The friends that were visiting last night have a Sanyo system in that easily works down to 20F. Another friend has an incredible Fujitsu unit that really cranks out the heat. I don't know how low it will go, the lowest we have seen so far is about 16F and at that temp it was working great. These new units are good enough that I consider them a second stove.
  16. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    I would be interested in knowing which electric companies in VA adjust rates based on the season. None that I know of since any time they change anything in a rate they have to get it approved by the Corporation Commission. And the statewide average for residential power is 10.61 cents per KWH before fixed costs and taxes. Including fixed costs and taxes ours runs 14.77 cents per KWH give or take a little based on fuel adjustment and is in line with the rest of the states providers. For December the variable energy cost, delivery charge and fuel adjustment was 9.89 cents per KWH.
  17. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    NO input other than extreme jealously at the insanely low electric rate you have got. We pay $ .15 - .20 up here.....
  18. Battenkiller

    Battenkiller Minister of Fire

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    Hard to tell what's what on a National Grid electric bill, but it works out they're picking my pocket to the tune of 14.5 cents/kWh on this bill. Last November I was not burning until the end of the month, and I used about 1600 kWh. This November I used 548 kWh - roughly 1/3 the amount of electricity. This November was also colder than last, so I would have had to use maybe 1800 kWh to keep the place at 65º with my baseboard heaters.

    This year I kept the joint in the mid-70s all month and the bill was only $85.81, mostly DHW, fridge and lights - no electric heat at all. So I figure I saved about $175 for the month of November alone. Cost of wood during that month was maybe $75, so $100 saved in the warmest heating month of the season. I would expect to use roughly triple that amount of electricity for both January and February, while increasing the woods cost to about $200/month. For the 6-month heating season, it would cost me close to $3000 to keep this house at 65º, as opposed to $900 if I go through 6 cord at $150/cord.

    Of course, I will spend a lot less than that on wood this year since I improved the efficiency of my stove considerably by actually putting it together the way it was supposed to be. Plus, I added $1500 worth of chainsaws and related gear and cut a lot of my own, but I have to figure the cost of the saws and such over their useful lives, plus the gas, oil, chains and what not. If I go ahead and get a truck to go hardcore scrounger, I'll get the wood for free, but it will cost me $5000/yr or more to heat the place. Like many say, it's a lifestyle thing.

    My November bill:

    Attached Files:

  19. nola mike

    nola mike Feeling the Heat

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    + 1 at both my va locations. And I have a high efficiency heat pump that doesn't work worth squat when the temp drops below 30.
  20. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Some heat pumps have good air conditioning efficiency (SEER), but are middling for heating efficiency (HSPF). We bought for the best HSPF. The AC gets used maybe once a year. Regardless, if the house is losing heat quickly, then it may not mean squat. A leaky building will not be fixed by a good heater without some overkill in the btu dept.
  21. nola mike

    nola mike Feeling the Heat

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    Interesting. This, IIRC, had a SEER of 17. Don't know the HSPF. I do know that with temps in 20's, register temps were in the 70's w/o the aux strips kicking in. House is leaky, I'm working on it...
  22. DBoon

    DBoon Minister of Fire

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    NYSEG in NY used to offer a "fixed" plan and a "variable" plan, now starting in 2011 only the "variable" rate plan is available. Power cost goes up and down with demand. I can't speak for Virginia since I don't live there, but it doesn't sound like the same type of pricing applies there.

    Heat pumps have certainly improved over the years, but there are still plenty out there with efficiency that is lacking at <40 degrees F. The single SEER or HSPF number doesn't really tell much - you have to look at the coefficient of performance (COP) vs. temperature curve. Mine dropped well below 2 at 30 degrees or less, and anything much below 2 means a lot of <80 degree air being blown through the ductwork - not a very pleasant heating method.

    But the biggest beef I have with heat pumps is that most people don't understand how they work, and most people treat them like a fossil fuel heating appliance. When the thermostat is rapidly turned up, the electric resistance heating backup is turned on and that completely negates any efficiency advantage of the heat pump. Maybe newer units don't operate this way, which would be a big advantage.
  23. jlove1974

    jlove1974 Member

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    Not sure if all of you have tried it, but I used the calculator comparison here:
    http://www.travisindustries.com/CostOfHeating_WkSht.asp?P=4

    I only compared gas, electric, and wood because those are the three most common here in the south. Heating oil basically went extinct around here in the 70s.

    And even paying around $175/cord I would still be breaking even with gas. And half the cost of heating w/ my 20 year old 10 seer heat pump.
    NOT paying for wood and processing itself usually costs around $20/cord in transportation and fuel + my labor....so really no comparison there.

    Plus the renewable aspect of it, plus the 'heats you twice or thrice' argument of firewood, plus the fact that I am an outdoorsman period.
  24. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Another thing to check is duct loss. All supplies and returns should be sealed and well insulated. Our ductwork runs through a conditioned space that doesn't get below 60F. Even with this I get a reading from 99-110 on a register 10' from the air handler and 87-92F on the furthest run.
  25. Renovation

    Renovation New Member

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    Thanks for the interesting information BeGreen.

    Even though this is a stove forum, this is relevant to me, because I put in a heatpump as primary backup to my stove (I also have propane for emergencies). It's informative to know they are improving.

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