Invest in solar panels and/or wood stove now or wait?

Joined
Aug 22, 2009
Messages
5,640
Location
Pittsburgh,PA U.S.A.
Years ago, the Boy-Scouts built a cabin for the local troops to use for the kids to sleep in by a popular trout stream. The cabin had a nice big fireplace with thick bars across the top for cooking. The fireplace was big, and one day some scouts built a really big fire in that fireplace and the chimney got hot enough to ignite the wood in the ceiling. That was enclosed and when by the time the fire was realized it was way too big to be put out. The building was a total loss, and it was less than one year old.
 
Joined
Sep 23, 2008
Messages
10,654
Location
Ontario, Canada
All good points but the previous owner of our house managed to have a chimney fire using a modern (and pretty good) woodstove and dry firewood as their main source of heat. Though obviously they didn't burn the house down.

I'm not a fan of chimney fires. There is the characteristic roar and the smell of creosote burning, followed (in the old days) by someone throwing salt or fire extinguisher powder in the stove, and if that didn't work, climbing onto the roof to quench it from on top. The whole neighbourhood came out to watch the sparks (and sometimes flames) of course. Though none of that was any fun for the homeowner.

My wife just reminded me that there was the annual taking down and cleaning of stovepipes (with some soot inevitably escaping) followed by washing and painting the walls. Modern woodstoves are much better than that, but heating with wood is still a messy and time consuming business.

I'm happy to use our heat pump as our regular source of heat and keep the woodstove (with its now spotless chimney) as the emergency back up.
Lower energy density wood is harder to burn at an ideal temperature, so often people burn it cooler than ideal to play it safe, which is what I assume lots of people do in BC. I've played around with burning softer woods, and found if I keep the pieces larger to reduce surface area they are OK in our stove, but its kind of tricky to do. The dense wood we have like hard maple, Oak, Beech, Ash(sort of) seem to be less prone to having the fire "run away" when burned hot and are preferred for a reason. With dense wood I can usually set the damper once after everything is going and its good until down to coals, then I'd close it up more.
 
Joined
Dec 21, 2009
Messages
726
Location
WPB, FL
You can play around with this calculator to get an idea of how much solar irradiance is available:

I would personally use https://pvwatts.nrel.gov/ instead.

In South Florida at least, buying solar is like going to a used car dealer they are all scummy, I had quotes at almost 5$/watt which is insane.

I am currently working with Project Solar for a 9.5kw system and I am at $2.58/watt before the 26% incentive.

The cost savings that is usually presented to you by a solar company is usually inflated(shocker). FPL for example had only increased rates by roughly 2% a year since 1994 except for this year they did jump up from .12/kwh to $.14/kwh. FPL and Duke are both going to minimum bills as well.

With all that said, I have put a sizable spreadsheet together based on the PVWatts data, 2% electricity cost rise, and a loan at a specified interest rate... based on all my estimates in 5 years my savings is $1600, 10 years 4100, 20 years 11.5k. Based on my power usage (13,000kwh/year) There is not huge amount of money to be had but they say it does improve the value if your home. If you had an EV and a larger system then there could potentially be larger savings involved.

At this point I am doing this as an experiment, but do note if you do not find a good price for your system you can wipe out the savings pretty easily.
 

OVERKILL

$100 Site Donor 2021
Joined
Apr 28, 2008
Messages
52,239
Location
Ontario, Canada
I would personally use https://pvwatts.nrel.gov/ instead.

In South Florida at least, buying solar is like going to a used car dealer they are all scummy, I had quotes at almost 5$/watt which is insane.

I am currently working with Project Solar for a 9.5kw system and I am at $2.58/watt before the 26% incentive.

The cost savings that is usually presented to you by a solar company is usually inflated(shocker). FPL for example had only increased rates by roughly 2% a year since 1994 except for this year they did jump up from .12/kwh to $.14/kwh. FPL and Duke are both going to minimum bills as well.

With all that said, I have put a sizable spreadsheet together based on the PVWatts data, 2% electricity cost rise, and a loan at a specified interest rate... based on all my estimates in 5 years my savings is $1600, 10 years 4100, 20 years 11.5k. Based on my power usage (13,000kwh/year) There is not huge amount of money to be had but they say it does improve the value if your home. If you had an EV and a larger system then there could potentially be larger savings involved.

At this point I am doing this as an experiment, but do note if you do not find a good price for your system you can wipe out the savings pretty easily.
Yes, and you are in Florida, which is a heck of a lot better for solar than PA :)
 
Joined
May 5, 2013
Messages
732
Location
Peace valley, Missouri
Live in the middle of 60 acres of woods 95% white oak and don't heat with wood. Chain saw, spitter, something to haul it , moving it several times, cleaning the ash, and my time. Not counting the gas, oil, saw chains and wear on my body.
 
Joined
Sep 23, 2008
Messages
10,654
Location
Ontario, Canada
Live in the middle of 60 acres of woods 95% white oak and don't heat with wood. Chain saw, spitter, something to haul it , moving it several times, cleaning the ash, and my time. Not counting the gas, oil, saw chains and wear on my body.
Yeah, its not for everyone. I wouldn't call it wear on the body, just exercise! I don't bother with a splitter, (only Elm here needs it, and most of that is pole sized), just 4 and 6lb mauls and often I don't even use the tractor. I just cut a tree near a trail, buck it up, drive the atv with trailer to it, load rounds into trailer, or split right there if too big to lift easily, cut crotches with the chainsaw in the woods, or just leave them there, drive wood to rack and unload right to the rack or split in front of it, and stack. The rack outside is a 20' walk from the woodstove. I only cut one or two trailer loads a day which are about a 1/4 cord each, which is easy to split by hand in one go. If I can't split it with a couple whacks, it gets ripped with the chainsaw when I have a few built up.
I think doing wood myself pays like $100 an hour in pretax income including actually running the stove all winter. In heating season loading the stove 3-4 times a day is like 5 minutes total as the fire never goes out for a weeks at a time. Lots of people make things complicated, or have the wood pile far from the house and the stove far from an entrance... My house isn't big or fancy but its well setup to heat with wood and if you keep doing it, you have a better chance to be able too, well into old age.
 
Joined
Aug 23, 2010
Messages
3,712
Location
pa
any exercise-movement is good especially if it saves $$$, too many EZE's today contributes to our overweight unfit society, BUT of course our POOR eating is the biggest factor. my hand fired Harman Mk I puts out 48,000 BTUS + heats my small house well for about $400 for a winter in Pa, its off in moderate + warm weather. its paid for itself since purchased in 2009 + only the short run of 6" stove pipes needed replacement!!
 
Joined
Apr 19, 2014
Messages
2,168
Location
WV
Look into outdoor wood boilers. I have one here in WV. A heat pump doesn't get it done here. I have to buy wood so I don't really save any money but I'm as warm as I want to be. Also get unlimited hot water. The boiler is 100' from the house and keeps 200 gal of treated water between 165-175 deg. A pump circulates it to and from the house constantly thru a well insulated tube. I used to save money by purchasing a load of logs and cutting and splitting it myself but that got old when I got old. I bought a Central Boiler unit and built a shed over and behind it to keep the wood dry. I think it cost me about $6k. Since it is outside, no creosote problems. Would work great for you in PA. Some of them are made up there.
 
Top