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Burning biomass: Pellet Stove experience in Arlington

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Originally posted on March 17th, 2007

This past fall, we had a pellet stove installed and we really like it. It’s an insert to our fireplace that burns small pellets made of compressed sawdust. It heats the living room and most of the downstairs very well. We still use our regular furnace and radiators, mainly for heating upstairs. But if you leave the stove running for several hours it does a pretty good job of heating the whole house.

We bought the pellet stove from Energy Unlimited in Wayland. I also expect that we’ll be buying fuel from them.

So far this year, the stove has been our primary heat source although we do use our gas furnace regularly. Our bills and gas consumption have gone down significantly– on the order of 30%. Of course, we’ve had to pay for pellet fuel which cost $300 for a ton and $50 for delivery.

We keep up the pallet in the our garage because the pellets need to stay dry. We’ve burned through the first ton and are ordering a second ton now.

In terms of labor, you have to carry the 40-pound bags of pellets in from outside, obviously, and pour them into the stove from the top. We have been emptying the ashes out every two weeks and using a vacuum to clean it out thoroughly. We throw the ashes on the compost. We’ll also have to get the chimney checked regularly and the stove cleaned professionally.

My biggest concern with the stove so far is getting the fuel. Pellets were not available around here last winter. And getting a second delivery from our supplier has been delayed a couple of times. Places like Home Depot also sell pellets, so that’s another option. I’m told that getting high-quality pellets are important.

The stove itself cost about $2200. Altogether, the stove, installation, and delivery of ton of pellets costs over $3000.

It gives off a dry heat, blown out with the fan and it’s really nice having a fire going. Before we rarely used the fireplace, because it was so wasteful, heat-wise. You can’t smell smoke outside when the stove is burning like you can when you burn wood in a fireplace.

In theory, wood pellets are a renewable resource, although I don’t know about ours for sure. We get them from a lumber company which has set up a subsidiary to make pellets from its sawdust. In general, it seems environmentalist give pellet stoves good marks as a heating option.

See more here at Grist.org.

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