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Pellets are quickly losing cost advantage .

Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by MCPO, May 15, 2008.

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  1. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    The problem with "stories" about savings from pellets or any fuel is that they are just that - stories. They may be true. It also may be true that GW talks to the Lord, but all these stories are just the experience of one person. There is no scientific basis, and therefore it is no different than the magnet that you strap on your fuel line to get higher MPG.

    I like to think that Hearth.com is perhaps the ONE place where folks can go to get a bit of science and math (and physics and thermodynamics) along with the personal stories.

    On a fairly accurate basis, then, one could say that a ton of pellets replaces approx 110 gallons of fuel oil, all things being relatively equal. Of course, they NEVER are equal, and that is why we have stories which range from "miracles" to those of sadness when the $4,000 Harman won't heat the next room.

    Given the current price of oil, pellets are about 1/2 the price......

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  2. sylvestermcmonkey

    sylvestermcmonkey Member

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    That's a very good approximation. Calculations for my particular circumstances show that pellets would have to rise way over $400 / ton to break even with my existing oil heat, and that's based on what I last paid for oil. At Flam's price of $4.36 (yikes!!!!) the break-even pellet cost for me would be $462.

    I'm using commonly accepted BTU values for pellets and oil, my actual furnace efficiency of 78% and a very conservative pellet stove efficiency of 70% (QF claims over 80%).

    Plug it all into a spreadsheet and you can figure it out too.

    Edit to add: At current oil prices, guess what's starting to look good? Electric! If oil goes over $4.58 electric's cheaper for me. Never thought that would happen, but it's getting close!
  3. ugenetoo

    ugenetoo New Member

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    electricity is one of the most ineffecient ways to make heat. it may look good because all the killowatts are turned into heat, but it took a lot more energy to produce those killowatts than you will ever get back as heat. as for the cost starting to look better, just wait. long term energy contracts that power distribution companies have are still in effect. when it comes time to renew those contracts, watch out!
  4. MainePellethead

    MainePellethead Minister of Fire

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    I was listening to a show yesterday on the radio and they had a couple longtime(30 years) oil economists etc. and they were explaining some of what we are going through, including the China and India buildup and need for oil. Much of what they said is to long to put in here but what stood out the most is what many have been saying lately regarding the oil bubble. These longtime oil "experts" so to speak went on to say hang tight....the oil bubble will burst....and they are predicting by 2009 the barrel price of oil will be 80.00 and by 2010 it just might get to 70.00 a barrel. :) So....while that happens....pellets etc. will plummet as well :)
  5. Jerry_NJ

    Jerry_NJ Minister of Fire

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    Thanks for the recent posts, I too worry that some people will read these "stories" assume too much and be very disappointed when they buy-in. As for the "experts" view that oil cost/price will drop, I say don't hold your breath...especially if the US (governmental restrictions) continues that forces us to buy rather than pump oil and convert coal into oil, become energy independent.

    And how about Nuclear electricity??? I'm in NJ and have a geothermal heat pump, and it is cost effective with wood heat at $200 a cord (assuming full cord of properly seasoned hardwood and 78% efficient stove). And, in NJ, JCP&L;produces electricity 48% coal (US), 39% Nuclear (US) and is thus near foreign energy independent, and the electric rates have gone up 50% during the time oil/gas has gone up 300%, that says something in favor of energy independence. Makes me feel good to know when I heat with my central unit I'm not shipping more dollars to Venezuela or Iran.

    Stand by, if we get smart and put on sufficient environmental controls and start pumping oil off our California/Florida/etc coasts, Alaska, wherever, what do you bet we start selling the oil to China and find we're still paying over $100 per barrel? Still better than sending that money to our enemies.
  6. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, maybe turning into Green Room or Ash Can, but you seem to be contradicting yourself - in this case accurately! There is absolutely NO difference in the price of oil if we pump it here or pipe it from Mexico, Canada or even overseas.

    None at all. Not one penny.

    To assume so would be to assume that Oil companies are charities and not corporations. The price is set by bid in NYC.

    Even if we pump enough to blacken every beach and fishery in the USA, the price will not come down one penney.

    To say nothing of the relatively tiny amount that can be brought online at any given time from new fields. This is a band-aid approach, and will do nothing in the long run....except deprive our children of something that maybe we should leave to them??

    Anyway, you seem to answer your own question. First you say that things would be better if we pumped our oil instead of bought it. Then you seem to understand that, NO MATTER WHAT, we buy it! Exxon will charge the same price for oil from here, or oil from there. Remember, as a multi-nation corporations, these guys OWN the fields (or output) in other countries just as much as they own it here!

    Now if you want to pimp for state (USA) control and ownership of our domestic oil, that's another thing! In fact, that is what most large oil producing countries do today!
  7. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    As per monkeys Spreadsheet- here is a REALLY rough way to figure it out in your head.....

    Move the decimal point.

    $225 a ton for pellets......two places.

    you'd have to buy oil at $2.25 to match that.

    That should be KISS for most people.
  8. sylvestermcmonkey

    sylvestermcmonkey Member

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    It's probably the most inefficient. Forget about generation losses, electric distribution and transmission losses are enormous. There can be 85% losses between the power generated and what's delivered to your home. Horribly inefficient. No emissions? Riight. This is why the greens who favor electric cars and the like are horribly misguided. How do you suppose all those batteries are made, and what are they made of? Unless you consider the total environmental effect of using a particular fuel, you're deluding yourself. Not that deluding one's self has stopped anything from happening or becoming government policy, mind you.

    I'm fortunate enough to live in a state that derives a lot of its power from nuclear energy (that's nookyooler for you Bush fans). Fourteen cents per kWh including everything. Unreasonably cheap, perhaps, but all energy choices are ultimately based on economic criteria. Deregulation threatens to change all that, and so far electric rates have only increased as a result.

    I'm not in favor of converting to electric heat, but at $4.65 for oil, or $465 for pellets, guess what I'd do with 14¢ / kWh. Guess what everyone would do.

    The cost advantage of pellets may rise or fall, but it's unlikely to disappear altogether.
  9. geek

    geek Minister of Fire

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    interesting......
  10. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Electric at 14 cents = oil at about $4.50, so we are about to see increased electric demand! In fact, electric is probably better (in the home), because of easy zoning.

    As far as electric efficiency, this can be misleading. A LOT of electric comes from Hydro, so what is the difference if 1/2 is lost? Also, even regular fuels (oil, etc.) will look worse when the cost of refining, delivery, efficiency (in %) is taken into account.

    The future of electricity....and the push for electric cars is hopefully based on clean electricity, such as can be generated right at your home from solar panels and fuel cells. Again, the efficiency does not matter as much as the cost. So what if those large solar farms in the desert are 50% efficient? The same goes for nuclear. It is not a big deal - there is estimated to be 5 billion years worth of uranium 238.

    I think we are steeped in this idea about energy being limited, when in fact it is not....or more accurately, there is plenty of energy to do what we need to do.
  11. PutnamJct

    PutnamJct Member

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    /Rant On

    Seems like every 2-3 weeks a new thread starts and runs it's course regarding the cost of heating with pellets vs (fill in the blank usually oil).

    As has been pointed out on every other thread, pellets work for some people and not for others. I save serious money by burning pellets instead of oil. Yes my downstairs laundry room is colder then it was when I heated with oil. I'd rather have the cash then a warm laundry room.

    BTU arguments may be based in science, but they never consider where those BTU's are displaced in the house. If 1/2 of your BTU's are warming an unused crawl space or storage room what is the point? You got more BTU's but they are not in the right part of the house.

    These threads always degrade into commentary that pellet burners are twisting the facts or making ridiculous claims (nukelar pellets comes to mind). Why is it so hard for some of you to accept the fact that for SOME people, their are legitimate savings being had by burning pellets over oil?

    The numbers I have posted are accurate to my house and heating costs. I have no reason to embellish or make up numbers, and it is getting tiring being called dishonest. You don't believe me that is your right. My checkbook doesn't lie.

    I thought the idea of a web forum was to share ideas and experiences. Anyone who is considering any major investment (pelllet stove, wood stove, oil furnace, whatever) should be doing a hell of a lot more research then basing there decision on what a few strangers say here.

    I'll save this post so I can re use it again in 3 weeks.

    John

    /Rant Off
  12. Jerry_NJ

    Jerry_NJ Minister of Fire

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    Seems I was misunderstood: "Well, maybe turning into Green Room or Ash Can, but you seem to be contradicting yourself" there is no contradiction in preferring to pay $4 for gasoline (or heating oil that I don't use) if the profits do NOT go to I"mIndeedAJerk or Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías. And as for care for the environment when pumping oil, I'll put my children's interest in the USA doing a better job than the aforementioned. When we buy foreign oil we can bet environmental concerns were low or totally absent on the priorities of the suppliers. Domestic supply will stop our oil purchases from being spent on training and sponsoring terrorists. So, it is complicated, and while I don't consider the oil companies "bad guys"... I do support a careful review of US subsidies to oil to stop any that do not serve the publics long term interests, and that does not include "protecting" the environment with a zero drill policy. I think some/most of this is in the hands of state governments, not the US government...i.e., drill of shore of which states?

    When one talks about efficiency of electricity as a heat source, remember a modern heat pump will deliver at least a 2:1 advantage over resistive if the air temperature is over 32 degrees , and at all times if geothermal. In fact my 15 year old geothermal delivers better than a 3:1 advantage over resistive when operating in is low output mode, which it runs in most of the time. With NJ electricity at about 15 cents per KWH, that's more like 5 cents per KWH and using resistive heat. Heat pumps are usually central forced air, so they do not offer any zoning advantages over other central forced air systems.
  13. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    I wish!

    I have seen a LOT of people here who bought Pellet stoves because their neighbor, etc. had one. No further research except the dealer.

    As to the placement of BTUs, yes - of course! But given as that there are space heaters which burn wood, gas, lp, electric and kerosene, the space heating aspects would be exactly the same.

    Comparing the actual fuel cost is the only fair way....for those who even care about those costs. Many people buy pellet stoves for other reasons.

    The idea of a web forum is to educate. Stories are part of that, and so is science.

    You are correct that this is a recurring topic. But some new people are in on the conversation each time. Maybe you should find all the old threads, and I'll post a wiki entry leading to them.....then next time we can just point the reader to those!
  14. rmac

    rmac New Member

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    Now that I like. But how about for propane?

    I'd take another third off that oil price....

    so $225 a ton of Pellets = $2.25 a gallon oil.

    take 1/3 from $2.25 and come up with $1.50 that you would have to pay for LP to equal the same......approx.

    (oops, I accidently edited this instead of reply - Web)
  15. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Tough stance, especially since Boeing is now making vast amounts of their planes in China and plans to make many more there....parts of every plane including the new Dreamliner. Turns out it is cheaper. Given that, I'd rather have the better and cheaper plane for the money...and you do know that Airbus is building a big facility here.

    Pandora box was opened a long time ago, and you aren't gonna close it. We already have vast quantities of pellets (and oil) coming from Canada, so there goes the "homegrown in America" bit.

    As they say "It's one world now".

    Pellets do seem to be going up....supply and demand, I guess. We were looking at $200 and below a few weeks ago in many areas of the east...

    I'm paying about $1.50 a therm for Nat Gas...which is equiv. to 100,000 BTU. A bag of Pellets for $5 contains 40x7500 BTU, or about three therms of gas, so natural gas is cheaper! But the pellet makers will have a plenty big market just with the folks that have LP and Oil heat.....they don't have to compete against Nat Gas everywhere.
  16. sylvestermcmonkey

    sylvestermcmonkey Member

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    No need to rant Putnam, a pellet or wood stove isn't a central heating appliance so comparisons to one are limited at best. In the context of history, central heat is a relatively modern convenience, whereas in the past people gathered around the stove for heat. If high energy costs cause behavior to change so that smaller spaces are heated, perhaps with a pellet of wood stove, so much the better. This may explain what appear to be exaggerations.

    I had electric heat in my last house and it wasn't the horror show everyone told me it would be. We simply couldn't be wasteful though. We had the heat on in the central living areas, but pretty much off elsewhere. At night and if we weren't home it was set to around 55. The bedrooms we kept at 60 or below when occupied, off when not. We used electric blankets to pre-heat the beds at night. If energy costs remain high, perhaps more people will adopt similar behavior.
  17. sylvestermcmonkey

    sylvestermcmonkey Member

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    Oh yes, and this is a Very Bad Thing, since many electric utility generation and distribution systems are already operating at capacity. Next thing you know will be mandated external control of your electric consumption (as is already in place in certain countries I seem to recall). If you want to continue your electric service you have to install these remote control thermostats. Not good.

    Hydro and wind power are obvious exceptions. Unfortunately there's not much hydro here, but I've seen many wind farms erected over the last year or so in PA and NY. Right now the biggest sources here are coal and nookyuler (another exception) but whatever the generation method it generally has to be consumed within 100 miles or so. Beyond that the losses become too excessive.

    I did a fair amount of research on small wind driven generators for the home, but became discouraged when I found out in PA the electric utility isn't required to buy my excess capacity. My local generation could only be used to offset immediate consumption - you can't "bank it". Why would I invest in a generator if I essentially have to throw away what I don't use? Shouldn't it be available to others, who don't have enough land to install their own? This law makes no sense. If electric utilities need to reduce demand, it should be changed to encourage people like me willing to generate their own clean power.

    The only limits are economic. People's behavior and decisions are ultimately economic in nature, like my windmill experience above - there's nothing in it for me. I'd use electric if it were most cost effective. So would anyone else.
  18. Jerry_NJ

    Jerry_NJ Minister of Fire

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    Very true, and for a long time. I got about 1/4 the cost of the installation of my geothermal heat pump from Jersey Central Power and Light 15+ years ago. They were concerned then about the cost (and license problems) of building new generation facilities, so they paid for power reduction. I think they are no longer offering such incentives, but I can testify it tipped the scale for me. Geothermal was too much for me without the power company help. Over the years this investment has saved at least 500,000 KWH, and thinking about this estimate and taking an old rate of 10 Cents per KWH, it has saved me $10,000. Good investment for both JCP&L;and me.

    JCP&L;quotes 0% for hydroelectric, and happily only 0.47% for Oil generation sources.
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