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Post in 'The Pellet Mill - Pellet and Multifuel Stoves' started by schenkp, Aug 20, 2008.

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  1. schenkp

    schenkp New Member

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    I’m curious about all of your collective personal experiences with pellets stoves.

    How big of difference did it make in your lives?
    How much better is it for you’re now that you own a pellet stove.
    Does it really keep your home warmer than whatever source you have before?
    Did the formulas you used to calculate heat/sq really add up in the end?

    Anything else you like to share.

    Thanks

    Peter

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  2. Souzafone

    Souzafone Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Freetown, Massachusetts
    I'll answer your questions in reverse order beacuse the they're in reverse order of ease to answer.
    4) Didn't use no stinkin' formulas.

    3) There's no way a pellet stove is warmer than the oil fired FHA we were using, but now we don't have to pay as much for fuel so the thermostat gets set higher. So I guess it is warmer in a sense.

    2) Hard to qualify, but we have saved $$ so that's good. It's also confidence inspiring, because we are such freaking geniuses.

    1) The stove didn't change our lives, we bought the stove because our lives changed. At almost the same time we also got smaller cars, trading in my low mileage truck that I special ordered from the dealership I worked at for a VW TDI
    that gets over 700 miles on a tank. Guess where I get the fuel?
  3. schenkp

    schenkp New Member

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    Thanks for your frankness, anyone else?
  4. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Western Mass.
    Sex life will not improve.
    Food will not taste better.
    Taxes will not go down.
    (that's a joke)....

    Well, you asked for "personal" experiences.......mine is as a dealer who used to sell pellet stoves. We ended up having more trouble, making less money and having more dis-satisfied customers than ever before.....honest!

    But that is the folly of asking for personal experiences. Some people here are going to tell you that the skies opened and they saw enlightenment after their first pellet stoves. Others will say one bag lasted 7 days (and a holiday will be named after it).

    The bottom line is that a pellet stove is a space heating appliance (usually) which costs a certain amount of money, needs a certain amount of service and the fuel costs a certain amount of $$$ per BTU. If you use more fuel, you will be warmer. If you use less, you will be colder.

    The only honest formula to use is BTU to BTU against whichever other fuels are available to you. Add in the cost of the stove and ongoing service and see if it is worth your while.

    For a very general idea, pellets usually end up being more expensive than Nat Gas and somewhat less than heating oil or LP. If you are using heating oil, a rough guide is to move the decimal point:
    $3.50 oil = $350 pellets.
    $250 pellets = $2.50 oil
    etc.
    http://www.hearth.com/compare

    Given a question like yours, I think they are hiring in PR over at the Pellet Fuel Institute. Either that, or we should start a "Church of the Wood Pellets" and field questions to the Prex candidates.
    %-P
  5. Craiger13

    Craiger13 New Member

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    " Others will say one bag lasted 7 days (and a holiday will be named after it)."

    Thanks, just spit coffee across my screen. That's the funniest line I've heard in a long time.
  6. schenkp

    schenkp New Member

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    Ya that was funny, I know that my investment will pay for itself within 2 years.
  7. DiggerJim

    DiggerJim Feeling the Heat

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    I'm puzzled by the data this link returns. I was under the impression a ton of pellets delivered more heat (BTUs) than a cord of wood which makes sense considering the density of pellets vs. the open stack wood. However, when I run the calculator using $200/ton for pellets and $200/cord for wood, both at 70% efficiency I get this answer:

    $11.43 per Million BTU of Heat delivered to home
    $1,085.85 per year for normal home for Hardwood
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    $17.71 per Million BTU of Heat delivered to home
    $1,682.45 per year for normal home for Pellets

    This suggests that a cord of wood contains 55% more BTUs than a ton of pellets. That seems to be substantially different than other rules of thumb about this subject.

    What's up?
  8. itworks

    itworks New Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Southwestern CT
    I've been running a Harman P68 24/7 for the past 4 heating seasons.
    It takes some work...about 1/2 hr each week, 3-4 hrs at the end of the season, about 3 hrs to stack the bags in my garage, 5min daily to fill the hopper
    We all like the stove. It creates a great ambiance in our lower level. It's like having a fireplace going 24/7.
    Our 2 cats love it. They spend most of their waking days sleeping in front of it.
    It alone does NOT keep our 2 level 1600sqft home as comfortable as using our oil burner, but it does reduce the expense. I figure by the end of this coming winter I'll be ahead about $500
    Ive looked at most of the formulas available, and I think they're all skewed. My personal best formula is tracking how many gals of oil I used before installing the stove vs how many I currently use, and then factoring in the cost of the pellets.

    Did it make a big difference in our lives? Definitely NOT. Was it a good financial investment? I'm not really sure. Pellets, just like oil is a commodity that fluctuates. Based on the price I paid for 5 tons of pellets for this coming winter it is currently a good financial investment, but who knows what the future may bring.
    Would I do it again? Definitely.
    It just appears that most of the posts I've read skip over the environmental factors of burning pellets vs fossil fuel, or the dollars we send our "friends" overseas to pay for these fuels. I think these are additional factors one should consider in deciding if a pellet stove makes sense.
  9. stejus

    stejus Minister of Fire

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    Central MA
    I read somewhere it's about 1 ton of pellets for every 120 gallons of heating oil. I'm sure there are some variables to this, but a decent figure to use. At today's market price for pellet vs oil, you'll save money, but not enough to pay the stove off in two years. If oil prices rise above $5.00 a gallon and pellet prices stabilize, the ROI will come much quicker. See >

    1 Ton of Pellets - $300
    120 gallons at $4.15/gal - 498
    Savings - 198.

    1 Ton of Pellets - $300
    120 gallons at 5.00/gal - $600
    Savings - $300

    It's quite obvious the wider the gap between the cost of pellets and oil (or whatever), the better pellet stoves look. I think this was the reason for the mad rush of pellet stove orders in the month of July.

    Keep in mind, you still need hot water in the winter and annual service on pellet stoves so add those costs into your savings calculation.

    I personally don't mind if it takes 2, 3 or even 5 years to pay off the stove. It's good to know there's an alternative to what you are using for fuel today.
  10. Czech

    Czech Minister of Fire

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    Twin Cities, MN
    Actually it did somewhat change our lives. The stove is installed in a semi-finished basement, we never spent time down there at all. There is now carpet reminents down and second hand furniture, the family and I spend time by the stove playing cards and board games or read almost every night during the winter. Money wise (not including time!) I'd say we come out about 10-15% ahead at the end of the year compared to running the NG furnance, we keep the house a bit warmer. Didn't use any formulas, it was a cheaper easier stove rather than the wood stove I initially wanted (30' of chimney cost more than the pellet stove). It does grow old say about mid March, by then I'm tired of winter and maintaining the stove. I would do it again.
  11. houset

    houset Member

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    Loc:
    Pennsylvania
    WOW!!! A loaded question.

    I went and bought a pellet stove to supplement my heat. I wanted it to be warmer in my house and for the comfort level we desired just wasn't feasible with the price of oil. I was able to get my stove at HD on clearance. So as one other person says, the only way to tell your savings is by comparing last year to this year. I hope to save roughly 1-2 tanks of oil this winter with the stove. That will in essence pay for the stove in one year, and the stove and fuel in 3 years. Will i get it? I don't know. But i did soooo much more to improve my energy efficiency (new windows, insulation, etc..) that i won't really know what provided me the savings.

    I'm kinda glad Oil went up as fast as it did. It made me look at my energy consumption in general and improve it. So i am on a mission to get off of foreign oil as quickly as possible.
  12. DiggerJim

    DiggerJim Feeling the Heat

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    Northcentral Connecticut
    Craig's calculator (http://www.hearth.com/fuelcalc/oil.php) says it's more like 100 gal of oil = 1 ton of pellets which is consistent with his "move the decimal point over 2 places" shorthand. On the other hand, I'm still questioning the calculator's validity as it relates to cord wood (which I'm seeing almost everywhere being used on a 1 ton pellets = 1.5 cords of wood but the calculator shows it the reverse). So, YMMV.
  13. hossthehermit

    hossthehermit Minister of Fire

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    2,374
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    Maine, ayuh, by gorry
    Well, lemme tell ya
    ?#1 My wife stopped telling me that we had to put in a wood stove
    ?#2 See answer to ?#1
    ?#3 So far it does, 'cause I've been workin' my a$$ off gettin' it hooked up (or at least it seems warmer)
    ?#4 Wife not bitchin' + not burnin' oil (I hope) + wife not bitchin' (I hope) = Life is good (I hope - I'll let ya know next spring)
  14. GVA

    GVA Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
    Waxhaw, NC... Formerly North shore Mass
    in the calculator
    The BTU on pellets is low
    the btu on hardwood cordwood is high.
    The btu on softwood is equal to the value on pellets.
    And the calculator shows you will burn 7 plus tons a year ( I never did)

    Craigs calculator can't show every possible hardwood so he went with an average (granted it's a bit high)
    In a nutshell 2000 lbs of wood (hardwood or softwood) will have the same BTU as a ton of pellets
    hope this helps
  15. stoveguy2esw

    stoveguy2esw Minister of Fire

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    well peter, for starters, i build both wood and pellet stoves (just to qualify myself)

    we bought our house in 1993 when i came home from the army.

    the house has a chimney but nothing connected(it is however lined and a sweep friend from high school checked it out before i bought.

    we also had baseboard electric in the house. moved in in october. didnt have a stove at that time and was just starting at ESW. so when it got cold we turned on the baseboard heat (about mid month, was only chilly at night)

    got first electric bill and about had a stroke just over 400 bucks for less than a month not counting the fee for getting it turned on) went to the boss next day and bought a woodstove. next electric bill was about 80 bucks and it stayed there from then on...
    flash forward to 2004...

    installed a 25-pdvc pellet stove , needed to because the wife never really got the hang of running the woodstove and i was starting to travel with my job a lot, so pellet stove was a reasonable answer. (wife fought me tooth and nail over putting it in, after planting my foot down i installed it and showed her how to operate it , she loves it now.

    so to answer your questions...
    1. yes it did , now she can help with the stove and use it when im away, taking a load off my mind

    2.see answer to 1

    3. PUSH, the woodstove and the pellet stove are quite even in how they heat the house i was just as satisfied with the woodstove but for the ease of operation for the wife. that said , the baseboard didnt heat all that well and cost a fortune. and have since been removed from each room as i have refinished them.

    4. i didnt use any of the calculators, i know the size of my house and the rated sq footage of the units i have used. as for cost of fuel , actually i get a large percentage of the fuel i burn through ESW so i do not have to pay retail for them unless i choose to (which i do a lot just to experiment with different brands) so i cannot really comment on the cost issue as much other than if i had to at retail i could buy 2 to 3 times what i would need monthly for what i would have had to pay for baseboard and not had as comfortable a house heating with baseboard.
  16. peirhead

    peirhead Feeling the Heat

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    I've played with a few calculations but found this one to be pretty good (see below) ...my problem is here in PEI (Canada) there is a real mix of metric and english & american measurement gallons litres and Imp gallons to try and chew through. I agree with one of Craig Issod's previous posts..be very conservative on stove efficiencies... like cars...very few will ever approach rated efficiencies in real life rather than in a controlled lab test. useful maybe for comparing one stove to another


    http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/techline/fuel-value-calculator.pdf

    By the way I am waiting on a Quad Castile and was told by them (Quadra-fire Customer Service) that although they do not publish efficiency for this stove, independent tests have shown the Castile to have an average efficiency of between 75 and 83..I am budgeting on around 70% .......so say 8400btu/lb at 4 lbs/hr at 70% gives me about 23,500 BTU/hour delivered into the house with pellets..... whereas my furnace (Hot water/oil) runs at 165000 BTU/imp gallon of oil, nozzle at .85 GPM, efficiency at 80% puts out 112,000 BTU/hour

    Now I know even in the coldest days my furnace is not running 1 minute of every 4 (25% of the time) so I am hoping the stove will displace a good portion of the oil I currently use!!
  17. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Western Mass.
    Simple. A cord of hardwood in the northeast weighs in dry at about 3500 lbs (some heavier, some lighter).

    A ton of pellets weighs in at 2000 lbs.

    Both are made of wood.

    Which contains more BTU's?
  18. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    Loc:
    Western Mass.
    Further study...
    Wood has 20% moisture, so an extremely efficient stove might output 6,000 BTU per pound
    so the cord is 3500 x 6000 or 21,000,000 BTUs

    Pellets have less moisture, and a heating value therefore of 7,000 BTU per pound (output)
    2000 x 7000= 14,000,000 BTU per ton

    21 million is......(drum roll, please)...........50% greater than 14 million.
  19. 8nrider

    8nrider New Member

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    which is easier to get ? i thank you for all your input on my mb 55 craig . i think moisture content is a factor. how much energy does it take to make the pellets before it goes into the stove?
  20. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    A lot, but of course that is already built into the price you pay.

    It takes about 15% of the wood to dry the other 85% (when pellets are made)....
    then it takes the electric, etc......
    then it takes the diesel for trucking
    then it takes your car or truck if you haul them....

    But the only part that figures in the $$ equation is what you do over and above the cost....meaning delivery fees or your own gas and wear and tear picking them up.

    As far as fuel availability, that's a regional thing. Obviously one cannot find pellets stacked on the side of the road, or in their woodlot. But neither can they find seasoned wood, split and stacked and ready to go.

    Both fuels have a "lifestyle" component.....that is, unless you really WANT to burn them, you might not enjoy it. In most cases you cannot therefore (in my opinion) compare them with oil, gas or electric.
  21. stoveguy2esw

    stoveguy2esw Minister of Fire

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    actually 2000 lbs of wood cannot deliver the same btu's as 3500 lbs of wood. simple math.

    however 2000lbs of cordwood in a modern EPA woodstove will simply not deliver the same amount of btu's as 2000lbs of pellets in a modern pellet stove

    average efficiency rating of an epa phase 2 non-cat woodstove is 63%
    average efficiency rating of an epa phase 2 pellet stove is 78%

    figuring wood at 6000 btu per pound and pellets at 7000 btu per pound (i saw that somewhere)

    pound for pound the pellet stove wins easily.

    taking into consideration that pellets generally are more expensive than cordwood in most localities btu for the buck , wood will still likely win, however the ease of dealing with pellet fuel compared to wood, i think just about makes it a wash. now before someone says "well you can cut your own wood and process it" yeah you can , buy a chainsaw, gas for it , if you are serious, a splitter and gas for it, then factor those costs in it gets closer in the btu for the buck arguement. then look at the availability of use. cordwood needs to season , pellets dont.

    OTOH woodstoves dont need electricity pellet stoves do, pellet stoves have moving parts and electric motors , woodstoves generally dont so replacement of these motors can be an added cost down the road. in a new install with no chimney a pellet stove is much less expensive to install. pellet fuel is neat and comes in sealed bags , wood is messy and has to be toted in bark and bugs and all. woodstoves create more ash per pound of fuel than pellet stoves do. but wood can be stacked outside with little cover and will still be usable, pellets have to be more carefully stored. wood can get rained on and will dry out and be usable again, pellets get wet they are absolutely useless.

    i could go on and on...

    all im saying is this. both have advantages both have disadvantages. a wise man who i consider a friend has stated many times in here, "theres an arse for every seat" the descision about whether to go pellet or wood simply should not be decided solely on the amount of BTU's a stick has over a couple handfuls of pellets. but the overall intent of lifestyle the purchaser intends to lead with regard to heating their home. both are very effective ways of accomplishing the same thing.
  22. DiggerJim

    DiggerJim Feeling the Heat

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    Hmmm....even more study suggests the following though (I'm a long time wood burner for my wood-fired brick oven so I've done some of these calcs before <grin>):

    Seasoned wood is about 20% water so a pound of "dry" wood is actually .83 lbs wood and .17 lbs water.
    Every pound of wood has 8,600 BTUs in it.
    Every pound of water requires about 1,200 BTUs to vaporize.

    So, a pound of dry wood yields (at 100% combusiton efficiency) .83 * 8,600 or 7,138 BTUs. But wood only reaches that level of combustion efficiency at very high temps (1100F+) where it can burn the volatiles that are in the wood (this is why wood fired ovens are white when they're cooking - the soot that forms early in the cycle burns off at these high temps - and why pizza tastes better because the deck of the oven is at 700F). So assuming a combustion efficiency of 85%, that pound of wood releases 6,067 BTUs of which some is lost to flue gas temps, etc. yielding an overall efficiency of perhaps 70% or 5000 BTUs per pound of "dry" wood.

    Now a pound of pellets also being wood has the same 8600 BTUs potentially available. However it is far drier - 5% or less so that pound of pellets is .95 lbs wood and .05 pounds water. That will yield .95 * 8600 = 8,170 BTUs at 100% efficiency (very near the 8,200 that's bandied about as the heating value of pellets). Again we're at the mercy of some efficiency loss due to things like flue temps and minor volatile loss but with pellets that's far less - 98.5% according to the EPA so "real" burn efficiency would yield 8047 BTUs. Real-life overall efficiencies of 70% (a pathetic performance if a wood stove can acheive the same) would still yield 5,719 which is 15% better than dry wood and at something like 80% overall efficiency a pound of pellets would yield 6,536 BTUs vs. the dry wood's 5,000 BTUs or 30% better on the pellet side.

    So, a pound of pellets is "hotter" than a pound of dry wood. Unfortunately while pellets are sold by weight, cordwood is not. A cord of dry wood contains 128 cu feet of wood & air - the air having bupkis for heating value in the stove since you leave it outside. The actual solid wood content ranges from mid-60s to 90 cu feet. Assuming a quality 80 cu ft/cord you get that magic 3,600 pounds/cord. However, that's for a really tight, straight minimal airspace cord of dry oak. Sound forest management techniques recommend that you want to cut the low-quality crooked many-limbed trees on a woodlot for sustainability (otherwise by cutting all the straight clean trees you end up with a junk woodlot). Those crooked trees yield a very open cord (more on the 60 cu ft end than the 90 cu ft end). If those are the kind of cords you get then you'll get about 2,900 lbs/cord.

    According to the calculations above, that would yield 2900 lbs/cord * 5,000 BTUs net/lb = 14.5M BTUs/cord vs. 2,000 lbs/ton pellets * 6,536 net BTU/lb = 13.1M BTUs or only a 9% benefit toward cordwood which in practicality is an almost non-existent advantage.

    What we need here is a lab where we can weigh and burn things.

    :)
  23. itworks

    itworks New Member

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    Loc:
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    Yeah sure I agree using my advanced calculations and my Bowmar Brain. Now lets sit down and enjoy that pizza with a couple of beers
  24. MoeB

    MoeB New Member

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    Loc:
    Bangor, Maine
    I have two Harman Accentras and am converting to natural gas in both the house and office. I really enjoy the pellet stoves, although keeping two cleaned all winter does get old by springtime. The best way I can tell you how much my family likes the pellet stoves is to tell a little very true story.

    We live in an 1833 cape cod. In the office (an L off the main house), there isn't a whole lot of insulation. There are sections of the house that are not over one of the two separate cellars.

    Last winter, along about February, the auger motor died in the stove in the house. The stove is in our very large kitchen, which is the only room in the house not over a basement. The ceramic tiles stay toasty warm when the stove is on and will send bone-chilling cold through your body when the stove is off unless you are wearing very warm socks or slippers.

    Since we put the pellet stove in the house three years ago, the kitchen has become the gathering place in the house. My grandson, who is four, comes down the stairs in the morning and pulls a chair right up in front of the stove. If I stand in front of it, I'm called a "stove hog."

    Well, getting back to the story, when the auger motor died, we were without a stove for two weeks waiting for the part and the stove guy to come and install it. I kid you not, you would think some beloved friend or relative had died in the kitchen and the body was left to decompose in the center of the room. No one would go into the kitchen unless they had to for food or beverage. It was pitiful. The old forced hot oil furnace, which is very old and was old when I bought the house 24 years ago, just doesn't heat the kitchen well and never has.

    All's well that ends well though. The auger motor was replaced, and life as we have come to know it resumed. The kitchen once again became the gathering place. My daughter's family, in transition from a move back to Maine from Florida, once again cuddled up to the stove, not having yet acclimated themselves to the harsh Maine winters.

    This year I will make sure to have a few stove parts on hand.

    Hopefully the house NG conversion will be completed by snowfall, so, worst case scenario, we can huddle up to hot air vents -- somehow not as appealing as the cast iron Harman Accentra pellet stove we have come to depend on for warmth and comfort from the cold -- and whatever else is happening in our lives.

    Moe
  25. toastyinri

    toastyinri Member

    Joined:
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    Loc:
    Rhode Island
    1. I love to watch the flame in my Harman Advance . Also picking up those 40lb bags of pellets added some good upper body strength :)
    2. I've saved a lot of $$$'s and I know exactly what my heating cost will be for winter in August when I buy my pellets for the season (this year 249.00 per ton from HD ...less than last year but more than the 1st year. )....no surprises when the gas bill comes...haven't run my gas fired boiler in 3 years...in fact, I drained it and shut it down 3 years ago. Gas company keeps wanting to change my meter. They can change it all they want...it's their time and their money.
    3. House is much warmer....no more sweatshirts in the winter...in fact my inside "wardrobe" is the same as my summer attire now...tee shirts and shorts!
    4. I read the Harman literature and matched the sq. footage to what they recommended. I'm a lot warmer on those frigid days.

    When the big old HD delivery truck pulls up to deliver my pellets, my neighbors all ask "So what's it costing you THIS year and are amazed at my savings. They start shivering when their oil truck pulls up, fills their tanks and leaves the bill. They're threatening to visit more often on the cold days so THEY can thaw out and tell me they have to dress like Nanook of the North in their homes to "save".

    Granted, a pellet stove is a little more "work" to maintain with cleanings but I find its well worth the investment in the short time it takes to do it.
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