These Wood Pellet Stoves need no electric!
Burning wood to heat a home does not make you an eco-terrorist, let's get that one point out of the way first. Trees are a renewable resource and they are, in effect, solar energy batteries whose energy is accessed when we burn them.
After the 1998 Eastern Canada ice storm, wood pellet stove sales in that area went through the roof with people wanting heat security at home, particularly the people who may have lived in a school gymnasium or with their in-laws for those two gruelling weeks.
Wood stoves only create an air quality issue when there is a high concentration of them in urban areas, it does not pose the same health risk when they're used in more remote or off-grid areas, on condition that you choose a model of wood pellet stove that has manual rather than electric operation for feeding in the wood granules.
How 'green' they are has more to do with what you burn, how you burn and the stove you choose to burn in. As for emissions - high-temperature fires produce less airborne particulates than low-temperature fires; EPA-certified wood stoves produce less than un-certified stoves and pellet stoves produce less than EPA-certified wood stoves, they are closer to gas stoves in the emissions they produce. To read more about the wood combustion process and to understand how to burn firewood efficiently, see here.
Fine particle emission comparisons between different stoves & Furnaces
The downsides of regular wood burning stoves:
- It can be hard to regulate temperatures;
- you can't go too far away because they constantly need to be fed;
- they mostly rely on split wood which requires cutting trees, splitting, stacking, and tend to bring dirt and bugs into your home. There are pressed logs available but they don't seem to make up a huge part of the fuel market.
A few reasons why we would choose a pellet stove over a wood stove -
- The fuel pellets are made from sawdust, so no new trees need to be cut down;
- they burn much cleaner than a wood stove and release less emissions;
- it's easier to regulate heat; this can reduce fuel use as well by avoiding overheating;
- your home stays cleaner by not bringing in dirt and hibernating bugs.
Wood burning stoves and fireplaces do still add ambiance to any home, making it frankly more "homely", so If you do want a wood burning stove or chimney insert & need to know how to size them or choose the most efficient, see here. If your main motivator is heating a home efficiently and sustainably, especially if it's off-grid or likely to be during power outages, read on...
Which electric-free pellet stoves are best off-grid?
Wood Pellet stoves have always been a great alternative to wood stoves as they have a hopper that feeds fuel as needed, so it's a bit more like having a gas stove in your house. They are cleaner, they balance temperatures better, they are a more hassle-free option in many ways. What we don't like, is that almost every model requires power to operate. Enter the Wiseway and Edison ECO-45 zero electric wood pellet stoves, so let's take a closer look at each:
The Wiseway electric-free gravity feed pellet stove (US Stove Company US GW1949) :
What we really like about the funky looking Wiseway is that this is the cheapest gravity-fed, EPA-certified pellet stove we have found that can run without power. You'd be lucky to have embers after 8 hours with a wood stove, whereas the Wiseway pellet stove runs up to 28 hours on low heat.
According to the manufacturers the Wiseway stove "has a BTU rating of 40,000. It heats between 800 and 2000 square feet, has a hopper capacity of 60 lbs that will burn for 28 hours on low heat and 16 hours on high heat. The Wiseway pellet stove is the only EPA and UL approved non-electric pellet stove."
If there is a downside, it's that they are a little unusual looking, and starting them requires using a propane torch. That wouldn't be a deal breaker for us and it's not terribly complicated - you just open the top drawer, hold a propane torch in it for about 2 minutes to warm the baffle and create a draft, when it hits a certain temperature you let the pellets drop in and keep the torch on them until they ignite. That's still much easier and quicker than getting a wood stove started.
Most importantly, it gets you into the pellet scene at a price that is not far off the mark for a super-efficient normal wood stove and it's not dependent on the grid so is ideal for a cabin, being off-grid, or if your area suffers power outages over winter. We found that the best price with delivery online for the US Stove Company US GW1949 Wiseway is here
Edison ECO-45 battery/solar powered pellet stove
The other zero-electric wood pellet stove we like is the Edison ECO-45 from Drolet, which is perhaps a little easier to imagine in your living room than the Wiseway when you envision yourself sitting by a crackling fire.
Manufacturers say it has battery backup meaning it can be off-grid and is compatible with a PV solar panel set up, the really cool part about this one is that it ignites with solar power. So it's a nice mix of the easy 'flick of the switch' heat we are used to, and you can also stay warm if zombies eat the power line to your house.
Find more info on the Edison ECO-45 online from Drolet and mention EcoHome, we may get a Christmas card!
Read more about high efficiency woodburners, chimney inserts & wood stoves here in the EcoHome Green Building Guides or to learn about choosing the best firewood for high heat output in stoves and fireplaces, see here