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Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by sydney1963, Nov 14, 2008.

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  1. Wet1

    Wet1 Minister of Fire

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    Didn't you mean to say "I'm just not sure burning pellets at this time makes economic sense"? If so, I agree.

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  2. itworks

    itworks New Member

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    Yes. I did mean to say I'm just NOT sure burning pellets at this time makes economic sense.

    Thanks for pointing out my typo.
  3. ces001

    ces001 New Member

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    It's all about supply & demand, not excuses.

    -Oil went up - people switched to pellets (by the thousands) - pellets went up ... it's as simple as that.
    -As the demand for pellets increases, the number of pellet manufacturers will increase and the overall price for pellets will level off. This will not happen overnight. In the meantime, we are all sorry to inconvenience you by switching to wood pellets and driving the cost of your pellets up.
    -The barriers to entry in the wood pellet manufacturing business are very limited compared to oil. It doesn't take an act of Congress to open a new manufacturing facility for wood pellets unlike drilling for oil AND opening new oil refineries.

    Yes, pellets should be a lot cheaper than oil, but this will not happen overnight. Do you think the infrastructure for the oil business sprang up in just a few years? It took decades.

    Let me give you two real life examples... facts not opinion:

    1. I just signed a new tenant in a commercial unit that I own. Guess what his business is....manufacturing wood pellets! This is not some large company with deep pockets. This is a two man operation with a plan to make wood pellets. From what I have seen so far, it only takes a few small pieces of equipment to get started and he already has an abundant supply of raw materials lined up with local businesses. This scenario will be repeated across the country (US & Canada) over and over, leading to an increased supply of wood pellets and more competetive pricing.

    2. I already did the math; even at today's prices (pellets at $5.50/bag vs. heating oil at $ 2.49/gal) I will save $900.00 this winter heating with pellets (3 tons) instead of oil (700 gals). Would I like to buy my pellets for $ 3.70/bag... of course! But even at today's prices, pellets are the way to go. Incidentally, even at your price of $6.49/bag, which seems like the extreme high end of price ranges, I would still be saving $ 770.00 this winter.
  4. itworks

    itworks New Member

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    2. I already did the math; even at today's prices (pellets at $5.50/bag vs. heating oil at $ 2.49/gal) I will save $900.00 this winter heating with pellets (3 tons) instead of oil (700 gals). Would I like to buy my pellets for $ 3.70/bag... of course! But even at today's prices, pellets are the way to go. Incidentally, even at your price of $6.49/bag, which seems like the extreme high end of price ranges, I would still be saving $ 770.00 this winter.[/quote]

    Based on your math, 3 tons (150; 40lb bags) of pellets provides the equivalent heat of 700 gals of oil, or one bag=4.667 gals of oil.
    I wish I could buy pellets and/or a stove that produced those results. I've done lots of research that indicates one bag of pellets is equivalent to 2 1/4-2 1/2 gals of oil. My personal experience indicates one bag=2.35 gals.

    What stove and pellets are you using?
  5. Wet1

    Wet1 Minister of Fire

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    Woooooo Tonto!!! Save $900?!?! 3 tons of pellets doesn't even come close to equalling 700 gal. of oil!!! 3 tons of pellets is roughly equavelent to a little over 300 gal. of oil, not 700 gal.


    EDIT: I see "itworks" beat me to this...
  6. mlwschultz

    mlwschultz New Member

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    We're going to continue burning our pellet stove, regardless of the price of oil. We like the heat it provides and like the fact that we're burning as little foreign oil as possible. The price of heating oil will go up, it's getting colder, demand will rise, prices will go up. We still need oil for hot water, but we'll keep on burning pellets for the majority of our heat.
  7. chas1969

    chas1969 New Member

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    3 tons of pellets is about 360 gallons of oil.

    Chas
  8. Mainer007

    Mainer007 New Member

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    Pellet heat all the way!!! Keep my heating dollar's in the USA! (even Canada is better then the Middle East)
  9. ces001

    ces001 New Member

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    Based on your math, 3 tons (150; 40lb bags) of pellets provides the equivalent heat of 700 gals of oil, or one bag=4.667 gals of oil.
    I wish I could buy pellets and/or a stove that produced those results. I've done lots of research that indicates one bag of pellets is equivalent to 2 1/4-2 1/2 gals of oil. My personal experience indicates one bag=2.35 gals.

    What stove and pellets are you using?[/quote]


    Your point (and Wet1's) is well taken. I am using a harman accentra fireplace insert and green team pellets. I will post more later this afternoon, but in the meantime please understand that I have owned the stove for about 2-1/2 weeks and my calculations are based partly on my personal daily use so far of approx. 1-1/2 bags per day and mostly on information gathered from others who have been burning wood pellets for at least a year. Gotta go for now but will be back this afternoon with more info.
  10. Wet1

    Wet1 Minister of Fire

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    Your point (and Wet1's) is well taken. I am using a harman accentra fireplace insert and green team pellets. I will post more later this afternoon, but in the meantime please understand that I have owned the stove for about 2-1/2 weeks and my calculations are based partly on my personal daily use so far of approx. 1-1/2 bags per day and mostly on information gathered from others who have been burning wood pellets for at least a year. Gotta go for now but will be back this afternoon with more info.[/quote]
    If you were using 700 gal. of oil, you're probably heating a minimum of 1500 sq ft. I think you'll find that as the temps drop, you'll be using a lot more pellets than you might have been using over the last couple of weeks. I also think you'll find that it is difficult to evenly spread the heat throughout the house (especially as temps drop) w/o turning your house into a wind tunnel. When you look at the low cost of oil today, and then factor in the cost of pellets and electricity to operate the stove and distribute the heat, I think you'll find there's little, if any, savings to be had based on today's prices. The only way you might actually save some money is if you don't heat the remote areas in the house as much and use the stove as the main source of heat in the main living area(s)... this way you are using less total energy to 'heat' the house.
  11. slls

    slls Minister of Fire

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    Check my math.

    I ton of pellets is = to 114 gallons of oil. 1 gal = 140,000 BTU. At 8000 BTU per pound, 17.5 lbs = 140,000 BTU. 2.28 gallon in a bag X 50 =114 gallons. $6 a bag is = to $2.62 gallon of oil. My pellets cost $4.97 a bag delivered in June.
  12. itworks

    itworks New Member

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    Using your assumptions, which I basically agree with:
    1 bag of pellets=2.28 gals of oil
    1 bag of pellets cost $6.00
    So that would mean the "break even" cost is $2.63 gal
    Most of us can currently purchase oil cheaper than $2.63 gal.

    As I said in my earlier thread, I'll still use my pellet stove, but not as my primary source of heating at this point.
    I'm pretty sure things will change, and I'm glad I have the option to change also.
  13. cac4

    cac4 New Member

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    I think thats the whole point. btu x efficiency vs. btu x efficiency when comparing oil FURNACES to pellet STOVES is not a fair comparison. Its the "stove vs. furnace" thing that makes the difference. This is something that the "pellets ain't much of a bargain" camp leaves out of the equation.

    All things being equal....well, thats another point. they almost never ARE equal.

    So, let me give you my rationale for why I think pellets are still a bargain, in MY house.

    I have a oil forced hot air furnace. NG is not an option. Water is already being handled by electricity. The furnace is "80% efficient", but that is calculated by measuring the exhaust temp. The air that actually flows into my living space? I don't think I'm getting anywhere close to 80% of the btu's in that oil into my living room.

    The "irl" friends I have that have been long-time pellet burners have told me what they actually use for pellets in a season. Their houses are similar in size to mine...one is a little bigger. Neither are well insulated. One has a huge open cathedral ceiling. The other has lots of small rooms. They use 4 to 4.5 tons a year. My house is smaller, low ceilings, 6" of insulation, double pane glass, etc, etc. its "new, and tight". It also has a very open floor plan. all in all, "optimal" setup for a pellet stove. I should use significantly less pellets than my friends...how much? we won't know for sure until next spring, but I suspect it'll be 3 to 3.5 tons. But the "btu math" says I'll need 4.5 tons to replace my average 600 gallons of oil.

    In the long run, I think it'll be cheaper "per btu", as well, even though it may not be right this minute, but you have to also consider the overall efficiency of the method of heating, not just the cost per btu.
  14. MCPO

    MCPO Minister of Fire

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    And what`s the guarantee that the new pellet stove is going to be 80% efficient?
    Let me say this, If my central heating system or my house energy efficiency values were not reasonably good I`d not be thinking about spending my money on a costly spaceheater and 5 tons of pellets as a priority.
    I`d be investing in insulation, windows, or a new furnace or whatever I had to do to make it energy efficient first.
    No matter what fuel you are buying that heat is being wasted if your house is not up to par..

    And it was always my belief that a hot air system was cheaper to operate than forced hot water not to mention the ease and cost benefits of adding whole house A/C.
  15. cac4

    cac4 New Member

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    There is no guarantee; and I think that fha IS the more efficient method of central heat...but its not as efficient as they say. Its not "less than they say", due to some flaw in my house or my system; I'm just saying that this is the nature of the beast.

    what I do know is that in the example of my friends, they replaced their oil-btu's with LESS pellet btu's.
  16. itworks

    itworks New Member

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    If your friends actually replaced "oil-btu's with less pellet btu's" that can only mean they had inefficient oil burners, or they staying fairly close to the pellet stove to stay comfortable.
  17. Wet1

    Wet1 Minister of Fire

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    I agree you most certainly have to consider the efficiency of both. Very seldom can we exactly compare apples to apples, but we can make good rough estimations to try making reasonable decisions. It sounds like you have a fairly inefficient oil burner so it might be a little cheaper to burn pellets in your case, but I'm not sure you'll be saving as much as you might think.

    You also have to look at the big picture. My guess is when using your stove, you'll probably have warm and cold spots throughout the house that you wouldn't otherwise have with your central heating system. You'll also probably use more electricity running the stove and fans to move the air (I know I do) vs. what you'd use with your central heating system. Let's not forget the cost and depreciation of the stove itself as a supplemental heat source. Then you have the hassle of storing / feeding the pellets throughout the season, which is basically a non-issue with oil. Oh, don't forget the weekly stove cleaning... When you add it all up, you MIGHT save a few dollars, but at what cost? Is it all worth it to POSSIBLY save one or two hundred dollars a year??? Now if you're burning pellets for another reason (other than to save money), that's another story.

    Don't get me wrong, I've been burning pellets since 2000, but when oil or "X" is cheap (like it is today), I'll be the first to tell you burning pellets is sometimes more hassle than it's worth for the few cents you might be saving.

    My pellets cost me $205/ton delivered to my house this season. That's fairly cheap by today's standards. I would save a few dollars compared to burning oil at today's prices, but maybe not enough to make it worth the hassle.

    OTOH, my NG rates are so low it's almost silly to burn ANY pellets, even at $205/ton. In oil terms / dollars, the first 30CCF of NG I burn (at 85% efficiency), which is about the equivalent to 22 gal. of oil, cost me about $30/month (that's about $1.36/gal in oil $). Anything more than this per month cost me an additional $0.53/gal. when convert into oil $. Hardly makes any sense to light a fire! But I will continue to burn a little here and there as I like the fire(s).

    At the end of the day, when mainstream energy is cheap, there certainly isn't much money to be saved burning pellets when you add up ALL the expenses AND inconveniences... Especially when folks are paying top dollar for pellets.

    JMHO.
  18. cac4

    cac4 New Member

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    not necessarily to the first, probably yes to the second...but that is part of the benefit.

    my furnace is as good as it can be. (81% at the last tweaking). But, this type of "system" has lossy ducts, and that isn't factored in to the efficiency calculation. ducts run through the cold, unfinished basement. They are insulated, but that doesn't stop the energy tranfer; it just slows it down. The pipes to the second floor go through the 5 1/2 inch stud cavities...which makes them "no longer 5 1/2" thick"...they only have about an inch or so of insulation around them...the heat in those pipes is heating the outdoors.

    the heat that a pellet stove produces is 100% dumped into the living space. So that does constitute a bit of a free lunch, compared to a fha furnace.

    The net result is that you can "stay comfortable" using "less energy".[/quote]
  19. gw2kpro

    gw2kpro New Member

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    I wish NG was an option where I live, I sure miss it.

    NG has never been developed around here (Bangor, ME) for the life of me I can't understand why. So, you can either heat here with oil, propane, cord wood, pellets, or electricity. As almost everyone has an oil burner, pellets are a great alternative in this area.
  20. cac4

    cac4 New Member

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    why does everybody keep saying this? my burner is as efficient as it ever was, and works exactly as it was designed. This SYSTEM's method of delivering heat to the room where I park my butt is what is INEFFICIENT, but it is so by its very design.

    I AM looking at the big picture, which is that at the end of the year, I'll use less energy to stay comfortable.

    I don't care; I'm not sitting in the cold spot. heating the area where I am NOT, is a waste of energy.

    not so sure...but I have considered it. in MY house, the furnace has no chimney, and is exhausted by a power vent...which is a bit of a pig, electrically. so is the furnace itself. by my calculations, the electricity use will be equal, if I run my stove on high for the entire winter. which I obviously won't be doing. We'll only know for sure at the end of the winter, when I'll be able to compare this year's KWH's to last years.

    yeah, its green, and its local. all gravy.
    yes, I considered all that, and its fine with me. the extra work, too. I have more time than money. The next guy...maybe not so much. The next guy might also have cheaper NG available; I do not. my initial point was to counter the statments that "you will need x tons to replace y gallons", based solely on btu content of the fuel. There isn't a calculator out there that will factor in all this stuff. But there are situations where "pellets are cheaper", even when the btu cost is close or equal.
  21. mischinski

    mischinski Member

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    Mark M weighing in here on this most interesting topic...

    I am new to pellet heating and learning fast. One concept that I am watching is that what ever the threshold is for pellet btu = oil btu the oil btus are distributed evenly to the entire domicile. Where with my pellet stove running in the middle of the home those rooms stay nice and toasty but the outer rooms stay pretty cold (oil tstat in center of house0. Yes, additional air movement management is probably needed but that is an add on investment. I will need to put my oil heat on a programmable tstat so that I can have a somewhat warm bathroom in the morning to take a shower, which can then be shut off when we move to the main living area.

    Bottom line is I will still need to burn oil along with my stove in order to attain the same level of comfort in all areas of the house. Still to be determined is will the stove put out enough heat to warm the upstairs to a livable temperature. One question - how much effort have you all veterans put into to distributing your pellet btus to all areas of the house? Does that require more output from your stove?

    I may be in lala land here but my calculation is that the proposed pellet btu does not equal oil btu when you consider overall energy required to heat the entire domicile. Let the debate continue.....

    Thanks in advance for your feedback. MM
  22. itworks

    itworks New Member

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    Wow this is the very best thread I've ever participated in. Cost aside, I think some of us don't just realize even the most efficient pellet
    stove, burning the very best pellets, are just big wonderful SPACE HEATERS.
  23. Wet1

    Wet1 Minister of Fire

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    Understood. And using fans to push the air around isn't? Let's not forget how effective this can be (or lack there of).

    Assuming you sit next to the stove all winter, that sounds very possible.


    Ever think about putting ZONES on your central heating system? If you only looking to space heat, zones/dampers would allow you do a better job of this.

    My boilers are direct vent as well. They still don't eat nearly as much electricity as my pellet stove(s) and fans do. The vent only runs a small portion of the day, the pellet stove(s) and fans run non stop.

    yeah, its green, and its local. all gravy.
    yes, I considered all that, and its fine with me. the extra work, too. I have more time than money. The next guy...maybe not so much. The next guy might also have cheaper NG available; I do not. my initial point was to counter the statments that "you will need x tons to replace y gallons", based solely on btu content of the fuel. There isn't a calculator out there that will factor in all this stuff. But there are situations where "pellets are cheaper", even when the btu cost is close or equal.[/quote]

    We seem to disagree on this, but I think the total energy used (to heat the same space) is fairly close when it comes to total BTU's, and both systems as a whole are reasonably close when it comes to efficiency, assuming you add up everything. The real significant difference in savings is if you're talking about only doing space heating... which you seem to be doing. Of course there's savings to be made if you're going to compare heating only one or two rooms vs. heating the entire house (which seems to now be the point of your argument)! At the end of the day it takes close to the same number of BTU to heat the entire house at one temp, period. Efficiency does make a difference, but we aren't talking MAJOR differences here, they are both in the same ballpark when everything is tallied up...
  24. Wet1

    Wet1 Minister of Fire

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    BINGO!
  25. cac4

    cac4 New Member

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    funny you mention that. There was also an earlier mention of the benefit of FHA systems is the ability to add central air....I can cool the first floor of my house in the summer with a single window air conditioner. I think its a 10k btu model. $150 bucks...I just can't see spending "thousands" for central air, when this works fine. I don't need any additional fans to move the air around. maybe use the ceiling fan if its "wicked hot", but generally don't need to. the first floor of my house is like 1 big room. I expect the pellet stove to work similarly. If there were 4 separate rooms, like there are in older houses like mine (picture a standard 24' x 36' cape), this wouldn't work.
    Last year, (07) my highest electric bill was august; (not surprising). but the second highest was February. The furnace is quite piggy with the electrons.

    didn't think it would be practical to have lots of zones w/ fha. different story w/ water, though. My uncle just re-did his system, and put in a zone for each room.
    there are dampers, but they don't do the whole job. they don't block off the heat completely.

    Central heating is lossy; the only question is exactly how much. both moving the heat, and the transfer of heat lose quite a bit. that'll vary from house to house, too.
    but yeah, I'm saying that those are the 2 main sources of savings, which both boil down to "its a space heater". I bet that the btu to btu comparison would be pretty close, if you were comparing furnace to furnace, or boiler to boiler.
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