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Heat'rs brand Densified energy logs

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by JAred, Jan 26, 2006.

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  1. Mo Heat

    Mo Heat Mod Emeritus

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    Hi Colin, Nice analysis. While your emphasis is on economics, I'm glad you also point out the various other reasons to pick pressed logs (and pellets, etc.) over cordwood.

    In my area I can easily spend $300 per cord of mixed, seasoned hardwood. And guess what, only 2/3 to 3/4 of a cord of wood actually get delivered to my door. Never fails. Even after make-up deliveries. I've never received a full cord, which is why I've never bought wood from the same person twice. There's always as much, or more, 'mixed wood' (aka: non-oak, non-hickory, non-locust, etc.) as hardwood. It's never ready to burn (usually needs another 4 to 6 months drying). Being math challenged, I won't embarrass myself, but I think this puts compressed logs easily on economic par in my area.

    Add to this some of the intangible (or perhaps tangible) advantages of pressed wood products over buying cordwood, like consistent weight (actually receiving what you pay for), smaller storage footprint, indoor storage with no bugs and less mess, predictable, consistent, more complete, and cleaner burns (these things actually clean out my stove after I burn a few of them), significantly less ash, etc. and I'd burn them in a heartbeat. Living in the suburbs I have issues finding enough scrounged wood to go the full winter (and I'm saving my yard trees for America's coming social meltdown ;). I'd much rather supplement my do-it-yourself cordwood stack with compressed logs than buy cordwood from an undependable local huckster. Trouble is, I can't find them around St. Louis. I tried ACE Hardware, but they let me down.

    For those who are willing to trade significant time and labor, have the interest and capability to buy, operate and maintain dangerous equipment to process their own cordwood, and who have a ready supply of it available for cutting, compressed logs may not look very appealing. But as you point out in your argument, and I wholeheartedly agree, there are LOTS of situations where these compressed logs can look very appealing. My situation is one of them. My biggest beef until recently was that compressed LOGS were about twice as expensive as pellets. Now that pellets have increased substantially in price (in some places) and compressed logs seem to be holding surprisingly steady, that is no longer a significant issue for me.

    Again, excellent numerical analysis. Thanks. But placing economic value on the many and varying factors regarding cordwood, and factoring in the the myriad inconsistencies with a particular cordwood supply, can yield radically varying numerical results. One thing the compressed logs offer in spades, is consistency. You get what you pay for. The physical consistency (shape) of these logs and bricks has another advantage that may be hard to quantify. You can stack a load in the stove in such a manner as to get a slow and steady burn. Sometimes, this can be quite challenging for me using cordwood.

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  2. BioPellet

    BioPellet New Member

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    Bingo! Consistency, that's also the ticket.

    Well, Colin I'm actually NOT being misleading. Please pay attention to what I'm saying. Your bookkeeping is not the whole story - that's what I'm saying.

    Look at my plot http://www.biopellet.net/data.html and do what you suggest we do - compare the areas under the curve. You'll find that there's 1.7 times more BTUs delivered to the house with the BioBricks(tm) as with the same weight of cordwood.

    Here's my point again, bookkeeping would say that 20% moisture cordwood has 6500 btus per pound available (ignoring chemical moisture) and BioBricks at 7% moisture have 7800 btus per pound available (also ignoring chemical moisture). Well this ratios to 1.2 not 1.7 so there's something ELSE going on. -> it's the smoke

    Yes, modern wood stove will extract more energy and burn with no smoke - IF - you get the wood hot enough to allow the secondary combustion to kick in but the point is that the inconsistency of size and moisture causes cold points in the wood and unburned smoke. You have to crank the draft to get things going hot enough - enother loss of heat.
  3. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    If you are comparing an ideally operating combustion cycle with compressed wood products to a non-catalytic poorly operated wood stove with wood that is not completely seasoned, then I am not surprised by your conclusions. However, I could also load a study to say if someone lets their biobricks get wet, puts them in a non-catalytic stove and smolders them, the results will also reflect that. So again, this is not a valid argument. Similarly, if I assume up front that I'm going to get ripped off on cordwood, same thing applies.

    The quoted 1.7 ratio of integrated head delivery is good information - that is part of the equation. The other part is the cost per pound of fuel that was loaded. I would guess a biobrick costs more per pound than cordwood - certainly for the other example that started this thread, the difference was substantial and there was no hope of recovering that difference. What is the delivered cost per pound of a biobrick? You will note I asked for that information in bold when completing my analysis above.

    It would also be interesting to see comparable results in a properly maintained and operated catalytic stove since your argument against cordwood essentially makes the case that your secondary combustion stove is not effectively burning the smoke. (intersting, because the stove vendor claims it works great... hmm...) Anyone aiming for maximum burn efficiency should be using a catalytic stove to burn the smoke - this technology is commonplace and not a unique miracle of biobricks or other compressed wood products.

    Again, as I've stated from the beginning, I'm not attacking the product - just the argument that this is somehow more economical than cordwood. There are lots of other good rational reasons why someone may want to use these, but it is not going to save them money over proper cordwood use. I don't think it's honest to make that claim.

    -Colin
  4. JAred

    JAred New Member

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    Ya, I tried to get some a while back when I started this thread but the local feed sttore that carried heater's pellets blew me off and never called me again. They were going to have a pallet of logs come with a shipment of pelletts but haven'nt heard from them. no intrest realy now. It's getting warmer and I'm cleaning the boat up:)
  5. BioPellet

    BioPellet New Member

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    here's Colin: "If you are comparing an ideally operating combustion cycle with compressed wood products to a non-catalytic poorly operated wood stove " woow - huh? what? where you got that from?

    Look at my website would ya? http://www.biopellet.net/data.html I'm using the same wood stove in the test!

    Colin, you are not capturing the concept here. "typical" cordwood (i.e. 20+% moisture) has a down side beyond the energy per pound comparison. You've got to throw additional wood away because you can't get the stove up and running properly because of local cool spots because of excess water. That means that in testing the truth comes out that BioBricks are not 1.2 times better in terms of energy per lb delivered into the house they are actually 1.7 times better. That to me is more than just an incremental improvement.

    You say you pay $150 per cord. Doubt many of us have such luck but OK fine. Now this bug infested pile of bark, dirt and wood gets dumped on your lawn. Now you've got to spend 4 hours stacking it! Let's say your time is worth $20 per hour. Now you are at $230. Let's derate this pile by my factor of 1.7,. So if a pound of my BioBricks has 7900 btus then a pound of typical cordwood only has 4700 btus (based solely on my testing). If you average cordwood across the country you will find that a cord of 20% moisture cordwood weighs 3000 lb. So you are paying $16.5 per Mbtu. Now, BT Enterprises in CT is selling a ton of my BioBricks for $200 so BioBrick customers are paying $12.6 per Mbtu. Hmmmm......
  6. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    BT Enterprises in CT too bad they don't answer their e-mail I would have purchased some, put them to the test and compare. I have a cat and not cat stoves with a long history of burning. Veteran Burner of over 30 years. Your best bet is to get them in the hands of experience burners and let them make claims from their own experiences. If I had to pay for wood or auxiliary fuel. It would be coal,
    still the best Btu per $$$ cost. 30 years of wood burning never paid for any wood. At times people paid me to cut it and remove it.
    two stoves nearly 200 cords burnt. All my wood is processed atleast 2 years in advance of use. Re stacked so there is rotation of the piles and placed in sunny locations 8 + hours of summer sun every day. I say my wood is about as dry as possible before use. Yes this does take time which has to be factored, but when some it paying you to remove wood or it cost next to nothing.
    16 cords already split and stacked, Bio bricks for me, is not the answer at this current time. I would like to purchase some to for comparrison,But in no rush as summer approaches. I mean I already had people back their pickup truck in my yard and stack their wood piles right next to the ones I am processing. People in my town are lazy and just wanted to get rid of it. Off now to see if I can get some more free wood
  7. BioPellet

    BioPellet New Member

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    The data speaks for itself. And I've got more plots like this burning a Harman Oakwood and comparing densified fuel to cordwood.

    Nobodies taking a loss here. I would recommend you take advantage of spring pricing though.

    We are making use of wood byproducts previously dried to make furniture, etc. No waste. So long as you continue to want to sit in a chair made of something besides tree branches I'll have the BioBricks for you.

    As for burning coal, yeh that's a great idea. All we need's some more sequestered carbon added to an already overburdend atmosphere.
  8. Mo Heat

    Mo Heat Mod Emeritus

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    BioPellet Dude,

    Can you point a few of your customers here to hearth.com? I'd love to hear from others burning your BioBricks.

    I'd also love to try your BioBricks next Winter, but alas, I live in St. Louis. I've tried two different types of cylindrical logs already and loved them both. One was West Oregon Wood Products High Energy Firelogs (from Jonas). The other was North Idaho Energy Logs from Thomas (NW Fuels). Your BioBricks have a unique square shape that I'm very curious about.

    I called every pellet manufacturer in Missouri and all the adjacent states, and only one makes compressed logs, Lignetics of West Virginia. They told me they distributed through ACE Hardware, but after 4 months of promises and no-show deliveries from last August to last December, ACE finally told me they couldn't actually get them for me. I'm not sure what the hell happened there as the Lignetics logs were listed in their catalog for special order and things seemed fine for a while.

    NY Soapstone,

    As I said, in my situation here in St. Louis, last Fall cordwood was $250 for a delivery of 3/4 cord of mostly medium density hardwood, mixed with other unidentifiable species. That put the actual price per cord at $333. It has likely gone up by now and certainly by next Fall. So allowing for an increase of a delivery to $275, that puts the REAL price of less than dry, less than hardwood cordwood at $366 per cord.

    According to this chart ( http://hearth.com/what/heatvalues.html ) the BTU's per cord of my mixed species is probably around 22 million. So that's around $16.64 per million BTU.

    Once I factor in 20 to 30 percent moisture (if I'm lucky) in my cordwood compared to 7% for the compressed logs, the stacking, the moving, the Mrs' complaints about extra vacuuming, the incredible aggravation of dealing with dag nabbed wood hucksters, etc., the compressed logs start looking pretty good when one is forced to purchase cordwood at similar prices. Availability, consistency, reliability, ease of use, etc. makes them look a little better still. YMMV.
  9. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    There are ways to burn coal cleanly Check out Branton Point Coal generation Electrical plant

    BTw It is good to have Bio pellets actively post as for many his product will be a solution
  10. BioPellet

    BioPellet New Member

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    Sorry for the use of this forum as a sales vehicle - that was not my intention. But I did want to clarify that Book caluculations on $/btu will never tell the whole story until we have adhered to standards on what a cord of wood "IS"

    BR Thomas(ina?)
  11. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    My take on the counter argument - "If you buy cordwood, I inherenetly assume that you will pay through the nose, your wood will not be seasoned, and you will run a non-catalytic stove at non-ideal conditions below the temperatures required to achieve the manufacturer's secondary smoke burn claims."

    Doesn't hold water.

    Second, I was very clear from the beginning that cordwood is more work in labor (read very top of this thread quote) - in fact, if you want to do "bookkeeping" for the labor involved, your price for biobricks is also not competitive with conventional energy sources given how much labor they entail compared to flipping a switch on the oil burner. What I have taken issue with is the claims that BioBricks save actual cash outlay because it is somehow that much more cost effective than cordwood.

    Now I'm glad we finally have some price numbers to work with so we can close this analysis out.

    Cordwood in Hudson Valley - $150 for 25 million BTUs (http://muextension.missouri.edu/explore/agguides/forestry/g05450.htm) = $6/MBTUs delivered.

    BioBricks - $12.6 per MBTU and I assume that is on-dock pickup so need to add delivery charge - not sure what that is?

    This is more than 2X the difference irregardless of the delivery charge - beyond the difference you conclude in the test comparisons burning cordwood under what appear to be non-ideal conditions. Again, not a bad product for someone who doesn't burn high temps and/or catalytic, can't secure cordwood without getting ripped off, or someone who may have been thinking about pellets. But it is not a compelling economic argument based on actual cash outlay for woodburners who properly manage cordwood.

    The real followup needed here is independent testing in catalytic stoves operating at steady state (as opposed to cold-start) in the fashion that many of us run them throughout the winter. If anyone can identify a source in the Hudson Valley, this would be an interesting experiment to run. Wouldn't be too hard to setup some thermocouples at multiple points to get as close as we can to a true calorimetric experiment running a catalytic stove run continuously above catalytic burn temperature - I think this would shed some light on the 1.7x number obtained in a non-cat stove from a cold start.

    -Colin
  12. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Elk - I agree completely. Perhaps this winter, such testing is in order - especially if we could confirm moisture content of the seasoned hardwood tested.
  13. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    And, we have proven once again, that even wood burners can be snobs!
    :lol:

    Next we can debate whether it pays to pump out our own septic systems......speaking of that, we had to have our old one done before we sold that house. This BIG black guy comes out and removes the lid - he gets all excited and calls Martha to come see "hey, come check out all of this goop I have to pump out". The Misses declined to come gawk at the tons of poop and we watched from the window as he stirred it while he pumped.

    All the real old folks here must remember the old list on how much a cord of wood actually costs - it figured in the chain saw, the hospital bills and everything else...does anyone still have a copy of that?

    As I remember it was 52,000 for one cord in 1979 - that means about 150K today. If the list doesn't exist, we can surely create it - you know, add the cost of dropping a tree on your neighbors house, the stitches when you hurt yourself, etc. etc.

    One guy I knew in NJ "found" a giant stash of wood by the side of the road and grabbed his truck and chain saw to harvest it. A couple days later he found out the hard way that those 4" vines around the stuff were poison IVY. THe chain saw did a great job of "weaponizing" this stuff and added to his sweating over the wood. He was hospitalized for that one!

    Another customer of our stove shop learned about helmets, googles and kickbacks when his saw did a nice slice between his eyes and up his scalp - I think he said 90 stitches took care of that one.

    I guess nothing is cheap when it comes down to it.
  14. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    If you are paying that kind of money for cordwood, then I agree, you should stop buying wood unless you have other really strong convictions on not using any type of fossil fuel. That price puts it way beyond the point of making any economic sense - never heard of anyone spending that kind of money on wood.

    In these parts, friends I know who buy their wood are consistently quoted $150/cord and they have never been ripped off on deliveries; I believe Warren on this board has also observed similar pricing in this part of the country. As some have noted, there are a lot of areas where tree services alone have a huge disposal problem and thus drive a reasonable firewood market price.

    -Colin
  15. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Indeed - I have been advocating that point from the very beginning. I will strongly recommend this solution to people I know contemplating pellets. This area is apparently blessed with copious reasonably priced wood supply and this way they have more fuel flexibility as opposed to pellet stoves. People can choose to burn bricks, or if that gets to be cost ineffective like pellets did, or they just feel like burning real wood logs, have to take a tree down, want to mix/match by doing a cord or two themselves, but can't do the whole years worth off their land, then this gives them the ability to do it all in one woodburning appliance. I'm not at all a compressed wood log hater - good product for some people.

    I only take issue with some of the more extreme economic/efficiency claims - when you have 9 other great things going for your product, don't lose credibility on the 10th :)

    -Colin
  16. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Is it even remotely possible to burn this cleanly on a residential level? However, if the coal was converted to coal gas in a modern efficient manner, then that might have hope. Seattle has a big defunct plant on north Lake Union (Gasworks Park), that used to supply much of the city with coal gas. Our old house in the city still had the gas lighting pipes in it.
  17. Mike Wilson

    Mike Wilson New Member

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    Ditto that...

    And come to think of it, at this point, I am really struggling to see the point of this thread. Until one of us HearthNet woodburners actually tries a BioBrick, nobody is going to be completely satisfied with their purported performance vs. cordwood, which is itself a variable performance fuel. Therefore, I'm putting all consideration on hold until one or more of us get a box or pallet or whatever delivered and burned in a stove. Done.

    -- Mike
  18. BioPellet

    BioPellet New Member

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    Guys, "it's the carbon stupid" CO2 created from burning carbon pulled out of the ground from 50,000,000 years ago is melting the ice out from under the Eskimos and flooding the UmpaLumpas. I just read an article that projected that by 2050 1/3 of the biodiversity will be wiped out due to global warming! Gee, not sure if they are right, hey, lets' wait and see!

    Should we just poopoo those global warming wackos who think that spewing 5 tons of new carbon into the atmosphere per year, just to keep our inefficient houses warm and cosy, will not amount to much of an effect!!!!
  19. Mo Heat

    Mo Heat Mod Emeritus

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    First off, let me say I am not an anti-residential coal burner, although I think you should understand what you are doing and accept responsibility for it. If I were in the right situation, I might burn coal myself, but there are things to consider.

    When I drop Mother-Mo-Heat off at the train station every now and again, I am amazed at the coal cars I nearly always see passing the station, one after another, after another, for a long time. Likely on their way to the nearest electrical generation plant so I can have $0.055 a kWh electricity. Just a few of those cars would probably last everyone on hearthnet a lifetime. They probably last the electrical plant less than an hour or so. So I don't view residential coal burning as a major problem, at least not when compared to generating electricity for a whole region or state using coal, but I've been wrong before. Anyway, my point is, I'm NOT trying to be snobby.

    Burning coal is actually a double (or triple) whammy. Coal combustion frees carbon from where it has been sequestered a very long time by binding it with atmospheric oxygen (O2) and adding it to the atmosphere as CO2. Burning coal also frees up a number of potentially unhealthy elements, metals, and chemicals that were also nicely buried away for ages. Just about anything you find in the ground is likely found in coal since coal is basically dirt that can be burned. ;) The triple whammy is that combusting coal (and other fossile fuels) reduces atmospheric oxygen as well.

    Burning coal increases atmospheric CO2 levels while simultaneously releasing these weirdo dirt items into the air. Some of them, like sulphur, mix with oxygen to form SO2 which can bind with other stuff like H2 and more O2 to form acid rain (H2SO4), etc., etc. until it boggles the mind. Metals like mercury (or whatever) can precipitate out of the smoke and onto the ground, etc., etc. until it boggles the mind. Not so good like burning wood.

    As mentioned above, burning coal and other fossil fuels, which bind previously sequestered carbon to O2 to form CO2 in the atmosphere, the atmospheric oxygen levels (O2) are reduced in that process. I believe we may start hearing more about his in the near future as well as the increased CO2 levels we hear about daily. Frankly I think it's weird that this isn't mentioned much at all from what I hear and read. But no one really knows how much less oxygen will tip the scales to a point that it is a recognizable problem. It will likely be noticed first in high pollution areas like dense cities by the old, infirm, or very young. The same people affected by current higher than normal pollution levels.

    So anyway, even if you burn coal (or most any traditionally refined petroleum product) cleanly, you still take carbon out of sequester, create CO2 with it, and add it to the atmosphere where it will be for a long time. Strangely global warming might eventually lead to an ice age for some of us instead of the hotter green house effect we normally think of created by greenhouse gases. The freshwater melted from the ice caps will interfere with the movement of salty Gulf Stream water, thus affecting the major transfer of heat northward from the equator, which regulates climates in the mid and northern Atlantic. No one really knows exactly what will happen, but it might get hot and then get REAL cool! It would then be hotter at the equator, and really, really cold up north.

    Burning carbon from wood is more of a carbon neutral cycle, although there is some acceleration of the cycle through burning rather than rotting of trees on the ground, which takes much longer. But it seems generally agreed that over the long haul, burning wood is essentially carbon neutral, unlike burning long hidden fossil fuels.

    Just thought I'd wax a bit on that topic to make it clearer. :)
  20. Mo Heat

    Mo Heat Mod Emeritus

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    Good point, but since I process over half of my own wood, I rationalize that I'm really spending a moderate amount of money for the total pile I'll be burning. :)

    Also, the location of my stove is an area that is otherwise pretty cold and hard to heat using the forced air furnace. Mine is a space heating endeavor that allows me to significantly reduce the thermostat temperature in the majority of the house and still be warm in front of the stove in the evening.

    If I had to buy ALL my stove fuel (wood or compressed logs), I might have to rethink my strategy.
  21. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    I will have to leave the wait and see to the rest of ya. I don't think I am going to live to a hundred and three. I sure as hell hope that I don't.
  22. BioPellet

    BioPellet New Member

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    I just love this guy - its great to deal with sentient beings
  23. Turner-n-Burner

    Turner-n-Burner New Member

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    Been away from the forum for a few days, and I see you guys have been busy despite the warm(er) weather. Though it was cold enough last night that I lit a fire in the woefully inefficent fireplace just for the romantic glow. That effort was woefully inefficient as well. :(


    I'd just like to chime in here to add to Mo Heat's observations. Here in the boston area, cordwood was running around $300/cord plus delivery last fall. The new spring rates are still at $250 or so - again, plus delivery. And we all know that what they call seasoned - isn't. It means that they cut the wood up to three months ago before burying it in a mountain of it's friends.

    I shopped around a bit last fall and bought a half cord for my fireplace. I did receive a fair half-cord, but it was wet, and a good bit of it was cherry. Now I like cherry for furniture, and it's a really pretty wood to turn bowls out of, but wet cherry doesn't burn worth a damn. I wound up picking out some of the bigger chunks, and I'm going to make christmas ornaments and stuff out of them - after they dry a bit more.

    I'm going to place an order for some log length wood tomorrow, cut it, split it and stack it in the sun to dry all summer. Come next winter I'll check it with a moisture meter and start burning it. But if I can pick up a pallet of biobricks for ~$200 delivered, I'll do that as well. Most of us may be willing to slave over a woodpile - but if you have to travel on business or come down with the flu, do you really think your significant other is going to keep tending the fire? or are they going to turn the thermostat up to 75, because they're now used to being warm all winter? I think having a pile of these stacked within handy reach will pay for themselves in skipped arguments alone!

    In this area, the economics are pretty nearly a wash, if they're not out and out in favor of the bio bricks, and for those that don't own a saw (and let's face it - most homeowners I know can't be trusted with a Weed-eater let alone a chainsaw) are too fat to swing a maul, are too apt to sue over a lost finger to rent a splitter, and don't have room on their postage stamp sized urban lots to stack wood... BioBricks are a clear winner. They can order pizza from the pimple faced, '76 El-Camino driving delivery kid, buy cheap chinese junk at walmart, throw out nine garbage cans of crap each week and feel good about burning recycled sawdust for heat.

    -Dan
  24. Mike Wilson

    Mike Wilson New Member

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    I'm all for Global Warming... to hell with bio-diversity and the Oompa Loompas... burn oil, coal, peat, whatever you have. Eventually we'll warm the planet up enough so that we won't have to burn anything to stay warm.

    -- Mike
  25. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Yea, I suspect that is a pickup wholesale price. That is a big factor for a one ton pallet located in CT. If you pickup wood, it's a heck of a lot cheaper (usually free) but also makes for some interesting threads as we saw on here a few weeks back :)

    I'm not sure how I'd haul a one-ton pallet - can't even put in a compact pickup. (maybe they can be distributed in 1000 lb pallets since most any truck and probabl some SUVs can handle that with ease?) I'd also guess that nobody is going to deliver it for free either... I'd guess you'd add on at least $50-$100 per pallet to get it to your place. Heck, a load of mulch costs $50 to deliver and that doesn't require a forklift to unload.

    Sounds like some of the urban folks are getting hammered on wood prices - I bet a lot of it is traffic and delivery hassle to homeowners, so I would be interested in how that will be managed for the compressed log products. In the end, woodburning has always made a lot more sense for rural communities where fuel is plentiful and sourced locally.

    If anyone does find these or comparable products in the Dutchess County, NY area, let me know - would like to evaluate them this winter to see how they compare in a continuously operated cat stove.

    -Colin
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