As Fall sets in and moves rapidly to winter, there’s possibly nothing more relaxing than sitting beside a wood-burning fire. It’s certainly one of my favorite late afternoon activities when it’s coooold outside!
Unfortunately, fireplaces typically aren’t terribly efficient (although beautiful!), nor can they be used on days where burn bans are in effect. Wood stoves can be a nice alternative — they generally throw off a lot of heat and give that woodsy scent and dry heat feeling that warms one up right to the toes. However, not all wood stoves are EPA certified, which means, like fireplaces, they can’t be burned during most burn bans. If you own a wood stove in the Puget Sound region, be sure to check to for certification by visiting the Puget Sound Clean Air site.
Our house doesn’t have a furnace. It was built in the late 80’s to be “energy efficient,” which meant every room was graced with a wall heater. While it’s “energy efficient” in that we only heated the rooms we used, we quickly found that heating a 2700 square foot house with electricity was spendy! So about a year after moving in and paying uncomfortable electric bills, we removed several of the wall heaters and installed a pellet stove.
What an amazing difference! The stove efficiently heats the entire first level of our home while radiating heat up to the loft area of the 2nd floor (we still use wall heaters in the bathrooms, but largely leave the bedrooms unheated unless it’s really cold). There’s a beautiful flame surrounded by ceramic logs similar to those found in a gas stove. A fan automatically turns on when the stove is up to temperature, which then blows hot air into the room. The sound of the fan running is really the only thing I’m not excited about, but it’s not overly loud. It’s just there.
Our heat costs fell to the purchase price of about a ton-and-a-half of pellets. About $350 a year. We go through approximately a bag a day in the winter –more when it’s really cold, less when it’s not. There’s a slight electricity cost to run the fan on the stove, but that’s it.
In Puget Sound, a pellet stove still can’t be used in a Stage 2 burn ban unless it’s the only source of heat. Thankfully Stage 2 burn bans are rare and typically short lived.
Shopping for a pellet stove is similar to shopping for any wood stove. You’ll want to be sure that the stove is appropriately sized for your area and that you can vent it properly. We have a double-walled chimney-style pipe that runs out the back of the stove, through the outside wall and then up above the roofline. With a programmable thermostat, the house is cozy when we get up, cools down when we’re gone, then back up in the evenings. Perfect!
A pellet stove can be an inexpensive heat option … or just for atmosphere. They can be furnace-like or decorative. We like ours. It’s pretty and it feels good!