Heating Your Home with a Pellet Stove
Wanting to become more self-sufficient and less reliant on oil and gas companies, my husband and I have been looking into alternative ways of heating our home. Invented in the 1980's, pellet stoves are a nice alternative to wood stoves. Pellet stoves use small pellets made of dried, recycled sawdust and if you get one big enough, you can heat your entire house with one. Of course there are pros and cons to everything though, so you need to consider all aspects of a pellet stove as well as what you are looking for in an alternative heat source.
Pellet stoves are extremely efficient compared to wood burning stoves. There is very little smoke or exhaust produced by the burning of the pellets. In fact pellet stoves are so efficient, that we have looked at models that heat entire houses by burning one tiny pellet at a time. You don't even need a chimney for a pellet stove, just a small amount of piping leading to the outdoors. This makes the pellet stove a good choice for anyone, even if you live in an apartment.
Pellet stoves are an easy way to heat your home. All you do is dump in the pellets (sold in 40 pound bags) and turn it on and the stove does the rest. The pellet stove is connected to a thermostat and controls how many pellets are burned in order to keep the house at your desired temperature. Depending on the size of your pellet stove, you could potentially only have to fill the hopper every couple of days - or longer.
As for the pellets, typically they are pretty easy to get, but there have been shortages in the past. The places we have talked to recommended purchasing all our pellets in the summer when price and demand are less. But that means we need to have the storage space for a ton or two of pellets. Unfortunately there is no way to make your own pellets and you can't get them from chopping down a tree, like you can fire wood. You are locked into buying pellets from a pellet manufacturer or a store that sells them. Pellet stoves also run on electricity, so they would not work in a power outage. This negates our desire to have an alternative heat source in times of emergency and we would still be reliant on the electric company as our heating source.
How many pellets you go through depends a lot on the weather. If you live in a climate that has mild winters, a pellet stove could be a very affordable option for heating and only use a bag of pellets every 2-3 days. If you live in a very cold climate, you could be using a bag or two of pellets each day. But I still think you can save money with a pellet stove. We did the math when we were looking at this option and it would be cheaper to heat our home with a pellet stove than with gas, even with the coldest of winters here.
We have not entirely ruled out the pellet stove option, because we really like the way it heats. As long as you keep pellets in the hopper you will keep your house at a very even temperature. Pellet stoves are a great alternative to furnaces and whether you are considering heating your whole house or just a small part of it, I think pellet stoves are a very good option.