The pros and cons of Wood pellet biomass stoves

by Peter Kay on December 2, 2011

The increase in the prices of fossil fuels, that also causes an increase in the electricity price, has made biomass stoves more and more popular. Wood pellet stoves are currently one of the most popular type of biomass stoves for a plethora of reasons.

The Pros

The heat that wood pellet stoves produce is considered to be biomass energy which means that is renewable and friendly towards the environment. You can use a wood pellet stove to heat just the room that you install it, similarly with a traditional fireplaces, or you can buy one that can connect to your existing venting system and heat your entire house (depending on the house size more than one wood pellet stoves might be needed in this case).

Wood pellets are typically produced from wood materials that are considered waste such as leftover paper and lumber, sawdust, branches and bark thus making them a relatively cheap fuel.  The size of a pellet is usually around one twentieth of an inch in diameter and one inch in length. In addition to the small size wood pellets, since they are a processed fuel product, are given a certain shape, unlike traditional wood, that makes it easy to be fed into the stove. As a result the feeding process in pellet stoves is automated.  The automated feeding though will not rid you entirely of the labor work since you will have to feed the stove once a day if it’s burning for 24 hours, perform the typical chimney cleaning and empty the ash bin on average once or twice a week. The ashes from the bin however, can be used as fertilizer for your garden which is another pro of wood pellet stoves versus the traditional fireplaces. Another advantage of wood pellets is that having a certain shape makes storing easy and they are sold in bags. Moreover, pellets contain a small percentage of moisture (8-10%) which makes it a highly efficient fuel in producing heat since not a lot of energy is required to burn and also makes it easy to ignite compared to regular wood. The efficiency rate is usually more than the 75%, as oppose to 25% for traditional fireplaces, that is required level for the 2011 tax credit which has been extended until December 31st 2013 for buying a biomass stove. The tax cut is of the order of 10% with a max payout of $300 (certain restrictions apply so make sure to speak with a qualified tax professional to find out  that if you are eligible).

The Cons

A disadvantage for pellet stoves is the fact that most of them require electricity to function so if there is a power outage and the winter in your area is harsh, it might be a good idea to have a generator or make sure that your stove comes with a battery backup (in case you have already bought your stove you can still buy backup batteries). Furthermore you will need a storage area for the wood pellets and trips or delivery for them to be delivered to you.

 Pricing

Wood pellet stove prices range from $1,500 to $3,000 depending on size, design, heating ability and installation. The US energy information administration places heating cost per million BTUs for pellets cheaper than oil and electricity, kerosene, propane and more expensive than coal, wood and corn. Therefore, buying a wood pellet can save you money and at the same time help the environment in view of the fact that the heat energy produced is renewable.

About the Author

Peter Kay

Peter is a data analyst with over a decade of experience in environmental data analysis. He is a renewable energy sources supporter with his main areas of interest being biomass and energy recovery methods such as waste to energy. Peter is an editor in www.renewablegreenenergypower.com and most of his article can be found under the biomass/biofuels category. He is also a contributing editor in www.greenenergysavingtips.com where you can find useful information and tips on how you can help the environment and save money at the same time. You can connect with Peter @ Google+

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