What kind of pay back makes sense??

Dutchie84

Member
Jun 15, 2016
63
Nova Scotia, Canada
So I just moved into my new house before Christmas, and its been great. I have warmboard radiant floors and couldn't be happier with the performance. We have a Viessmann propane boiler providing heat and hot water right now, but it was always my plan to build a boiler building and install a indoor boiler piped to the house. I figured I would go this winter and realistically probably next winter with just the propane to see how much we use. But what kind of pay back makes sense for installing a wood boiler, 10 years?. I know i'm probably looking at $15,00-20,000 for a boiler, storage, piping and a building.(id be doing it all myself). I will have "free" wood from my own property but "free" is never free when you look at the work it takes plus, chain saws, splitters, fuel/oil ect. Although I do enjoy doing it and probably the biggest reason for wanting the wood boiler is that I'm about 4km down a private dirt road and then my driveway is about 1000' up a steep hill. So far I have been able to keep it in good shape for the propane truck but I never know when they are coming and conditions can change over night. And who knows where fuel prices will go.
 

stee6043

Minister of Fire
Aug 22, 2008
2,641
West Michigan
If we're being honest with ourselves there is no payback. You're offsetting paying the gas man with significant amounts of your own time/labor. You have to want to burn wood, enjoy processing wood and have the time required to do it well. Heavy on the time part.

If you think you'll be in a position where you'll ever be conflicted in managing your time between wood processing and everything else - save yourself the money and skip the boiler.

BUT...when it comes to money. My system paid itself off in something like 3-4 years if I recall correctly. I sold it a year or two later because I had kids and my time was getting too valuable (to me) to be spending out at the wood pile. Someday when I get a little older I wouldn't mind getting back into heating with wood. I always enjoyed it...I just ran out of time.

My two cents only of course.
 
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3fordasho

Minister of Fire
Jul 20, 2007
855
South Central Minnesota
I've been looking at doing a gasifier with storage in an outbuilding for a couple years now- goals are to reduce the number of wood fired appliances I have to fire (up to 4 at once) and get the dirt/ash/mess out of the main house. Propane has been averaging $1.09 per gallon so it's been real tough to get any kind of payback financially once you start seeing boiler prices at 6K and up for just the boiler.

That said, I almost pulled the trigger on a new Orlin (EKO) 40 from Kotly.com, they say they will ship to the US and all in for boiler, laddomat and shipping was under $3k. I just can't do it with the unknowns that may arise, if there are issues how to you resolve when the seller is in Poland and I'm in the US. That and the hassle that may occur with customs when bringing it in.

I may still do the project, but more because I want to do the project, not that it makes financial sense....
 

Fred61

Minister of Fire
Nov 26, 2008
2,439
Southeastern Vt.
If your new house is efficient. I mean properly insulated and built to the latest building practices it will take several more than 10 years to pay back. If your fossil fuel bill is $1000.00 a season you can do the math yourself.

In my case, after 10 years of running my wood boiler, removing and selling it, I 'm still behind the eight ball because my house is so easy to heat. If you were heating a leaky old house you could achieve payback in 4 or 5 years.
 

Fred61

Minister of Fire
Nov 26, 2008
2,439
Southeastern Vt.
I've been looking at doing a gasifier with storage in an outbuilding for a couple years now- goals are to reduce the number of wood fired appliances I have to fire (up to 4 at once) and get the dirt/ash/mess out of the main house. Propane has been averaging $1.09 per gallon so it's been real tough to get any kind of payback financially once you start seeing boiler prices at 6K and up for just the boiler.

That said, I almost pulled the trigger on a new Orlin (EKO) 40 from Kotly.com, they say they will ship to the US and all in for boiler, laddomat and shipping was under $3k. I just can't do it with the unknowns that may arise, if there are issues how to you resolve when the seller is in Poland and I'm in the US. That and the hassle that may occur with customs when bringing it in.

I may still do the project, but more because I want to do the project, not that it makes financial sense....
You may be better off purchasing your boiler from New Horizon. Zenon has had some real good prices on EKOs lately and you won't have to deal with importers, customs and duties. You also will sidestep the 220 volt European electrics on the unit. Dunno! Something to research.
 

maple1

Minister of Fire
Sep 15, 2011
10,278
Nova Scotia
Pretty near impossible question to answer accurately.

I put my new one in, to replace another wood unit. So the fuel cost the new one replaced was very low - some wood savings, and 3/4 tank of oil per year. Pure $$ ROI will be a looooonng time coming.

My primary ROI was in the health & sanity columns - hard to put numbers to that aspect.
 
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Dutchie84

Member
Jun 15, 2016
63
Nova Scotia, Canada
Thanks for the replies. I will probably still do it just mainly because I want too but I’ll probably put it off a few years. I’ve still got tons of jobs to finish around the house. But it will be interesting to see what propane bills will be. And if fuel prices go up that will probably speed up the process.


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Bad LP

Minister of Fire
Nov 28, 2014
1,055
Northern Maine
ROI is a very long way off. The system is rather involved for the typical layperson.
 

Hydronics

Feeling the Heat
Dec 3, 2008
381
Northern CT
You're wise to look at the ROI, many aren't realistic when it comes to this.
If you tie up $20K in a complicated system you're unlikely to ever see an ROI. I wanted to buy a Garn when I installed mine but couldn't justify the expense and decided on an EKO 60. It paid for itself about year 6, bear in mind I did everything myself, cut from our property and got the $1500 tax incentive available at the time. I don't regret my purchase.
As Fred noted, check out Zenon at New Horizon if you want a basic boiler such as an EKO.
Many of us are unlikely to continue cutting/burning later in life due to ability/health so there is a limited window of use.
My advise: don't buy the Cadillac and do it sooner rather than later. Dry wood is #1 with a gasser.
Good luck.
 
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salecker

Minister of Fire
Aug 22, 2010
976
Northern Canada
Part of my ROI is...
Health,family members with ashzma
Fire Insurance,we live in a volunteer fire department town,no flame source in our home
 

JohnDolz

Feeling the Heat
Dec 29, 2015
499
Burlington, CT
Thanks for the replies. I will probably still do it just mainly because I want too but I’ll probably put it off a few years. I’ve still got tons of jobs to finish around the house. But it will be interesting to see what propane bills will be. And if fuel prices go up that will probably speed up the process.


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I can give you my thoughts for what they are worth:

* Propane cost - can't compare with current state as the odds are that you will keep it MUCH warmer when you are not paying for propane (I back into my propane cost by using the # of BTU's produced by the amount of wood I burn - for me it is about $5 - $6k). My house would never be 72 24x7 if I were "paying". Plus when everyone is debating whether or not to turn on their boiler in October, I am burning scraps and am toasty warm:).
* Value of your time - I need to do something with my free time to stay sane and healthy so if I weren't doing wood I would probably be spending $ on something else to achieve the same outcome
* Kids - 11 year old twin boys - each has their own MS Mini Boss, I help them for now. They run the splitter, help stack, unload the trailer, etc. When they are old enough to hang out and drink beer with their friends they will be in my yard splitting wood and I will provide the beer.
* Equipment - buy the right equipment, used, at the right price and you can resell it for a profit when you are done with it. Disclaimer: when my wife puts stuff on TV that I hate, I simply hit Craigslist while sitting with her and shop for deals. Just found a 5500 Watt Responder generator with cord, under 10 hours for $100:).
* 220v, 50hz system - if you are thinking of going that route PM me and I can fill you in. The 50hz is the big issue.

I am sure folks can disprove any/all of the items above but they work for me. The best advice I can give is be honest with yourself and if your reasons justify it for you - do it! If not, then of course, don't.
 
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Sukhoi29SU

New Member
Nov 20, 2017
48
South Beloit, IL
If we're being honest with ourselves there is no payback. You're offsetting paying the gas man with significant amounts of your own time/labor. You have to want to burn wood, enjoy processing wood and have the time required to do it well. Heavy on the time part.

If you think you'll be in a position where you'll ever be conflicted in managing your time between wood processing and everything else - save yourself the money and skip the boiler.

BUT...when it comes to money. My system paid itself off in something like 3-4 years if I recall correctly. I sold it a year or two later because I had kids and my time was getting too valuable (to me) to be spending out at the wood pile. Someday when I get a little older I wouldn't mind getting back into heating with wood. I always enjoyed it...I just ran out of time.

My two cents only of course.
Not sure I necessarily agree. The price of propane fluctuates so much. If you don’t have the time, there might be an 18 year old kid down the road willing to deliver and stack a cord of wood for a couple hundred bucks, and that cord of wood will most likely be cheaper than propane when you compare efficiency. It’ll take you longer to recoup the money spent this way vs gathering the wood yourself, but I imagine it would eventually pay off?
 

airlina

Burning Hunk
Feb 15, 2009
119
western new york
No one has mentioned the security of knowing you can keep warm with the sweat equity you put in. Around 2008 or '09 the price of heating oil in my neck of the woods was approaching 5 bucks a gallon and that did it for me, bought my econoburn and never looked back . I have my woods, I still have the ability , and still have the desire to heat with wood-my house will be warm no matter what the uncontrollable fluctuations of market pricing end up at. That my friends is a good feeling.
 

Dutchie84

Member
Jun 15, 2016
63
Nova Scotia, Canada
No one has mentioned the security of knowing you can keep warm with the sweat equity you put in. Around 2008 or '09 the price of heating oil in my neck of the woods was approaching 5 bucks a gallon and that did it for me, bought my econoburn and never looked back . I have my woods, I still have the ability , and still have the desire to heat with wood-my house will be warm no matter what the uncontrollable fluctuations of market pricing end up at. That my friends is a good feeling.
And that is why One of the main reasons for do this. Right now I’m not to worried about price as it is relatively cheap for around here I think $0.65 per litre. But I am worried constantly that I’m going to be low on propane and we get snow, followed by rain then a deep freeze the day before the truck comes and then we won’t have heat. I like being the one responsible and I guess that’s why I built my own house to begin with.


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E Yoder

Feeling the Heat
Jan 27, 2017
343
Floyd, VA
Saving money and security- probably the top two reasons we burn wood. I'm burning 11+ years and if blessed with good health I'll do it til I'm 80. :)
 

Aranyic

Burning Hunk
Sep 3, 2015
130
Ohio
I can give you my thoughts for what they are worth:

* Value of your time - I need to do something with my free time to stay sane and healthy so if I weren't doing wood I would probably be spending $ on something else to achieve the same outcome

I am sure folks can disprove any/all of the items above but they work for me. The best advice I can give is be honest with yourself and if your reasons justify it for you - do it! If not, then of course, don't.
This is one for me that really can't be understated. I work 8-10 hours per day at a computer. I'm on call 24/7/365 - I have help on weekends, etc but if a question needs answered ultimately my phone rings. I need to be able to shut my mind down for time periods to recharge. Getting outside and processing wood is a good way for me to do that, keeps me mentally and physically better off. Sure I've got money tied up into splitter, saw, etc but I would go through it at a much quicker rate/hr at the gun range and attached store than I do in my back yard ;). I've get a positive return at the end and I enjoy doing it.
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
4,948
Northern NH
I think the payback for heating with wood is going to improve significantly soon, sooner in Canada but US will follow. Carbon Taxes of some sort or another are coming and the logical place to implement them is a surcharge on fossil fuels, be it heating oil, gasoline, diesel, propane or natural gas. I expect there will also be an indirect carbon tax like there already is in New England (RGGI) on electric power generation. If and when the current administration goes away in the US, the Clean Power Plan or something quite similar will get enacted and its ultimately an indirect carbon tax that get spent to force a regions generation away from fossil fuels. Taxes on fuels and power generation are easy to do and spreads the burden somewhat. In theory at least a portion of the tax initially goes back to the consumer to reduce their energy use although I expect in few years it will get tapped for general revenue, like has happened to RGGI in some states ;). Firewood on the other hand is a PITA to collect taxes on especially if its cut on your own property. There is no place to put a tax and is regarded by most bodies as carbon neutral over the long term so it doesn't slot in with fossil fuels. In some ways it close to making moonshine where the fed outlaws it because they cant figure a way to tax it. ;)

There is lot of effort out there to shift folks away from fossil towards electric (why do you think the utilities are pushing mini splits?) under the guise that the electric power grid can be made green easier. Of course in your situation as well as many Hearth.com folks you probably live in a rural area and the last to have power restored after a weather event. With increased heat in the atmosphere, folks along the Atlantic like yourself are going to be seeing more radical weather swings and more extreme weather events. This means potentially more and longer power outages. It likely your propane is a waste product from crude oil or natural gas extraction and therefore you are on the long end of supply chain unless Sable Island magically comes back to life. Its likely that the propane is coming in via ship from far way and expect the local storage is limited which leads to supply shocks when a few winter storms in a row lock out the harbors (It happens in northern new England). Heating oil is more reliable but still price volatile as the Irving refinery is relatively close by to you. The nice thing with wood is once its cut and split and under cover it lasts a very long time. No need for a delivery truck just a wheelbarrow from the woodpile to the boiler.

Wood on the other hand is local, if you cut it yourself no direct money gets handed out but there is indirect money to the chainsaw dealer, the guy who sells you gas and oil and the local doctor if you are not careful. Even if you buy wood, its local, the vast majority of the cash generated stays local. When buying fossil the vast majority of the money heads out of town never to return. No such thing as a wood embargo. As long as the housing density is low and there aren't local environmental conditions like some areas in the western US states, if you have to motivation to cut or buy wood you can heat your house and no one can stop you. Design the system right and your power usage will be minimal which can be supported by a small generator or battery storage fed from PV or wind (if you have a good site) as the price comes down.

I also see burning wood as a good feedback loop to reduce energy usage. When you are having to feed the boiler out of the woodpile you cut and split you are probably going to try to reduce the volume of wood you need to move. That's going to mean seasoning it properly, sealing up air leaks and possibly improved insulation as well as modifying the habits of the occupants.

Make sure you factor in that given you have radiant heat in place, it most likely going out to the floors at low temperature far lower then conventional baseboard, that means your storage volume for the boiler can be lot smaller as you have a lot higher temperature difference you can work with than conventional heat. My conventional radiators run on stored heat from about 185 F to 140 F (delta of 45F), in your place you can probably go from 185 F to 95 F (delta 90 F), thus you can store twice the amount of heat for the same volume of storage. The lower temps also fit in well if you want to supplement with air to water heat pump technology that is slowly coming to market.

By the way if you are thinking of going with wood, the time is now to get your wood pile started two years before a boiler would be up and running. If you decide not to, you can always sell it at a premium as seasoned wood which is always in demand. Any new boiler or stove you buy needs seasoned wood and if you wait to get your wood while the boiler is being installed you will be very disappointed at your investment for a year or two
 

Fred61

Minister of Fire
Nov 26, 2008
2,439
Southeastern Vt.
Don't know if you've seen the articles on the internet naming the highest and lowest taxed states. The poorly run State of Vermont is usually near the top on taxes so if you have a woodlot large enough to produce 5 or 6 cords a year you are getting taxed on your fuel. I see folks on this forum constructing nice outbuildings and pole barns to house their wood and or wood heating appliances but in this state the tax on these improvements could or would be a loosing proposition. I even got whacked on a chain link dog kennel that I was storing wood in.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
4,948
Northern NH
Luckily my wood lot is current use in NH so taxes are real cheap ($30 for 83 acres) and none of the paperwork that VT has. On the other hand the town does value my wood shed which is a roof held up by four posts at $1,200 which comes out to around $50 a year in actual taxes. That is why all my other wood stacks have a temporary roof that is supported off the stacks so they cant tag the stacks as structures.
 

Bad LP

Minister of Fire
Nov 28, 2014
1,055
Northern Maine
Luckily my wood lot is current use in NH so taxes are real cheap ($30 for 83 acres) and none of the paperwork that VT has. On the other hand the town does value my wood shed which is a roof held up by four posts at $1,200 which comes out to around $50 a year in actual taxes. That is why all my other wood stacks have a temporary roof that is supported off the stacks so they cant tag the stacks as structures.
Damn! They went after the roof and four posts and whacked you 50 bucks? So much for live free or die.
 
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muncybob

Minister of Fire
Apr 8, 2008
2,140
Near Williamsport, PA
Reading about taxes in other areas makes me glad to be living where I do. Heck, we put a 1000+ sq ft addition on our home and a large deck with no building permits and taxes have not changed much.

But more to the point, I believe I have a decent ROI by now. Even when I take into consideration the smaller ongoing expenses of fuel(both saw & truck), chains, etc I'm still ahead of paying the oil man. But eveybody's situation can be different. I have no kids at home now, no other large time consuming projects(at least that I know of, the Mrs may have something in mind for sure). At first it was the $$ savings that got me into wood burning but now I truly enjoy the whole process. We rarely burn more than 4 cords/year and that is a far cry from the $2K+ we spent annually heating with oil. I spend my 8 hour working days sitting on my duff and usually look forward to doing something firewood related.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
4,948
Northern NH
Damn! They went after the roof and four posts and whacked you 50 bucks? So much for live free or die.
They have to get it somewhere, no sales tax no income tax in NH . Most of the state revenue is selling alcohol, cigarettes and lottery ticket to the surrounding states. NH is waiting for Me , VT and Mass to screw up pot sales and then NH will come in an undercut all three states.
 

salecker

Minister of Fire
Aug 22, 2010
976
Northern Canada
Reading about taxes in other areas makes me glad to be living where I do. Heck, we put a 1000+ sq ft addition on our home and a large deck with no building permits and taxes have not changed much.

But more to the point, I believe I have a decent ROI by now. Even when I take into consideration the smaller ongoing expenses of fuel(both saw & truck), chains, etc I'm still ahead of paying the oil man. But eveybody's situation can be different. I have no kids at home now, no other large time consuming projects(at least that I know of, the Mrs may have something in mind for sure). At first it was the $$ savings that got me into wood burning but now I truly enjoy the whole process. We rarely burn more than 4 cords/year and that is a far cry from the $2K+ we spent annually heating with oil. I spend my 8 hour working days sitting on my duff and usually look forward to doing something firewood related.
In most municipality's if you don't pull a building permit,then there is nothing that triggers an assessment.
Which is good for you,but bad for your town.
Then tax's are not applied evenly to everyone.The law abiding citizen starts paying for the services that others are enjoying.
 

muncybob

Minister of Fire
Apr 8, 2008
2,140
Near Williamsport, PA
Just to clarify, I am law abiding. I went to the township office and was told...just build it.

Not sure about other areas, but we have assesors visit our property about every 5 years.
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
4,948
Northern NH
Some municipalities are using aerial photos to determine new structures. They use software that detects structures on two photos taken at the same date. The new structures and additions pop right out and then they schedule a visit.