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March 09, 2013


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I had a pellet stove for about 5 years and it was filthy and pain to empty the ashes every ady and keep it clean not to mention lugging in two tons of pellets over the winter if you can get gas do it if not pay the price and get some oil

Pellet stoves sound awful, especially compared with a Carrier, 98% efficient, natural gas furnace where all you have to do is to set your programmable thermostat once for the temperature you want at different times of the day and night, and then forget about it.

For the family room where we spend most of our time we also have a natural gas fireplace insert that produces the look of a cheerful log fire with flames and glowing embers. It also has a 4 speed blower but we hardly ever use the blower otherwise the room gets too warm. Now that there's just the two of us I set up a small card table in front of the fire (and television) and that's where we enjoy our evening meal, by candlelight, along with a bottle of Chardonnay. If there's nothing we like on TV we have a long list of previously recorded programs on our DVR to select from.

Our county enforces published "Spare the air days" when you will be fined if you are caught burning wood and emitting smoke from your chimney. People are pretty fussy about air quality and neighbors will report neighbors if they see a violation of the ordinance.

This is a novel post. It is so hot in Thailand that although I have installed a tank less water heater for the showers, it is rarely used. The kitchen and bathroom sinks uses ambient temperature water, which is basically lukewarm. The "winter" here involves overnight lows at 72 degrees F with daytime temps still coming up to 90. This "winter" is about 20 days a year.

I am always looking at trying to save costs on air conditioning by using it infrequently and keeping a fan running instead.


We have a high efficiency wood stove and use it every day during the winter. I know when we got it (for ~$5000 with installation), I ran some numbers and projected a breakeven in 3 years, though I have to admit I haven't done a follow up to see if we met it. However, there are factors that make it worth for us, that wouldn't work for everybody
- we got the tax credit for it. I believe this tax credit was just reinstated with the fiscal cliff package - so this is 10% off up to $300 less investment
- our wood is "free" as we had to cut down a huge dying tree in our backyard in 2010 (we did pay quite a lot for the cutting, so not exactly free, but it was a sunk cost already when we got the stove). This tree has already lasted us 3 winters and can cover another 2 at least. If we had to buy the wood the cost benefit would look different. But then, we live in NJ and if we continue to get visited by storms such as Irene and Sandy, at least one value out of it is free wood for the taking for months afterwards.
- as it happens we have an addition to our house that is not heated well by our gas furnace and we had to complement by electricity. The stove covers the addition perfectly, and reduced our electricity bill by half

It does indeed take some work, as the stove needs to be cleaned out and refilled daily - not as much as an old fashioned wood stove, the high efficiency ones use less wood and therefore make less mess. However, for us the pleasure of sitting in front of the fire compensates for this. My husband also splits the firewood himself, but he enjoys the exercise.

Rural America only has a few choices for heat. The infrastructure for natural gas is more appropriate for urban and suburban ares. Propane is not cheap. Heating oil is not cheap. Wood is a good alternative but if the source of wood is not readily available the there is a problem.

Pellet stoves were developed for farmers because you can use organic matter to supply the heat. This could be straw, corn stalks ,wood chips or any other organic matter. They actually sell equipment that will compact and process organic matter for you and make pellets.

Your selection of heat should be based on your availablility of the natural resource and price and above all what you can tollerate. If you are fine with the maintenace of a wood and pellet stove and is cost effective for you then go for it.

Just like a clothes dryer, if you have natural gas available it will be cheaper to run than electric.

I live in a fairly temperate climate. Most home here have heat pumps, which although electric, are fairly efficient and typically cost less to heat than using gas (Unless it drops below 34 degrees). There are on or two families here that have pellet systems but not that many. I'll probably stick with a heat pump when the time comes to replace mine.

I can't imagine anyone here in LA (Lower Alabama) having one of these outside of a hunting camp. Natural gas pumped in from the various bays and gulf is pretty cheap for us.

Where I live, there was a very tragic case about 10 years ago of a family who installed a state of the art pellet stove in their large new farmhouse. Their first night in the house, several of their kids died of carbon monoxide poisoning, it was horrible. I know they have more inspections etc now and it couldn't happen, but I have never been able to forget that incident--I'd never live in a house with one of those stoves.

The beautiful thing about a natural gas furnace is that all of the equipment is in the garage with the sole exception of the ducts that carry the warm air through ducts in the crawl space underneath the floor into every room. The furnace draws air in through a roof vent and discharges the products of combustion through a second roof vent. There is a small amount of water generated as a product of combustion which passes through a small dia. pipe in the garage into a drain outside. However if your electric power is out it doesn't work.

I have never heard of carbon monoxide poisoning from a furnace however there was a major problem in 2010 when a leak in a 30in. diameter underground natural gas line caused an explosion that destroyed 35 homes and caused 8 deaths in a suburb of San Francisco.

There are risks associated with many methods of trying to stay warm. In the recent snowstorm back East there were children asphxiated because with the electricity out the only source of heat was the heater in the family car which unfortunately didn't have the exhaust pipe vented to the outside.

I have a Harman pellet stove and have had it installed for the past 2 years in my living room. I bought it because I wanted more sustainable form of heat (what's not to like about compressed sawdust?) than the ancient oil furnace I had in the basement.
I got 1 ton of pellets for free and then got a discount on the 2nd ton that I couldn't pass up. If I had to come up with a disadvantage to a pellet stove, it's that you have to store pellets to get them cheaply and it runs on electricity. Other than those 2 issues, I have definitely saved money on it. I can turn it on in 1 min, no messing with logs and kindling. And I can turn it off with the flip of a switch. I can adjust the temp up and down depending upon how cold I am. The Harman has a large ash can so I only have to empty it once every two weeks and I put those ashes right into my garden. More recycling, I love it! I have a corner install so it doesn't take up much space in my small house. I also have a carbon monxide detector/fire detector in every room in the house, though I don't think pellets stoves increase your risk of CO if it's installed properly.
I don't have a fireplace and a pellet stove was a cheaper way to get the same ambiance, save money on heating and the environment.

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