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Heating costs. Is wood really worth it?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by Swedishchef, Aug 23, 2011.

  1. Hiram Maxim

    Hiram Maxim Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
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    1,055
    Loc:
    SE Michigan
    I have natural gas and have a wood fireplace (converted to natural gas) in my basement for the reason of a power outages before I bought my two stoves. I honestly will never use it, and have been tempted to put a wood insert in it..... :lol: I'm pretty hooked on the wood.

    My natural gas bill runs less than $800.00 per year, and I heat my 30'x30' garage from Oct-Apr, hot water for washing clothes,showering,dishes,ect.

    To me its financially worth it..... Even if I bought my wood, on the high end it would cost me $600.00 to heat the house all Winter.

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  2. Jaugust124

    Jaugust124 Feeling the Heat

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    Loc:
    Mid-Hudson Valley, NY
    I just ran some numbers (twice) on this worksheet using $3.69 /gal. for heating oil with 5 million btus per month and it said my cost per month of heating with oil should be about $177. If it only cost me that much to heat my home, I would not bother heating with wood. My cost is at least double that amount if not more. Unless I did something wrong in the calculations, I don't think I'd trust that worksheet.
  3. guest5234

    guest5234 New Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Stratford Upon Avon, England.
    Price of gas and electricity in the UK IS OVER TWICE WHAT YOU PAY, so it is a no brainer for me.
  4. PerryBurton

    PerryBurton New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2011
    Messages:
    23
    Loc:
    Downtown Canada
    Swedishchef, I'm in Holyrood, just outside St. Johns and were finally having summer here now, 27C today.... strange indeed.

    The other posts are a perfect example how the online forms, charts and "auto-calculators" can be horribly wrong. As I said, your location house type and age as well as comfort level all play factors in energy consumption. No two houses are heated the same.

    I spent Saturday cutting to length and splitting my wood and thought in the back of my head "if someone used hourly rates (cutting splitting handling) to calculate wood heat values it would never be seriously considered."

    I do know that though laborious, and sometimes messy, many of my relatives would never have survived physically or financially without the woodstove in their livingroom or basement during the winter months. No they don't own their own wood lot or large machinery. But that is a story for another thread perhaps.

    P
  5. JBinKC

    JBinKC Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2006
    Messages:
    273
    Loc:
    Lake of the Ozarks
    You have to figure the problem yourself. You left out too many details in the problem to determine the answer in the original post.


    To determine a rough estimate of your savings I would add the electric bills during the heating season then take your electric bill that has no AC or heating costs and multiply by the length of the heating season to determine your total heating costs then subtract your costs from your wood purchases/ equipment rental to determine your savings and then divide it into the capital expenditure to see how many years it will take you to recover your capital outlay. Then use the rule of 72 to determine your rate of return.

    The big question in determining to go ahead with the project is what is the minimum rate of return that is acceptable to you.

    Granted it is not going to be a perfect calculation since heating degree days change and it is likely you keep your house warmer with firewood.

    In my case I recovered my cost in my stove chainsaw and supplies in 2 years and 1 month of burning but my heating costs are more variable with propane. When I first figured it out at lower propane prices I expected it would take another year to recover my costs.

    In my case it was worth doing in addition, with my labor I get productive exercise.
  6. PerryBurton

    PerryBurton New Member

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    Jul 15, 2011
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    Loc:
    Downtown Canada
    JBinKC "Productive Exercise" couldn't have said it better. People view the labor as a negative, perhaps that's one of our societies problems.
  7. KB007

    KB007 Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2009
    Messages:
    468
    Loc:
    Ottawa, Canada
    I just called about the fixed price for propane for next year and was told we used 950 litres for the last 12 months (on a fixed price of 69 cents / litre.) That is to run hot water, which we use a lot and our cookstove and a very small amout for heat in the shoulder season when I just don't want to light a fire. The year before we started using the wood stove we used about 3800 litres for heat, hot water and cookstove. So by rough estimate we used ~3000 litres to heat the place without wood. At last year's price of 69 cents that's something around 2070 bucks we didn't spend last year on propane for heat. The cost of the high efficiency propane furnace installed was about $3500. Amortised over 20 yrs, that's $175 / yr. The maintenance plan on the furnace (24X7) if $200 / yr.

    So, it looks like the annual cost of heating with propane was something like:
    Propane - $2100/yr
    Furnace (20 yr amort) - $175 / yr
    Maint. on furnace - $200 / yr
    Total - $2475 / yr

    We did spend ~ 500 on the 1/2 log load that we cut, split and stacked. We buy full log loads for $1000 bucks around here, that's 7-8 cords per load and will do 2 years, so $500 / yr. Cost of the splitter and chainsaw amortized over even 10 yrs is less than 100 bucks a year. Add in gas/oil and safety glasses and gloves, maybe another $100 / yr in total.

    We paid approx. $4000 for the Regency I3100 and liner installed. Amortize that over say 20 years and its 200 bucks a yr.

    So, in comparison to the ~2475 / yr to heat with propane we spend the following to heat with wood:

    Raw logs (1/2 truckload) - $500
    Splitter and saws (annual) - $100
    Gas and misc (annual - $100
    Insert (amort 20 yrs) - $200
    Total for wood - $900 / yr

    So, it looks like we actually save ~ $1575 / yr using wood, which is OK with me.

    The things that these comparisons never properly account for is that with wood we are way more comfortable in that the house is usually well over 75 F most of the winter. When the furnace is running it stays at 68 F. Can't imagine what it would cost to get the house up to 75 F with propane.

    There's other things that aren't in here, annual sweep - 100 bucks, electricity to run a furnace - don't really know, but it ain't free. The other major thing that I haven't included is my labour to c/s/s. What's that worth - priceless! The work helps keep me busy in the winter (I kinda like going out and cutting wood in the winter months) so it keeps me out of trouble.

    The savings for oil would have been even bigger, when we bought the house it was heated with oil. First winter we spent over $4000 for oil, I just about died. That's what drove me to the new propane furnace (NG not avail here). So, if we were still using oil the savings would have been much bigger.
  8. Huskyforlife

    Huskyforlife Member

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2010
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    86
    Loc:
    Ohio
    5M BTU is way too low for a month of heating in any northern state. I have a ~1500 SF house and probably average 10M BTU a month to heat it during the winter. In the colder months such as Jan/Feb its probably closer to 15M BTU. Burning with wood is a no-brainer for me. With scrounged free wood, my stove setup paid for itself in a year back when oil prices were $3/Gal. Of course now they are a bit more. Maintaining a oil boiler is also a major hassle, with cleaning, filters, additives, and you have to hire a technician to set the Air/Fuel ratio. The wood stove is much simpler.
  9. PerryBurton

    PerryBurton New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2011
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    23
    Loc:
    Downtown Canada
    Nice breakdown on costs KB007, if you want to get to the nitty gritty that's how to do it. Pricing wood heat before the stove goes in is where it gets real tricky though.
    5 mil BTU would be fine, but where winds blow against my house in the winter at over 80kph at times well you get the picture. I have a Oil fired hot water furnace and though Energy star rated and supposedly high efficiency, I go through a fair bit of fuel. It was a no brainer for me as well going to wood as a alternate heat source.
  10. Milton Findley

    Milton Findley Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2010
    Messages:
    312
    Loc:
    Whitefish Bay, WI
    I calculated it by determining how many btu's I used pre wood stove per month by adding up the energy used over and above my summer use in NG during the heating season, plus the difference in electricity between the heating season and the 4 non air conditioning months. If your cost is double the amount, the btu's needed are at least double the amount.

    I halved my energy bills first by putting in a programmable thermostat. I then cut that by turning on a desk lamp near the thermostat, (easier than reprogramming the thermostat when the wood stove is going), and cut it more by insulating the attic a lot.

    If I figure the cost of wood heat before those improvements, I profit by heating with wood, after those improvements, my stove looks a lot less attractive monetarily.
  11. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    2,276
    Loc:
    Quebec, Canada
    NL HERMIT: I know where Hollyrood is. It's a nice place! Then again there are not many places that are not nice in NFLD!

    JBinKC: you are right, it is a more complex calculation than it is a question. However, the questions still remains: it is more financially advantageous? Newer homes are better insulated. Not everyone has a woodlot or the equipment to allow them to go in the woods and cut wood (I am one of those people).

    KB007: that is a good break down. «my questioning is because of my cheap electricity rates. I have never heated with oil or NG or propane.

    I think investing in properly insulating your house is the best way to start saving money; dont throw it out the window no matter what the energy source!
  12. krex1010

    krex1010 Minister of Fire

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    southeast pa
    Worth can't always be summed up in dollars and cents. To me, wood heat is worth it, simple as that, I don't need to think about the time and effort to acquire, split and stack my firewood and apply a monetary value to it. All I know is that my family and I are happier when the stove is burning. That makes it worth it in my book.
  13. bfunk13

    bfunk13 Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    Wyoming
    There is probably a little savings for me money wise.
    My gas bill is about $175 - $200 a month using the furnace only.
    When i burn the stove 24/7 its about $80.
    But i have built a splitter $1200, built a trailer $500, chainsaw $600, stove $3000, gas and time to run and cut/split wood $???.
    I spent 2 whole days this year cutting firewood, (5 cords) and another 8 hrs splitting and stacking it.
    Now the equipment will pay for itself in the long run, so i guess every year it gets more profitable.

    The main reason i go through all the work and money is the quality of the heat.
    I work in a gas/oil field in Wyoming @7000 ft. Its fricking cold for 5 months a year.
    And when i come home at night the furnace does not heat you like the wood stove does.
    The wood is a constant even heat, furnace heat is hot/cold on/off, and uneven throughout the house.
    Wood heats you to the core, "soaks in" just feels good.
    And on days off there is nothing like stoking the stove when its -20 outside.

    It is alot of work, time and money. To me it is worth it.
  14. chvymn99

    chvymn99 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Kansas
    For me, yes. It only took a couple of good fires to turn her mind around about it. :coolsmile: I've been around it most of my life, just never had one myself. But after having gone through a major Icestorm 10 years ago and no heat or power for a week, except for the Uncle's wood stove. That was point enough for me to understand the price of alternative heat source, is priceless. As for me, I just got a 3 months of use out of mine last year, really looking forward to seeing the difference this winter. I have always set the thermostat to a 65-68 degrees and added sweatpants. Hey, its winter time. Well, I always heard her complain about how cold it was in the house. Well 75-80 degrees and shorts in winter, warm to the soul heat, and the fire display makes it all worth while. Plus watching her stand in front of the stove to "talk" to me and acting like she still doesn't like it. %-P Keeping it warmer in the house, plus cutting down the heating bill by about a 1/3 makes it worth every penny.
  15. tfdchief

    tfdchief Minister of Fire

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    That is impressive! I did about that much last winter and it took me a whole lot more than 3 days. Yikes. But then I am slowing down a little :)
  16. bfunk13

    bfunk13 Minister of Fire

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    LOL, yeah i really don't enjoy the firewood getting like i used to.
    So, i try to do it all in one weekend. I was pretty beat after that.
  17. jatoxico

    jatoxico Minister of Fire

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    I'm buying a Jotul insert because I like to have fires in the fall and winter but with an open fireplace it just isn't worth it. I like processing/burning wood and it should be nice to actually heat the house some. If I save some money in the process all the better :) .
  18. Redbear86

    Redbear86 Member

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    Loc:
    SE Idaho
    I bought a lopi endeavor for $250 and an old fisher grandpa for $50, probly wont be able to afford the pipe to burn them this year but will buy it used at next to nothing like my stoves, bought a used chainsaw for $70 and live close to a national forest, have a truck and trailer already,strong back and a maul, for what i have into all my stuff right now i would need to burn wood for 2 months to break even, the way things are going i'm more afraid of rolling blackouts or the price of electricity to sky rocket more then power loss due to weather because the US dollar wont by coal and oil much longer....
  19. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    My thing to is yeah we have nat gas but what happens if a big earthquake hits? Electricity all comes from burning nat gas. So does heat for most homes. That line has trouble or a pump station shuts down and what then? I'll be nice and warm with my wood stove, I'll tell you what.
  20. 10-cc

    10-cc Member

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    Loc:
    St-Bruno, Quebec, Canada
    For me it is way of life, even though electricity is dumb cheep because I am using doual energy, it is even cheeper than SwedishChef price. But you cannot beat the comfort of wood heat for some reason that I ignore (but BTU is BTU)-:0

    Vola!
  21. My Oslo heats my home

    My Oslo heats my home Minister of Fire

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    I didn't read all the posts or the numbers crunching by some of the forum members. Hard to say if the savings is there when comparing to electricity. I know a large majority of Canada (have in-laws in Nova Scotia) uses electricity for winter heat and I just can't see that being efficient, maybe for the cost of it compared to the states maybe.
    I get 50% of my wood for free, the remaining I get tree length and do the work myself, I know for a fact it is cheaper to heat with wood the way I collect it than by gas or oil.
  22. Shadow&Flame

    Shadow&Flame Minister of Fire

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    It all depends on the cost and availability of resources for the individual involved. For some it wouldnt be cost effective for others it pays well. I dont really need wood heat. I guess in my mind I can get wood, but I cant get electricity, oil, gas or propane by myself. I have an axe, saw and property...therefore if I need wood I can get it.
  23. maverick06

    maverick06 Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    media, pa
    Its simple, do some calculations.

    Before I moved in, the previous home owners used oil. At today's prices that is something like $2800/ winter. I forget the exact numbers but it is about 77MBTU. Now, I have installed a heat pump, still have the oil fired backup, and the wood stove. We heat mostly with the wood stove, total heating costs are $535. We are still putting out the same MBTU. But the heat pump does make it very hard to calculate.

    In your case, look at last years power bills. You can figure out the total BTU your house needs over a winter. Then figure out how many $/BTU other sources are. Its easy math, and much more than speculation.
  24. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    You have a wood/electricity or wood/oil furnace?! Nice! Just don't use the electricity when it's colder than -14...get's expensive fast!

    Andrew
  25. 10-cc

    10-cc Member

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    Loc:
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    Andrew,
    Its a 20KW electric and 90 000BTU/HR oil combination forced air fournace, automaticaly swhiches from electricity to oil when below -12C*.

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