Measuring no more than 1-inch long and resembling rabbit feed, pellet fuel for heat is catching on with many homeowners, especially those who are paying through the nose for heating oil and propane again this year.
The bottom line
While prices for fuels can vary, on average the price per BTU for pellet heat is most often considerably lower than heating oil, propane and electricity. You can quickly see for yourself how pellets measure up at this point in time by using this pellet fuel savings calculator. And, when compared to the volatile prices of fossil fuels, pellet prices have remained steady for most of the past decade.
Where to get them
Pellets can be purchased in 40 lb. bags at fireplace dealers, nurseries, building supply stores, feed and garden supply stores and some discount merchandisers. In certain areas of the country, they can also be purchased in bulk.
When burned in a high efficiency appliance, one bag can provide up to 24 hours of steady heat. On average, a winter’s supply of pellets consists of 100 to 150 bags (2-3 tons), depending on climate, home size, and lifestyle variations.
Alternative fuel? You bet.
Pellets are renewable fuel made from compacted sawdust, wood chips, bark, agricultural crop waste, and other natural materials. Since they are made of organic waste from existing industries, pellets provide a way to turn materials that may otherwise go to a landfill into energy.
Homeowners burn pellets in attractive freestanding pellet stoves or pellet fireplace inserts (installed into an existing masonry-built wood-burning fireplace). Pellets are held in a fuel hopper attached to the stove or insert, and are moved to the combustion chamber in small groups by a feeding device. Pellet stoves and fireplace inserts have extremely low particulate emissions due to their high burn efficiency and the density of the fuel. In fact, they burn so clean that the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) doesn’t need to test them for particulate emissions. Another benefit – there is no chimney creosote and they leave behind very little ash for the homeowner to clean up. Pellet stoves and inserts require electricity to operate and many have battery backup systems for power outages.
According to the Pellet Fuels Institute, approximately 1,000,000 homes in the U.S. are heating with pellets. In addition to gaining benefits of lower heating bills, they are also supporting jobs. Pellet manufacturing directly employs more than 2,300 people in the U.S. and supports thousands of industry-related jobs in fields such as transportation and logging.
For more information about pellet fuel, visit the Pellet Fuels Institute’s website here. And you can check out pellet stoves here, and fireplace inserts here.