There is of course no ONE way and no ONE solution to using less energy.
I invite you to send me your stories about what you are doing.
Here is Tom’s. What is new here is Tom’s choice of a Pellet Boiler. Something like this will be used as an experiment in the French School on PEI. So keeping up with Tom is a good foretaste of how our schools might be heated. It’s also not a system seen here on PEI yet for residential and it will be great to follow Tom and Gail over the winter and see how it works.
Rob Paterson and I have a healthy back and forth. He, the veritable “Doctor of Doom and Gloom” and I, the “Flower-Sniffing Eternal Optimist”. We both like to think the truth lies in the middle I imagine… Perhaps that’s just optimism too.
And so on.
But of all of Rob’s great advice and commentary – yeah, most goes in one ear and out the other – there was one thing he discussed that rang with clear resonance, clear enough to cut through the ever-present thick fog of this fairyland optimist: that was his admonishments about “peak oil”.
Woe… Peak Oil.
The owners of a typical two-story, 2000 square foot house, situated in picturesque Eastern Connecticut, my wife Gail and I have had the increasingly unhappy choir of filling the 250 gallon fuel oil tank that feeds the oil-fired boiler in the basement. Not ten years ago, we were paying 55 cents per gallon for heating oil. My last fill-up at US $4.35 per gallon.
Rob was right; oil was getting in short supply… Soon, we’d see this so called peak oil thing. Indeed, it was time to revisit home-heating.
To make a long story short (blogs by definition must be short stories) I ultimately purchased the Maxim 250 pellet boiler. I decided on this system for the following reasons:
– Fully enclosed and insulated, it can be set-up outside, with just the piping run indoors. Essentially two pipes, both are freeze resistant and encased in insulating material; the pipes consequently need not be buried below the frost line.
– Pellet-fired stoves and boilers vary in efficiency. The Maxim 250 is rated as 95% efficient.
– The Maxim 250 is capable of heating upwards of 3000 square feet of living space, including the accommodation for multiple buildings. Maxim also makes a smaller unit, the Maxim 175.
– Any pellet will fire in the Maxim… Corn, wood of any kind, even cherry-pits. It makes no difference since the temperature is computer controlled.
– As I mentioned above, water is maintained at a constant temperature. This, by an onboard computer that automatically feeds the pellets into the fire box at the proper rate. Incidentally, some pellets burn hotter and slower than others – hence the need for temperature control.
– I’m configuring my new pellet boiler to work with a heat exchanger that will pre-heat the water that’s fed into my oil-fired boiler. When properly set, the pellet boiler will keep the water hot enough to preclude the oil-burner from firing. If the pellet boiler ever fails – no problem; the oil burner will start as it would normally. The device can configured for all the usual heating applications such as, forced hot air, radiant heat, and so on.
That’s it for the device… Now the metrics.
– We estimated that it would cost $4000 to heat the house with oil this winter. That assumes oil prices remained in the $4.00 per gallon range, we experience a normal winter, and we heat the house to temperatures as is our custom.
– Based on the current price of pellets, and in consultation with the pellet stove dealer who sold me the device, we estimated that we would use approximately $750.00 pellets, not only for the winter, but for an entire year. Here’s a link to a calculator that helps calculate savings based on existing heating and hot water costs.
– The boiler costs $8500 delivered, and with installation, we expect to have invested $9,200. Here’s a link to a quick video that describes the system set-up.
Here are a few other options I considered.
– Pellet stoves… This was my first idea. The prices range from $2500-$5000 depending on capacity and so forth. In the end, you end up with a convection hot air system that dries out the air, creates drafts (as it pulls in fresh air from outside). And a fire source inside the house.
– Word burning boilers. Vastly inefficient and just as costly, these systems pollute the neighborhood and require stacks of cord-wood in your yard. Moreover, keeping these systems stoked takes time and effort. On the bright side – they’re the cheapest option ($850-$3500). Here’s a link to a number of outdoor wood boilers. A little less money to buy, perhaps more expensive to fuel.
– Electric Heat… Operating costs seem lock-stepped with oil… What would be the point.
– Geothermal… I read something on Rob’s Blog about up and coming Geothermal. It looks rather promising, but requires lots of deep trenches to fit huge arrays of cooling pipes. Nah. Too much of a science project for me.
Seth Godin wrote in his blog the other day, that sometimes fixing one thing makes all the difference. He went on to opine how one company could make some changes to its customer service, how another needs to work on its waiting times and lastly, Joe Biden needs to work on his brevity…
I thought if I could fix one thing at home, it would not be purchasing a hybrid car, getting a solar array or installing a wind farm – it would be this pellet furnace. Just knowing that I wont be sending $4000 dollars to the middle east this year is indeed a comfort.
PS Neither Tom or I have any interest in Maxim – this blog will be frank about products and services but is not in any way connected to any other than as fellow users