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Wood vs pellets?

Discussion in 'Firewood, Heating and Wood Burning Equipment' started by alderman, Aug 16, 2008.

  1. alderman

    alderman Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Is there a ballpark figure on how much a cord of wood weighs? Would a ton of fire wood produce the same amount of heat as a ton on pellets if stove efficiency could be made equal?
     
  2. redprospector

    redprospector Addicted to ArboristSite

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    There's a lot of variance in how different woods burn, but I've heard that a ton of pellets is supposed to be pretty close to a cord of wood when planning for the winter.

    Andy
     
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  3. KsWoodsMan

    KsWoodsMan Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I was thinking it was closer to 1:1 pellets versus dry wood by weight. Pellets having a bit of advantage because of lower moisture content.

    Most hard woods will have 20 to 30 million BTUs per cord and weight 2 tons to 2 1/2 tons or more per cord.

    I looked at it like I would be paying for the covienence not the additional BTUs. Since Pellets have a BTU content of approx. 14 milion BTU's per ton I dont see anything gained for heat produced. Only that it is easier to fill a hopper and has reduced cleanup.

    One way or the other it is made from wood. Someone has to process, haul and store it. By burning the firewood I cut out a few steps and a middleman or two in the process.

    Edit: The efficiency of the stove in question is one fact that is in their advantage. If you recover twice the heat from pellets than you do from cord wood they start looking better and better. Pellet stoves IIRC are closer to 85% efficient instead of wood being 35% efficient in a traditional wood stove.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2008
  4. Locoweed

    Locoweed AboristSite Guru

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    Where did you get the 35% figure?

    My Regency is listed at 70%
     
  5. KsWoodsMan

    KsWoodsMan Addicted to ArboristSite

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    How "traditional" is your Regency ?

    And which method was used to test its efficiency

    From http://www.motherearthnews.com/Natu...ove-Efficiency-and-Emissions-1984.aspx?page=4
    From http://chimneysweeponline.com/wscompe.htm
    From http://www.woodheat.org/technology/outboiler.htm
    Many maufacturers claims can be rather optimistic compared to real world use. And why not, they want you to buy it. What I was reffering to was a non-exempt 'airtight' type that may have a very low combustion efficiency but a high heat transfer efficiency. You know the ones , the smoke belching, wood eating fireboxes of yesteryear. Lots of heat, big appetite and bigger fireboxes for longer burn times.

    My take on wood burning is :
    Fireplaces = 0 - 15% overall efficiency
    non exempt OWB = 20 - 40% overall efficiency
    nonexempt wood stoves = 25 - 45% overall effeciency
    catalytic EPA certified stoves = upto 65 -70 % overall efficiency initially, degrading over time.
    noncatalytic EPA certified 70 -80% overall efficiency

    Maybe I wasn't optimistic enough for a traditional smoke belcher I doubt I was far from wrong though.
    The point I wanted to add when I added the edit was that the newer corn/pellt stoves are going to be more efficient when compared to a non-exempt wood burner that most are familiar with. So initially I didputed the 2:1 ratio offered by RedProspector but changed my mind after a bit od thought when thinking about worst case and best case scenarios between wood versus pellets. Id say a ton of pellets in a good stove comopared to a non-exempt wood eater to be quite accurate.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2008
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  6. danrclem

    danrclem Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Have any idea where a Fisher stoves would stand in the efficiency ratings? Mine is a Grandpa Bear (I think) bought new in the early 80's. It seems to do really good and holds heat all night.
     
  7. KsWoodsMan

    KsWoodsMan Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I wouldnt have a clue. I'm not familiar in the least with it. I wouldnt really want to guess either. If it was a catalytic type and hasnt had the honeycomb replaced it probably isn't going to be better than a traditional or non-EPA wood burner. Which really isnt a bad thing, It works right ?

    Hopefully someone with more specific knowledge of your woodstove might chime in.

    In the 80's I don't think the overall efficiency was a primary concern where as total output and burn duration was. Seems like part of the tradeoff to efficiency, in a managable size, is burntime or size of combustion chamber.
     
  8. logbutcher

    logbutcher Banned

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    Pellet stoves have a cache to them now: supposedly cleaner, easier to use, less fuss and mess indoors. In the programs we run for wood heat, pellet stoves are not recommended except for the infirm or elderly.

    Here's why:
    1. The mechanisms to burn the pellets - motor, hopper, filters - need to be maintained many times over a winter. The reliability of many pellet stoves for 24/7 heating is questionable from dealers' experience.
    2. Pellet supply and cost. Last winter the cost went up, suppliers ran out.
    3. Noise of those pellets rattling around, motor and usual blower. Not much romance in a grinding, rattling hopper You do need romance, don't you? :monkey:
    4. Less heat from a similar sized pellet stove compared to a wood stove.
    5. Power outage = no stove without a specific backup for the pellet stove.
    6. Not a pretty flame. :confused:
    7. Finally, for the Gang Greens among us: pellets take power/energy to manufacture. Kind of takes the sustainablity out of the pellet bag. :dizzy:
     
  9. Hugenpoet

    Hugenpoet Addicted to ArboristSite

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    +1 Most of the new "EPA" stoves are in that range. My Jotul Oslos are listed at 73%, and some other manufacturers are around 75%, which is getting a lot closer to the 85-90% of the new oil and gas units.
     
  10. Zodiac45

    Zodiac45 Paleostoveologist & Sawwhisperer

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    I'll stick too wood versus pellets till I can no longer cut and process my own wood. I just don't like the idea of being tied too a manufactured fuel source that could (due too the the greed factor) increase at any time in price. It's just a personal thing but I like the fact that I am out in the woods collecting and processing the wood for my winter heat.
    I'm probably a throw back too the hunter gatherer clans of old although I have a good sized garden (Agricultural age) too :clap: :cheers:
     
  11. BIG JAKE

    BIG JAKE AboristSite Guru

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    8. Pellet consistency in terms of wood types used in manufacture, and moisture content varies quality varies from manufacturers. I don't think this is a chronic issue as I haven't heard many complaints from pellet burners I know.

    A friend of mine got a bad batch of pellets last year and they didn't burn well. He said he had to clean his pellet stove off and on so it would burn optimally. Also, his blower bearings gave up the ghost during the third season so a new blower was 160.00 US. This after blowing around 100 bones rebuilding the old one first, but then it had vibration noise-gave up on it.
    I burn a woodstove as I have total control over wood types I burn, and seasoning of the wood, no middleman or cost fluctuation other than fuel cost to haul.
    Agree with what logbutcher said he pretty much covered it.
    That said, you can't beat the convenience of a pellet stove as far as load/hopper burn times, etc. Depends on your needs really, but also firewood availability and typical costs(area dependent). I have many areas including my own land where I can choose to cut for pretty much cost of fuel to haul it. May not be that way in many areas of the country.
    Woodstoves are a labor intensive proposition-all aspects. Can't beat the comfort and aesthetics though. Just depends on what your needs are.
     
  12. danrclem

    danrclem Addicted to ArboristSite

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    That's the way that I feel about it also. I like being self sufficient and depending on others (especially the government) as little as possible.

    I'd like to raise a big garden but the deer and rabbits would like it also. I might try an electric fence in the future.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2008
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  13. saw mutt

    saw mutt ArboristSite Lurker

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    I have a friend that has a pellet stove, and they tried to "pre-order" pellets for this winter. Seems that there is a supposed shortage in this area, and although the dealer took his money, he's not sure when they will be available.
     
  14. Wet1

    Wet1 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    I've done/do both. I can tell you this, if I had to pay street prices for cord wood, I'd never burn another log the rest of my life! Other than the fact that wood burning is nice to look at and it doesn't require electricity (which has been a non-factor for all but 4 hours of the 8 years I've burned pellets), burning pellets requires so much less effort.

    Pellets are typically slightly more expensive, but they are so easy, clean, and require far less fuss compared to burning wood. All I basically have to do is add a bag of pellets once a day or so, empty the ash pan every month, and then clean out the stove and vent at the end of each season. No waking up or coming home to a cold house or constant feeding the fire/tending to the ashes. No bugs or dirt, no major headaches... just set the thermostat and toss in a bag every day.


    Don't get me wrong, I like felling trees and bucking wood, but there's some damn nice merits to burning pellets as well.
     
  15. woodbooga

    woodbooga cords of mystic memory

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    Ditto, as well as zodiac's hunter-gatherer insight.

    Thought this link might be of interest to woodheaters. It's an essay exploring the personal relationship that wood burners have with their fuel.
     
  16. 046

    046 Addicted to ArboristSite

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    NO WAY... I'd even consider pellets!

    all you'd be doing is trading paying your natual gas/oil/electric utilities with a pellet supplier.

    processing wood... I'm in control of my own costs... wood may be free... but the labor/equipment is not.

    but it's amazing how fast your equipment gets paid for by not having say... a natural gas bill. (do have a min $22 per month for water heater) also like having natural gas there for a backup.
     
  17. ray benson

    ray benson Tree Freak

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    Seems like an awful lot more cutting to make pellets instead of firewood.;)
     
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  18. alderman

    alderman Addicted to ArboristSite

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    Why I asked

    I started this thread to try and determine which was a better deal, a ton of wood or a ton of pellets as far as cost per btu. Seems like the cost for firewood should run comparable to the same heat value cost of pellets.

    With the wood stove our all electric utilities seldom approaches $100 a month.
    We are fortunate to live in an area of the country where electricity is real cheap. It funny because in the summer I often pay more for water than electricity. I'll keep cuttin' wood until I can't.
     
  19. tatra805

    tatra805 ArboristSite Operative

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    posted this before but

    regardless of BTU and pricing of pellets

    What is the cost of the installation for an automated pellet burner, storage, conveyor etc versus a wood burner or a gas installation.

    We did the math when building last year and overhere you just come to a writeoff of 30 years and a 6 times bigger investment compared to gas IF pellet pricing does not go up and no repairs are needed.

    The installation has a 10 year warranty on the burning chamber.

    Pellets are not a by-product so production and pricing will follow the market which is dictated by the big suppliers: gas and electricity.

    Another possibility are woodchips (even harder to define quality or BTU)

    Where these were a by-product in the last years they also became an own market nicely set and coupled to the classic energy pricing.
    It is even near impossible to buy chips for other purposes at waste-price. (eg our horse paddock)

    Alternative heating is booming but not everybody is calculating and the middlemen are having a good time.
     

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