Wood vs pellet or corn....arg?

eternalflameSeptember 5, 2006

Well I'm glad I waited through last years crisis but I still seek opinions. I have a Squire wood burning insert. Wood is a bit of a mess and I'm just looking for some thoughts...its really most about the money. And the fact that my wife is tired of carrying wood in once or twice a day and shes thinking the pellets are an attractive alternativeÂ..but it canÂt end up costing us more(she does the bills to). We live in western PA in a 12 room VictorianÂ. The stove really supplements the main daily living quartersÂat night we heat stones and place them at the foot of the bed (just kidding) If I do an ROI (return on investment) it appears as though IÂm looking at 3 years payback minimum. ThatÂs assuming 300$ for a ton of corn or pelletsÂand by the way, can I store that outside without inviting the varmints? IÂve already got termitesÂperhaps I can train the varmints to root up the termitesÂ.okay IÂm off a bit here, but you get the idea. Should I pursue the change? Remove the Squire insert and replace it? And if so with what? Your opinions are highly regarded since I have read through many of your forum responses in the past. Thank you in advance!

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I've heated largely with wood for 25+ years in an old, minimally insulated house. I think cordwood remains the best value. Prices here are between $200 and $225 per cord for 6 mos. seasoned; $245 to $270 for kiln dried. If prices in your area are comparable, pellets or corn @ $300 per ton are considerably more expensive per btu.
Cordwood is without question messier, harder to store, more work in fire tending, etc., but if cost is your chief criteria...
I've also always been doubtful about pellet/corn stoves because they rely on electricity (as well as moving parts).
Never is wood heat more welcome than when the power goes out.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 7:01AM
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"...Never is wood heat more welcome than when the power goes out..."
Ain't that the truth!

I too happen to like wood. Yes, it's messier, but I like the type of fire a woodstove produces. When set correctly the stove produces a nice lazy fire. It doesn't have that "busy" little fire that pellets have. I might as well be watching my oil burner flame.

And there's just something reassuring about cordwood. You see it outside and you can tell that you're going to be warm this winter without relying on WalMart or the local feed store.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 7:18AM
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It all boils down to the balance between cost and work. Typically the more you're willing to pay the less work involved. If you go for coal or wood you have more mess and work on your hands but save money. Corn is a bit more expensive but a bit less work. Pellets are more than corn but even less work. If you pay top dollar for oil or gas you pretty much have no work.

Right now I would lean towards a corn stove which would allow you to burn pellets if the price comes down or burn corn when pellet prices are crazy. I have a pellet stove that will burn a mix with corn but would have liked the ability to do all corn last winter.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 3:37PM
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I have a Quadrafire 1200i insert which can burn pellets or corn. Supposedly it can burn 100% corn as long as you never turn it off, the igniter cannot ignite corn by itself. I grew up with woodstoves and I don't know that pellets/corn are any less work. During the coldest my stove ran wide open 24/7 and burned a little more than 2 bags a day. The hopper can hold about 60-70 pounds so I had to fill it every morning and every night.

I keep my tons of pellets in the garage and about 10 bags in the house. (If you have storage space you can lay away pellets like you can cord wood.) This meant every few days I had to carry in 10 bags of pellets from the garage to the house. Just like I used to have to carry in armloads of cordwood. Not having at least a bag or two in the house meant a cold run to the garage in the dark before bed... just like if you forget to fill the woodbox.

Certainly more work that using gas, oil etc. I did a full-blown Return On Investment analysis. The price of propane versus pellet on a million BTU basis and adjusted for advertised efficiency of my stove and furnace were pellet 50% cheaper and my stove would pay for itself in about 4 years depending on how propane and pellet prices went. 20% ROI is hard to beat, I am more than willing to carry in pellets to save that kind of money.

I really liked the fact that the stove can also use corn in the event that pellet prices went crazy or availability went away. Last year I priced corn and it was about $150 per ton delivered in bulk. I will be checking this again this year as pellets have gone up to at least $189 per ton. I may buy a ton or two of corn to see how it burns with the pellets.

I definitely do not like the flame produced by the pellet stove, especially at night. I find the 'fast flicker' irritating and wouldn't mind if it didn't have glass at all.


    Bookmark   September 6, 2006 at 5:21PM
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Corn in wisc is 65 a ton early. Hard pressed to find wood or pellets cheaper. You must clean it however and tend the stove once or twice a day as corn delelops klinkers that must be removed with a klinker stove or the ash pan dumped every 3 days.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2006 at 9:16PM
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I just called and corn here in the Boise, Idaho area is about $159/ton at the mill (bulk). With wood pellets currently available for $189/ton at the store. Probably not a real strong reason to buy corn if it is more work with clinkers etc. I think I am going to buy a few bags of whole corn this year and see how well it works in my stove. By the bag whole corn is $6.81 for 50 lbs.

With the Quadrafire stove that I have only the ash/residue from the fire pot goes into the ash pan, the rest you have to vacuum or scoop out. Last year with my stove running 24x7 I had to shut it down once a day and dump the firepot. Every weekend I had to open it up and do a vacuum job. The $200 I spent on an ash vacuum was worth it. I have the 'log kit' so I think this contributed to ash buildup around the firepot and thus the requirement for at least a weekly good cleaning.


    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 4:06PM
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Pellets in Vermont are around $219 a ton if you prebuy. I use 5 tons. A lot cheaper than oil at $2.65 a gallon. I use around 1,000 gallons. I figure the stove would pay for itself in 2-3 years.I have a harman p68 and pretty much heats the whole 2500 sq ft house. family room is cooler because it is 46 feet away from the stove. The pellet stove is a lot easier than handling wood. Bags are easy to carry, easy to load and I doubt you have to load as often. The stove is automatic so it regulates itself. The heat is different. It is not the nice radiant heat produced by a wood stove. The pellet stove doesnot seem to dry out the house like our wood stove. not sure why but it was very comfortable. I really like the pellet stove and everyone I have talked to seem to swear by them.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 10:10PM
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How about all three? In my case, I use 4 different fuels for heat.
Now that you have a vision of four different heating sources stacked side by side, let me explain. I've burned cordwood for over 30 years, so I consider myself somewhat of an expert. First off, I had an edge. I'm a retired independent log trucker. Enough said about the edge. Cordwood is hands down the most cost effective, most comfortable fire there is. But, now that I'm in my mid fifties, getting the wife and kids together for a day of woodcutting can be a problem, although we all could use the exercise.
When all the kids were home I found their constant motion coupled with the natural radiant heat of a free standing air tight stove was all the circulation needed to move the heat.After they moved on I discovered there were cool to cold parts of the home that never existed before. We decided to add a pellet / corn stove to see if we liked the heat and to cut down on the woodcutting. Bottom line, its "just" okay. Ive found my multi fuel Country Stove to be a bit of a pain to operate as well as being quite noisy. Dont get me wrong; the ease of operating a pellet stove compared to the tedious chore of splitting wood is no comparison, just a different kind of pain.
I purchase pellets by the ton (now $200 per ton), (two years back $129). I also use about a 20% corn to wood pellet mixture. This seems to be the best mix for this stove as straight corn tends to put the fire out. I store the wood pellets in a dry part of my barn. These have kept well for three years (I buy large quantities to save). The corn I purchase in bulk from a local grain elevator, currently $105 per ton. Ive done better by shopping around. Bottom line, I use cheap corn to cut the cost of pellets. I store the corn in 1 ton feed sacks in my shop. Ive had one bag for three years now and the corn is doing just fine. (Keep it dry!)
For my final type of heating fuel; Dumb me discovered with all the kids grown and gone no one was home to either stoke the fire or add pellets when we would take the occasional Winter trip. I purchased a small propane fired free standing stove for the living room for these rare occasions. Oh my goodness! Forget about heating with a freestanding propane fired stove. It will depress you. While youre away having fun, your little stove will consume its weight in gas daily. Its a great little stove to put your cold toes by or take the chill off the room waiting for the other stoves to reheat the home but not recommended for full time usage.
In summary, I prefer the heat of cordwood. In order of preference (not by BTU rating) Fir, Hemlock, Maple, Alder (we also have Cedar locally but a waste of time for the BTU output). Fir will create the least amount of ash but a fair amount of heat per cord. Hemlock, a bit more heat but more ash. Maple a superior amount of heat but a superior amount of ash. Alder, the worst of both worlds but the easiest to split. I've learned to keep a full year of wood ahead to cure properly. Wet wood is a waste of time and effort. Over the years Ive invested a fair amount in tools and machinery to handle cutting wood. I now have my cordwood delivered in full log form and stacked by my woodshed. I use a small tractor with tongs hanging from the bucket to pick up each log to waist level (I don't bend as well as I did twenty years ago). I mark and saw the wood; the wife tosses the wood just inside the shed where my hydraulic splitter is located. I cut and split, she tosses and stacks. Actually we have a great time at it. Just dont be in a hurry and turn it in to a miserable chore. The benefits are obvious, save money, stay in shape. Besides a little hunting, fishing and camping What else is there to life anyway? By the way, help your wife make and can home made Tomato soup to make those hard working cold days worth it. Now your livin. :o)

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 12:35AM
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The new harman stove is pretty quiet but there is some noise from the fan. There is a big difference in quality out there. I went with Harman based on reviews on this and other websites. I like a wood fire also but my stove does not circulate the heat like the pellet stove. A pellet stove with a big hopper and ash pan is great since your filling and emptying less. I have a choice between my oil fired boiler, wood stove or pellet stove. Oil is the easiest but just too expensive. Wood is great once in awhile and what i use during the brief power outages. I planned on burning more wood but just don't seem to have the time for all that cutting splitting and hauling. for me the pellet stove works best. If the price for pellets goes too high I will make time for the wood.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 2:37PM
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I am looking into the newest Quadra-Fire Mt. Vernon corn/pellet stove. I Live in Northern NJ and I am also looking for suppliers of pellets and corn. Just a side note I have never owned a pellet stove before and any tips or tricks anyone has to offer will be greatly appreciated.
I have a 2000 sqft bi-level. I am looking to install the unit on the lower floor and aim the blower towards the stairs to attempt to add additional heat to the upper floor. If anyone has a similar configuration I would like to hear of your success or failure or I should of's. Also any recomendation for dealer would help also. I have gone to a local dealer and they did not seem to know there products.

Thanks in advance!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 10:34PM
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That was a great post - I chuckled my way through it.

"Besides a little hunting, fishing and camping What else is there to life anyway?" Good food, good beer/wine, good lovin'.

Best to you, Bob.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 3:11PM
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Hi all,

Thanks for all your informative posts, I found them very helpful. I just had an extension done (1 ceiling) and I would like to put a wood stove in. I live on Long Island and I did check out the Harmon and the Quadra-Fire.

I know nothing about wood stoves except where to buy the wood. This has been my dream to have a wood stove in my house and if anyone has any advice about the differences between Harmon or Quadra, I would appreciate it.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 2:51PM
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Harman and Quadrafire...
Harman's underfired feed system can most efficiently put out a lot of heat, or a little heat, with the least amount of maintenance (compared to any other US pellet stove). For example, the P68 can put out between 7,000 and 68,000 btu's, and anywhere in between. It uses a 'thermister', instead of a 'thermostat'. A thermostat is like a light switch. It turns your stove 'on' or 'off'. This limits your heat settings, and increases the temp swing in the room/house. Harman's 'thermister' takes a reading from your room every minute or so and adjusts the heat output accordingly. So if you only need 28,000 btu's to heat at that moment that is what the P68 will put out. If you need 68,000 it will do that... The maintenance is a world apart also. You have to watch the quad burnpot for clinkers all the time, plus the cleaning routine. With Harman when your ash pan is full ( around 50-70 bags of premium pellets run through) then you empty the pan! Takes me about five minutes and I don't even have to turn the stove off to do it!

Corn vs. Pellet- Price counts for a great deal, but if a choice is there I would always go with pellet. Corn (even mixed with pellet) eats metal! Even the stainless 'corn pipe' will need to be replaced. You probalby won't replace as often as coal pipe, but it would definately have to be replaced many times before a pellet only burner's pipe would degrade.
1 bag of pellets = 2.5 gallons oil = 3.75 gallons propane

    Bookmark   October 13, 2006 at 11:51AM
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