Looking to use less oil to heat your house?

Well, unless you’re moving to Florida, you might want to look into a supplemental heating system. Perhaps a wood stove or a stove that burns wood pellets. Or a gas stove or gas insert for your fireplace.

Wood is relatively inexpensive now, about $225 a cord, with the average homeowner usually requiring one to two cords a winter for supplemental heating. And natural gas is a good option too, as gas lines are constantly being expanded in southern Maine.

Unitil, the gas utility for southern Maine, has seen its customer base grow at a rate of about 2 percent a year, or double the national average, said Alec O’Meara, a spokesman for the utility. He said that for people who want a gas line to their house, the first 100 feet is installed for free, and after that, the cost varies.

Fireplace inserts, either gas or wood, are something to consider as supplemental heating, since they are far more efficient than the existing fireplace they’ll be installed in.

Traditional “open face” wood-burning fireplaces operate at only about 10 percent efficiency, said Ernie Stanhope, owner of Embers Stoves & Fireplaces in South Portland. But a wood insert in that same fireplace would be about 75 percent efficient, said Stanhope. Tax credits for wood inserts are still available through the end of this year, he said, for about 10 percent of the price up to $300.

“With the high cost of oil right now, wood is one of the least expensive options to cut that cost down,” Stanhope said.

No matter what type of supplemental heating source you might consider — including wood-burning fireplace inserts, gas inserts, wood stoves, gas fireplaces or pellet stoves — cost is an important factor.

Gas fireplaces and and gas inserts often start around $1,800. A traditional wood stove might start around $800, while pellet stoves start around $2,000 and wood-burning fireplace inserts start around $2,000 as well. None of those prices include installation, which can vary widely depending on how much work needs to be done to vent and place the system.

Jotul North America, which makes stoves and inserts here in Maine, has a new gas insert which can operate without a standing pilot light in cold climates, said David Peck, marketing manager for Jotul. The insert costs about $2,622.

Jotul also has a new wood stove out this year, “Rangeley,” which loads from the top instead of the front. You can still watch the flames through glass in the front. But loading from the top is probably easier for most folks.

Pellet stoves or inserts, which burn compressed wood products, are easier to use than wood stoves. They can be controlled by a thermostat, for instance.

The major downfall to pellet stoves or inserts, says Stanhope, is that most require electricity to operate. So during a Maine winter, with outages likely, it might not be great for everyone.

When trying to decide what the best supplemental heating source might be in your home, it might be a good idea to get a consultation from a company that sells stoves and inserts. Stanhope, for instance, does free in-home consultations to look at the room sizes, possibilities for venting, and other factors that will determine which heating option makes the most sense.

“When deciding what type of alternative heat source to get, the first thing people need to determine is how it will be vented and where they want to put it,” said Stanhope. “So the best option is to have an in-home consultation.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: RayRouthier