Only electrical heat need 2nd!!!

  • Active since 1995, Hearth.com is THE place on the internet for free information and advice about wood stoves, pellet stoves and other energy saving equipment.

    We strive to provide opinions, articles, discussions and history related to Hearth Products and in a more general sense, energy issues.

    We promote the EFFICIENT, RESPONSIBLE, CLEAN and SAFE use of all fuels, whether renewable or fossil.

JonLogan

New Member
Nov 8, 2021
4
Lancaster PA
I bought a two story house 2100 sqft in PA with only a heat pump. I would like a 2nd heat source to offset the PPL bill. I have an fireplace that probably hasn’t been used in a long time. I am trying to figure out if I buy and insert for it or install a stand alone unit somewhere else. If I go the stand alone would it be smart in the center of my basement near the air handler unit. Also do I go wood or pellet?
Any advice out there?
 

Bad LP

Minister of Fire
Nov 28, 2014
1,845
Northern Maine
There was a lightly used insert in the for sale area here but they need power to run the blower.
Free standing stove is my personal second choice.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
1,713
SE North Carolina
There are a lot of variables. My first question is the fireplace a masonry fireplace? I think an insert is often the most economical choice. Wood Vs pellets…, pellets are easier wood can be cheaper but you have to plan at least two years a head and store two+ years worth of wood. As supplemental to my heatpump I like my wood stoves. But I would say that if your heatpump is over 10 years old consider an upgrade too.

Is the basement finished? I would not put a stove in an unfinished basement. Probably not even a finished one unless I spent a lot of time down there.

If it’s money you want to save also consider a heatpump water heater. I save about 20-30$ every month with mine and run my dehumidifier much less in the basement. Pay back time on these units is about 5 years I won’t ever break even in my wood stoves.

Lastly I just did a DIY insert. It’s not too difficult. Total cost was $2000. Cheapest I could find after 2 years of shopping.

Pellet stove on a programable thermostat is really slick.

Spend a week reading on the forum and ask questions as they come up.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,801
Northern NH
Unless you have access to someone who has spare firewood that they dried for two years minimum and you want to burn this winter you have two options, the easiest method is install a pellet stove and get a load of pellets for this winter. the other method is install a wood stove and buy a pallet of biobricks (compressed sawdust).
 

JonLogan

New Member
Nov 8, 2021
4
Lancaster PA
Thank you all for your responses. And yes I have already done the water heater upgrade. My heat pump is definitely older then tens years. I guess that’s where I should start. I did not know that about the wood stoves/wood supply 2+ years is a definitely an issue.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
91,319
South Puget Sound, WA
Is this a masonry or Zero Clearance metal prefab fireplace?
 

Poindexter

Minister of Fire
Jun 28, 2014
2,490
Fairbanks, Alaska
Jon, you are right smack in the grey zone.

The first question, in my mind, is how long are you going to (planning to ) stay in this house?

If you are out in 5 years or less, you are unlikely to recoup your expense for a quality wood stove install. Two years or less, unlikely (average) to recoup your investment on a pellet stove install.

Over time, >5 years, the pellet will be more expensive to operate than a cord wood stove. I am not a huge fan of inserts, but back east with a lot of 'fireplaces' they can make sense short term.

How long are you staying?
 

JonLogan

New Member
Nov 8, 2021
4
Lancaster PA
Jon, you are right smack in the grey zone.

The first question, in my mind, is how long are you going to (planning to ) stay in this house?

If you are out in 5 years or less, you are unlikely to recoup your expense for a quality wood stove install. Two years or less, unlikely (average) to recoup your investment on a pellet stove install.

Over time, >5 years, the pellet will be more expensive to operate than a cord wood stove. I am not a huge fan of inserts, but back east with a lot of 'fireplaces' they can make sense short term.

How long are you staying?
Hopefully we are done moving. We have had an adventurous life of moving around and have finally thrown in the towel. So trying to settle down and make this one a keeper (4 houses before 35 is to much moving lol)
 

jmb6420

Burning Hunk
Jun 25, 2019
104
NE Oklahoma
I just built a new house and installed a free standing wood burner. I can tell you that last winter my electric heat never kicked on. We had temps down to -14 F. It’s nice to get a $54 electric Bill when my neighbors are getting $250 and up bills. If your staying, invest in a wood burner and source some dry wood or bricks. It’ll pay you back.
 

EbS-P

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2019
1,713
SE North Carolina
Hopefully we are done moving. We have had an adventurous life of moving around and have finally thrown in the towel. So trying to settle down and make this one a keeper (4 houses before 35 is to much moving lol)
You have a lot of choices. There is a 25% tax credit on qualifying stove installs (HHV 75% and above) if you were not aware. HVAC cost can varry quite a bit. Stoves not as much. Insulation saves $$ year round and wood in the winter. Thoughtful decisions and planning for big purchases can save 1000s $. Wood heat and heatpumps are great combinations. Lit a fire yesterday morning because I was up early won’t light it again for several days. My 12 year old (was top of the line in 2009) Heatpump really does a great job in the mild weather.

If I were in your spot say with a $ 3-5k a year heating/cooling upgrade budget . Id probably get the cheapest insert (given your fireplace will accommodate) ASAP with one ton of bio bricks and spend the rest on insulation this year. And save up for new HVAC in the next year or two. It all comes down to $$$. You could easily spend over 20-30k for stove hvac and insulation. There is a point where you will not break even.
 

spudman99

Feeling the Heat
Jan 26, 2018
354
Yardley, PA
I am only a moderate drive east and have a very similar situation to you. I am now on my 3rd season with a Blaze King Princess insert into my Toll Brothers 40 year old 3,000 sf colonial house with a heat pump (and propane back up)

1. I obtained a neighbors tree that was cut down (sugar maple) a year prior to my install and stacked and split the wood. Did that while contemplating what insert to buy and how to get a liner in my narrow chimney. In hindsight, having wood that was pretty dry to burn the following year was a godsend. Cherry or black cherry and ash both dry pretty quick and are decent fuels and readily available. Consider delaying your install till next summer and that gives you time to plan, shop and design. Secure wood now from scrounging, facebook, neighbors, or cut it yourself.

2. If you purchase new, you may have a 6 month delivery time due to supply chain so this year might be out anyway. In my case I waited till offseason to purchase in hopes of better terms.

3. I ended up breaking out my chimney liner myself at considerable savings, but it is a dangerous and difficult job by oneself. Sweeps are really busy and you may not get a solid recommendation for 2 months from now. Consider reaching out to @bholler who is in your area and is highly reputable.

4. My first year with the insert I burned about 2.5 cords. My propane back up never came on and I used Zero fuel. That was a savings of about $1,200. My heat pump worked far less, when I compared year over year it was about $100 or so a month less. So figure $600 or so in savings there.

5. My insert in the family room fireplace will keep that room at 72, but my master bedroom upstairs will be 64 or less. Distribution of heat in the 2 story house with 8' ceilings is not good, and being built in the early 1980's is pretty leaky.

If I sell in the next 3 years I would pull by Blaze King out and resell that, replace with a cheaper unit and perhaps recoup $1500 or so of my initial investment.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
91,319
South Puget Sound, WA
I have a masonry fireplace
Great. An insert with a liner makes good sense then. It will put the heat where the family hangs out and provide a nice light show. Where is the fireplace located in relationship to the rest of the house? Is this in an open area or floorplan or in a room with doors like a parlor?

The basement install could get more complicated depending on the setup. Is there an unused chimney nearby? Is this a daylight basement with an easy way to bring in wood without stairs? How well a stove in the basement will work will depend on how easily the heat will get upstairs and how evenly. If the intent is to use the HVAC system for distribution then a wood furnace may be a better choice. A return air duct can not be closer than 10 ft to a wood stove.