She’s here! Finally!
A hearty and long-anticipated welcome to our new pellet stove:
We’re still in the 20s and 30s here at night, so it’s great to have this lovely heater supplementing our oil bill.
But if you remember, it hasn’t always been this pretty… Let’s take a walk down alternative heat lane:
Here was the original stove — a 20-year old Vermont Castings wood stove we were really excited about when we toured the house. Having an alternative source of heat (besides the oil) meant we could save money and use the trees on our land as heat. Yet, when this stove was condemned by several inspectors and chimney people – as it shared the flue with the oil heat (they apparently both fight for draft, making smoke likely to choke back up into the living space), we were told Ole’ Woody had to go … so, we took her out. (Also, so crazy to see the original ceiling and wall divider here – both now gone!)
We considered adding a pellet stove insert in the to-be living room:
We went so far as to having a hearth built, ready to accommodate a lovely pellet stove insert. Until we spoke to a few (more) chimney guys, who said we’d ultimately be buying a $3000 space heater. And it turns out they were right. The room was too small to really reap the benefits of putting a large pellet heater in there, so we looked elsewhere in the house for solutions.
At the end of our rope (and at the end of the list of Chimney guys in southern New Hampshire), we asked our neighbors for their suggestions. It was then we learned of Mark.
He had experience with old chimneys — and I mean OLD chimneys — he was eager to work on ours. This attidue was a welcome change, as many of the other chimney guys seemed lackluster (or downright afraid) of the project, since it wasn’t very cut-and-dry. The flues inside this huge chimney block — which spans 6 feet across and (still holds) a beehive oven– has three flues that spiral, making it difficult to route a new stove to it’s own dedicated flue. He used the flue from the dining room fireplace, which was rendered unusable and too shallow. Blasting through feet of bricks, he installed the stainless steel pellet stove liner through the brick, into a flue of its own, and right back down to the place where the woodstove lived — the perfect place for a downstairs supplementary heater.
Soo, why did we go with a pellet stove? With all the wood on our lot – we were swayed strongly towards a woodstove until we really considered the details. A woodstove takes a 6” or 8” stainless liner, and a pellet stove requires a 4” one — those extra 2”, though it seems minute, really make a difference when working with tight, old spaces. Also, and perhaps more importantly, a pellet stove can be run at a consistent temperature for long periods of time. A woodstove must constantly be stocked, monitored, and restocked– and the burning temperature is fairly uncontrolled. A woodstove takes a long time to reach a peak temperature and then burns at varying heat levels. It also produces much more CO2, emissions, and creosote, which clings inside the liner and must be cleaned more frequently to work at a better efficiency. Not to mention the work of cutting, splitting, drying, and hauling the wood.
On the other hand, the Pellet stove burns pellets (which are composed of sawdust and sawmill by-products — ours are locally sourced from Maine) at up to 70-90% efficiency, which just can’t be matched with a standard wood stove. We can set a heat level (1-5) which regulates the pellets and the blower, adjust for quality of pellets or multi fuel (the stove also accepts corn, barley, wheat, or other types of regionally alternative fuel), and clean out the ash just once week or so.
A negative? The pellet stove must be connected to an outlet, which runs the auger (which pulls pellets into the burn pot). In a power outage, we’d lose heating capacity, unless we purchased a battery backup or ran the unit off a generator. It’s a serious holdup for many wood stove die-hards, but one that we thought was worth it.
Overall, we’re super happy with it. We’ve turned our heat down to the mid-50s downstairs, and it hasn’t kicked on once yet thanks to the assistance of the pellet stove. Since Thurdsay, we’ve burned through three 40-lb bags of pellets (just under $2.50 per bag), heating on ‘low’ 24/7. We’ve noticed the heat concentrating more in the kitchen and dining room area, but with the help of a pedestal fan, have been able to point some of it to the library. Getting an additional heater in the living room (pellet insert? wood insert? Gas logs?) and running it on a supplementary basis would also help circulate heat in the downstairs.
But for now, one long-awaited hurdle is overcome. Hurrah for the pellet stove. I could stand in front of you all day…