Pellet vs wood

caseyzoeDecember 27, 2007

we just bought a house and want to put an alternative heat source in. Anyone have thoughts on Pellet vs Wood. We live in Northern Michigan so it gets cold.

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A wood stove is a lifestyle choice. If you use it a lot, you are either going to pay someone failry fancy prices to bring in wood or do a lot of heavy labor cutting, splitting and stacking wood yourself.

Hauling wood indoors is messy, as is hauling out ashes. It takes a degree of skill to build and tend fires.

IF you are willing to do that, or intend the woodstove mostly as a backup to your regular heat or occasional use for ambiance, then I'd recommend a woodstove. It is more reliable and simpler than a pellet stove, and can put out a LOT of heat --- just what you need if a furnace is out.

A pellet stove is more complex, requires more maintenance and needs a source of power to operate ---not too good if your furnace is also out because you have no power.

Also, getting competent service on a pellet stove can be iffy. I would check on availability of service and repair CAREFULLY before buying a pellet stove. You might consider asking a stove shop for the names and phone numbers of people who have had service on their pellet stoves recently, and ask them about the service they got.

Too many pellet stove owners wait weeks for repairs and maintenance, or can't get it at all. Check on that before you buy and be sure.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 1:08AM
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I'm a woodburner. It gets cold here in VT too and when it goes to minus 30 the woodstove cranks out the heat we like.

Yes, wood is a lifestyle. But you find it can be a calming one. When you're out in the woodpile splitting, you can let your worries go away. You're warm when splitting, you're warm when carrying the wood in, and you're warm when you're burning it.

Messy? Not that much. Our stove has an ashpan so the ashes just go down the chute in the bottom of the stove. So there's really no dust.

The price of wood varies. It really depends on where you live. Around here wood is anywhere from $125 ro $180 per cord. Seasoned. We use an average of 3 cords per year.

The major problem I see with woodstoves are the idiots that install them themselves. They don't pay attention to clearances and heat shields in the ceiling, etc. Then they have a fire.

I've been burning a woodstove for over 25 years. I won't go any other route. I'm 60 years old and the amount of work isn't too much at all. The most work is keeping the snow off the woodpile.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2007 at 8:13AM
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After 25 years you sound well conditioned to the labor involved in the care and feeding of a wood stove.

I imagine it's more demanding when dropped on someone who is used to twitching a thermostat to get the heat they want.

The labor and time involved is something people new to woodburning need to consider carefully, in my opinion.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2007 at 1:39AM
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No, I'm basically cheap. There's no natural gas up here so if we want a gas appliance we use propane. And I will NOT spend $4.00 per gallon to heat my home with propane!

    Bookmark   December 29, 2007 at 7:26AM
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Be sure and check out the availability and cost of the pellets themselves as you would be tied into buying them if you went with pellet. I know that in some parts of the US supply is running low and costs are going up. I would certainly consider a stockpile of some sort during non- peak times if I went this way.

I chose wood as it seemed to offer a bit more flexibility with fuel sources. The mess is not that bad and we are loving the physicality of it all. We're old folks who try and stay in shape without paying for gyms and this is really helpful in that regard.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2007 at 11:00AM
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I think it all depends what you think your labor is worth and if you can get firewood for free. If I add all of the time vs money saved for my case I figure I spend 120hrs equivalent (labor plus incidental costs) per annum to gather a year's worth of wood and do the functions to operate a stove over the time period and in the process save $2000 in heating costs. That means I have to gross $3000 over three weeks which is $25/hour. I believe the national average wage is much lower than that.

In my location $6/hour is the typical amount earned so that is a 317% increase.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 8:41AM
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I have both a pellet stove & a wood burner. I'm new to the pellet stove, but so far I think it's kinda' neat. BUT, the wood burner is free!!! I've been burning wood for at least 30 years and I can't even imagine being without it. I have 5 acres with a forest of mostly Oak that is, unfortunately, dying off because of a blight. Some of the trees are huge so I bought a log splitter 12 years ago and I make a hobby out of it! It's a tremendous labor saver. You work really hard with it, but when you consider the amount of wood you can split with it as opposed to doing it by hand, it really is very productive! What else can I do with all that dead wood? Put it in with the Thursday trash? I don't think so. Wood burning is a little messy especially when cleaning out the ash drawer, (if you're in the market for a wood burning stove, always make sure it has an ash drawer!). It gets a little dusty when cleaning it out, but you donÂt have to put the fire out just to get rid of the ashes. You also want to have a stove with a catalytic cumbustor or the new technology that doesnÂt require one. The exhaust gasses get burned before they enter the flue making the exhaust much cleaner which is not only good for the environment but is also good for your chimney.

I personally would NEVER buy wood as long as I have the resources to acquire my own. I am 62 and I think of this as a productive exercise that beats walking on a treadmill! To think of giving up my wood burner to live in a condo scares me!!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 8:03PM
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*...In my location $6/hour is the typical amount earned so that is a 317% increase....*

Wow, minimum wage here in VT is $6.78 and the local Mickey D's is paying $8 to start simply because they can't get any help.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2008 at 8:15AM
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Most of the people here are either retired on disability or own a business that barely thrives. The rest of them are the working poor. I live in an area of Missouri where there are very few high paying jobs only very low paying service jobs many pay at the rate of the federal minimum wage. There is no hospital or industry within a 40 mile radius (and then you have lots of competition for that skill). IMO there is no incentive to work past the point where you can get maximum tax benefit of your money. You make much more money in terms of value for being self sufficient in my neck of the woods.

With inflation for basic goods exceeding wage growth by a large margin, self sufficiency creates a higher standard of living than working.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2008 at 7:40AM
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I hear that around here in southern Wisconsin all the time too. I really feel sorry for the younger families that have to work multiple jobs just to keep body & soul together. My wife & I retired from decent paying jobs, so we're comfortable. Nowadays, unless you live in a major city, you are probably going to work close to minimum wage. Contrary to that is the fact that the cost of living is a lot less out here than it is in or near Chicago. I know people there that are really struggling also. This thing is getting worse all the time and politicians ain't helping any!! You have to have a 2nd job just to afford health insuance for Pete's sake! Just who is a 3rd world country by todays standards anyway?

Getting back on track, A woodburner is a great way to save big bucks if done properly. I know our energy bill would be at least double without my little Vermont Castings Federal Airtight! My only regret is that I didn't get the biggest one when I bought it 20 years ago.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2008 at 2:09PM
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We moved out to rural Michigan from Chicago, and we're so excited to get a wood stove. Is it a lot of work? Yeah, by city standards. If our stove doesn't make it through the night (which is what happens if I don't get up in the middle of the night and fill it), then its often around 50 degrees in the house. Depending on the condition of the stove, I might have to sweep out the ashes, go get firewood (if we don't have any in the house), load up the stove and start the fire (which on occasion takes multiple attempts)- all this still in my pajamas-, then shop-vac the ash mess, and wait an hour or so for things to warm up.

But the thing is... that is why we moved out here! We love the making-it-on-your-own life. We love chopping our own wood, storing up our fuel source for the winter (free!), and sitting around cozy fires. I love having 'work' that is meaningful, good exercise, gets me outdoors, and is free of all the silly little conveniences of city living that seemed to make us lazy.

So I guess the question is, why are you getting a wood stove? Are you the kind of person who enjoyed switching a thermostat on, and presto! - you're warm? Or are you looking for more of the 'real life' - putting in a bit of sweat and time and knowing that you made your warmth? That's how I see it, and if you're like us, then a wood stove will be the coolest thing ever!

Here is a link that might be useful: Adventures in Eco-Living: The Blog

    Bookmark   October 5, 2008 at 1:09PM
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