My thanks go out to Kathy S. for sending me question on the economics of spending some big money on a wood burning stove. She has been heating her home with Heating Oil and thought she could save by burning wood instead.
It was a good question because she sent along some data for me to work with. With the increase in all oil prices folks are looking at alternatives for next winter.
Using wood, as a home heating fuel, makes it a little harder calculate the factors involved. I had to do some engineering estimating with the help of reference books. If the wood is dry, that is not more than 20% moisture content, can be burned with an efficiency of about 55% in a stove. I used 20 million BTUs per cord as kind of an average number for firewood. The harder the wood the higher the heating value. It typically ranges from 18 to 22.
Kathy said she guessed 5 cords would get her through the winter and she could buy it at $180 per cord. That is a season cost of $900. Remember that number.
A full cord of wood is 4 feet high 8 feet long and 4 feet wide. Watch out fireplace wood is sometimes sold as a “Face Cord” that is 4 by 8 by only 2 feet wide. 5 cords is a good big pile of wood and sounds about right.
5 cords at 20 million BTU’s per cord means she would actually be putting 55 million BTU’s into the house because of the low 55% efficiency heating with wood.
I read that the average price of Heating Oil is $4.22 a gallon. That will vary depending on where you live and that is last weeks price, I’ll bet it is higher by fall. I am using $4.25 a gallon as a guess. $4.50 might be closer to reality by fall.
I did the numbers and calculated that it would take 468 gallons of Heating Oil at 85% efficiency to put the same amount of heat into the house. 468 gallons of Heating Oil at $4.25 a gallon would cost $2,200 for the season.
With a thousand dollars, a season savings a $2,000 investment in a good quality wood burning system is a good investment. It would pay back the cost in two heating seasons. Good quality wood stoves last many seasons.
Electric beat heating oil!
For the fun of it, I also ran the numbers for electrical heat. To match the heat into the house from 5 cords of wood you would have to buy $2,000 worth of electric power at 13 cents a kilowatt-hour. Very Interesting.
Please be careful
There is an increased risk of house fires when burning wood for heat. Make sure you have your chimney or stovepipe cleaned and know what you are doing. Be prepared with the tools needed to put any fire out quickly.
I have seen wood-fired hot water heaters that are located about 30 feet away from the house. They heat water that is circulated by pump to a coil in the ductwork of a forced air furnace. The piping is buried underground.
These units look like a tool shed with a smoke stack. The house thermostat controls them. When it is cool inside the combustion air damper on the wood burner opens letting the fire increase. When it is warm enough in the house, the damper closes and the wood burns on low fire.
Since there is no fire inside the house, there is no penalty on the homeowners insurance cost. The firebox is big enough to hold many hours worth of wood so they do not need to be filled often.
If you live in an area where wood burning is popular, I suggest you ask about them. Learn about them on the internet but buy locally so you can get service if needed.
Click here for a free money saving report written by the Energy Boomer titled HOW SAVE MONEY ON YOUR NEXT HEATING BILL