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Replacing Oil Heat

 
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I am planning to buy a house in a more urban area of the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., and a property I am interested in is great except that it uses oil for heat. Philosophically I do not want to burn oil for heat, and financially I do not want to be dependent on such a volatile commodity for such an essential need. I plan to weatherize whatever house I buy, but I'll still need heat.

What would be the most cost-effective way to provide an alternative heating source? I love the idea of a wood stove, but I am nervous about having an adequate supply of fuel without my own woodlot. Ditto for RMHs.

What are my alternatives to the existing oil heat system?
 
pollinator
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Angel Hunt wrote:
What would be the most cost-effective way to provide an alternative heating source? I love the idea of a wood stove, but I am nervous about having an adequate supply of fuel without my own woodlot. Ditto for RMHs.

.....

Why throw the baby out with the bathwater?......You could use both oil *and* wood!

https://woodstovepro.com/furnaces/wood-furnaces/napoleon-hybrid-150-triple-fuel-combination-furnace-hmf150/
 
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I agree with John above .....and super insulate.
 
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are many people on wood heat around you? as far as ease of use goes, buying wood can be not much more complicated than buying oil, at least until you’ve got your own source sorted.
 
pollinator
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John Weiland wrote:Why throw the baby out with the bathwater?......You could use both oil *and* wood


Those are my thoughts as well.  Either way, the energy will have to come from somewhere offsite. If you don't have access to a woodlot, note that a talented scrounge can harvest massive amounts of wood from the urban discard woodlot. It tends to be pallets rather than lovely seasoned hardwood, at least until you get to know the local arborist. You will need space to store a largish wood pile as well -- this year's dry wood, and next year's green wood that is seasoning.

Wood stoves are wonderful, but in freezing weather someone must be there to periodically feed them. Oil heat as a backup gives you the freedom to leave the house for a long time if you need to, without worrying if the pipes will burst. Insurance may insist on a backup heat source to your wood stove.

There is an upfront cost -- high efficiency wood stoves are not cheap; nor is the piping and installation. Check with your insurance company to make sure you can get coverage (usually for an extra fee) and what their requirements are for installation and inspection.

Luck!
 
Angel Hunt
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Thanks for the comments. This might just be a deal-breaker for me. I do not want to have to worry about sourcing both oil and wood on my limited future income.
 
pollinator
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I would also check to see what regulations are in place re wood burning.  I know Denver will have days where it is banned due to smog levels or other weather conditions.  
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Angel Hunt wrote:Thanks for the comments. This might just be a deal-breaker for me. I do not want to have to worry about sourcing both oil and wood on my limited future income.


What's the climate in the area you're considering? How cold does it get? If it's quite mild, a wood stove may be enough by itself. You would have the oil burner but that doesn't mean you have to use it, just test fire it before the cold season.
 
pollinator
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What is the climate like where you are considering and how modern is the house? I would invest in retrofitting the house for efficiency and if there is a fairly reliable source of power I would suggest a heat pump addition to your oil based furnace. You could add on a heat pump element and keep the oil as a back up as you transition and gain confidence in it. A heat pump added on would allow you to take advantage of the existing heating infrastructure saving some hassle as well  While wood is a great option if you have your own supply If you don't you will just be swapping one commodity for another. Just because it's wood does not mean that it is sustainably harvested or stable in price or availability
Cheers,. David
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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What about a wood pellet stove? Easier to install and operates with a thermostat. Since it sounds like you would buy firewood anyway (instead of processing it yourself) why not pay for pellets instead?
 
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The structural aspects of the house are also going to dictate the expense of adding a woodstove.  What you will actually find is that stoves are rather inexpensive, but it will be the chimney pipe that far exceeds the costs of your stoves.  In most areas pipe passing through a ceiling, or the roof now requires triple-wall chimney pipe to stay within code.  Because you are in an urban area, I assume there will be permits, inspections, and installation by a licensed professional, which will all add significantly to the cost.  For myself, I am a remote area, and I just bought the materials online, cut the hole in the roof myself and did self-installation.

In both cases though I have 800$ worth of chimney on 300-500$ stoves.

Here's a site where you can look at installation kits, and a general idea on how to conform to code.
https://www.northlineexpress.com/chimney.html
 
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A word about scrounging firewood for an RMH in an urban setting.  Every year going towards Fall, our community gathers all of its tree trimmings and sets them out by the road for the Township workers to process into wood chips, which are then put in a pile and doled out to the community on free of charge.  Sometimes I will drive by a row of homes and see literally tons of small diameter wood.  Much of it straight and clean.  Just begging to be used to heat a home.  I think to myself if I just came by with my trailer and loaded it up, I could process it into short sections of RMH wood.  But alas, I have yet to build my dragon yet, so I don't gather it up.  Someday.  Soon.
 
John F Dean
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Hi Douglas,

Great idea. I realize that conditions vary according to location, but I have never paid for a used pallet.  In my area they are routinely given away.   There is a farm store 25 miles from me with several stacks of them in the parking lot with a “free” sign attached to them.
 
David Baillie
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John F Dean wrote:Hi Douglas,

Great idea. I realize that conditions vary according to location, but I have never paid for a used pallet.  In my area they are routinely given away.   There is a farm store 25 miles from me with several stacks of them in the parking lot with a “free” sign attached to them.


My only issue with relying on scrounged wood is it's a resource that exists only so long as most people do not use wood as their primary method of heating. As soon as energy prices spike up the supply of free wood disappears.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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David Baillie wrote:My only issue with relying on scrounged wood is it's a resource that exists only so long as most people do not use wood as their primary method of heating. As soon as energy prices spike up the supply of free wood disappears.


Agreed, I wouldn't rely on a "just-in-time" supply of free/scrap wood. It comes in waves. When I had a wood stove in my old house, I was burning wood that had been gathered three years earlier. For urban wood, a two-year rotation would likely provide an adequate buffer.
 
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