(ARA) – Cold days are here to stay, and the lower the temperature goes, the higher the utility costs are to heat your home. What if there was a way to heat your house for significantly less? Biomass fuels – natural, clean-burning, inexpensive fuels – offer a smart solution that can lower your heating costs.
Biomass Fuel 101
Biomass fuels are natural fuels that are renewable and clean burning. Examples of biomass fuels include wood pellets, wood chips, paper and other agricultural byproducts. Wood pellets are the most common option. Most homeowners who use these types of fuels will install a pellet stove or insert to heat their home. Approximately 1 million homes and businesses in the U.S. use wood pellets for heat, according to the Pellet Fuels Institute.
The cost of heating by pellet is much less than oil, propane or electric, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Want to know how much you could save? Check out the pellet fuel cost-calculator from Hearth & Home Technologies. Heating with pellets also helps control heating costs since prices for pellets are more stable than propane, oil and natural gas.
Much of the material used for wood pellets is unusable for other purposes. The material is considered second growth, and comes from the forest floor. This wood is no longer wasted – it is processed into tiny pellets that burn efficiently, with low CO2 and particulate emissions. By engineering crops and waste such as cornstalks, straw and forest waste, pellets can transform millions of tons of waste and put them to work, according to the Pellet Fuels Institute. Additionally, pellets are often locally derived, helping to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources.
Pellet Stoves and Inserts
Pellet stoves are compact, attractive metal or cast iron stoves that look similar to wood-burning stoves. Pellet inserts, which are also available in attractive metal or cast iron, are installed inside an existing masonry fireplace. Typically both options include a thermostat you can program to control the heat of your home. The heat is created by pellets that are slowly fed from a storage container called a hopper into the burn-pot, creating a steady flame that produces steady heat. The size of pellet stove or insert needed depends on the size of your home, so be sure to talk to a professional about what size is right for your needs. Visit www.fireplaces.com to browse stove and insert options as well as find a professional near you.
Wood pellets are widely available and can be found anywhere from local hardware supply stores to big box outlet stores. They can also be ordered online and delivered in bulk to most locations. Wood pellets are typically sold in 40-pound bags for between $4 and $7 depending on the type of wood used and availability. When burned in a high efficiency pellet stove, a 40-lb bag of pellets can provide about 24 hours of steady heat for 1500 square feet of living space.
Pellets vs. Wood
You might be wondering why not just burn regular wood rather than pellets. Burning raw biomass fuel, like logs of wood, will not provide you with the heat efficiency of pellets. Pellets have significantly lower moisture content so they have a higher BTU value, meaning they burn more efficiently. They are also smaller, so you don’t need to have a large area to keep many cords of raw wood. Pellet stoves and inserts burn much cleaner than wood – up to 50 times lower particulate emissions than older, non-EPA certified wood stoves or inserts, and up to five times lower than newer EPA-certified wood stoves and inserts.
Most American homeowners who switch to pellet heat will enjoy lower heating costs and a more environmentally-friendly home. Isn’t it time to see if this option is right for you?