Pellet Heat: Renewable Home Energy Source

Pellet heat, used in free-standing pellet stoves and fireplace inserts, is gaining popularity as an approach to renewable home energy.  Pelletized fuel is a time-tested heating method, but with the increasing consumer interest in green lifestyles, consumers are becoming more aware of pelletized fuel.  

Generally made from recycled wood byproducts, pellets are a cost stable, low carbon fuel that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions when used as an alternative to fossil fuels such as heating oil, propane and natural gas.

Quadra-Fire Pellet StoveOver the past 10 years, several factors have led to increased interest in pellet heating. Organizations like the Pellet Fuels Institute have successfully campaigned for green heating with pellets, contributing to nearly a million installations of pellet appliances in homes and businesses. Stove manufacturers have also improved the technology and aesthetics of the appliances, making them more attractive and easier to operate and maintain. In addition, the U.S. government is promoting pellet heat with a 30 percent tax credit of up to $1,500 for homeowners who purchase a pellet stove or fireplace insert by Dec. 31, 2010.

“Today’s pellet stove technology is light-years ahead of what it was even 10 years ago, making heating with renewable pellet fuel a practical option for many households,” said Dan Henry, vice president, advanced technologies for Quadra-Fire and Harman. “Many models can produce steady, regulated heat for up to 24 hours on a single load of pellets, with minimal ash clean up. Due to pellet density and high burn efficiencies, the stoves emit extremely low outside air particulates, helping to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases associated with fossil fuels.”

Many homeowners would like to utilize renewable energy, but the cost of solar panels, geothermal heat pumps and wind turbines can be exorbitant, making it virtually impossible to get started. Pellet stoves and fireplace inserts can be purchased for a fraction of the cost, making pellet heat the most affordable and realistic alternative for many homeowners.

In addition to the low cost of getting started, heating with pellets can save money on heating bills, particularly for those currently using fuel oil, propane and electricity. Based on 2010 heating season fuel prices and heating a 1,700 square foot home in a cold-climate state1, switching from fuel oil to pellets can save you approximately $800 per heating season. If you are currently heating with propane, the savings would be about $1,000, and if currently using electricity, about $1,800 per heating season.

Pellet heat is a good option for homeowners who want to save money and utilize renewable fuels. In addition to reducing carbon emissions2, they are heating with a fuel that is grown, harvested and produced right here in the U.S., helping to reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil.

Many homeowners install a pellet stove to work in conjunction with their existing central furnace or boiler. Efficiencies are gained by turning the temperature down 10-15 degrees on the central furnace and using the pellet stove to heat the rooms that are used the most, such as the kitchen and adjoining family or living room. Similar to the concept of a hybrid car, the pellet stove does the primary heating with the furnace as a backup – working together to gain efficiencies and a more environmentally responsible outcome. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy recommends this practice of space heating the areas where you live, as well as closing off unused rooms and leaving bedroom doors open at night. Improving insulation and sealing air leaks in the home will also help to gain maximum heating efficiencies.

In the pellet heat appliance category, homeowners can choose from free-standing pellet stoves, pellet fireplace inserts that fit into the firebox of an existing wood fireplace, and whole-home heating pellet furnaces and boilers.

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