High-efficiency Wood Stoves: Cost & Savings
Last weekend, we got about 6 inches of snow at our house. My husband, like any respectable energy efficiency nut, wasted no time in breaking out his precious spray foam and foam board (recycled packaging, of course). He blocked out windows in our back bedrooms and sprayed foam into any nook and cranny that dared to leak air into the house. I even woke up one frosty morning to find all of our couch cushions stacked into our huge picture window. I don’t even bat an eye anymore. Seriously, this is just another day living with Ed.
We don’t always see eye to eye on these crazy projects, but there was one change we were both excited to make: swapping out our natural gas fireplace for a high efficiency wood stove insert. In this post, I’ll break down the costs and savings, as well as provide a few details about what is involved in a switch like this.
We knew as soon as we bought the house that getting a wood-burning stove would be near the top of our to-do list. The house had a gas fireplace with a wood-stove compatible chimney chase. Not every gas fireplace would be a simple conversion; it must meet certain requirements. Check with your local building permit office for more details on this.
Our first step was to take measurements of our space and decide what we wanted in a wood stove. We stopped at a few stove stores (many sell used) and scanned several websites so we had a good idea of the styles, options, and price points available.
Ultimately, we landed on Craigslist. I was actually surprised at the number of Craigslist ads that fit our search. My guess? Many people are converting to natural gas fireplaces. Different strokes for different folks. We pursued a few listings before finding the perfect fit, an Osburn 2200. New, this stove would cost around $2,200.00. We purchased ours for $450. It was in sad shape, having been stored outside for over a year. My smartypants husband looked past the rust, paid cash, and heaved it into the car.
Next up, getting a permit. To meet code, you’ll need to apply for a permit and have an inspection after you install a wood stove. Our county has an $85 minimum for all mechanical permits, so we decided to apply for two projects at the same time: installing a wood stove and replacing our water heater. The total came to $95. The wood stove permit alone would have been around $93. This will differ by county so check with yours for accurate prices.
My husband found a sandblasting service in the online yellow pages. For $80, the man picked up our (heavy!) stove, sandblasted all the rust off it, and returned it to our house within four days. Ed took it to work and painted it with High-Heat Spray Paint. We also purchased a new door seal kit from a local farm-supply store and Insulated Stove Pipe from Amazon and Craigslist.
We built out our hearth to meet code (minimum 16″ from front of door). We matched the small tile that was currently installed and chose clearance tile for the hearth section, so this was an incredibly inexpensive addition. Then we installed the like-new stove and stovepipe. Schedule an inspection with the county. Done.
We fired it up for the first time on Christmas Eve. My husband finished the final steps minutes before our first guests arrived for dinner. Our wood stove has been going strong ever since. We even completely turned off our furnace!
And the savings? $139 in the first month alone. Our natural gas bill, using our forced air furnace, for December was $168.75 (the previous owners were closer to $250/month). Our heating bill for January was $36.24. Obviously the savings will decrease as the months get warmer, but we are really happy with the return we are already getting on this long-term investment.
So, here’s the breakdown of what we spent for our wood stove installation:
Wood stove installation permit: $93
Used wood-stove: $450
Used & new stove pipe: $315
Door seal kit: $20
Sandblasting & high-heat paint: $120
Grand total: $998
While many see a wood stove as more work (it is!), it is more than worth it to us, both from a savings and a satisfaction standpoint. We love the look and heat and savings of a wood-burning stove. Since we normally heat our home 8-9 months out of the year, our wood stove will pay for itself in just over a year while heating our home for years and years to come.
Hey, Ed! I need one of these Black Canvas Fireplace Log Totes (Amazon). Paired with clogs, corduroy slacks, and a cream-colored cable knit sweater, I would look like I just stepped out of an LL Bean catalog. Running out in the rain wearing wearing my usual wood-gathering attire of yoga pants, fleece jacket, and flip flops, would produce a slightly less stellar look, but I’d still get the job done.
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