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Pellet stoves: What are the advantages?

12 January 2011 by National Bank
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Heating with pellets, often described as an effective, environmentally-friendly and economic alternative, has been a hot topic in recent years.

The many advantages of pellet stoves include:

  • They can be operated continuously for 24-48 hours.
  • The flow of heat generated is greater than a traditional wood stove;
  • They are more environmentally-friendly;
  • Along with wood stoves, pellet stoves are one of the cheapest alternatives on the market (see comparison chart below).

If you enjoy the aroma of burning wood and are dazzled by the dancing flames, yet you find using a wood stove to be quite laborious, then a pellet stove may be your best alternative.

According to our calculations, using a pellet stove will run at roughly the same cost as using a wood stove.

It is also a worthwhile investment, given that it replaces the need for heating oil, propane or gas.

So, just how much does it cost to heat using a pellet stove?

The stove

Depending on your choice, the stove itself will cost somewhere between $3,500 and $6,000, which includes the required chimney and installation.

While a pellet stove may cost a bit more than a wood stove, the total cost remains about the same, given that the chimney is actually cheaper.

On the other hand, pellet stoves have a shorter life span than wood stoves: 15 to 20 years, versus 20 to 25 years for the latter.

Pellets

The vast majority of pellet stoves operate on wood pellets, made from sawdust or compressed wood residue.

Expect to pay between $4.29 and $5.29 for an 18.1 kg (40 lb.) bag in most hardware superstores. Rates will vary from store to store, as well as depending on whether you use soft or hard wood pellets.

Opinions differ as to which are easiest to maintain, so trying different types of pellets is recommended before buying large quantities.

Price per million BTU¹, taking performance into account

Source Unit Cost2 Energy Value (BTU) per unit Efficiency3 Cost per million BTU
Electricity 7 ¢/kWh4 3,412 100% $20.52
Wood $100 /cord
7,898,184 80% $15.83
Granules $264.64 /metric ton 18,766,836 80% $17.63
Oil 76,7 ¢/litre 36,826 80% $26.14
Natural Gas 68,15 ¢/m3 35,925 80% $23.66
Propane 71 ¢/litre 23,980 80% $37.01

1 - The British Thermal Unit measures the amount of heat from a heating unit.

2 - Average rates in effect in October 2010, before taxes.

3 – Considering an efficiency rate of 80% for all devices, in order not to favour one over another. Rates of efficiency vary widely depending on age and the technology used. Only the return on electricity, which is close to 100%, is well established.

4 - Average cost for a single-family dwelling of 158m², with an annual consumption rate of 26,484 kWh.

Learn more

Energy Efficiency Agency (EEA)

On the EEA website, you can perform an energy assessment, as well as access a variety of helpful tips on heating and auxiliary heating.

Natural Resources Canada

The site provides extensive information on the various heating systems in the Personal: Residential section.

Hydro-Quebec

The Hydro Quebec website provides a tool which allows you to evaluate your energy consumption.

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