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Modern Wood Heat 101

Modern Wood Heat 101

Pellet stoves and fireplace inserts heat one, or several, rooms.  They are not the focus of this discussion. Central heating appliances heat the whole building, usually from the basement. Many heat domestic hot water as well. These appliances are the focus of this discussion.


            Primary or auxiliary heat source?


There are pellet-fired central heating appliances that are reliable primary heat sources with large fuel storage that require no back-up heat source.  Such systems are as reliable as fossil fuel systems so they can be installed in place of aging, or unwanted, fossil fuel systems without worry.


Some pellet-fired central heating appliance manufacturers and distributors recommend that their products be installed with a back-up heating system.  Usually they recommend that the existing fossil fuel system be kept intact and maintained to provide heat when the pellet-fired system is off-line.  


The most common reason to recommend that the pellet-fired system be considered an auxiliary system is that its fuel storage capacity is limited resulting in relatively short periods of operation between fuel fills.  It is also common to recommend back-up heat as a result of a situational assessment considering such factors as ready availability of 24-hour service and replacement parts and the risk of building freeze-up during an unexpected outage.   Some recommend back-up systems if the pellet-fired system being offered requires relatively frequent ash removal or internal cleaning to continue operating.  This requires end-user presence. 


Most pellet boiler and furnace systems installed in residences in the Northeast today are installed as stand-alone systems.  Be certain that you have confidence in the appliance’s reliability before making such an installation.  Conversation with existing product customers is the best way to gain that confidence.


Question:  Do you want your pellet-fired central heating system to maintain heat in your home during extended absences, or are you content to supplement its heat with a fossil fuel system? How often will you have to maintain your pellet-fired central heating system or fill it with fuel to keep it operating?  Are you comfortable with that?


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