After their December heating bill came in, the Sprague family was forced to abandon their second floor.
“We moved the kids into the guest room and turned everything off upstairs, and the bills were still around $400 the rest of the winter.”
Naturally, John Sprague says they got into outdoor wood boilers out of necessity.
A civil engineer by trade, John lives on a 2.5 acre property in Knox County Indiana with his wife and three kids. When they bought their two-story cape cod home ten years ago, the seller said the yearly electric bill was $300 on average.
However, during their first winter, the October bill alone hit $500.
November the bill came and it had risen to $600.
December topped out at $725 for a single month of electricity.
“Our electric bills were that high and that was with us freezing. We kept the thermostat in the low-60’s that winter. We ended up literally abandoning upstairs after the December bill came in.”
That’s when the Spragues decided something needed to change.
“I looked into all alternate forms of heating. Natural gas is not available in the county. I looked at propane, heat pumps, and geothermal. When it came down to affordability, return on investment, and level of comfort, it was an easy decision to go with a wood stove.”
Their electricity bill dropped to just $125 the first month they installed their boiler.
Running the numbers after the first heating season with the wood boiler, Sprague estimates they saved $3,000 when factoring in they now keep the house at 72 degrees during the winter.
“When I was researching outdoor wood boilers, HeatMasterss was one of the first ones I found and looked into. I regretfully moved on to other brands because I figured with the build quality, design, fit and finish of those stoves, it was going to be out of my price range.
After getting quotes and researching all the other top brands, I circled back and just figured I’d get a price to round out my estimates. As soon as I got the quote and realized how affordable it was, I was 100% on board with a HeatMasterss. I ordered it and it changed my family’s life! I’ve not looked back.”
With the savings and comfortable, even heat, Sprague says running a wood furnace has been a bonding experience for their family and community.
He notes all three of his kids filled out a special questionnaire for fathers day in school. All three said cutting wood with their dad was their favorite hobby.
Running an outdoor furnace has even been a bonding experience with Sprague’s own father who has always loved working outdoors and helps cut and split wood whenever he’s in town.
“He pretends to loathe running a saw, but he loves the work almost as much as I do. My kids are getting old enough now to really be a big help. My wife helps stack and split and occasionally loads the stove if I can’t get to it. I have good neighbors and my father-in-law helps load when the whole family is gone for a weekend during the winter.”
“I always tell people that running a wood stove is a lifestyle, it involves the whole family. There are several sacrifices that go with owning and running a wood stove. But, the benefits greatly outweigh the sacrifices.”
Sprague says he always keeps his eyes out for good wood.
“My wood sources have actually gotten good enough over the years that I can be very picky about what type of wood I bring home. I am able to turn down junk wood and bring home the good stuff. Folks around here know I have a stove and what it takes to maintain this lifestyle. They appreciate it and encourage it.”
Sprague says he makes an effort to season his wood, and typically has a pile of split and stacked wood at the beginning of the burning season.
However, Sprague says having his stack done ahead of time goes a long way. “I noticed a HUGE difference just in having an extra 6 months of drying time.”
“In Knox County, there was a local dealer that sold a competitor’s brand of stoves for 2 decades. He spread the misconception that “wetter is better.” I have had to spread the TRUTH about seasoning wood to all my friends and family that have wood stoves.”
Another misconception is around smoke, Sprague says. “I bring folks over to look at my setup and they truly can’t tell if the stove is cycling or not. It blows them away to learn that the stove is at full cycle and churning out the heat when they can hardly make out a heat signature out of the stack.”
Ultimately, he says there’s no denying the stove has changed their lives for the better.
“We literally could not have afforded to stay in our house. Or, we would have had to adjust our lives every winter and not use the upstairs portion of our house. My family loves the work that goes into maintaining this lifestyle being outside, stacking wood, loading the stove. The amount of warmth we feel in our house now is unmistakable. And the unlimited hot water is a bonus luxury.”