Costing it out
There’s no doubt that switching to wood pellets is a green choice compared to fossil fuels, but it may also cut your home heating bill as a bonus. Doing good and saving money – not bad.
Whether you save money, and how much, depends on where you live and your access to alternative fuels. We can’t provide a one-size-fits-all answer to the often-asked question – “How much will I save heating with pellets?” – but we have given an outline below on all the major alternatives. We’ve also included a map from Canadian Biomass magazine that outlines which fuels are more expensive than wood pellets in each province, and links to a few “cost calculators” for a few regions in Canada where they are available.
In the end, it’s best to contact a local heating system retailer and work with them on the comparative costs.
If you are lucky enough to be on a gas line and own a modern, high-efficiency gas furnace, it will be hard for you to get your heating costs much lower given gas prices over the past five years. You may still consider pellet heat as an accent or low-carbon supplement, but it will not be a decision based on cost.
Both in terms of environmental footprint and cost, this comes down to the province you live in. Hydro-electric powerhouses like Quebec, Manitoba and B.C. allow their residences access to plentiful, cheap and relatively green heat. Elsewhere pellets will likely be both cheaper and much greener.
In addition to a very high carbon footprint, oil is not cheap either, even given the recent drop in price. If you are heating with oil, especially with an older furnace, there is an excellent chance you will save significantly by moving to wood pellets.
Like oil, a high carbon footprint matched by high costs. Typically a strong economic case can be made to switch to wood pellet heating.
The cost-effectiveness of heating with firewood comes down to three factors – how close you live to where the wood is processed, how efficient your appliance is, and how much you like wrestling with wood. If you have access to free firewood that you harvest, process and stack on your own land, then it’s hard to beat the cost of firewood heating – that of course assumes your labour is free. If you have to buy the wood, and especially if it travels any distance, pellets will win out.