Alternative heat part II (There is no free lunch)

This weekend we visited Charles Family Hearth and got an education in options.

After careful research we thought for sure we wanted a pellet furnace. Not a stove but an actual furnace that we could tie into our existing duct work.

Our biggest issue is we have an old farm house, it’s leaky, not well insulated and not easy to insulate.  It’s chopped up, not open so it doesn’t lend itself to a stove.  We’d never get the heat distributed.

We currently have oil heat, and last winter we burned through 750 gallons of fuel oil.  We ran out twice.  For the last month we limped along and wore sweatshirts, etc.

Basically our options break out like this:

Technology Pros Cons
Oil Heat Do nothing Go broke.
Wood (whole logs) None that I can see.  Might save some money. We have to buy wood or go get it.  We don’t have woods to cut our own.  Cutting/splitting/stacking wood sucks.  Then transport wood to the basement or where ever the wood furnace is sounds like a real joy.
Wood needs more attention, you can’t leave all day and expect to come home to a warm house.
Corn it’s just like wood pellets It’s as expensive as oil and is apparently very inconsistent.
Propane Easy conversion from oil. Just as costly.
Natural Gas Would Save money It’s not available to us.
Electric (Heat Pump) Should save money Not sure a heat pump could keep up with our drafty old house.  I suspect we’d be on electric auxiliary heat a lot and that’s not economical.  Heat pumps are not ‘warm’ and we like warm.
Wood Pellets Should be cheaper, is a warm heat, but isn’t instant on like oil. We’re already seeing prices of $300/ton (before delivery).  Pellets have been in short supply in recent years.  Stoves/Furnaces are in high demand, allocation is an issue.  Some of the bigger producers are in iowa and were just flooded out.
They are not maintenance free, you can automate pellet deliver, but you still have to maintain the burner and heat exchanger. You have to man handled 7 tons of pellets to get the same BTU’s as 750 gallons of Oil.
Coal Cheapest of all options Dirty as hell, smelly, and you have to handle it which isn’t attractive.
Geo Thermal none for us Far too expensive to install at this stage of the game.  This works best with tight efficient houses, our is the opposite of that.  If I were building new I’d certainly consider this.
External/Outside Furnaces. None to me… If I’m already bitchin about loading a wood/pellet furnace that’s in my house, why in the world would I want to do that in cold and snow.

So right now our run away leading candidate is a wood pellet furnace.

There are a couple brands/models.  Some auto start, some don’t.  Some have large hoppers some don’t.  All require me or someone in our family to be the fuel delivery mechanism at some level.

Some are available, some are constrained.   None are fast heating.  You don’t get the blast of heat we’re used to with Oil out of anything but Oil (or gas).  But they work well if you keep them at a constant temperature and keep them burning (so we’re told).

What are we missing?

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