Friday, February 6, 2009

Pellet Stove Woes

We are both very lucky and very unlucky. How you ask, can one family be both simultaneously? Well because last Sunday our house didn't burn down. Our pellet stove seriously malfunctioned. What resulted in called Back Burn in pellet stove jargon (and which actually sounds like the title of a B level action adventure movie to me!) Said back burn evolved when the auger in the pellet stove jammed and the pellets burned in a core up through the hopper. Luckily my wife got the pellets out before full combustion and thus, our house is still standing and thus we are very lucky.

However. . . yesterday pellet stove tech arrived to assess the damage to the stove. To say it was severe is an understatement. The back burn essentially melted the interior of the stove and it is not repairable. It is an 8 or 9 year old stove at this point. The cost of all the parts would outweigh the benefits of simply replacing the stove. Except that I don't have a hefty chunk of change sitting around the house just waiting for me to stimulate the economy with a big purchase.

Our house is a very old Victorian. It actually wasn't even insulated till we sided it about 20 yrs ago. It is still very hard to heat. New windows would help but I refer loyal readers to the last sentence of the previous paragraph! :-) Additionally the configuration of our home regarding windows and air flow patterns makes it very difficult to find a place where a pellet stove can be located so that it can adequately provide heat the to the 3 rooms that need it the most. These rooms are our living room, front hall and our work room. Our work room is farthest from the stove and gets only a bit of heat but it is enough to get by. The front hall and the living room benefit the most. Pre pellet stove days we could never get our living room above 55 degrees on a cold and windy winter day. (5 to 10 degrees outside with breeze) We essentially don't heat the bedrooms on the second floor. The gas furnace does the other downstairs rooms.

The narrow footprint for where we can place a pellet stove is the thing that makes it pricey for us. We basically have 2 options that will fit there safely and meet code. The first is a product by Thelin Co. This is the stove that just died on us. It looks like an old fashioned parlor stove which is nice as far as the style of the house goes. And it is skinny where most pellet stoves are wider so it accomodates that dinky area well. Another option would be a pellet stove put out by a company called Harmon. They look cool, very high tech--which sometimes scares me though as in my experience the more high tech the more there is to go wrong . . . They can hold a whole bag of pellets which the Thelin can't. That would be cool. But they load from the bottom and a review I read on line said this could make them more prone to a fire. Nearly been there done that, so that is pretty much enough for me. Also the back up system to provide enough juice for the stove to run in a power failure is fairly expensive and complicated. Would cost almost as much as a generator. On top of the cost of a new stove, that is fairly significant to me as well.

I actually wish we could just have a woodstove. K and I had one back when I lived in a small town when I first left home. Woodstoves run in power failures quite nicely! However the downside is that they are also quite messy and there is the whole hot stove issue with young children. The plus side of a pellet stove is that there are only 2 places on the entire pellet stove that are hot on the exterior and I can safe guard the kids by gateing the whole hearth area, which I do. But with a pellet stove, I don't have to worry if a toy landed on the top of the stove etc. With a wood stove, I would. So I guess i have to hope for a kicking tax return and not too cold weather from now on!

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