We've all been bombarded with the buzzwords: eco-friendly, renewable, green, sustainable - the list goes on. We turn off the lights, recycle and even swing by the local farmers market, but what else can we do? Are there any other practical solutions to help our environment? Maybe some that don't require solar panels or spending a bundle on a new hybrid car? Tiny pellets may be the answer.
Pellet heat: the clever alternative
Pellets are small, dense chunks of biodegradable material, generally made from recycled wood or agricultural products, like wheat or corn. They burn in modified stoves, fireplace inserts and central heating units to help heat your home.
Environmental impact: all positive
The U.S. is a net exporter and the leading supplier of pellets domestically and abroad. More interesting is how pellets are harvested and produced - creating thousands of American jobs. Sustainable forestry practices have the industry, and Mother Nature, thriving. The state of Wisconsin is a prime example: It's the largest U.S. producer of pellets and is also growing state forestry acreage.
Pellets are an extremely clean-burning heating option. They are also a 'carbon neutral' fuel, meaning the amount of carbon emitted from burning pellets is equal to, or less than, the amount of carbon plants need to make the fuel. In fact, joint research by The Alliance for Green Heat and VU University Amsterdam showed heating with wood pellets emits about 90 percent less carbon than oil, and 84 percent less carbon than natural gas.
Making the switch
If you're tired of relying on foreign oil and want to help the environment, you're not alone. According to the Pellet Fuels Institute, approximately 1 million homes in the U.S. currently use wood pellets for heating. That number is expected to rise as international oil prices remain volatile, and as U.S. residents continue witnessing ill effects of environmental pollution and outsourcing.
Pellet appliances - pellet-burning stoves, fireplace inserts and central heat units - allow homeowners to tap into this efficient, eco-friendly trend.
Where can homeowners start?
Harman and Quadra-Fire are two leading U.S.-based manufacturers of pellet stoves, fireplace inserts and central heat units. Both brands are currently offering a $100 off coupon, valid for 30 days after online redemption. Heatilator Eco-Choice also carries a few value-priced stoves and inserts, starting at around $1,500.
Proven pellet performers
* The Harman XXV pellet stove delivers up to 50,000 BTUs of high-efficiency heat (enough for 900 to 2,300 square feet), and utilizes advanced technology to burn any grade of wood pellet with precision control.
* The Quadra-Fire Castile is a pellet fireplace insert - a unit fitting directly into an existing masonry fireplace opening. The Castile effectively revives drafty, old wood-burning fireplaces. It produces 34,400 BTUs (enough heat for 700 to 1,800 square feet) and comes in a rich, porcelain mahogany finish. The unit can operate with a thermostat, and is also available in a stove version.
Want more information?
Fireplaces.com is a great information resource on anything fireplace, stove or fireplace insert-related. The site uses Google maps to help you find a dealer. Your local hardware store likely carries pellets in 40-pound bags. Bulk delivery service is also available in many areas of the country.
Extended burn times and high efficiency ratings make pellets a viable option for heating your home. 'Many stoves can produce steady, regulated heat for up to 24 hours on a single load of pellets,' says Quadra-Fire Brand Manager Matt Hareldson. 'Due to pellet density and high burn efficiencies, these stoves emit extremely low outside air particulates. They help reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases.'
The bottom line:
Put the buzzwords to bed. Do something to help the environment that actually makes sense (and saves you money). Pellets are a practical option to help heat your home.