View Full Version : Alternative House Heat

3-22-11, 10:38am
This fall, I have tentative plans to replace my oil furnace and hot water heater. I have two price quotes both in the range of $5K. The furnace is at least 40 years old, American Standard, operating at about 75% efficiency. The new unit would potentially heat the hot water as well. The heat is only for the first floor with approximately 400 square feet of living space. The current heat reaches each room thru baseboard and one radiator. The second floor is heated by electric baseboard.

Considering the volatile oil market, I am strongly urged to seek alternative heating. Geo Thermal is too expensive for me. Solar is also to expensive and could only heat hot water.

Is it feasible to look at a pellet stove as a system? I live in Massachusetts and am not sure if wood fired source alone is okay? I have read a bit and have recommendation for a St. Croix model, bottom feed pellet stove. Is this worth a visit to a dealer?

3-22-11, 11:13am
It's always worth a visit to a dealer to see units and get information, IMHO. We heat with wood - in Seattle. And it won't be cheaper to put in a licensed wood burning heater than a furnace. Our Rais stove, hearth (which my husband installed) and exterior stove pipe installation cost us over 10K. We did it with a building permit so our homeowners insurance wouldn't be invalidated. It's been awesome - we spend $300-$400 a year on firewood, which is lower than our gas heating bills were.

Be sure to read up on codes, especially for wood burners. Washington state has very strict laws governing what is legal, to protect air quality. For instance, re-selling a wood-burning device is illegal unless it's re-certified to meet code.

3-22-11, 12:53pm
I am in Mass. and considered wood stoves but they are highly regulated. I can't, for instance, put one in the basement and cut floor vents to let the heat work its way upstairs because that is considered a fire hazard. So I would either need to hook it up to some type of blower system (meaning during a power outage you have no heat - and having heat during an outage was the whole reason I wanted to go with wood) or get multiple wood stoves for each level of the home. You can't use an existing chimney that something else (like oil furnace or fireplace) goes into unless it is a two-flue chimney, and each wood stove must have its own chimney, no more than one wood stove per chimney even if the chimney has more than one flue. You have to get multiple contractors involved - a mason to build the chimney(s), someone to install some special slab for the stove to sit on, then the wood stove installer to put everything certain distances from everything else. And if it's not done to code you can't get homeowners insurance.

If you aren't worried about outages you can get a pellet stove that will provide central heat but pellet prices can fluctuate a lot. You don't have the flexibility to burn whatever wood you can find that you would with a "regular" wood stove.

3-23-11, 12:04am
Have you considered propane? There's the standard furnaces with blowers, and you can even get backup-type units that don't require electricity.