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Little pellet emits big heat

by: Cliff Newell, Chuck Blaisdell, hearth manager of Coastal Farm & Ranch demonstrates how to operate a pellet stove. The stoves work off fuel from tiny wood pellets, shown at left.

Hold one little wooden pellet in your hand and it is quite unimpressive.

But put a whole bunch of them in a pellet stove and you've got the best kind of heat going - cheap, safe, clean, and best of all, really warm.

'These stoves sell themselves,' said Chuck Blaisdell.

He ought to know. Blaisdell is the hearth manager of Coastal Farm and Ranch in Oregon City, and in the past year he sold $500,000 worth of pellet stove products.

'For the past five or six years, pellet stoves have dominated the market in sales,' Blaisdell said. 'About 70 percent of our (stove) sales are pellet stoves, the rest are gas and wood.'

One of the most satisfied customers of pellet stoves is Chuck Blaisdell.

'People like myself no longer have to stack, split and haul wood,' he said. 'Pellets are so much more convenient. I've still got 5 acres of trees to cut, but I won't have to use it for firewood.

'This is the third winter I've had a pellet stove and it's my primary heat. I now use my heat pump primarily as an air conditioner.'

The popularity of pellet stoves is a relatively recent development. They have been around for about 20 years, but it took a while for a truly efficient pellet to be developed.

'It took trial and error for years and years,' Blaisdell said. 'It took a long time to get them to perfection.'

Perfection is not too strong a word to describe a top brand pellet stove, which Blaisdell says is the only kind sold by Coastal Farm and Ranch. This is true for several reasons.

Sustainability

'They burn so clean,' Blaisdell said. 'If we went outside we would be hard-pressed to see any smoke come out of the smokestacks.'

Rubbing his thumb along the bottom of a stove, Blaisdell comes up with a mere smudge of black dust.

'The residue is literally dust,' he said. 'They're that efficient.'

Doubling the sustainability value of pellet stoves, the pellets themselves are made up of 100 percent recycled wood - chips and sawdust from mills.

Convenience

'Baby Boomers like me have dominated the market for so long,' Blaisdell said. 'We're looking for convenience. I can pour a bucket of pellets into a pellet stove and forget about it until the next day.

'A pellet stove burns about 2 pounds of pellets an hour and it holds 83 pounds. I have a 1,500 square foot house and it heats easily. I never get it off (a) low (temperature).'

Price

Blaisdell uses 2 tons of wood pellets a winter, which comes to $400.

'You save a lot of money,' he said. 'A ton of wood pellets is equal to a cord and a half of wood and there's literally no waste. When it's running at capacity it's only 175 watts, which is like a couple of light bulbs.'

The quality of heat

To demonstrate the safety of a pellet stove, Blaisdell urges customers to touch the stove. They might cringe at first, but they quickly find the pellet stove to be totally mild to the touch.

'You couldn't even heat milk on it because the heat all comes through directive tubes,' Blaisdell said. 'Unlike a wood stove, it's capable of venting right out through a wall. You could have this stove only a couple inches away from a wall and it wouldn't hurt it.

'It provides a nicer heat than you get from most heating systems. You still have that denser, heavy wood heat, and a lot of people can really tell the difference.'

One more virtue: 'Pellet stoves are very easily maintained,' Blaisdell said. 'I clean mine once a week and it takes two minutes.'

As for price, pellet stoves range from $1,800 to $3,400. For less than $3,000 you can get one in a mahogany setting which looks mighty good in a living room.

And, of course, feels mighty good, too.

Those little wooden pellets mean a lot when it comes to winter comfort.

For more information about wooden pellet stoves, call Coastal Farm and Ranch in Oregon City at 503-657-5780.