Is there a system currently available for my one-story 1750 square foot home using biomass heating? I don't have a fireplace but have a place where I could put a heating unit. What would be the rough initial and annual costs for the unit?
Issac ~ Springfield, Missouri
Hi Issac, I'm glad you asked this question as I'm doing some research on the subject for my own home. Biomass heating is energy efficient and the most common method of biomass residential heating is the use of a pellet stove or pellet fireplace insert.
If you hurry, you may be able to qualify for a federal tax credit that expires December 31, 2010. Not all pellet stoves qualify for the credit so make sure the manufacturer or distributor gives you a certificate stating the the unit you purchase does. The credit can be for 30 percent of the overall cost of the unit and installation up to a maximum of $1,500.
There are many different styles and sizes of pellet stoves and their heating capacities are measured in BTUs, the same as HVAC systems. For a home 1750 square feet you're probably going to want a smaller unit of about 38,000 to 50,000 BTUs, but do some research online and talk to distributors to find out what size is going to work best for your home. Cost for a unit that size can vary depending on the brand and options you might choose. I would say a good range would be $1,500 to $2,500. I know I'm looking at a highly reviewed 38,000 BTU unit and I've been quoted a price of $2,200. There are less expensive models available if you're on a tight budget and there are also more expensive models with more features you might prefer. I would look around Springfield to see how pellet stove costs run in that area as they might be less expensive than where I live.
Most manufacturers offer options such as decorative door trim and larger pellet hoppers. One option I recommend is battery backup as the unit can't operate if the power goes off and you might wish you had that option during the winter storms I know Springfield, Missouri gets quite a few of every year.
You need to check on clearances to combustibles for the pellet stoves you're looking at as they can vary from model to model and the clearances can determine where you place the unit in your home. Some models have optional heat shields that can be installed to reduce the unit's minimum clearances. If you don't have a fireplace, you'll probably want to vent the unit out an exterior wall so the unit will need to placed accordingly.
Your green heating costs can vary depending on how warm you like your home, the pellet stove you purchase, and how severe the winters are in Missouri. Pellets are less expensive if purchased by the ton and you can pay between $200-$250 per ton depending on the time of year and where you're purchasing them. If you can't pick them up yourself, there will probably also be a delivery charge. If you have a place to store them, buying during the summer may save you some money and you may avoid the shortages that can occur during the cold months.
I estimate you'll use around 3-5 tons of pellets per year. If you turn the stove down at night and when you're away from home during the day, you might be closer to the 3 tons, but if you like your home warm, then 5 tons is probably more accurate.