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Savings through firewood/pellets ?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by carpniels, Mar 27, 2006.

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  1. carpniels

    carpniels Minister of Fire

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    Hi guys,

    I want to throw this out there to see what reactions I get.

    I have been using wood seriously for one year now. The three years before it was supplemental heat.

    I found, cut, split and gathered 2+ cords and used it all up. Now I am back to oil, since it is 45 during the day and 25 at night.

    Everyone always talks about how much money they save on heating. That might be true (I paid about $350 this winter for oil), but what about the cost per hour spent on gathering, cutting and splitting wood? I think I spent 100 hours last year on the wood, which is about $2000 in income I am missing if I had spent that time at work. So, do I save more on the heating bill that the loss of income from the hours spent?

    Moneywise, it looks like it saves me nothing. I can make more money working than what I save on oil for heat. Buying the firewood split and cut would have cost me $300 and saved me over 80 hours (I need 20 hours for stacking and moving the wood). That seems to be the easiest and most efficient solution. Or buying oil would have cost me $1800 for the winter, but saved me 100 hours.

    So what is wisdom? Buy an ATV to make moving the wood faster and thus cost less hours? Getting a wood splitter to save time? Renting one or both? Buying the wood? Or save all that investment and stopping wood burning alltogether?

    Carpniels

    P.S. Apart from the money situation, I do like the exercise, the loss of love handles, the extra muscular shoulders, the being in nature, the 100% recycling of CO2, the comfy heat, etc.

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  2. Corie

    Corie Minister of Fire

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    Well carpniels, at least personally, I don't take time off of work to cut firewood. I do it in the time that I couldn't be working.

    Therefore, yes, it does save me money.
  3. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I could do the same thing, Carpniels, but I don't think I'd be happy spending any more time in front of a computer than I do already. Put another way, I need the exercise and sense of accomplishment provided by firewood cutting/splitting/stacking/burning to maintain a healthy state of mind and body. The fact that it saves me thousands in heating costs every winter is important, but it's only one of many different benefits.

    I think you pretty well summed it up in your PS.

    That, and the fact that my family likes to have a warm house on cold days, and if I was paying for gas or oil, regardless of whether I could afford it or not, I'd be turning down the thermostats whenever possible. I don't think that would sit too well with the powers that be around my house. Ask my wife if she wants me spending more of my spare time hanging around the house swearing at the computer (and the gas company) while turning down the heat every chance I get.

    Plus, let's be realistic: How much of the extra money you'd earn moonlighting or working overtime or whatever is going to go into the bank and ultimately be used for offsetting your heat bill anyway? The nice thing about a pile of wood is that nobody can "dip into" it whenever they need some extra money for whatever. You're married, man; you got kids--use your head! Money disappears.

    Finally, the price of gas and oil is going nowhere but up. You get your wood for free and you do the work required to make it available when you feel like it. In that respect you're your own boss, and that's a pretty good deal, IMO.
  4. DonCT

    DonCT Minister of Fire

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    Bingo!!!! That in and of itself is my main reason from switching to wood heat. The payback on the investment is going to happen much faster.
  5. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Last year I bought my wood already split. True I did have to stack it and reduce the size of some larger splits. Would I have better off spending that time (and money) at a health club peddling to nowhere? Not for me, I get bored too easily. The way I see it, our property is our health club, with a much better view. If you're enjoying being outside, cutting and splitting wood, I'd say it's value is priceless.
  6. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Eric said it very well. Plus our house is considerably warmer than it would have been without the stove. I find the distribution of heat better also. Yeah, I know that seems opposite of what people suggest is a downside of woodstove heat. But now the bedrooms are a bit cooler and everyone sleeps better, less colds. Livingroom is now the warmest room in the house, and that's exactly where we need the heat. Kitchen generates it's own heat, so less need for more there, and the stove keeps our upstairs at about 66-68 with no input from the furnace on days as cold as 10 degrees f.

    I could count my effort, and then wood heat would be serious looser, but since no matter how hard or how many hours I work at my day job, I get paid the same, means I'd have to get a second job to increase my income, thus more time away from my family. Wood pile accumulation has these characteristics that I find beneficial: I get to be home doing it mostly, My boys actually like to help (even if the help from 9 and 7 year olds is minimal, they're learning) , My kids all see the work being done and will learn the benefits of seeing hard work being done, It gives me a discussion point on the benefits of wood heat from a economic, environment perspective, It's an excuse to be outside more often, it's a reason to get the kids outside, It's a fort for the kids since I pile it so as to make a fort for them, It gives me an alternative heat source should power fail, it allows me to do my part to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, (as Eric often states) I control the price, I get exercise that produces something vs dumping money into a gym, when I'm watching my 2 year old in the yard, I'm not as bored (the swing set and sand box are close to the wood pile so I push the swing...split 2 logs, push the swing...), given that I don't count my effort, the savings this year allowed me to pay for my stove and a very nice mantle remodel that added value to the house, Lots of conversations that I do enjoy with the folks here, the pile of brush in the yard is getting smaller since I use it for kindling. I'll bet I could find 100 more reasons if I kept thinking, but you get the idea. If the perspective is only ecomomics of time spent working increased hours at work to offset heating bills vs wood heat, you should work at the job more or heat with coal.
  7. fbelec

    fbelec Minister of Fire

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    to make it a little more fair comparison from wood heat to oil or gas i'd say jack up your thermostat. we all know how much it costs to heat our homes with oil or gas. most of us have a temperature of 72 - 75 degrees average in our house burning wood. now to make the comparison fair try moving your thermostat up to 75 degrees for the month and see how much more that costs. that would be a better comparison.

    i buy my wood then stack it the burn it doesn't take me much time to stack a cord. then bring in enough to load up and light. no much time here.
    just me and my opinion:)
  8. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    Good point fbelec. Even without the comfort adjustment, we re running about 50% of the cost it would take to heat our house exclusively on propane. The added comfort is a nice bonus. Here's my heating costs breakdown:

    3 tons pellets = ~51 Mbtus @ $540 (before taxes)
    2.5 cords wood = ~47Mbtus @ $450 (no tax)
    150 gal. propane = ~13.8 Mbtus @ $375 (before taxes, delivery charges and fees)
    ___________________________________
    Total 2005-2006 heating ~ $1365

    if exclusively propane ~ $3043 (before taxes, delivery charges and fees)
  9. Metal

    Metal Minister of Fire

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    So if your calculations are correct, I should have someone come in for a few hours a week to wash and fold my clothes (2hrs=$40), mow my lawn (1 hr=$20), wash my car (.5 hr=$10), sleep (8 hrs=$160), watch TV (10 hrs=$200), etc.... since I could hire someone to do pretty much everything I do in my life for less than $20 an hour, why should I do anything, I should just go to work and just hire everything out. In a Market Based frame of mind, your calculations are correct, but in the real world people do a lot of things that do not make economic sense on paper.
  10. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Well, in some circles people DO exactly that. Called a maid, gardener (or kids...yeah right) , but all those hiring out of tasks will add up to quite a bit, so we in the trenches do much of this ourselves since we have more time than money. If wood heat had absolutely no cost advantage (same as the others you pointed out) I probably wouldn't be doing it. But since it does have an economic advantage, I do it. I sure do wish SS chimney's were cheaper though!!!
  11. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    As I have said before we have heated with wood for almost thirty years. A few years ago I was travelling from Monday morning to Friday night for a year. No wood got cut and the the heatpump had to do the job for the first time. Winters here in the Mid-Atlantic can't compare to what a lot of you guys have but to this Texas transplant they are COLD. But when the electric bills came in they only went up eight to ninety bucks over what they were without heating or cooling. Only fifty over what they are in the summer.

    I looked at them, shrugged and went and cut some wood. I never worry about or analize why I heat with wood. It is just what I like to do.

    And since we noticed a few months ago that the heatpump has expired, it is what I BETTER do. Since we have a two story house in the woods it is cool downstairs even on the hottest days. I just installed a window unit upstairs for this coming summer. I will probably see the summer electric bills go down also. Now if I could just cool this place with wood...
  12. JEREMIAH

    JEREMIAH New Member

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    BUYING THE LOGE SPLITTER OR THE FOUR WHEELER LIKE YOU SAID WOULD SAVE YOU TIME BUT YOU WELL NOT SAVE ANY MONEY IF ANYTHING YOU WELL SPEND LOST MORE ON THE TOYS. THE FOUR WHEELER NEEDS GAS AND MATANICE, AS WELL AS WOOD SPLITTER. IF YOU CAN JUST BUY IT SPLIT AND CUT, THAN USE A WHEEL BEARLE TO MOVE IT FROM POINT TO POINT. THAT WAY YOU STILL GET THE EXERCISE YOU LIKE BUT WORKING LESS. NOW IF YOU DO HAVE A LARGE PLOT OF LAND THAT YOU ARE TAKING ALL OF YOUR WOOD OFF OF, OR IF YOU LIKE TO HUNT THAN YES THE ATV WOULD BE GOOD FOR YOU. HEALTH WISE DOING THE WORK WELL KEEP YOU IN BETTER HEALTH FOR LONGER. BUT TOYS ARE A LOTS OF FUN. :)

    THE ONLY OTHER THING THAT MAY HELP YOU ON THE TIME YOU SPEND HALING WHEN YOU GET YOUR WOOD DELIVER PUT IT AS CLOSE AS YOU CAN TO THE HOUSE OR THE POINT THAT YOU EXIT TO GET THE WOOD.

    JEREMIAH
  13. pinetop

    pinetop New Member

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    I can recall the reaction to the energy crunch of the mid seventies. Many people started to burn wood and made major investments inorder to do so; stoves, chimneys or retrofits, chainsaws, splitters and anything else deemed neccesary for the job. Within a couple of years alot of people were divesting themselves of itbecause they discovered the work and the commitment didn't really coincided with their lifestyles. On the other hand many people that started burning then are still doing so today. After reading all the input on this thread its apparent that most on this site burn wood because they want to not because they have to. For many of us its more of a passion than anything else otherwise we wouldn't be on this web site.
  14. pinetop

    pinetop New Member

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    Hey Begreen I'm trying to remember my punctuation... that wasn't conservation just laziness on my part. Like I tell my kids,"A little constructive criticism never hurts."
  15. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    The key point is really the one corie brought in initially - if you're foregoing gainful employment or taking vacation time or something to cut firewood, your comparison is valid. In my case, I work what I'm allowed to work (frequently some extra 'free' hrs) and still have daylight left over. I could get another job (have thought about it) but they wouldn;t be all that fond of the days when I do just go home and flop on the couch or otherwise don;t really feel like doing anything. The firewoods still waiting to be split the next day.

    I get to it when I can, and I doubt most employers would be tolerant of that attitude. The wood doesn;t care. neither does the laundry.

    Steve
  16. Sandor

    Sandor Minister of Fire

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    Bart, noticed the line about the window AC unit.

    I live in Virginia by the Chesapeak Bay, and this climate is almost tropical in the summer. I used a window shaker in a house I was building (before HVAC was installed) and noticed that it cooled a 1400 square foot rancher fine.

    The central AC in my rancher did not run long enough to effectively dehumidify the house. I went ahead and put in tiny Sharp Energy Star window unit and it comfortably cooled the whole house and got the humidity down to acceptable levels. Set it at 74 and let it go.

    Saved about 40 bucks a month and had a drier home.
  17. michaelthomas

    michaelthomas New Member

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    We bought our house last august, it is a 5 bedroom 3000sf gambrel and the previous owner burned 1200 gal of oil per year for heat and hot water. We were coming from an older much smaller 110 year old house with windows so bad that in a driving snow storm you would get a light dusting of snow on the window sil. We used about 600 gal per year to heat the old house. I just couldn't figure out how we were going to afford to heat this house after stretching our budget to the limits just to buy the place.
    1200 gal of oil x $2.20/gal =$2640.00? Almost 3 grand to heat my house? NO. There was a wood stove in the new house and I was going to maximize it for heating.
    I bought the following items for my heating:
    Chainsaw $150
    Trailer $400
    Splitter $350
    6 cord hardwood $600
    Total $1500
    We have only used 400 gal of oil this year for a cost of about $880
    Total cost for equipment wood and oil is $2380 I am still ahead about $500 for the year and next year I won't have the capital expenses of equipment. I love the wood thing. I love the daily chores involved in it and the feeling that my hard work and sweat are providing heat for my family. It is a rewarding way to provide a basic need. I also love the fact that there is so much free fuel out there. I rarely drive by a wooded lot and see buckets of home heating oil laying around for free!
    I think at this point if I won the lottery I would still heat with wood and I would still forage for free stuff, Of course i would have a 200 acre hardwood lot and a skidder to help me out, but not too much would change :)
  18. Rick

    Rick Member

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    I would burn wood if oil was free. How many people use their fireplaces all the time for a negative economic impact? I enjoy every step of the process, from the gathering to the processing and finally the burning. It's like a hobby to me, although my wife calls it an obsession. The fact that I'm currently saving about $1500 a year on fuel is a bonus. If I take that money and invest it, earning just 5% interest, I'll have around $100,000 in thirty years. Not a bad payback for doing something I like to do. I could spend my free time playing golf, but I'd rather swing a maul over a club . :coolsmile:

    Rick
  19. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Ever try hitting a golf ball with a maul?
  20. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    Tough to control the direction, but talk about smashing it. Somewhat better than driving off the tee with a traditional-style putter.

    Steve
  21. adrpga498

    adrpga498 Minister of Fire

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    I have rapped a few trees with a 5 iron over the years. However, having taken up woodburning as a rewarding "hobby" I do look at trees as a possible candidate for the stove rather than just something I have to hit a knockdown shot under.
  22. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    You're my man, michaelthomas. I know exactly what you mean.

    Funny you guys keep mentioning golf. A few years ago my brother in law was standing around watching me split a big pile of white oak that had been sitting in HIS backyard for a couple years, and was getting ready to rot. "Hey," he said, "you've got great hand-eye corrdination to hit the same spot twice. You should take up golf."

    Just what the world needs: another obsessive golfer. I obsess on everything that I do. That's how I get things done.
  23. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    I have to tell you splitting a golf ball is harder than Elm. those black Titilest split real easy when I pick up, my head.
  24. MaryAnn

    MaryAnn New Member

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    If we still heated only with gas, we wouldn't be as warm. We couldn't afford to keep the thermostat up like we used to. I can't really tell what my savings are yet. Only installed stove in January. Gas rates have risen twice September. We also heat about a third of our house only with gas, in floor heat. But, I know our furnace hasn't kicked on more than 5 times since installation. Plus, our gas company reads meters every other month, and estimates the opposite month. I am also on a gas budget, which has gone up by $80.00 a month in the past 5 years. I do know the electric bill has gone down by $40 to $50 a month. Used to heat room stove is in with electric. So, I'm figuring that the stove will pay for itself in 2 years. We don't pay for wood. Yes, it is work. But it's worth it to be warm again like the good old days when you could crank up the thermostat. Many people I know are paying $400 plus a month to heat their house.
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