How I came to the decision to install a Biomass heater - (My Step #3)
I started off with a simple wood pellet stove which I installed myself in a previous home (~1750 sq ft) and loved how well it worked and I calculated it paid for itself in less than 2.5 years. It was simple to use, self lighting, auto feeding and reduced my oil usage dramatically while burning less than 40 lbs of wood pellets per day.
Paying off the installed cost of the stove while reducing my oil usage was a great outcome. However, my goal was to reduce my family's personal overall use of fossil fuel, while making my carbon footprint almost neutral. We still drive oil consuming cars, and buy our electrical power from the grid so getting to zero oil usage is really not realistic at this time.
Lifestyle Review (BE REALISTIC!)
Make a list of what you are willing to do in order to be Green- Start the list with I AM...
- willing to lift 100-120 40lb bags of wood pellets per heating season, and get dirty cleaning the furnace
- handy so I can repair things when they break (not many companies service biomass furnaces)
- ready to deal with two thermostat controls in the house, and will train others in the house what to do in an "emergency"...
- willing to smell a little wood or corn smoke in the house every once in a while after servicing my biomass furnace
- Many more, but you get the point - If you can't or don't want to deal with these issues -don't buy the system!
Background Home Information:
Biomass Furnace (cost ~$5500 installed):
- 1960's construction ~2500 square foot - center hall colonial style with brick exterior and some siding
- 10 plus year old thermal windows with R-13 (at best) fiberglass inside the walls, and R-13 attic insulation
- Blower door score of over 3600 CFM50 (air infiltration in cubic feet per minute @ 50 pascals pressure between outside and inside)
- 8 SEER Air Conditioning system - forced air and heat - duct work
- 10 year old Oil heater with basement oil storage tank
- $1500 average home heating season with oil @ $2.75 to $3.25 per gallon x 500 gallons = $1375 to $1625
- Solid Fuel - US made Wood pellets and Dried Corn - 2.5 tons per season at $250 per ton delivered/stacked in my garage
- Hard wood - PFI approved (pellet fuel Institute certified) wood pellets in 40lb recyclable poly bags
- Variable heat output from 80,000 BTU to 165,000 BTU
- Hopper holds about 15 bags of 40 lb wood pellets - 600 lbs or ten days heat
- Average usage of 1.25 bags per day (50 lbs/day / 5000lbs = 100 days of heat) +14 weeks - Thanksgiving to early March
- Wood and Corn (unlike coal) trap CO2 during the growing season, releasing it during combustion which is why the biomass furnaces and stoves are called "carbon neutral".
- I added the biomass (heat only) furnace to my high efficiency heat pump- house has two thermostats
- THE GOOD
- Fuel Cost Savings - 2.5 tons @ $250 ton = $625 versus $1500 for oil = $875 savings per year
- Carbon Neutral heating
- Robust Heat (high heat rise between return and delivery air warms room air quickly)
- US supply of fuel - pay farmers and lumber mills instead of people who don't like us...
- THE BAD
- You should clean you chimney once a year - $125 per year added cost
- Lifting 40lb bags of wood pellets from the garage to the basement hopper during all weather!
- One heating season produces around 5 gallons of ash and clinkers from 2.5 tons of pellets
- End of year cleaning out of system (VERY DIRTY JOB)
- Pre-buying all of your seasons heating at one time, and unloading all the bags and stacking
Biomass furnace thermostat Heat pump and Biomass units Heat Pump thermostat