How Much Money Can I Save Using Wood vs. Electric Heat?

There are many varieties of clean-burning wood stoves available.

There are many varieties of clean-burning wood stoves available.

Of all the options available for keeping your house warm, electric heaters are among the most expensive, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. With the new generation of clean-burning wood and pellet stoves available, switching to wood heat might sound attractive. Before you cozy up to the idea, be prepared: How much money you save depends on several factors.

Location

The closer you live to a city, the harder and more expensive it will be for you to heat using wood. Firewood is cheaper to acquire if you have the resources to harvest, cut and haul it yourself. Chainsaws use about a half-gallon of fuel per cord of wood, compared with the average cost of buying one cord already cut at $150 to $300 as of 2011, according to The Wood Heat Organization. Wood pellets are purchased by 40-pound bags costing $3 to $4 each, which works out to about $120 to $300 per ton. The average homeowner using a pellet appliance goes through 2 to 3 tons of pellets per year, according to the Department of Energy, as of publication.

Stove Choice

One of the biggest factors to consider when heating with wood is the purchase of your system. More important than the cost of the stove is the size -- choose a model that fits the space to be heated. Talk to a reputable dealer and ask for the newest models certified by the Environmental Protection Agency, which will give you the greatest efficiency with the least pollution. Traditional wood stoves are the least costly, ranging from $376 to $1,000, as of publication. Pellet fuel appliances cost between $1,700 to $3,000 but are more convenient to operate and produce little air pollution, making them suitable for apartments and condominiums.

Installation and Maintenance

Pellet appliances don’t require extensive ventilation or big chimneys and will be less costly to install than your wood stove. Compared with lugging around wood logs, they are also cleaner to operate and produce much less creosote -- the build-up of flammable chimney deposits. This does make maintenance easier, though all wood-burning systems should have their chimneys inspected once a year by a certified chimney sweep. Pellet systems also have expensive parts such as fans, controls and pellet feeders that require electricity to run and may need replacing.

Lifestyle

It's easy to overlook the cost of your time associated with wood heating. There are many chores you never have to think about when relying on electric, including removing ashes and building the fires. If you want to leave home during the winter months, you might have to make special arrangements if relying solely on wood, and even if you buy your firewood, it will still have to be stacked, dried and hauled into your house. These considerations might not be a problem for you depending on your lifestyle, as many people enjoy the multiple benefits they get from doing these chores.

 

About the Author

For more than 10 years, Carol Butler has run a small, off-grid furniture business with her husband and is a regular contributor to the Edible community of magazines. As staff writer for RichLife Advisors, she covers financial planning and other industry-related topics. She holds a B.F.A. in theater arts.

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