With energy prices going up all around, I thought it was the perfect time to write about alternative ways to heat your home.
Alternative heat is a topic I find particularly fascinating. Winters are long and expensive, and after some crippling heating bills last year I thought it was time to get off my duff and find out if there were other ways I could heat my home this year.
I also wanted to weigh the environmental costs of different options out there. Was a pellet stove better for the environment than a wood stove? What about Compost Heater – Permaculture ?
Pellet stoves are similar to wood stoves in terms of size and look. But pellet stoves burn small pellets that are made from sawdust or switchgrass.
The cool thing about pellet stoves is that you’re using easily renewable resources (like switchgrass, which is grown on farmland whose soil is too poor for other crops) or waste products (like sawdust from mills).
Pellet stoves are more energy efficient than wood stoves, meaning they heat your home using less fuel. Smaller homes can be heated using just one stove, while larger homes might need two. (When I say small here, I’m talking 1,300 to 1,500 square feet).
Now, the costs of pellet stoves range from $1,300 to $2,500 or more. Pellets cost, at the time of this writing, $130 to $200 per ton. If you live in a cold climate, you can expect to go through 2-3 tons of pellets per winter season. So, for 3 tons, at the highest price, you’re looking at $600 in pellets.
So, let’s compare this to the traditional wood stove.
Wood stoves usually go through 3-4 cords of wood. Each cord costs roughly $100 to $175. So with a wood stove you’re looking at a top annual heating cost of $700. Plus you need to figure in the time to chop, stack, store, and carry in the wood (and the guilt factor of air pollution).
Pellets take up 1/3 less space than cord wood, can be stored in your basement, and emits very little pollution..
It’s also important to realize that freight makes up a large portion of the costs of pellets. Finding a source nearby will be crucial in lowering the price per ton. It’s important before purchasing a pellet stove that you research local suppliers to make sure you’ll be able to purchase fuel each year.
Another important thing to consider is that the costs of pellets (like everything else) has been going up in recent years. One ton of pellets used to run around $70. But as pellet stoves have grown in popularity, the price has gone up. So take this into consideration before making the investment.
Some systems burn more than just pellets however. Models that also burn corn, wood chips, and nutshells, among other things, are quite popular because it gives homeowners more options than just pellets.
Compost Heater – Permaculture
An experimental compost heater shows its potential to provide heat two hours per day for up to 9 weeks.
How fast your winter compost can come back up to temperature once you turn material back in and re-wet the pile. Super-charge your organic gardening efforts with great composting methods!
RELATED : Five Levels of Home Heating Redundancy
Compost heat can, indeed, be captured to heat water. After the hot showers, you have a lovely pile of compost! The moisture from the shower feeds mushrooms! Hot water, compost and mushrooms. Permaculture!
Paul Wheaton from Permies.com takes a visit to Brian Kerkvliet’s Inspiration Farm in Bellingham, Washington. There he finds Brian’s little compost pile that provided 500 hot showers in the warmer months. Compost heat can, indeed, be captured to heat water in moments by running black pastic pipe through the heart of the heap. After the hot showers, you have a lovely pile of compost. The moisture from the shower drains away to feed the ground inoculated with edible mushrooms. Hot water, compost and mushrooms. Now that’s multi-functional permaculture design!
Aquaponic update. With a compost heater catch up.
Here’s a bit of a look at how the aquaponic system is going on the first day of spring here in SE Queensland Australia. For those that are interested, I’ve also included a bit of a catch up on the compost heater for the system.
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