Sunday, September 27, 2009

Emergency Heat

I've been working on this for some time. Not in terms of my own labor, but in terms of planning and money allocation. For a few years now, I've been watching the energy legislation move around Washington and knew eventually, heating my home in the winter would become cost prohibitive - especially if the US passes Cap and Trade - which will trickle down as tax on me for everything from heating my home to driving to work. It seems almost unstoppable, and I don't want to be at the mercy of credit - ever. So, we saved the money and did our research and for the time being, this is our new wood stove.

I say "for the time being" because the stove I intended to get is about three times as expensive. I wanted a HearthStone Soap Stone fireplace, but between this little $1000 DutchWest 1000 stove, the $5000 or so for the 8" double wall stainless steel chimney and my tax bill this year, we're just about broke! So, the plan is to use this little steel unit for as long as it's worth or until we can afford the upgrade. I had the pipe all installed for a larger unit so the upgrade will just be the stove itself in the future. In the mean time, that chimney has some serious cold air down draft and I have to preheat the stove with a candle or two before I try putting anything that makes smoke in it.

The only problem I have with the installation is that the hole in our concrete wall that the pipe passes through isn't terribly well sealed. The installation instructions called for a half inch air gap, so that's what the contractor dutifully did. I'll be getting some stove gasket and high temp mastic to seal up some of the gap as it lets a good amount of cool air in around the chimney exit - not something I want on nights we don't run the stove.

Now I just need to get some good clean burning and seasoned hard wood delivered so we have something besides all the dead fall I've been scrounging from our property to burn.

Some project costs: Laying tile myself: $171 for all tile and supplies at Lowes. Retucking carpet around tile: $125 by original installer. Hole drilled in wall by a professional core-driller: $150. Installation labor: $950. Stove and Pipe: around $6500, but we'll get some of that back as we had to pay and pre-order more chimney than necessary to accommodate any complications during installation... hopefully getting $800 or $1000 back. Also, all of this should make us eligible for a $1500 tax credit next year as the stove exceeds EPA efficiency standards. Net cost after rebate and credits: $5396. Seems like a lot, but wood to heat the house each winter now should run us about $150 or so for the whole season. We were paying about that much or double PER MONTH last winter for gas for our forced air system. I am guessing we'll save about $100 -$200 a month, so this should pay for itself in 5 to 10 years and my family stays warm when the power goes out... (that would be the "priceless" part).


J E Carter II said...

Well, so far "emergency" heat has been full time heat. The stove has put out enough consistent warmth that we've had no trouble keeping the house between 65 and 74 degrees while outside temps have gotten down to freezing a couple of nights in the past few weeks.

It's a bit cool in the morning after the fire has gone out, but generally there are still enough coals to get the fire going again.

Also, I notice that the basement, being a slab floor with concrete walls most the way around (insulated on the inside) seems to retain a good amount of heat after the fire dies down. This has made the finished area down there the preferred place to be even though the air temp down there can hover around 90. Who doesn't like to be toasty warm on a cold fall day? I am guessing we'll be able to keep this mode of heating well into winter till we hit the week + spans of temps near 0 F.

J E Carter II said...

Some more info - wood, in our area, is running about $150 a full cord, stacked. I can save $20 if I stack it myself but sometimes $20 is well spent and I get to chat with the supplier, which is always informational and fun.

So, we have displaced the cost of heating the home partially. As cold it has been, we are still running the furnace with the thermostat set at about 58 at night and 64 during the day. The Stove makes up for some of this and hopefully we only need to run the gas / electric heater during the coldest days of winter.

I've spent $360 this year on wood that other people have cut for me. I've also spent $5 having my chainsaw blade sharpened and $20 getting a new blade at the same time. I cut about 1 cord myself and it is long since gone. I have purchased 2 1/2 from local people and have used about 1/2 cord. We'll probably be able to finish the coldest part of winter with that, but will also probably pick up another 1/2 cord around March to round out the heating season. So about 4 full cords for one winter. Roughly $600 if I buy, and just time sweat and fuel if I cut my own. Access to suitable wood though is a problem for me. My resources are somewhat limited in that regard.

Overall, we're putting more work into heating our home, have to get the chimney cleaned about once a season for safety and there's the added risk of working with a hot stove. But - the heat is much more comfortable compared to forced air. The air quality, to my surprise, is much better in our house - not as dry as the forced air system. Having a fire in a stove like ours also provides a nice place for a nap on a thick rug - right in front of a roaring fire. That luxury is well worth much of the cost. And the kids know exactly where to go to get warmed up when they are cold, which is nice. "Go warm up by the fire" sounds so much nicer than "go stand on the heat register and wait for the heat to kick on". :-)