Many of us are fed up with sending all of our American dollars overseas to China for product manufacturing, India for office workers, and the Middle East for oil. Well, we can definitely take steps to bring our dollars back to America if we make the proper choices. This post is about one of those choices – stop sending your hard-earned dollars to middle east oil sheiks.
My wife and I moved in early 2008. We bought a bank-owned foreclosure that was lacking a central heating system. There were a few baseboard electric heating units installed, but I’m assuming these were intended to be supplemental heat as they are unable to maintain a proper temperature. The previous owner ripped out the propane boiler in the basement and cut off the propane lines. Yes, I think they were angry at the foreclosure!
We live in the cold northeast, so we had a decision to make. Our options for heating fuel did not include natural gas due to our semi-rural location. The summer of 2008 was when oil prices reached almost $140 so we were scared to install any heating system that used heating oil or propane. We had no idea whether the prices would keep rising or eventually fall. But we did know that some people were severely struggling to pay heating expenses, often being cold or trading off heat for food.
If you are not aware, propane prices follow oil because propane is a derivative of oil. We did not want to go bankrupt paying for heat, so I decided to research other options.
Geothermal heating was the obvious choice due to the high efficiency, and clearly the best long term approach. However, we were unable to afford the upfront retrofitting cost of $27,000. We obtained quotes from 3 companies and they were all in the 26-28,000 range. We were already spending too much money on the house, money was coming in but going out just as fast as we had some large projects and unexpected expenses to fix up the house.
We eventually decided to get a woodstove and use the combination of the wood heating and baseboard electric to get by. I have always had a woodstove and loved the warm heat that radiated straight thru your body. So off to the stove shop we went. To make a long story shorter – they also had coal stoves on display which resulted in me going home and beginning to research modern anthracite coal stoves.
My research quickly led me to NEPACrossroads.com where I found a treasure trove of information on modern coal heating. This site was my primary source to educate myself on owning and operating a coal stove. My personal criteria for selecting a coal stove was:
Does not require electric (referred to as a ‘hand-fired’ stove)
Must generate a high BTU due to 12 foot ceilings and a large volume of glass – lots of windows and patio doors
Must be free-standing so that it can go in our great room
Can attach an optional blower system to disperse heat
Must be aesthetially acceptable (per Mrs. MNWBlogger)
A local dealer had the Alaska Kodiak stove and the Hitzer 30-95 model. These 2 stoves were our top choices. My wife slightly preferred the appearance of the Alaska Kodiak. Otherwise there is a good chance we would have chosen the Hitzer.
As you can see below the 19 year old cats fully agree with our decision and are happily soaking up the heat. They prefer the coal heat with their old bones on the hard stove mat instead of their soft heated cat bed! Now if that is not a testimonial to the incredible warming heat produced by this stove I do not know what is.
To summarize, we are very happy with this stove, and have saved thousands of dollars as compared to oil or propane. Hopefully you begin to see how this type of choice can affect your Net Worth. Our savings took a hit as we purchased this stove, the stove mat, installation materials, and the first 6 ton of coal. However, this decision will allow us to save money over the long term.
A series of future posts will discuss additional details about our stove purchase, as well as ongoing operation and costs. I have also created a spreadsheet tracking temperatures, maintenance timings, coal usage, and total cost. I am beginning to log this information and will post it when I get it into a suitable format. Once I gather this information for the remainder of this heating season, I can also begin to do some analysis in a future post and compare coal costs vs oil and propane. To be automatically notified about future posts, please Subscribe. I have created a special category named Coal Heat for easy reference.
UPDATE: The spreadsheet is now available here: Alaska Kodiak Hand-Fired Anthracite Coal Stove Usage
P.S. Want a fun gift for your coal-burning friend or family member? Check this out over at Amazon: