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Wood stove ROI and some perspective

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by wg_bent, Sep 7, 2006.

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  1. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

    Joined:
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    Poughkeepsie, NY
    Over the past day or two I've been PM'ing with another forum member about his Masonry heater. I'm facinated with those things, and I wish my house would support an install of one since they are the ultimate wood heating appliance as far as safety and efficiency.

    That said, a point that dawned on me during the exchange and pointed out by that member is the issue of cost and return when weighed against other things in life. A basic ROI (Return On Investment) seemed like a good topic to float since I'm sure there are plenty of folks lurking who are trying to decide if they should drop 2 grand on a stove and another 2 grand on chimney work and install.

    So to put this in perspective, I'm going to use extreme numbers, and if the numbers folks are really dealing with are less, then decisions should be even easier.

    Let's use this from one of the Masonry heater websites:

    Heater Core: ~ 5000 for the core.
    Shipping: ~ 500
    Facing and chimney work: ~ 5000

    Total: 10,500

    As far as masonry heaters are concerned, I'd bet that's actually conservative.

    So, If installed in a new home, 10,500 is around 3% of the total cost assuming the home cost 300,000. - Almost at the noise level, and if the home were to have a masonry fireplace anyway, the increase would be more like 1.5% of total cost.

    When weighed against heating that (I'm going to use 2500 sqft) home for a single year, the approximate cost would be:
    800 gallons of oil at 2.80 (my lockin price for this year) for a total of 2240.

    Now I'm also assuming the wood is free. ROI is significantly longer if your buying your wood.

    That gives a return on investment of 2 -4 years depending on assumptions.

    Also, consider if a person were to take a skiing vacation to Aspen. That could easily cost a family of 4 around 5000 dollars. Take a year off and you've at least paid for a heater core.

    Weight this against buying a Mercedes C280 for 34k vs a Dodge Stratus for 24k. Hmm, paid for the heater in one shot, and that's regardless of how you get your wood.

    Now, do all this same math with a wood stove and the numbers get better. I'm sure some of the folks here will start digging into my assumptions since they are not very precise, but the point I'm trying to make here is that if you look at the big picture and weigh spending X amount of dollars on a wood heater vs other things you spend money on, the wood heater just might be pretty easy to stomach.

    (Let the assumption bashing begin)

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  2. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
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    12,101
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    Western Mass.
    Everything cost money and few things pay you back. To have ANY payback on such a nice piece of furniture for a home (a masonry heater) is a good deal. I like your idea of comparing it to a car.

    But even though Freud has been discredited, you cannot discount the SEX appeal of parading about in a fancy car. It is an instinctive thing, maybe in the old says it was about your hair, or your warpaint or something else. I am not a car buff, yet the thought of cruising around in a BMW 3 series on mountain roads just appeals to me!

    Until I remember that I might hit a deer!

    I am also entralled with masonry heaters and big Soapstone fireplaces. I was walking around my house the other day and looking for a possible place where I could get a good shot down to the basement to build a foundation. I finished off 1/2 the basement, and much of that is under my prime living area.

    If I stay here more for a few years I am going to be tempted. I have to go two stories up and through a steep roof. I think 15K is more accurate for me, even if I do some planning and the carpentry/foundation myself.
  3. kevinlp

    kevinlp New Member

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    Aug 9, 2006
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    150
    Loc:
    Hyde Park, NY
    I had looked at stove based on ROI as well. It cost ~$4500 (stove, pad, chimney, installation). Last year we spent approximately $1600 on propane for winter heating. This winter we were looking at probably $2000+ for our propane needs. If we can cut that in half. That's a 4.5 year payback with free wood.
  4. zzr7ky

    zzr7ky Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2006
    Messages:
    1,053
    Hi -

    I am just divorced w/ 50% custody of my children. Cash is very limited. I'm in hte process of installing a VC Resolute acclaim. I do all my own work.

    Here are my numbers:

    VC Resolute Acclaim, porcelin finish with warming shelves, Demo 6 mo. old $911
    Brick and Mortar to add 4' to existing chimney $250
    Stainless 316 liner, T, Cap, insulation $650

    I also spent on related items:
    Dolmar PS-5100 S (4HP) Chainsaw w/ spare chain $400
    Trailer hitch & wiring $150

    So for about $2500 I'm in charge of my energy footprint. I expect that I'll get the money out of it quickly. I will also use the saw to earn money so I'm looking at a 2-3 year payoff.

    These are pretty low numbers. They took a lot of research, planning and, shopping. I even used trees on site to bulid the scaffolding, which will become fuel when the install is done this month.

    There is certainly a very personal value to the beauty and satisfaction of having the system just the way you want it. I'm spending a good deal of time in the home and I enjoy the whole process... The install, the gathering, splitting, etc... I can not stand going to a gym and don't need to go.

    ATB,
    Mike P
  5. brian_in_idaho

    brian_in_idaho New Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Jewel Lake (Sagle), Idaho
    I think you are doing the right thing, comparing the cost of the masonry heater with other things you spend money on. However, I'd guess your costs would be considerably higher than 10k for one, from what little digging I did it sounded like 15-20 was more common. On the other hand, for new construction, look at your other options-a high end forced hot air furnace with install will be over 10k in a good sized place these days...if you can reduce that expenditure with the MH, it looks more appealing. I toyed with the idea of installing electric heating elements in a masonry heater, with the appropriate controls, so that I could have a backup heat when not around...still more than I could swing, and a fair amount of engineering and tinkering to get it dialed in. I took the cheap route, a nice, but conventional, soapstone stove, with el hydronic baseboard in bedrooms and a Monitor in the basement.

    I don't mind spending a little more on something nice once (such as a wood stove, or extra for a diesel in a truck) if the constant monthly drain isn't there. Writing a good sized check every month for heating just gets to me. I do have it pretty easy from a wood supply, I'm on acerage that has plenty of standing dead red fir plus a fair amount more that needs to be thinned, doesn't make sense not to utilize it.

    edited to add:

    After reading the above, it sounds like I'm knocking masonry heaters, I'm not, I'd love to have one. Either the customs built on site, or Tulikivi's are really beautiful heaters. If I had a budget that would have supported a full masonry fireplace, I'd sure go that way instead.

    Bri
  6. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    Masonry heaters used to be the real deal, it's only recently I personally feel they're going to be obsoleted. They were invented/utilized during a time there was a tree shortage in Europe centuries ago. Fireplaces & stoves weren't efficient at all, and any hot air they created quickly went out air leaks or out the flue itself. The Masonry heater solved both problems, it's radiant heat didn't care much about air leaks, and it's 80%+ or so efficiency was a huge improvement over the 5-15% efficiency of fireplaces. You cut your wood use to comparitivly nothing with one. Today's wood stoves & houses, give it a run for it's money because now there's secondary burn or cat technology. Wood stoves are around 70-75% efficient vs. the masonry's 80%+. Not a big gap particularly considering the price difference. Masonry heaters have a hard time heating rooms far away or with no walls in contact with it, wood stoves don't have as much a problem. Masonry heaters, you should look at what the next days weather is going to be like and plan ahead of time. A wood stove, if you wake up and it's extra cold you adjust your burn in real time. They are gorgeous certainly, and they still do what they've done for centuries. So, todays stoves compounded with Solar I feel is going to be two strikes against them. I think people instead of choosing to pay the money for a masonry heater, will find their dollars better spent on Solar & insulation because today's houses & technology for solar have really started coming of age and it's popularity is growing. My in-laws in 1983 did that, and they have a wood stove as their backup heat. They go through 1/2 cord of wood in a house on the windy mountains of VT a year and have to keep the windows open until it gets 30F or below outside. That's pretty darn good for VT. They took down one beech that gave them 1.5 cords... that's 3 years of heating for them. A masonry heater can't compete with that, and their house is 23 years old. Imagine what todays house & solar can do. I think more people building a new house are going to be looking for solar as an option instead of a masonry heater. So, I personally don't see the practicality of people choosing them today when there are wiser choices in my opinion. Instead of a masonry heater in a new house, I'd go for solar and a whole house fireplace system that channels heat to remote parts through ducting given the choice to be overkill. Otherwise, solar & wood stove combo.
  7. wg_bent

    wg_bent Minister of Fire

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    Rhone...you missed the point of my using Masonry heaters in the discussion. They are the most expensive "stoves" so are worst case for an ROI discussion.
  8. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    I was trying to say they used to be a good ROI... not in todays world.
  9. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

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    Loc:
    Richmond VA
    my used stove $250
    cheap poulan chainsaw $120 (purchased for a huricane)
    assorted mauls and splitting axes $100
    20 year old splitter $660

    This will be winter #4 with the stove. my heating bills are WAY down. I use 1/4 the natural gas I used to use and my elctric super low too. LAst winter I was more relaxed and let the furnace come on if needed. averaged about 100-120 a month for gas and electric combined. in 2002 I spent 400-600 a month during the winter for heating. It's paid for itself and I love the way it draws the family together in the winter time. THAT is worth more money that I will ever save.

    David
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