Wood pellet stoves

Valley Head, WV(Zone 5a)

We use a wood pellet stove here in WV for our main heating source. They are very popular in our part of the state, replacing many old wood stoves and coal furnaces. It is very difficult to find the wood pellet fuel for these stoves this winter. We have been told that there is a nationwide shortage of the pellets this year.

So this nantion wide shortage has my curiosity up, how many of you have heard of these stoves and where are you located? My family in MD has never seen them except when visiting us. Of course they all have central heating too.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about :)
The fuel for these stoves are in pellet form, looks almost like livestock feed. The pellets are made from compressed wood by-products (sawdust). They are sold in 40# bags, and we buy them by the ton - when we can find them, or by the bag when they have limits on them like this year. You put the pellets in the hopper and it is fed a few pellets at a time to the fire grate. Which produces a nice flame and lots of heat. For burning a 40# bag of pellets you'll have about 2 cups of ash. Our stove looks similar to one of the smaller wood buring stoves, except ours has a window in it to enjoy the flames like a fireplace.

Fayette, MO(Zone 6a)

We have them here in Missouri. Don't know of anyone using them right now, but have only heard good things about them.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

I've seen them here in CA, and hope to have one when we move out of town. They sound like they are a lot more efficient than the older wood burning stove, and when coupled with some sort of heat-retaining mass (concrete or brick), are supposed to heat a home very nicely. Also, they are supposed to produce fewer polutants than "straight wood".

Mamakane, how long does a 40# bag of pellets last?

Take care, all.

Karla

(Zone 5a)

Here in Illinois, we burn corn. Regular corn. You know, the animal feed kind. It works exactly the same way. There are several web sites if anyone is interested.

Philadelphia, PA(Zone 6b)

Hi Mamakane,
My friend's mother uses one of those stoves as a main heating source in her 5 year-old new home. She lives in western Pennsylvania. Those pea pellets were expensive a few years ago and she is also having trouble getting them. They are now using their main gas heater to heat the home. The stoves are very cute, though, and don't take up that much space at all. I liked the look of the stove but I am cautious when one heats with an alternative fuel source anyway.
Trish

Richfield Springs, NY(Zone 4a)

They are quite popular here too. I don't think there is a shortage of pellets around here. I see them in various stores. I have an outdoor wood furnace that heats my home, shop and greenhouse. It sits 300 feet form the house, down near the shop. You can't beat these things if you have access to wood.

Philadelphia, PA(Zone 6b)

Hey Frank..
I always see them in magazines and they make sense as a heating element. Also, they seem a bit safer, too.
Trish

Baker City, OR(Zone 5b)

Pellet stoves have been around for quite a while. A neighbor installed one about 12 years ago. He had varying results with various kinds of pellets. Some produced more ash, others produced more heat and therefore he needed less fuel. They are generally cleaner burning than a wood heater. His had a hopper that held about 100# of pellets, so he could be gone 3 or 4 days and come home to a warm house. It also had a glass window so gave the cozy visual effect of a fireplace. The down side was it needed electricity to run the auger that kept the fuel comming in to the combustion chamber, and had electric ignition and fan, which means no electricity-no heat, like most oil burning furnaces.

Valley Head, WV(Zone 5a)

Karla, running our stove on the lowest level, which heats our entire house when the weather is moderate (around 35*), a 40# bag of pellets lasts about 12 hours.

Running the stove at a level to heat the house when the temps stay below freezing (into the teens at night) the 40# bag will last about 8 hours.

Right now a 40# bag will cost between $2.79 at Walmart to $3.29 at other stores.

Richmond, KY(Zone 6b)

One trouble with any alternative fuel system is just that: assuring a supply of the fuel, whatever it happens to be. So, no matter how efficient the system may be, it doesn't matter if you can't use it, or if the system is too expensive to use.

Several comments on the wood pellet system (which applies, even more, to RDF systems).

First, they are not inexpensive to operate. Using MamaKane's prices as typical, it takes her about $6/day to heat the house---when she can find the fuel.

Second, Btu recovery (which, BTW, is the only way to compare various fuels) varies with the pellets because it is determined by how wet the sawdust was when the pellets first were made. This is less apparent in a home system(where you are venting Btu's into the atmosphere anyway) than it would be in, say, an industrial system. But it's a factor, nontheless.

Third, as has been pointed out, pellet systems require an outside source of power to operate. I don't know of any of them that use a gravity feed system for the fuel. So, imagine this: It's the dead of winter. Ice and snow cover the world. And your power goes out. Now you can't use the stove when you most need it.

Finally, if we're going to talk about polluting the atmosphere, then we have to look at the total system. Burning pellets in a home stove may be cleaner than burning raw wood. But what pollutants are produced at the processing plant? How much particulant matter do the diesel delivery trucks sprew into the air?

Understand, I am not putting the knock on wood pellet systems. What I'm saying is that when you look at alternative heating (or any power-needs) systems, be aware of all the factors before plunking down your money.

And don't feel too alone if you choose the wrong system because you fell in love with the technology. I used to be very involved with the resource recovery industry, and many of those plants were built for the same reason. The gee-whiz technology blinded the decision makers to the practicalities. If you and I make that kind of mistake, we're looking at thousands of dollars tops. For those guys, mistakes were measured in the millions.

Surry, VA(Zone 7b)

Mamakane, Thanks for posting this thread and thanks to everyone who posted a reply. We had heard of wood pellet stoves before and had thought about considering them as an alternative heat source, but we didn't know anyone who had one. Now I have more information to go by.
Carol

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