As temperatures continue to drop and the cost to heat the home continues to increase, we start to scramble for affordable alternatives to gas and oil. While many people drift toward electric space heaters, gas fireplaces, gel fuel fireplaces or other secondary heat sources, the pellet stove is often bi-passed completely. It's time to spotlight this very special, all-too-frequently ignored heat source. Here are the basics.
What Is a Pellet Stove / What are Pellets? Pellet stoves are fuel burning appliances that burn "pellets" rather than oil, gas or coal. Typically running on electricity, pellet stoves have built in thermostats, exhaust blowers and some sort of a venting system that must be installed in the home. The "pellets" themselves are typically made from 100 percent recycled sawdust, wood chips, bark, agricultural crop waste, recycled paper or other organic materials. About the size of a cornel of bran cereal, there are different types of pellet stoves that burn different types of pellets. Corn pellet stoves burn corn pellets, wood pellet stoves burn wood pellets and regular pellet stoves burn a variety of types of pellets – just make sure you read your stove's directions before burning a specific type of pellet.
How Efficient Are Pellet Stoves? They are extremely efficient to operate. Not only that but they are low maintenance and convenient to use. Pellet stoves have a much higher combustion rate and heating efficiency than wood stoves or fireplaces. Combustion efficiencies for pellet stoves tend to range from 75 to 85 percent, which make them exempt from the EPA's smoke-emission testing requirements and heating capacities range from 8,000 to 90,000 BTUs per hour (way more than the 3,000 BTUs put out by most gel fireplaces ), making them suitable for condos, homes and apartments. Pellet stoves produce minimal air pollution and are considered to be the cleanest of all solid fuel-burning residential heating appliances.
How Stylish Are Pellet Stoves? If this kind of stove was to lose points anywhere, it would be in the style department. Many pellet stoves are a bit clunky and awkward in appearance, making them more difficult to complement certain decor styles. If your home is leaning in a more modern / contemporary direction, there are some pellet stoves for you to consider! There are also pellet fireplace inserts which can be retro-fit over your existing wood fireplace for a more energy efficient / heat efficient option for your home. These are also more subtle in appearance, simply slipping over your existing fireplace. Whatever your style, there's probably a pellet stove to match your sensibilities, anyway, being energy efficient is always in style, right?
How Much Will It Cost Me? In addition to its physical appearance, another potential downside is how it might drive up your electric bill. If you are considering using a pellet stove as a secondary heat source for a room and gas or oil heating elsewhere in your home, your bills are likely to be higher than you might like. On the other hand, if you opt to use a pellet stove as your home's primary heating source, you're likely to save money. Buying the pellet stove itself is probably going to cost you between $ 1,600 and $ 3,000, depending on what style you decide on.
How Readily Available Are These Pellets Pellets should be available at most hardware stores or outdoor supply stores, though your best bet may be online. Pellet fuel typically is sold in 40 pound bags at around $ 3 to $ 4 dollars each. You can also get pellets for $ 120 to $ 200 per ton. One ton of pellets is about equal to 1.5 cords of firewood, just to give you some kind of comparison. Homeowners that use pellet fuel as their main source of heat typically go through 2 to 3 tons of pellet fuel per year.
Copyright (c) 2009 Randy Heslip