woodstove vs electric

I have a woodstove as my primary source of heat (by choice) but my home is wired for electric heat.

I’m beginning to think that wood should not be used for primary heat, for a few reasons:

  1. Pollution in several forms:
    1. chainsaws running to cut wood, dripping toxic chainsaw grease all over sensitive forest lands and releasing CO2.
    2. trucks driving logs to various wood suppliers
    3. wood suppliers running more chainsaws to “junk up” the wood, then usually gas powered splitters all day long to split the wood.
    4. driving the truck full of wood to the homeowner
    5. homeowner has to stack all the wood and…in my case, uses a tractor to move it around. The homeowners labor requires increased food intake for energy, which again costs the environment in countless ways.

That on top of all winter having to keep topping up the stove, the chemicals that enter my living environment, the ash everywhere, the wood mold everywhere, etc.

Electric involves setting a temperature once a year. In my mind, the best thing one can do for the environment is encourage their local power company to go nuclear or other green energy sources, rather than trying to run their own power.

So…is all this do it yourself solar/wind/?? ultimately a fad and a distraction from a more realistic solution? It seems to me the best “power utopia” would be power coming from a variety of optimized local resources and regulated/distributed by a publicly controlled entity.

So therin is the debate: Which is better for the environment, a strictly controlled public utility or all homeowners making their own power?

Because electrical energy is mostly generated from fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuel releases carbon that has been sequestered for millions of years, and would have remained out of the biosphere virtually forever otherwise. Wood fuel burns carbon that was only recently in the atmosphere, and would have returned to the atmosphere in any case, when the wood decomposed in nature. Wood fuel does not contribute to the greenhouse gas problem; fossil fuels do.

I saw the Texas toxic chainsaw grease massacre last night, and it scared the crap outta me I’ll tell you.

Well, I agree that fossil fuels are an issue, but rather than spending time, effort and significant amounts of money on an elaborate wind, solar, and wood based home energy system, is it not better to use your time, effort, and perhaps funds to put pressure on the power companies to switch to renewable energy sources? Where I’m from, approximately 20% of the power generated by the local power company comes from either hydro, biomass, wind, or tidal.

Along this line, I also am wondering if it is more environmentally effective to hook wind generators on your property right up to the grid rather than trying to store the energy to use it yourself later.

The downside of this in my particular area is the fact that the power company wont buy back power from everyone who gets their meter spinning backwards. There’s no incentive.

Anyway, it just seems like the ultimate argument of the “green” fanatics is the paranoia factor of the grid going down, or oil jumping to 5,000 a barrel or whatever, and the mentality of setting up your underground concrete bunker. I personally think that the environmental issue is something we all need to solve together in a corporate (group based) way.

I’d guess it depends largely on how one’s getting the fuel. Certainly it would be a lot less efficient for most suburban homeowners, say, to get loads of logs trucked in to be burned in their individual woodstoves than to get electricity sent over existing power lines.

If, on the other hand, you can run your stove mostly or entirely over scrap wood/forest litter available close to your home, and if your stove is one of the new highly efficient low-particle-emissions models, then it might be more efficient to use the stove instead of electric heat.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of centralized vs. decentralized energy generation. For some people (often those in less densely populated areas with immediate access to abundant sources of renewable energy), being off the grid makes economic/environmental sense. For others, a better bet is to get energy from the grid while shifting the grid towards more renewable energy generation, e.g., by buying green tags.

In your case, it sounds as though you’re getting somewhat sick of the upkeep a woodstove heating system requires, not to mention the wood ash and wood mold. You might as well switch systems and invest your time and effort instead in some other kind of sustainability initiative.

Maybe this could be your new cause!

I live on 6 acres of hardwood forest, and have another wood lot down the road that is many more acres. Ive taken trees that fell on my land, hired someone to cut them up with a chainsaw, dragged the wood up to my woodshed, and rented a splitter to split it all. I would be considered to be a person in the optimal spot for burning wood, but I STILL dont think its even close to economical…

Im certainly considering this as a cause!

Wood vs gas energy cost calculator.
While it lets you compare lots of different types of stives nd furnaces, it’s useless to me because I have no idea how much wood costs per cord, or how many cords I could harvest per year from an acre of woodland.

Power companies respond to market forces, not well-meaning suggestions from the public. When the price of fossil fuels rises above green fuel sources, we will see widespread use of wind, solar and biomass fuels by commercial power generation stations. But since they are for he most part public companies, to do otherwise would not please the stockholders.

If you have resistance electric heating I think when you get your first heating season electric bill you will be wishing you stockpiled wood.

But besides that I remember reading that if you cut and split a cord of wood yourself it cost $10 - this includes the gas for the saws and splitters, as well as the use of the tools. That being said lets assume that the entire $10 just went to fuel costs. Now which would give you more heat, a cord of wood or $10 worth of fuel.

Now as for the oil dripped on the wood, that wood is burnt, same as the power plant except for polution controls, but a good wood stove does get up to a nice tempature and should be able to extract energy from that oil as well as converting much of that oil to water and CO2. For dripping on the forest floor, I really don’t see it as that bad as long as it’s in very small amounts, and that oil did come from nature in the first place.

well…according to that calculator, my $.08 per KWH vs an average cost of $150 per cord (felled, cut into 16" lengths, split, stored, and dried, but I still have to stack it) is

$.23 per 100,000 BTU’s in electric
$1.11 per 100,000 BTU’s in wood.

even if I get the wood for free, my time at $5.00 per hour is more than $150 per cord.

All I can say is … wow. Wood burning is for the rich.

OH…and I almost forgot, wood heat is extremely difficult to control. You cant just turn it on or off, you are either roasted out of the house, or waiting a few hours for it to warm up.

And that on top of the endless stacking, splitting, fire preparation, starting, breathing in CO2 in the house, ashes and wood particles all over the house…floors…dry heat splitting everything…

wow…Im going to end up living in the country with a woodstove and never use it except on special occasions or in emergencies!

Also, in order for Electric to be as expensive as wood, the cost would have to get to $.45 per KWH, which would probably never happen because if oil got expensive enough, it seems as though the alternative ways of getting energy would become that much more appealing.

I still cant believe its 5 times more expensive NOT including all the labour. Wow.

There is something screwy with that calculator, try this one.

And if you get electricity for .08/KWH, consider yourself lucky. In New Hampshire, I'm paying .14/KWH.

This bit of calculation always drives me nuts. Your time (or anyone’s time) is only worth $xxx/hour if they are forgoing a paying job to do what ever the activity is.

I sleep about 8hrs/night. Does it cost me 8x$20 to sleep each night? Nope. Wasn’t going to work then.
If I watch TV in the evening, am I paying 2x$20 to do it? Nope. Wasn’t going to work then either.
Now, if I pass up on a day of work in order to go boating, then I might have a case to say it’s costing me 8x$20 in time to do that.

Your line of reasoning is correct. When you work with wood, you HAVE to be 100% alert (not hungry…not tired, peak health etc) or you will lose a finger/eye etc. During the time I am 100% alert, I have two kinds of activities in general, one is playing and one is working. Hopefully when I am working, I am generating some kind of long term value to cover me for the times I am playing/sleeping/eating etc.

Now if you consider hauling and splitting wood “fun” then you’re all set. I certainly dont mind doing it occasionally, perhaps even once or twice a week, but the requirement is much higher than that in order to replace other heating alternatives.

Im sure you can put any “spin” on any calculator.

The first one doesnt appear to be as potentially biased as one from the “Pellet Fuel institute”, which seems to always calculate pellet fuel as the least expensive energy alternative…go figure.

The first calculator in this thread also has a lot more explaination about the theory behind the calculation. The Pellet fuel one just says “national average”

mrrealtime it appers like you are looking for a reason to switch beyond you are fed up with wood heat.

Well if you are fed up, that is a good enough reason for me, but don’t pretend it’s going to be cheaper then make a excuse that the calculator is biased or wood heat is not environmentally friendly because of a few drops of oil, just say ‘Hey I don’t want to use wood heat, I’m going to use electric’, well don’t say it just do it.

So much depends on the efficiency of your wood-burning appliance. If you have an old-fashioned fireplace, most of the heat goes out the chimney. If you have a newfangled wood stove that burns efficiently and even has a catalytic converter, the equation, both as to money and pollution, will work a little better.

It strikes me that the big difference between electricity and wood stoves is that for the former, you get massive economies of scale, whereas for the latter you don’t.

How about this; yopu have an array of solar panels on your roof-they feed directly into a resistance heater. No batteries, no complicated invereters , etc. You might actually use the resiatnce heaters to heat a large tank of water 9heat storage for the night). Would this be a good way to heat your house? No moving parts, very simple?

Hmm …

I would install a large oil tank, and get oil based heating - a ruddy great Aga

Wood stoves can be a bit of a nightmare to feed, although they are aesthetically pleasing.

Handling the wood can be a bit of a PITA, the last time I did it was January this year when I visited a friend of mine in France - it was quite gratifying feeling the muscle returning.

IIRC the cost per cord was about $100 - and a cord was three tractor scoops.

Personally I would have as many sources of heating as possible, and I really would not worry about CO2 - if it is a problem then we are in for some global warming, but the smarter ones reckon that DiHydrogen Monoxide is a lot more ‘greenhouse gassish’ and anyway greenhouses don’t work like that.

Any conservation efforts that you make will be offset by 1.3 Billion Chinese.

Also no heat. Solar electric generation is still not very efficient (14-16% for commercially available panels), and neither is resistance heating. The net result from your investment might heat your tea. A better idea is a solar thermal collector (such as a water heater), or passive solar wall.