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Wood Pellet Stoves: A Revolution in Wood Burning Technology

For off-the-gridders and others with a hankering for self-reliance, wood stoves have become a popular home heating choice. Wood stoves are relatively easy to install, and they usually give off quite a bit of heat, sometimes even enough to cook with. There is also a sense of nostalgia connected to wood stoves, which is no doubt helping fuel people’s renewed interest in this technology. These stoves carry us back to a time when people lived simply and relied on their own labor to keep their loved ones warm, well fed, and secure. Many of us probably remember cozy family cabins or other similar types of retreats where we used to spend time on weekends or during vacations, and we may have fond memories of cutting, chopping, carrying, and loading wood into the old-fashioned stoves that were used to heat those wonderful places.

But while wood stoves have a certain rustic charm, they are also inconvenient, time consuming, and even somewhat dangerous. They are a bear to clean, and they have a tendency to overheat and belch smoke. If you own one of these old-fashioned stoves, you have probably discovered that it takes a lot of work to harvest enough wood to meet your wood burning needs for an entire winter (or that it costs you a lot of money if you are purchasing it from someone instead).

Fortunately, there is another alternative available that preserves the most efficient and most attractive features of the traditional wood stove, but without creating a fire risk or costing anywhere near as much in time, money, and/or labor. What we are talking about here are wood pellet stoves, and if you don’t know anything about them, you might be pleasantly surprised when you find out what they have to offer the prospective wood stove owner.

Wood is More Good Than Ever

Because the technology of wood burning has advanced significantly over the years, anyone buying a wood pellet stove will reap the benefits of this evolution. For example, the newest wood pellet stoves do not get hot on the outside, thereby reducing fire risk dramatically. These stoves are designed to prevent smoke from backing up into the house, and many are outfitted with removable ash pans that make cleaning the interior of the stove a breeze in comparison with an old-style wood stove.

As for the wood burning itself, pellets have an advantage over unprocessed wood because their small, customized shape allows the stove to be packed more fully. Additionally, the density of the compressed wood facilitates a more thorough and efficient form of burning that reduces the amount of waste product left unconsumed. Pellets are made from recycled wood byproducts like sawdust and wood shavings, which means they don’t require any trees to be felled just to provide firewood. Another great thing is that because the materials used to make wood pellets are essentially just waste products, the cost of the wood fuel a pellet stove owner must purchase is relatively inexpensive. As a guideline, you can expect to spend approximately five to seven dollars for a forty-pound bag of pellets, which could be enough to keep a modest-sized home heated for up to two days.

Old-fashioned wood stoves needed to be loaded constantly, by hand, and if someone didn’t get up in the middle of the night to feed them, the fire could go out and the house could be freezing cold by the morning. But wood pellet stoves usually come equipped with an electronic thermostatic system that monitors fire temperature and automatically adds pellets to the fire when it starts to produce less heat. The hopper that holds the wood pellets only needs to be loaded once a day, or once every other day with some pellet stoves, and a device called an auger will transfer pellets from the hopper to the fire chamber in response to the signals it receives from the electronic control system. Depending on the size of the pellet stove purchased, the hopper may hold anywhere from 30 to 130 pounds of pellets when filled to the brim.

Wood pellet stoves are usually manufactured to plug in easily to any type of home heating vent system. There are also pellet stoves that can be inserted into the older style of wood stove, allowing for an easy transition to the newer and better technology. The cost of a new wood pellet stove generally runs from $1000 to $2500, which is not an inconsiderable investment, but once the stove is installed, your heating costs will decrease by a significant amount, since wood pellets are a cheap source of heat in comparison to electrical heating energy purchased from the grid. This means that a wood pellet stove will pay for itself in just a few years time.

Finding wood pellet suppliers can be challenging in some parts of the country, but it is now possible to purchase pellets from a few dealers who sell online if you cannot find anyone who sells them in your area. Be forewarned, however, that if you expect to buy your pellets this way, you probably will have to purchase them in bulk, and you will have to pay delivery costs as well. But thanks to the Internet, lack of access to reliable supplies of pellets should no longer be a deterrent to anyone who is thinking of buying a wood pellet stove as a heat source for their home.

©2011 Off the Grid News

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