With Oil Prices Rising, Wood Makes a Comeback

moshquerade

No Lifer
Nov 1, 2001
61,713
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Anyone here primarily burn wood to heat their home?

With Oil Prices Rising, Wood Makes a Comeback

Published: February 19, 2008

NEWPORT, Vt. ? As a child, Brian Cook remembers hurling wood into the big orange boiler his father bought during the oil crisis of the late 1970s, helping feed the fire that provided heat and hot water to his family.

Thirty years later, Mr. Cook dragged the boiler out of his childhood home and hooked it up in the house that he and his wife, Jennifer, own to cut their oil bills.

?I did not want to pay $3,000 to heat this house,? Mr. Cook said in his garage here in Vermont?s heavily wooded Northeast Kingdom. ?I see a lot more people burning wood this year.?

After years of steep decline, wood heat is back, with people flocking to dealers to buy new wood stoves, wood boilers and stoves that burn pellets made of wood byproducts. Others like Mr. Cook, to the dismay of environmentalists, are dusting off old wood-burning devices that are less efficient and more polluting.

?There?s a lot of people buying big stoves, planning on tackling oil head-on,? said Roy L?Esperance, owner of the Chimney Sweep in Shelburne, Vt., who has seen sales of wood stoves increase nearly 20 percent this year. ?They say, ?I just got a new house and I?m getting killed with oil bills, and propane is just as bad.? ?

Nowhere in the nation is wood as beloved as it is here in New England, where winter conjures images of warming up around a potbelly stove. But in the last decade or so, as the price of oil and propane seemed to rise less sharply, devotion to wood stoves waned.

In 1993, 3.1 million homes used wood for heat; the number dropped to 2 million in 2001, according to census data provided by the Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy.

But now residents like Dina Benoit of Orleans, Vt., are going back.

When Ms. Benoit moved into her home in 1994, it had an old wood stove. Tired of hauling logs through the house and feeding it every few hours, Ms. Benoit switched to a propane heater in 1998. The propane, however, got too expensive, and Ms. Benoit returned to wood. ?I didn?t want to become dependent on kerosene or an oil supplier,? said Ms. Benoit, who bought a wood stove and said it cost $600 to heat her house last year. ?It?s just so nice to stand next to; it has more of a personality than a regular heater.?

The owners of M and M Forestry and Land Management of Brownington, Vt., say they have been delivering more firewood than ever this year.

?Generally, say they burn a cord of wood a year, this year they are already on their second cord,? one of the owners, Michael Moore, said. ?Some people are planning on burning two or three times more wood than they have in the past.?

Statistics from the last survey about the use of wood for heat, conducted in 2006, are not yet public, but the number of households that report using wood as their primary source of heat is expected to jump sharply, said Marie LaRiviere of the Energy Information Administration.

Chris Foster of Maupin?s Stoves-n-Spas in The Dalles, Ore., said sales of wood and pellet stoves were up 65 percent in the last year.

?Sales go up because of the economy,? Mr. Foster said. ?If the economy is good, people go to gas. If the economy is sluggish, people go to wood and pellet stoves.?

Jack Murphy of Winchendon, Mass., has long burned wood in his home, but he was tired of buying and splitting the wood, feeding the stove and cleaning the ash. He switched to a pellet stove last year.

?Wood heat is dirty, it?s labor intensive, it messes up your yard and your floors when you carry it in the house,? Mr. Murphy said. ?With pellets, I put them in my truck, and I bring my entire energy for the year home in one trip. I have two month?s worth just on my back porch.?

Air pollution is still a major concern, particularly with wood boilers. A 2006 report from the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, a nonprofit association of Northeast air quality agencies, found that average particulate emissions from one outdoor wood boiler equaled that of 22 wood stoves, 205 oil furnaces or as many as 8,000 natural gas furnaces.

The Environmental Protection Agency has set clean-burning performance standards for wood stoves manufactured after 1988, and many communities, including Truckee, Calif., and Dayton, Ohio, have programs that allow owners of older stoves to turn them in and receive rebates or coupons to buy a new wood stove.

Sally Markos of the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency in Springfield, Ore., said that air pollution from stoves had gone down since the 1988 regulations took effect, but that it was still a problem. On Jan. 24 the authority asked residents to refrain temporarily from burning wood because tests showed the particulate level to be extremely high.

?The air pollution will get worse on days that people are feeling the economic pinch,? Ms. Markos said.

The E.P.A. developed similar standards for outdoor wood boilers last year, but unlike the stove standards, they are not mandatory.

Many counties and towns, however, have banned or restricted the use of wood boilers. Last year Vermont became the first state to set emissions limits on new wood boilers.

Air pollution is not the only concern. New Hampshire?s state fire marshal, J. William Degnan, said that heating systems were the top cause of fire in the state, and that many local departments were reporting an increase in fires from wood stoves.

?They?re seeing a rise in chimney fires,? Mr. Degnan said. ?Many have fired up stoves they haven?t used for years and haven?t been maintained. There?s creosote in the chimney, and some were improper installations, just a tinderbox waiting to happen.?

Randy Swartz of Orleans, Vt., said he spent months researching safety and prices and would not go back to oil. He spent more than $6,000 last fall to buy a new wood boiler that heats his home and water.

Mr. Swartz, the maintenance manager at the Cabot Creamery, said he had to buy heating oil at work, and seeing the price of crude oil rise from $18 a barrel when he started his job a decade ago to almost $100 a barrel now made him want to change his personal energy consumption.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02...oMwHa/HU5BAGL0gAp4lhQA
 

KillerCharlie

Diamond Member
Aug 21, 2005
3,691
68
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I HATE people who burn wood in the city. It makes the air so nasty that it's really uncomfortable to be outside. I don't care if you're a cheapass, don't pollute the air I breathe.

On the other hand, I think burning wood in sparse areas is a great idea. My parents sometimes burn wood, but their closest neighbor is at least half a mile away and they chop down trees on their own property.
 

TheTony

Golden Member
Jun 23, 2005
1,418
1
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Wood/corn/biomass stoves have been enjoying growing sales for about the last decade. There's even exterior models that can be used to heat water to create a a radiant heating solution.
 

JulesMaximus

No Lifer
Jul 3, 2003
74,442
824
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Originally posted by: KillerCharlie
I HATE people who burn wood in the city. It makes the air so nasty that it's really uncomfortable to be outside. I don't care if you're a cheapass, don't pollute the air I breathe.
:thumbsup: Some jackass burns wood all winter long...as if there isn't enough pollution in the air around here this fucker has to burn wood and the smoke from his fires blows right toward my house. :| Wood fireplaces are so ineffective at heating a house the size of mine. Unless his entire family is living and sleeping in the one room the fireplace is it just isn't cost effective.
 

LS21

Banned
Nov 27, 2007
3,746
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theres a reason wood went out of favor. less energy dense. more pollution. youre going to need to drive back and forth (burn oil) to transport that quantity of wood home. why not just use the house heater
 

vi edit

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Oct 28, 1999
62,118
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It's a decent supplement to heating or for small spaces. But if your heating system wasn't designed with a fireplace in mind from the start it's just not a great option for a lot of people.

Wood stoves simply can't reach as many parts of the home or heat as evenly as conventional systems. Sure you can pipe it through a central system and use fans to push it, but if it's a damp, windless day then your fire place just sits there smouldering and not putting out a lot of heat.

We grew up with a fireplace heating the main floor of a 2000 sq/ft house in the midwest. We still needed oil heaters and wall mounted gas heaters in remote parts of the house and bathrooms to keep things comfortable.

Once you factor in the time, labor, mess, and supplemental heating costs, I really don't think the savings were as significant as they are believed to be.

 

legoman666

Diamond Member
Dec 18, 2003
3,629
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We have a wood burning stove in the basement that we use every winter. We chop our own trees down and split the wood ourselves. It doesn't heat the entire house, but it sure helps with the bill because we dont have gas. (all electric)
 

techs

Lifer
Sep 26, 2000
28,561
3
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Many people where I live in Vermont burn wood.
Its a lot of work feeding the fireand it burns dirty.
Yet, nothing compares to a roaring fire on a cold Vermont night when the gf's away..
 

Vette73

Lifer
Jul 5, 2000
21,503
8
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Originally posted by: LS21
theres a reason wood went out of favor. less energy dense. more pollution. youre going to need to drive back and forth (burn oil) to transport that quantity of wood home. why not just use the house heater
Yea I would think that solar panels and electric heat investment would work out better in the long run. Esp since you get so many tax credits for using solar.

Of course i whonder how many of these homes are also been updated with newwer windows, insulation, etc... yet they will drop 6k on a wood burner.
 

KillerCharlie

Diamond Member
Aug 21, 2005
3,691
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Originally posted by: Marlin1975
Of course i whonder how many of these homes are also been updated with newwer windows, insulation, etc... yet they will drop 6k on a wood burner.
My parents got new windows in their small house in northern MN and the oil bill dropped by over 30%.
 

vi edit

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Oct 28, 1999
62,118
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Originally posted by: Marlin1975
Originally posted by: LS21
theres a reason wood went out of favor. less energy dense. more pollution. youre going to need to drive back and forth (burn oil) to transport that quantity of wood home. why not just use the house heater
Yea I would think that solar panels and electric heat investment would work out better in the long run. Esp since you get so many tax credits for using solar.

Of course i whonder how many of these homes are also been updated with newwer windows, insulation, etc... yet they will drop 6k on a wood burner.
For a wide majority of people, there still isn't much out there that is as clean, simple, reliable, and cost effective as natural gas.

Solar would be pretty much useless in the midwest where we have nothing but gloomy skies for about 3 solid months. Electric heat is much more expensive and not as effective as gas (2x to 3x as expensive in my area).

We've had a pretty miserable winter this year. Last months temps were an average high of around 20 degrees I think. My electric & heating bill for a 2600 sq/ft house with a temp set at 70 degrees was about $275. This is a 2 story home built in the 70's with the original windows. So it's certainly not as efficient as it could be. I didn't think that was too bad of a bill given the temps.
 

Vette73

Lifer
Jul 5, 2000
21,503
8
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Originally posted by: vi_edit
Originally posted by: Marlin1975
Originally posted by: LS21
theres a reason wood went out of favor. less energy dense. more pollution. youre going to need to drive back and forth (burn oil) to transport that quantity of wood home. why not just use the house heater
Yea I would think that solar panels and electric heat investment would work out better in the long run. Esp since you get so many tax credits for using solar.

Of course i whonder how many of these homes are also been updated with newwer windows, insulation, etc... yet they will drop 6k on a wood burner.
For a wide majority of people, there still isn't much out there that is as clean, simple, reliable, and cost effective as natural gas.

Solar would be pretty much useless in the midwest where we have nothing but gloomy skies for about 3 solid months. Electric heat is much more expensive and not as effective as gas (2x to 3x as expensive in my area).

We've had a pretty miserable winter this year. Last months temps were an average high of around 20 degrees I think. My electric & heating bill for a 2600 sq/ft house with a temp set at 70 degrees was about $275. This is a 2 story home built in the 70's with the original windows. So it's certainly not as efficient as it could be. I didn't think that was too bad of a bill given the temps.

This story/people is about oil heating vs wood. And solar works better then you think, even on cloudy days.

Check this out...
Maine solar house.
 

Vette73

Lifer
Jul 5, 2000
21,503
8
0
Originally posted by: KillerCharlie
Originally posted by: Marlin1975
Of course i whonder how many of these homes are also been updated with newwer windows, insulation, etc... yet they will drop 6k on a wood burner.
My parents got new windows in their small house in northern MN and the oil bill dropped by over 30%.
:thumbsup:

So much money is lost by old wondows, doors, low insulation, etc... that if people just did some basic upkeep and upgrades they save a good amount of money.

I am redoing the duct work for our AC/Heat system now and after that will add more insualtion to the attic.
 

Jeff7

Lifer
Jan 4, 2001
41,599
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81
Originally posted by: LS21
theres a reason wood went out of favor. less energy dense. more pollution. youre going to need to drive back and forth (burn oil) to transport that quantity of wood home. why not just use the house heater
Efficiency? Try electrical power sometime. Sure converting electricity to heat is super-efficient, but how does it get to your house?
1) Burn fossil fuel to heat water to a vapor
2) Send vapor through a turbine to turn a generator
3) Transmit electricity over long distances
4) Finally convert electricity to heat

Steps 1-3 incur multiple efficiency losses.
Burning a fuel in your home delivers to heat of combustion directly to the intended target: the air in your home.

New wood stoves have higher efficiencies than stoves of the past. Wood pellet stoves have efficiencies of 80-85%. Just in step 3 above, you'll lose about 10% of the transmitted power just due to resistance losses in long distance electric wire runs. The losses will be even higher from converting motion of pressurized steam into electricity. Ever seen cooling towers? Those are dumping waste heat out into the air, or into a local body of water.

Wood probably went out of favor partly because of the hassle, as it is heavy, takes up a lot of space, and is dirty. With electric, gas, or oil heat, you turn a dial on the wall and get heat, but also because it just wasn't as cost-effective anymore. It became cheaper to simple dig up fuel from the ground, rather than plant it, wait for it to grow, cut it down, and dry it.


That said, for densely-packed residences, most kinds of combustion aren't a good idea. You wouldn't want to live next to a coal-burning power plant, nor would you want to live right next to someone with a coal furnace. In any case, combustion products should have sufficient airspace in which to dissipate.


Originally posted by: Marlin1975
:thumbsup:

So much money is lost by old wondows, doors, low insulation, etc... that if people just did some basic upkeep and upgrades they save a good amount of money.

I am redoing the duct work for our AC/Heat system now and after that will add more insualtion to the attic.
I live in an older apartment right now - most of the windows are single-pane plate glass, not even tempered, and they're not even especially flat. The walls aren't well-insulated, either; they feel cool to the touch in winter. My heating bills are pretty high, and I've only got about 600sq feet; of that, one bedroom doesn't have any heating vents in it, and I keep that door closed. The other bedroom stays cold during the day, as I keep that vent sealed off until the late evening. I put in a programmable thermostat, which lets me keep the temperature cold during the day, with a switch-on time set to about an hour before I come home.
I can't believe how little was done in terms of insulation in that place. I know it's 50 years old at the very least. The window style reminds me of my grandmother's house, which has to be about 100 years old.
 

BudAshes

Lifer
Jul 20, 2003
13,619
2,717
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My house has a super efficient wood stove that puts out very smoke but many of our neighbors look like they are burning coal with the shit that is pouring out of their chimneys. I live in a gulch so all the smoke settles around the houses and it looks like a damn war zone on cold days with no wind. Some of these people are so amazingly wasteful they can't be trusted with anything, i saw one of my neighbors power washing his driveway in the rain.... fucking power washing in the fucking rain. The worst part is all the neighbors here share a well so we all get charged the same amount for water usage. I think I'm going to take it from him and power wash his balls the next time I see him do that.
 

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