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Pellet Furnace vs. Stove vs. Fireplace Insert

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by WiFiGuy, Nov 9, 2007.

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  1. WiFiGuy

    WiFiGuy New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2007
    Messages:
    2
    Loc:
    Central MD
    Hi,

    I'm considering supplementing our existing oil burning furnace with some type of pellet burning appliance. We live in MD (3K sq. ft. colonial, with basement and two levels) and don't have truly severe winters, but, last year's heating oil usage was 500 gallons. At this year's predicted $3 a gallon price, we could be looking at a total heating bill of around $1,500 this year with no end in sight in the years to come.

    I've been reading up on pellet burners and now have the following questions:

    1. Would it be wise to simply go with a fireplace insert? I know that it will take some work to the existing chimney in order to to do this, i.e., flue liner, new cap, firebox blocking, etc. Also, our fireplace is located next to our garage with the two rooms basically bolted on the end of the main house rectangle. To get heat to go up into the main house we would need to blow it out of the family and into the kitchen, where it would hopefully go up into the bedrooms above.

    2. Would a free standing stove located near the middle of the basement be a better choice? Venting this stove would not be a big deal since 1/2 of the basement is unfinished and the finished part has a drop ceiling. We could vent directly outside with little trouble since the top of the basement wall is above ground level. Would the heat from the stove make it's up into the house to the point where it would make a difference?

    3. Instead of a stove, would a pellet furnace make more sense, whereby we would put it next to the existing oil furnace and tie it into the existing ductwork?

    With gas prices rising the way they are, I figure we may need to do something soon so that we keep an alternative open in the future.

    Any tips or ideas or info that can be shared would be greatly appreciated.

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  2. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2005
    Messages:
    12,165
    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    You will find many threads here about the price of pellets in relation to other fuels, but you might want to try the fuel cost calculator at the "popular links" part of my signature.

    Depending on the price of pellets and the price of oil (they do tend to track each to some degree), you will probably find a savings of about $500 a year. If you are doing this for price alone, you have to weigh that against the initial investment and figure 100-200 a year for service, parts and maintaining the pellet appliance.

    Then there is the important point as to whether you want a stove or insert as a nice center of warmth and a fire in the living space. A lot of people here like that, whereas a furnace is purely functional. From a "even heat" approach, however, the furnace would probably do a better job.

    If the basement is not part of your regular living area, I would not suggest locating a stove there to heat other parts of the house. However, remember that pellet stoves can be vented directly through an exterior wall. Perhaps there is somewhere else upstairs where a freestanding pellet unit can be placed.
  3. WiFiGuy

    WiFiGuy New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2007
    Messages:
    2
    Loc:
    Central MD
    Thanks Craig for the words of wisdom.

    Although the basement is in the regular living area, locating a free standing "center or warmth" in a room that gets more use is a great idea. Our living room would pretty much fit that bill.

    From my reading, the free standing stove needs pretty much three things as per installation:

    A method to vent, i.e. the running of a 3-4 inch flue through an exterior wall
    A tile or brick pad to keep the stove and it's hot surfaces off existing floors
    An electrical hookup (15 Amp?) for the blower motor

    Would this sort of thing be considered a do it yourself type project? I know that the flue has to be kept a certian distance from combustable materials as it travels through the house and feel pretty confident that I could install it safely.

    Also, would you say that the cost of the furnace, excluding venting etc., would be significanlty higher than that of the free standing stove?

    Thanks
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