Even before we moved into our house we knew we wanted to put in a pellet stove.

It seemed like it would be a perfect fit for our purposes. Pellet stoves run on wood or corn compressed tablets. It looks a whole lot like dog food.

You pour the pellets into the hopper (a container in the top of the stove). Then you set the thermostat (most models come with a programmable thermostat). You go about your life. Pellet stoves are safe to use to heat a home even when you are not there. If properly installed a pellet stove is a safe heat source for a whole home, not just cozy ambiance for one room. Our stove which is a middle if the road and reasonably priced model maxes out at 40,000 BTUs. For frame of reference: a similar electrical HVAC system tops out at 32,000 BTUs buy uses exponentially more power.

Pellets are made from compressed scrap sawdust. As with most things, you can find low-end pellets all the way through high quality, low ash pellets. The quality of the pellet impacts the efficiency of the unit. Hardwood pellets tend to have 15% more energy in them and make less ash (which means less frequent clean up). A pallet of pellets- ha ha ha! is a ton of pellets, which come in 40lb bags. So we had to find a spot in the garage to stack 50 bags of “not actually dog food” pellets. One ton will last us one winter, and we use the insert to supplement the warm and toasty baseboard heat. If it was our only heat source we would use 2, maybe 3, tons in the winter.

It goes without saying this is a green way to heat your home. Pellets are scrap, otherwise trash, and stoves range in efficiency, ours is right in the middle.

So how did we come to this decision?

Well, we knew we would have to do something because the previous owners pulled out the old insert and never put anything in. This can make a home buggy (hello stink bugs!), drafty, and dangerous to use for fire. Logs can roll out with no doors, because this little screen isn’t going to help anything. Without an insert, be it gas, wood or pellet there is no fan to draw cold air from outside and no means of circulating warm air inside.
20130110-222951.jpgWe used this thick piece of foam board to tide us over before installing the stove.

20130110-222743.jpgCarrying the stove in and putting it in place was quite the workout.

Connecting that dryer-looking tube to the back of the unit was an experiment in both problem solving and patience. The tube is wrapped in fireproof insulation and runs the length of the chimney, which is both safe and efficient.

20130110-222535.jpgI was able to trouble shoot getting the unit working (the computer at the back of the unit became dislodged in transit) with some tech support, way more helpful than tech support for computer and Internet stuff!

Once I got it working I let it run for 20 minutes to make sure everything was a-okay. Then I turned it off so we could center it in the space and put the facing on.

20130110-222350.jpgI’m kind of in love!

20130110-222314.jpgEven when it’s off and the Christmas decorations are away, it still looks great!

How do you heat your home? Any other tips or tricks to maximize coziness and minimize environmental impact?