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Wood, Pellet Or Gas? How To Determine
Which Stove Is Best For Your Needs

The Wood Stove & Fireplace Center Of Monmouth County Provides Its Customers Tips When Choosing Between A Wood, Pellet Or Gas Stove

To buy a stove for heat or turn up the thermostat approaching the winter months? That is the question every homeowner will have to address at some point. Whether you want to go with wood, pellets or gas as fuel, there are many more questions that need to be asked. Area stove retailers can help you answer them.

Green Energy Options in Keene, which offers energy-efficient home heating options, design, installation and support, sells about 70 percent of its products to customers who heat with wood.

"There are a lot of forests in this region," said Valerie Piedmont, co-owner with her husband, Pablo Fleischmann. "As long as people are burning efficient stoves, it's a good balance."

As long as seasoned hardwood is used in the woodstove or fireplace, there's nothing like the dry, even heat wood can produce. Some stoves also come with cooking surfaces.

Cost-wise, operating a woodstove can vary a little depending on when in the season firewood is purchased. If you can buy a year in advance, said Piedmont, it costs less than buying at the start of the season.

All the woodstoves Green Energy Options offers are EPA-certified, with efficiency ratings in the 70 percent and higher range. Environmental regulations over the past 30 years have led to innovation.

"Woodstoves got smaller and smaller," said Larry Miller, co-owner with wife, Joyce, of Heart Line Stove Shop in Jaffrey. "They don't need to be as big to do the job."

As far as how much wood is needed to fuel a woodstove through the winter, that depends on the home's efficiency. A well-insulated 2,200-square-foot space like the Fleischmanns' home in Gilsum burns about five to six cords of wood (which costs roughly $300 a cord) every season. A home half that size that is not tightly-built might use the same amount of wood – so cost is also a factor here.

Heating with wood also requires the most labor depending on how much of the process you do yourself. Some split wood by hand or with a splitter, others purchase wood pre-split into pieces that fit their stove. All who heat with wood have to do the stacking of the wood in the wood shed, which for some may be a deterrent.

"Wood is not for everybody," said Piedmont.

The air flow, or envelope, of the space that will be heated is one of the many questions Fleischmann will ask customers wanting to purchase a woodstove. Others include the age of the home, the size and design of the space, whether it has high ceilings that could benefit from a fan to circulate air (because heat rises) and what kind of chimney exists in the home. All types of stoves require a chimney or venting system to the outside, and Green Energy Options can install an insulated chimney pipe (called a Class A chimney) if needed.

If the woodstove is needed only to heat one room in the house, then a smaller stove would be needed than say, one that would heat the entire house – especially if it needs to burn overnight. One option that allows homeowners to use a smaller stove for a longer burn is a soapstone stove, which Fleischmann said holds and puts out heat for a couple more hours than a more common steel stove.

Nearly all (95 percent) of the woodstoves the store carries are non-catalytic, which means the use of secondary combustion air to burn off wood smoke before leaving the stove. Before EPA regulations, all stoves were catalytic, meaning exhaust gases are passed through a catalyst-coated ceramic honeycomb buried deep inside the stove where they ignite and burn, producing a long, steady heat output. A catalytic stove won't function, said Fleischmann, unless you have good draft in your chimney.

Homeowners who are away from the home most of the day or too busy to deal with stoking a woodstove may be perfect candidates for a pellet stove. A pellet stove, fueled by compressed wood pellets, allows a more automated process.

A 40-pound bag of wood pellets costs about $5 and lasts a day – pellets are normally delivered by the ton. Pellets are loaded through the top of the stove and temperature can be set by the user.

"Everybody can go on about their lives," said Miller, adding that pellet stoves increased in popularity at his store again this year thanks to a rise in the price of oil after about a three-year lull in sales.

"People come in to buy pellet stoves – some of them because they've been burning wood for 20 years and can't do it anymore and others because they don't want to burn oil," said Fleischmann – whose store is heated with a pellet stove.

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