Friday, August 15, 2008

Frenzy for Wood Pellets?

With record high humidity and the air feeling more like a sauna than something that helps you breath, it’s hard to get my head around heating my house at this point. Being a desert dweller, it’s not something I think about much anyway. But a Wall Street Journal article in this Wednesday’s edition, brought about the far reaching impact of high fuel costs one more time.

The article talked about homeowners who have more severe winters scrambling to buy wood burning stoves and other hearth appliances that burn sawdust pellets, corn, and even cherry and olive pits. Sales in some stores are up 250% store owners are saying that if the trend persists, people looking for stoves in September might have to wait until January until supplies come in.

The hardest to find items are pellet appliances which run partly off electricity and use sawdust capsules resembling rabbit food as the main fuel. The good news is they are particularly clean-burning and easy-to-use. And are you ready for this number? Sales at Home Depot alone have surged from 300 tons last year to 18,000 tons season-to-date this year. That number just blows me away and I am sure it will continue to rise.

I know that every time we fill up our tanks, it hurts. What I realized after reading this article, is that heating our homes is a place where we will all take another hit this winter. The average U.S. household is expected to spend 20% more this winter on heating with oil, natural gas, propane and electricity. Not a happy thought and one can only hope for a mild winter.

Another interesting little tidbit in this article was information about open combustion fireplaces which many homes have. They can actually be energy guzzlers, pulling heat out of the house and up the chimney. The alternatives like free standing wood and pellet stoves and fireplace inserts with insulated doors, or even newer open fireplaces can raise efficiency significantly.

Ending on an up note – the demand for these wood burning stoves of all kinds is creating jobs for people. Some companies have doubled the number of employees to ramp up for production. I always like to look for the silver lining and I usually find it.

Happy Friday.

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