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September 16, 2008


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Pellet stoves can work pretty well and can be worth the cost. But probably only if you are in a fairly cold climate with steep bills to begin with.

Both my uncle and a friend of mine use them and where they live its usually below freezing during winter. My uncle has a free standing unit that is connected to his fireplace chimney. My friend has a full forced air furnace that burns wood pellets.

Wood pellet availability and increasing prices are a con for the pellet stoves. But they are still cheaper than most other forms of heat.

Heating with a regular hard wood burning stove would probably work pretty well to save costs too but wouldn't be dependent on the unique pellet fuel.


The house we moved into a few years ago had a wood burning stove. We pay $100 to clean the chimney every year and $100 to rent a splitter for a day. I've been able to collect enough firewood every year to get through the winter. I only burn on the weekend and a couple weeknights. Our monthly gas bill is around $60-$75 a month, we live in a suburb of chicago. Unfortunately i don't know exactly what the savings a month is since we've used this every winter.

Need some wood?

We have plenty wood for the taking any place south of Interstate 10 near Houston metroplex.

Heating here is not the norm challenge further up country.
How ever simple stuff can cut your heating costs.
Got single pane glass? - buy 1x2's cut to size your windows, streach heavy translucent plastic over both sides of 1x2 for interior storm windows. great way to save heat Costs.
seal your electrical outlets, reseal your doors, wear more clothes.

I'm reviving the old family custom of chopping firewood for the winter. Energy prices in my area will rise 20-30% according to the local electric company (no nat gas here), so I'll invest some sweat equity to counter balance the prices. I own the trees so it's basically free minus the time invested.

Not sure how much it will save, but it can't hurt to heat the home at night and on the weekends for free.

We have used a wood burning stove for about 40 years with an oil furnace as backup.
This is something my husband is willing to do but without him I would probably not use it as much. He splits the wood and stacks it, and of course hauls it into the house each day.
We buy our wood now, although we cut it ourselves the first 15 years (when we had kids here to help haul it.) The price of a cord of wood has risen right along with the price of oil. So although we are saving probably half what it would cost without the wood that percentage has stayed the same.
In our area it takes some doing to find someone who will reliably deliver a cord when he says he is going to. Sometime the word cord means a pickup truck full, other times it means a real cord, you have to get to know what your woodcutter is going to deliver. That goes for the quality of the wood as well. Sometimes you get a lot of bark and scrap wood.
We always order about five cords in early summer, so it has time to dry if he isn't delivering wood that is already dry.
We have found that when our kids and grandkids come home it is best not to be burning the wood, we use the furnace then. Some of the grandkids have asthma and we do not want to aggravate it in any way. I read there are some air pollutants in the home from the stove although it doesn't seem to bother us.
Our current wood burning stove is 30 years old, I am sure more efficient ones and less polluting ones can be bought now.
Our daughter is in Houston, wish we could take advantage of all that downed wood!

I should also mention as someone did above, it is VERY IMPORTANT that the chimney is cleaned at least once a year. My husband also takes care of that so there is no expense for us involved.

Propane is much more expensive than natural gas. I live in an area with cheap electricity, and it's actually cheaper (per BTU) to use electric radiant heaters than it is to use propane to heat a home.

With all this wood talk, I went googling and found this chart in the "How Much Wood" section:

it might help you calculate your wood needs, if you were to switch.

I don't think I'd want a radiant heat stove in the middle of the house with kids running around, but I'd take a water heating furnace with gas backup any time.

You may also want to make sure you don't have severe pollution issues in your area.

My grandmother lives in a small town in Oregon. The town is in a river valley and occasionally has still-air inversion situations where pollution sits and gathers for days. At least a couple times every winter, wood burning is banned to keep pollution from getting to dangerous levels.

Two words: programmable thermostat. No easier way to lower the temperature when you don't need it (e.g. if the house is empty during the workday) and have your home waiting for you all warmed up when you return home. Easily installable.

If it costs $50 more to get a model that has more advanced programming features, go for it (and take the time to read the manual if you can't figure out the programming). It will pay for itself in no time.

It seems no one brought up the "tragedy of the commons". It would seem to me that wood burning stoves/pellet stoves are an excellent example. They drive the particulate air pollution up, thereby making the environment worse for everyone. The reason they are so much cheaper is because the environmental impact of burning wood is not directly factored into the cost of the fuel.

We are on Propane and made the switch to a Hybrid Heat Pump towards the end of last winter. We wanted AC (stay at home wife and 4 kids) and since we are on propane, the incremental cost of the heat pump will pay for itself in a few years. So I'm glad to see that electricity is only up 9% vs +40% for propane.

I'll second the programmable thermostat. It pays for itself in a matter of months, and helps both in the summer and winter.

Two more things that help, regardless of your heating method:

Run a humidifier. The house feels warmer and you'll be less likely to catch cold. A whole house humidifier is best, but one or two smaller humidifiers are better than nothing.

Put heat shrink plastic film on your windows. It doesn't look all that attractive, but that extra barrier helps keep the heat in and cold out. It can also cut down on drafts. While it may not help much on newer, more energy efficient windows, if you have older windows these are a must. I would estimate putting the film on my 1960s-era windows saves me a couple hundred bucks each winter. Not bad for an investment of about $5 per window.

My family has heated with wood heat since my parents moved to Missouri in 1982. Every winter my Dad goes out with the boys and cuts down dead trees (marked in the summer) and they split wood. The wood stove we have is just tiny (in relation to our house: about 3 ft tall, 3ft wide and 4 ft deep. Our house is around 2800 square feet) and it heats almost every room SO well. Only one room doesn't get warm and that is because it has no direct access to the hot air. My father is really wise and he put the stove near one wall in the living room. The stove itself heats the living room, school room, kitchen and dining room. The flue is shot up through the bedrooms above, providing heat to all the upstairs rooms. This is very important. Do not get a stove for the looks and shoot the flue out behind it just to eliminate the pipe in the room. That flue is where all the heat is at. Putting the stove downstairs and using the flue to heat upstairs is one of the most energy efficient things you can do.

Many technological developments will give you, the customer, real advantages – using less film, using less energy and running faster production speeds reliably

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