A few years ago, when Gretchen Rymarchyk made the switch from renting to owning her own home in Danby, she was shocked by the high costs of heating: $600 to $900 a month for her propane deliveries. This was nearly equal to what she used to pay for rent, and wasn’t sustainable since she now had her new mortgage every month.
Two years ago, when Tompkins County experienced its coldest winter on record, the high cost of propane spurred Gretchen to look into heating alternatives. The idea of a wood-based heating system was appealing to her due to its lower costs and her familiarity with heating with wood.
“I grew up in a house with a wood stove,” she said. “I was considering putting in a wood stove but the layout of my house is really awkward for that given the mess that a wood stove brings with it.”
Though she initially wasn’t familiar with wood pellet heating, through her own research and conversations with other stove owners she realized the cost reductions that a wood pellet stove could bring.
“I had never seen a pellet stove before and I didn’t know much about them, I thought they were wood stoves that took smaller logs,” Gretchen said with a laugh. “Cost was the number one factor for me, I could see that the stove would pay for itself in two years.”
Gretchen used a local energy contractor to do an energy audit of her home to find areas in which she could increase her home’s energy efficiency. Then she purchased her wood pellet stove from a local vendor for around $5,000, a price that included the stove and professional installation.
Gretchen now pays around $1,000 a winter for wood pellets to heat her entire one and a half story home to a comfortable temperature, compared to the $3,000-$4,500 she previously paid for propane during a cold winter. She said that she is “absolutely” happy with the choice she made to switch to heating with wood pellets.
Maintenance and upkeep of the stove haven’t been a problem for Gretchen. “I have a five gallon bucket for pellets that I fill up in the morning and at night and I dump that into the stove,” she said. [Cleaning out ashes] doesn’t take more than 10 minutes every two weeks or so.”
The relatively minimal environmental impact of pellet heating compared to other heating methods also played an important role in Gretchen’s decision. “You’re not chopping down trees to make pellets, it's mostly sawdust that is a byproduct of sawmills. So I felt good about that.”
Looking back at her choice to switch to a wood pellet stove, Gretchen says that she would recommend it to other households who want to heat their homes affordably. Through her investment in wood pellet heat Gretchen saves hundreds of dollars a year and has meaningfully reduced her carbon footprint, benefiting both her and her community.