A Guide to Pellet Wood Stoves

Pellet stoves use sawdust, wood chips, logging slash and field corn to provide safe, affordable heat.

| October/November 1995


Wood heat for city, town and country... from sawdust, wood chips, logging slash and field corn.


In 1979 I appeared on a Maine Audubon TV program called "Woodburners" that examined the past, present and future of this most abundant of self-renewing energy resources. Most of us in the cast and crew had been heating with conventional log-wood for years, and what got us most excited was the future prospect for a new arrival in Maine: pelleted fuel.

Pellets are manufactured from wood products that normally go to waste: "trash" wood such as roadside saplings culled by road crews; limbs, tops and other residue of logging; sawdust and wood chip byproducts of lumber mills and wood manufacture; and cardboard and other wood fiber such as paper packaging that normally goes to clog our landfills. The raw material was ground, dried and compressed—through the same kind of equipment used to form livestock feed—into pencil eraser-sized biscuits of uniform size, dryness and (with minor variations depending on source) energy content.

For the first time, pellets promised to convert wood into a uniform, concentrated product that could be delivered to a heating fire every bit as easily as coal, oil or gas. Loose, dry and easily transferred by auger, conveyor or simple gravity, it could be transported at a competitive price, in bulk, to industry or in convenient bags to homeowners in the country as well in cities and towns. We foresaw a second revolution in wood energy.

Ecological Benefits

Maine and Eastern Canada as well as the Pacific Northwest on each side of the border stood to benefit from increased use of wood pellets. Both areas are heavily forested and logged for lumber and wood pulp. Pelletizing the slash would clean up the woods while adding jobs to their often-troubled economies.

Indirectly, pellets also promised to help clean up the air. We anticipated that a ready supply of cheap wood pellets could supplant coal and oil and bring an end to much industrial pollution. In industrial applications, pellet exhaust could be easily "scrubbed" 100 percent clean. There was even talk of pellets serving as feedstock for industrial-scale production of a clean-burning auto fuel as is done in Brazil.


In a stove, logs are placed on a grate, grille or on the floor facing a door with one or more air inlets in front and a dampered flue in back. The flue's draft sucks in a large volume of air, pulling a constant flow of oxygen past the fire from front to back. Logs can take the oxygen they need as they need it, so they needn't be uniform in density, size or water content from one armful to another.

5/10/2007 7:58:05 AM

As a Manufacturer of Grain Stoves ( corn, Wheat and Rye) I read your artical with interest. Current Governments both in Canada and the U.S. are on the march to ban Non Rated ( EPA/CSA ) Solid Fuel Burning Appliances - EPA 1990 and CSA B415.1 Standards. These Standards apply not only to wood but all pellet fuels including corn / grains. Insentives in the form of rebates are being offered to those that install an approved device ( $ 300.00 ). The Technology of common sense has been used by many manufacturers in the design and function of pellet devices and the operation and reliability not to mention safety has benifited. New pelletized fuels using renewable resources continue to be developed. Sawgrass,Switchgrass, Canary Grass and othe perenial 2 crop per year crops are showing amazing potential. When crops like these are grown on marginal land the argument of burning FOOD goes out the window ! and in flys an opportunity for a real energy revolution. Thanks Chris Grain Stoves Inc. Blyth, Ontario, Canada

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