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How much does a system cost?
It’s no secret that wood fuel is one of the least costly and most stable fuel choices available in Canada. Wood pellets are cheaper than propane, oil and electricity and wood chips are even cheaper than natural gas for larger commercial systems. Firewood can be cheaper than all options (especially if you factor in the health benefits of splitting your own wood!).
To get to the low cost of wood fuels without buying low-quality, smoky wood stoves or outdoor wood boilers, you’re going to have to spend a bit of cash. In general, modern wood heating systems cost more to install than fossil fuel or electric boilers. Wood fuels are bulkier, less predictable and less energy dense than fossil fuels. That said, wood fuel is carbon neutral and the lowest cost energy for heating and domestic hot water. Wood is by far the most economical choice among sustainable fuels.
Let’s first look at firewood boiler systems: a typical Fröling S3 system, including the boiler, required pumps, valves, thermal storage tank (or buffer tank), domestic hot water/auxiliary electric boiler option and shipping costs comes out to about $16-$18k. Additional costs may the chimney, expansion tank, piping and installation. Some of these costs would be the same if you installed a typical gas boiler. This is much cheaper than geothermal options and provides reliable heat and domestic hot water all year long. We find that a Fröling firewood boiler system is a bit more costly compared to an outdoor wood boiler or our competitor’s indoor wood boilers, but the efficiency of a Fröling system burns 50% less wood in our experience.
Pellet boiler systems are slightly more expensive than a modern wood boiler as they are automated and they require a bulk pellet storage system be built. For example, a typical 20 kW (68,000 BTU) residential system, including a Fröling PE1 boiler, trim components, thermal storage tank (or buffer tank), domestic hot water/auxiliary electric boiler option, bulk pellet storage (silo or custom build) and shipping will cost about $18k to $20k. Additionally, you’ll have electrical hook-up, chimney, expansion tank, piping and installation costs. It’s more expensive up front than a propane or oil boiler, but over 4-7 years, you’ll pay off the difference and start saving money with low-cost carbon neutral wood pellet fuel.
Larger pellet installations (60 kW to 400 kW) are more complicated and difficult to make cost generalizations. Bigger pellet systems will cost less per kW than small systems and give you a larger scale of cost savings over time. The bigger the biomass system, the better the return on investment!
Wood chips systems are another category altogether. As described in this blog post, wood chip systems don’t scale down (economically) to small heat loads. Larger heat loads offer really giant cost savings over propane and heating oil, but take an investment to get off the ground.
Our clients who have installed Fröling boilers have done it not just for the long term cost savings, but also because they can feel good about heating with a carbon-neutral fuel.
Let us know how we can help you get started in enjoying the benefits of modern wood heating.