Wood pellet stoves have become very popular this year, due to the fact that heating oil costs have risen 31% and natural gas is up 46%. Pellet stoves are small electric stoves that burn small pieces of recycled sawdust, that have been compressed into pellets. There are a number of advantages to using wood pellet stoves: they are extremely efficient, produce very little waste, and use inexpensive fuel. A 40-pound bag of pellets sells for less than five dollars, with discounts available for those who buy in bulk. On the Sam’s Club web site, pellets sell for about $187 a ton. A homeowner can expect to go through up to three tons of pellets a season, or $560 worth. In contrast, heating oil will likely cost owners of bigger homes in the Northeast several thousand dollars this winter.
Wood pellets can be found at most hardware stores around the country including Home Depot and Ace Hardware. Pellets come in 3 grades, depending on ash content (less ash the better), the higher grade pellets are hardwood while the lower grade is pine, most of the major hardware chains sell the middle grades. A reviewer on Cool Tools recommends calling local hardware stores, buying a single bag of different brands, and trying them out, then buy in bulk. The brands and availability seem to change with each season.
Pellet stoves have negative pressure systems that propel the hot air they produced outward, making the heat go farther than it would naturally. The pellets are burned so completely that they hardly give off any smoke, meaning that it is not necessary to build a large chimney to channel smoke out of the home. Wood-pellet stoves only need a small pipe leading outside to dispose of excess smoke. They have complicated machinery that adds new pellets to the fire when more fuel is needed. The user merely has to add the pellets to the hopper, and the mechanical auger moves pellets to the fire as needed.
Keep in mind that the stoves themselves aren’t cheap. They typically run between $1,700 and $3,000, depending on the size and features. And many buyers also pay for installation, since pellet stoves need to be vented to the outside.
Prepare yourself for some manual labor. A homeowner who runs his stove 24 hours a day will need to fill the appliance with pellets once a day and clean out its ash once a week. You’ll also need a large enough space to store roughly 150 40-pound bags of pellets. It is also recommended that you buy in bulk in October, to get enough for the entire season, because store over run low during the middle of winter.
Here is a quick list of the major pellet stove manufacturers. Some reviewers seem to favor the Harman brand, because of their use of computerized sensors and controls.
For more information and reviews visit Hearth.Com