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  1. Jimmymac

    Jimmymac New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2008
    Messages:
    9
    Loc:
    Orange county, NY
    First of all, I'd like to say thank you to everyone on the board. As a new (almost) pellet insert owner I have learned much from reading these posts. However, many questions remain. Any help would be appreciated.
    First, what brand of pellets to buy and how much to pay. I have checked most of the places around me and alot of the brands that have been mentioned as good aren't available, or are much more expensive. Barefoot aren't available. Energx and Lignetics are 330.00 a ton. Without delivery. Both Lowe's and Home Depot offer Pennington for much less, but they haven't been rated well on this forum. One of the Agway's has Dry Creek for 300.00 a ton. I have seen both good and bad ratings. Does anybody have more info??
    Second, what is the equivalent of pellets to oil. I have seen on several sites the statement that One bag of pellets equals two and one half gallons of oil. However, I have a 2300 square foot house, two stories, and used @ 1160 gallons of oil last year to fire a 22 year old furnace for a house with baseboard hot water heat. My hot water is heated in a coil inside the boiler. Now, if I figure that the overwhelming amount of oil is to heat the house, as opposed to heating the water, I would assume that @1000 gallons went to heat the house. At that rate, according to the above formula, I would need about 400 bags of pellets to completely replace the oil usage. Now I don't really think that it is possible to replace all of the oil usage, but 8 tons of pellets??? Is that formula accurate in any way, shape or form????
    Thirdly, I have on order a Mt Vernon AE fireplace insert. Shipping date to my local dealer is August 19th (hopefully). While trying to figure Pellet tonnage I started to think about the other fuels it is supposed to burn. Namely corn, wheat, and sunflower seeds. I don't see much mention of these on this site. Does anybody use them??? Any comments??? What would the equivalents to oil be?? Where would you buy these, and are they anyway near economically feasible??? Problems with Vermin???
    Any and all input would be appreciated.

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  2. SteveT

    SteveT Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    May 21, 2008
    Messages:
    335
    Loc:
    West of Boston
    I think your calculation and estimate of usage is just about right, except I think you are a bit light on the amount of oil used for hot water. As always, there are a lot of variables that make everyone's situation different (size of family, length of showers are two that come to mind) but I think that estimating 30% of total oil use for hot water probably gets you into the ballpark. And for most people there will be some oil still used for heat -- getting to 100% fuel replacement is asking a lot.

    So you might shoot for replacing 800 gallons of oil with about 7 tons of pellets. At $5.00/gallon for oil and $300/ton for pellets you'd save nearly half on the heating cost... seems reasonable.
  3. Jimmymac

    Jimmymac New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2008
    Messages:
    9
    Loc:
    Orange county, NY
    Enginerep,
    you could be right on my underestimation of the amount of oil used for heating hot water as there are five of us in the house, and three are female. The showers are endless. But, I have also read that the average house will use 2-3 tons of pellets a year to heat the house. That's why I have doubts about the estimates.
    Jimmymac
  4. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Messages:
    12,099
    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    About right that a bag is 2 gallons of oil - depends, of course, on the efficiency of the stove and the central heating unit.

    Heating oil, BTW, is currently less than $4 a gallon in Maine and around $4 here.

    http://maineoil.com/zone1.asp?type=0
    http://www.discountenergy.org/

    So if a ton of pellets is $275 and 100 gallons of oil is $400, the savings turns out to be $125 per ton of pellets used. There are other factors, such as the initial cost of the stove, service, your labor loading and cleaning, etc.. If a person burns 4 tons a year and then spends an average of $200 a year (typical) on having their unit serviced and parts (if needed), that adds $50 per ton to the actual cost. So in the above example, the savings would $75 a ton after these costs, but before the cost of the stove and installation (interest on the load, time value of $$, etc.)
  5. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Messages:
    12,099
    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    Never use any data like "the average house uses...."

    My average wood stove customer used 1-2 cords a year- but the kicker is that they certainly did not heat their house 100% with it. An average pellet stove user may use 2-3 tons a year, but the stove is not running 24/7 or all winter and heating everything.

    Use BTU, it is the universally accepted method of measurement.
  6. SteveT

    SteveT Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    May 21, 2008
    Messages:
    335
    Loc:
    West of Boston
    Someone burning "only" two tons of pellets is either is in a very small, well insulated house, or a warm climate, or just supplementing other heat. They have only replaced the heat from ~ 225 gallons of oil.

    As to one of your other questions, a week or two back another member -- KeithO - had an interesting post regarding corn. I pasted it in here..

    I personally made the mistake of being seduced by the convenience of a corn/pellet stove. 2 winters back, corn was at $1.98/bushel (60lb). Pellets were about $3.50/40lb bag. The pellet supply in Michigan was not too good and the pellets were being shipped quite a distance adding to the cost. It was also difficult finding pellets, since in those days they were not sold in the big box stores (Walmart, Meijer, Tractor Supply etc). Now at least tractor supply sells them, even if the others in our area dont.

    Given that background and being surrounded by cornfields here in Southern Michigan, the pellet / corn burner seemed a logical choice. Cheap, renewable corn, only 2 interactions per day with the stove (drop out clinker (ash) and refill the hopper) and it can be run by a thermostat. Spent $3600 for the St Croix Greenfield, the fancy cast iron dressed up version. For all the dressing up, it has a smaller hopper than the plate steel versions and the hopper door is more inconvenient for filling because it gets in the way of the bag. But, you know, that is what you get when the woman of the home has the final say on the “asthetics”.... Another $900 for the 20+ feet of pellet vent, flashing, storm collar and rain cap and I did the chimney install myself.

    The week after I buy the stove (still busy on the install) the corn price doubles to over $4/bushel. That blew my return on investment right out the window right there. I found a supply of corn for $3/bushel for that winter but by the following year it was over $5/bushel and heating with corn was going to cost more than with natural gas. This last winter wood pellets were around $4/40lb bag, still more expensive than heating with natural gas in my case.

    The first winter heating with corn, we had an ice storm just after Xmas that took out all electrical power for a few days. I had a generator, but running a 3.5kw generator just to power the corn stove and a few lights and the refrigerator is a bit ridiculous (and expensive and loud).

    Basically, since that first winter the corn burner has been in retirement. It still looks like brand new with my $4500 sunk into it. In fall last year I decided to get a wood stove since I had been colecting and splitting wood since the previous winter. Due to asthetics and furniture arrangement, I had a mighty tight space to fit the wood stove into and the only stove that would fit, meet clearances and allow someone still to move was the Morso 7110. Its a very understated design with very fine castings and really nicely assembled, but it is still a relatively small stove (1.6 cu ft firebox). I saved enough money with that stove last winter to amortise the cost of the stove, this year I have to recover the cost of the chimney and wood splitter.

    This year, after needing to load the stove with wood every 4-6 hours, I am going with a bigger stove. we re-arranged the furniture and we can get the bigger stove to work. It didn’t stop my wife from about having a cow about the size of the stove though. I should have brought home the T6 just to wind her up… Just bought the PE Alderlea T5 for less than I paid last year for my smaller Morso. The T5 should easily get 8 hours or more per load and I am hoping it can be pushed to 11-12. The house is reasonably well insulated and we were never cold last year with the smaller 7110. So this winter the plan is for the larger PE stove to replace the smaller Morso on the main level and the Morso will move down into our basement living room (600 sq ft) to provide the main heat source down there. Unlike the upstairs, the basement has a concrete slab and concrete poured walls on 2 sides so will be able to store heat longer between burns than the light wooden construction upstairs. So I am hoping for only 1-2 burns a day downstairs vs 24/7 upstairs.

    As you can see, even though I am not stupid and I did a lot of research I still did not arrive at my final solution in 1 shot. There were members on this very forum that warned me to go with the biggest stove I could get and now I can say I know where they are coming from. Best of luck with your decision.
  7. Ossy

    Ossy New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2008
    Messages:
    46
    Loc:
    Central Maine
    The trickle down effect of lower oil prices have not made their way northward in Maine... :grrr:

    http://maineoil.com/zone2.asp?x=0
  8. Jimmymac

    Jimmymac New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2008
    Messages:
    9
    Loc:
    Orange county, NY
    I know that corn is not going to be inexpensive at this time, probably not wheat either. what about sunflower seeds? Anybody have experience with them??
    FYI, todays' price of oil was 4.50 from my dealer. Hasn't hit 4.00 here either
  9. zendiagrams

    zendiagrams New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2007
    Messages:
    57
    Loc:
    Williams, PA
    Or never home :)

    I go through 2.2 tons only due to the fact that we only sleep at home 5 days a week, and keep the temp low. Otherwise I would run out of room for pellets if I was home more :).
  10. BadDad320

    BadDad320 Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2008
    Messages:
    261
    Loc:
    NW New Jersey
    The variables are too many and facts are too few. Thats why I got 6 tons. I figured that better too much than not enough. I am heating this old house. Who knows what I'll save or use? I'll tell you as winter progresses.

    Attached Files:

  11. Mark_ms

    Mark_ms Member

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2008
    Messages:
    217
    Loc:
    Upstate NY on VT Border
    I look at thread after thread after thread in regards to what people use for oil in a given year, but very few (Jimmymac being one) actually say exactly how old ones furnace or boiler actually is. Having a boiler that is an old unit is going to be much less efficient than a newer one that has a rating of 80-90% efficiency.
    In my case I was using 1500+ gallons a year with 4 zones upstairs, downstairs and one being hot water and one being my basement garage with a Modine type heater which I turned off.
    I had some work done to my old furnace, 22 years old, by two different companies and both indicated that a new unit was needed as it was running at about 40% efficiency and any future work to it would be fruitless.
    I had a new unit installed (Buderus) with an 80% efficiency (double compared to what I had), along with an indirect water heater and saved 650 gallons the first year (2005) and received tax credits on my income taxes (state and Federal) Over the course of the next two years I "tightened" up the house where I could, Caulking, insulation, windows, doors etc. and saved an additional 200 gallons per year.
    However when oil was so high last winter we turned down the thermostat even further to 66 degrees and I was constantly felt cold :coolgrin:. and felt miserable.
    I have ordered an Quadrafire Classic Bay pellet stove insert (install in Sept.) I am not looking to heat my whole 2 story 2000 square foot house just to supplement my downstairs heating needs, if it helps upstairs great if not I will just turn up the electric blanket upstairs.
    I also was fortunate to get pellets locally for $250 a ton delivered and stored. Based on what I have read here people burn 1-2 bags of pellets (@ 250 per ton that's $6.25 per bag) . That would be less money for heat based on by oil usage at @3-6 gallons per day in winter at today's prices @4.60ish. (Maybe my math is flawed but I think I am close.) Am I looking to wean myself from oil? no, at least not yet I just want to see if things stabilize somewhat over the near future.

    BTW...The guy that installed my Buderus kept eyeing my Harley as we were talking after he had given me a quote he asked if would trade my Harley straight up for Buderus, Water heater and complete install?...the only thing I can say is the Buderus is a pretty color blue...but the scenery doesn't change much and it fires up real quiet like...... :down: .....talk about an adult decision geesh...............

    I guess my point is take realistic approach to things do what you can to minimize your oil usage and above all don't panic.

    To me it boils down to a matter of comfort and discomfort.
    Mark_ms
  12. Jimmymac

    Jimmymac New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2008
    Messages:
    9
    Loc:
    Orange county, NY
    Thanks all for the input. It seems that at this point, if one buys a pellet stove just for the savings on oil, it may not be worth it for a long time. Craig says one bag of pellets to two gallons of oil, many other say one bag of pellets equals two and one half. At six dollars a bag (delivered, tax, etc), versus say 4.25 a gallon oil, your savings per pallet of pellets would be @125.00 or 225.00. If you burn 3-4 tons a winter you are looking at savings of 375-500 on the low end, and 675-900 on the high end. With an initial investment of anywhere from 3-5 thousand dollars for a stove and installation, it could be awhile before the stove pays for itself. Now I realize that even a hiccup in the middle east could make pellets much more attractive again, but that would assume that the pellets didn't go up in price along with the oil. Obviously the bigger the difference in the two prices makes it more worthwhile. That is why I was asking if anybody knew anything about supply and price on corn, wheat, and sunflower seeds.
  13. brewerpete

    brewerpete New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2008
    Messages:
    43
    Loc:
    Eastern Mass
    I have used dry creek pellets from agway and don't have any complaints.


    I've burned all kinds of pellets some are smell (before burning) some are overly ashy and some have lousy packaging ..ie. arrive mushy and damaged.

    dry creek at agway fall into the upper echelon category. I'd rate them b+ on the scale. they are consistently good but not great.
    the only reason i am not going back to them this year is agway is a tad more expensive. I used agway to supplement in the spring should I run out.

    interestingly.... on the bags they have a marketing quote " start your own energy policy one bag of pellets = 2.5 gallons of oil"

    www.pelletheat.org has great info on the rates, calculators and quality of pellets.... give it a visit.
  14. Jimmymac

    Jimmymac New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2008
    Messages:
    9
    Loc:
    Orange county, NY
    Went to Pelletheat.org and found the cost per BTU between Pellets and oil very interesting. I don't know how efficient my old boiler is, but it can't be that good. Still, would one be better off investing in a new furnace??? I forgot to mention earlier the pain of having the shed and the garage loaded with pellets from mid summer through spring. Not really concerned about the labor involved.
  15. brewerpete

    brewerpete New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2008
    Messages:
    43
    Loc:
    Eastern Mass
    Yes Oil burner effieciency and pellet stove effieciency need to be factored in.

    I'd be hard pressed to believe that investing in a new oil burner would be a better investment than investing in a pellet or wood stove.

    Sure Oil will fluctuate, Sure pellet prices will fluctuate (after all.. it takes energy to run the pellet plant and deliver the stuff), but hey.. doesn't it take a big diesel truck to deliver oil 6-7 times a year? one pellet delivery seems to be more efficient than 7 diesel deliveries... granted the oil deliveries are probably shorter distances... but the cigar chomping driver needs to get paid seven times as opposed to the cigar chomping, forklift driving pellet dude.

    advantage pellets


    next issue....

    oil prices.... do the math <please don't hijack this thread into some conservative vs liberal election year political rant> the oil will go up and down BUT i don't think oil will dip below 2.50/ gal ever again.

    Pellet prices.... I suspect that the pellet gurus will keep pellet prices slightly below oil... after all they need to get rid of the sawdust and if oil is cheaper it's cheaper to make and deliver pellets.

    I myself have hedged my bets by going with pellets (4 yrs ago) and wood insert this year. the insert will allow me to take oil out of the loop and pellets out of the loop and control my own destiny. I am left with a working 20 yr old oil burner that I can turn on/off depending on weather and temperature. I am left with a pellet stove that has a thermostat that is very easy to load and maintain..( a bag a day and a quick shop vac once every 3-4 day ( about 60 seconds)... ash content is very low...maybe 3 home depot buckets full a season. lastly, I can supplement the low maintenance pellet with either biobricks (big pellets in durflame size) or I can add free scrounged wood. This is my "energy policy" happy contemplating
  16. brewerpete

    brewerpete New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2008
    Messages:
    43
    Loc:
    Eastern Mass
  17. brewerpete

    brewerpete New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2008
    Messages:
    43
    Loc:
    Eastern Mass
    jimmy my bad this was NE and you're in NY.....
  18. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Messages:
    12,099
    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    Pellets have in the past gone up with oil........maybe not as much, but definitely. In fact, at the end of the winter after Katrina (oil went up), there were none available for less than about $300, and some were $350 or more.

    No one is going to offer a free lunch.....cheap nat gas and a high efficiency appliance is about as close to that as one can get (and a tight house)......anything else, be it wood, coal or pellets - will require work and a capital expense....which may be worthwhile to some folks, but not to others. As I have said before, sometimes it depends on whether you can work OT at your job (and if you like your job) to make up the difference.

    Every single situation will be different. That is why a BTU to BTU comparison is the best one to make....

    40 lbs of pellets - at 7500 BTU heating value (after moisture) = 300,000 BTU input
    2.2 gal of heating oil = 300,000 BTU input
    3 therms of gas = 300,000 BTU input

    So if we want to be just a little more accurate, we might say the bag of pellets is 2.2 gallons of oil.
    At $4 a gallon (Portland, ME), that means $8.80 for the oil to replace a $6 of pellets (if $300 a ton delivered, taxed, stacked, etc.)
    I pay about $2 a therm for nat gas, which means it is the same price as $300 pellets

    Personally, I like Pellets at less than $250, and even better at $225.....in many areas of the US, the prices are $200 (and even less) a ton. They are more in the northeast because (surprise!) of the cost of oil.........
  19. thekid_1

    thekid_1 New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2008
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    35
    Loc:
    Upstate NY
  20. hearthtools

    hearthtools Moderator Emeritus

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2006
    Messages:
    2,019
    Loc:
    Oakhurst, California, USA, Earth
    Yes the price of pellets have to do with the price of oil
    Shipping to the dealer Trucking cost. deasel at $5 per gallon.

    Today pay $124.00 Per ton for shipping to the trucking company.

    2004 $65 per ton
    2005 $73 per ton
    2006 $105 per ton
    2007/2008 124.00 per ton and I have been told to expect a 22% shipping increase on my Sept loads. around $151 per ton.


    My dealer cost of the pellets have gone up $20.00 per ton in 4 years
    but the trucking has gone up $59.00 $86 at the end of this month.
    So about an $80 DEALER COST per ton ($1.60 per bag) price increase the past 4 years
    Not that bad compared to the rise of LP AND OIL. from $1.00 per gallon for LP in 2004 and now LP is over $3.00 per gal.

    it is hard to judge the cost to heat Pellets VS Oil or LPG
    because people heat differently with each kind of fuel.
    We are in a Mild Climate. Most homes in our area heat with pellet 2-3 tons. per year
    I heat my 1900 one story well insulated ranch house with 3 tons keeping my house at 72 deg 24 hours a day and heat only with Pellet.
    I use 300 gallons of LP per year for Hot water, Cooking, and Drier. 2 kids the wife washes almost every day.


    Now my older customers that have Switch from pellet to LP say they are spending $80 to $100 more per month to heat with LP vs Pellets and keeping the house cooler trying to save money.


    My 2Cents
  21. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Messages:
    12,099
    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    Those prices are for July 16!

    Oil has come down from $148 a bbl to $123 - that is quite a decrease......sure, it may go up, it may come down - but the next couple weeks should see at least come relief in most areas as cheaper oil hits the pipelines. Keep in mind that is a 15% decrease per bbl....quite a bit.
  22. slls

    slls Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2008
    Messages:
    1,457
    Loc:
    central maine Lat 45
    One advantage for pellets is if you run out you can buy bags, enough for one week at a time. I buy oil now, today, and it is $429, 100 gallon minimum. Anyways I watched oil prices, barrel, #2 oil go up and up and little down. Got turned off, now hurricane season, that is another story.
  23. thekid_1

    thekid_1 New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2008
    Messages:
    35
    Loc:
    Upstate NY
    [quote author="Webmaster" date="1217124311"]Those prices are for July 16!

    True but the cheapest I find oil as of mid this week is 4.42! There is not a 15% decrease where I am, not even close. Pellets are still around 250 here.
    Also gas is EXCTALY the same price it was two weeks ago.
    The price drop of crude does not directly and immediately affect gas and number two heating oil. Fact is no one knows what crude will be during the heating months, it could be 70, and it could be 200. I hope it does go down.
    There are many people who compare pellets to oil based upon the cheapest oil today and the most expensive pellets today. This is not always a fair comparison pellets can be pre-purchased but this year there is only one oil company offer pre-pay out of several in my area
    So if oil is 100 I am ahead, if oil is 200 I am way ahead. Home heating oil would need to be 2.40 for it to be equivalent to the pellets in my garage.
  24. Glenalmond

    Glenalmond Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    27
    Loc:
    Boston MA
    I have been looking very closely at the price difference between oil and pellets as well.

    I agree with other posters regarding the apples to apples comparison for heating the house. However this is the situation I find myself in we bought our house last year and are brand new home owners.

    1. Old 1900 three story Cape Ann in Boston with mostly new windows but no wall insulation (as much attic/floor insulation as possible earlier homeowners blew out Attic to make a master bedroom and cannot access the attic space or behind the knee walls.
    2. Limited room to store pellets (can store 1 ton in a bulkhead that can be accessed internally throguh basement)
    3. Brand new efficient oil heater and use oil heat for water and baseboard heat.
    3. Froze my brass monkeys off last year we kept the temp off during the day and walked around in layers of clothes and blankets looking like hobos at night. Dog grew the thickest coat of fur I have ever seen on the beast. Turning the thermostat to above 59 was luxury. Wife and I agreed we couldn't do another winter of this.
    4. Cost of oil for the house was approx $2,000 (paid market rates for deliveries did not go into a plan).
    5. Zoned heat kept the thermostat to the minimum on the second floor and master bedroom (was several time 41 in the morning when we had to get up shivering like hairless chihuahuas).

    I am hopefully going to get an Accentra freestanding stove put into our living room which has an open floorplan. We want to get the kitchen, living room and dining room to a reasonable temp 65-70. Any additional heat that goes to the second floor is a bonus. We are getting the last of the old original windows replaced. By my calculations I am hoping to burn 1/2 to 1 bag per day for supplemental heat (based on keeping the temp very low during the day again when the house is empty apart from the housewolf who loves the cold). If we had a full season of the stove I would like to think I would burn 1-2 tons of pellets for supplemental heat.

    My reasoning is that oil is going to continue to stay high and be susceptible to price shocks. I want to have some system long term that just lets us enjoy the house instead of moping around in it cold and miserable. So it is a long term investment for cash and a short term investment to put more controllable heat directly where we spend the majority of our time without having to resort to firing up the oil heater. Does this seem reasonable?
  25. jimcooncat

    jimcooncat New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2008
    Messages:
    28
    Loc:
    Central Maine
    That is very good news for people in Southern Maine. But only Southern Maine, moving into central Maine the prices are 60 cents higher per gallon. This is my second problem with oil heat, in that competition is very limited because of delivery. Oil users get little advantage of a free market society when there is no dealer willing to drive down the prices. I can't transport oil myself, and can't store more than one tankful.

    My primary problem is that (last year especially) I became a wage slave to my heating. Not able to secure a pre-buy as in past years, I was juggling my budget very hard to ensure I had enough for a 100 gallon delivery when needed. I make decent money compared to the rest of the area, I don't know how most folks made it through the winter. Using the propane stove for spot heating the dining room, when we were in there, was no advantage pricewise.

    I had some extreme luck this year when Toyota gave me a bunch of cash for my Tacoma. I bought an old Mazda to replace it with, and had enough left over for a pellet stove and to build a tractor shed. I will tank up on oil, watching carefully for a sweet spot for the purchase. But now I feel as if I'll be more in control with the ability to store ahead and transport my own supplemental fuel as needed.

    It's not just about the price. It's about who is in control of your life.
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