Chronicling the cleanup and restoration of our house and property in northern Michigan

Chronicling the cleanup and restoration of our house and property in northern Michigan

Monday, April 7, 2014

Three Year Boiler Follow up

As we're winding down on our third season with our wood fired boiler I thought I would share some observations with you all.  First, if you're wondering "What's a wood fired boiler?" here is a blog post that gives the down and dirty details on our boiler.  How It Works: Wood Boiler Edition

We had our boiler installed in November of 2011 after researching several options. If you would like to see the options we looked at and why we chose the wood fired boiler, check out this post...A Heated Topic.  We had some money from the sale of our home in Ohio, and we were looking to make as large of an impact as possible with it.  Looking at the costs of heating with LP, we knew that addressing the heating system was a good place to target.  We had just paid to have our thousand gallon LP tank filled...THUD!

Our expectation at the time, based on the cost of running our existing LP boiler vs. the anticipated operating costs of the wood boiler, was that we would see a return on our investment within 4 years.  That first season we were able to burn mostly dead fall off of our property.  The next two seasons we've burned delivered pulp hardwood.

Each load of pulp wood is ten cord of 8' hardwood logs, and we're finding that we're burning five-six cord per season.  With adding some dead fall from the property, we're using just half of each ten cord load of pulp wood per season.  A load costs us $800, so we're spending only $400 per heating season for fuel.  Something to keep in mind, our heating season up here is six months long and temps get down below zero when we're deep into winter.  On the generous side for other costs, add in about $100 for gas for the chainsaw, annual door gasket replacement, etc...and we're looking at just $500 in operating cost for the six month long heating season.  That doesn't sound too bad, does it?  Here is where it really starts to sound good.  Depending on the cost of LP, we could have been spending anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 per season.

The boiler and installation cost us roughly $12,000...with another $1,200 for the carport/wood shed.  Some simple math told us that we stood a very good shot at our estimated four year return on investment.  One thing we didn't expect were the HUGE jumps in LP costs this year.  With this year's price of LP factored in, we hit our ROI before the end of this...our third season.  Here's another cool thing.  The boiler has a 25 year warranty.  That means that it has paid for itself 22 years before the warranty will expire.  WINNING!  I can't think of any appliance that provides this speedy of a ROI with this length of a warranty.

There is a price to be paid to achieve these savings...and it's all in labor.  All of that wood has to be cut, split, and stacked.  Every day the boiler has to be stoked twice per day...once first thing in the morning, and again just at bedtime.  Every two weeks the ash in the fire box needs to be emptied.  Twice a season the water must be tested...similarly to testing pool chemicals.  Once per season the door gasket has to be changed.  At the end of the season any creosote build up has to be removed from the inside of the fire box, the walls of the fire box oiled, and the chimney swept and capped.

However, our labor to run the wood boiler has realized a savings of over $12,000 in three years.  Cutting and stacking the wood?  That's a few weekends of work, and we could use the exercise.  Stoking the boiler?  We have to let the dog out anyway.  The rest of it is just a day or two of work.  I'd say that we are being paid extremely well for our effort.  :)

Until next time!

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