GMG Open Topic Of Discussion Of The Week- Wood Stoves vs Pellet Burning Stoves vs BioBricks

So before you start reading please consider contributing to the deiscussion on this topic by clicking where it says “Leave a comment” below the post.  If you get the email at the end of the night you can add to the discussion by clicking on the title of this post and adding your comment where it says “Leave a comment” below the post.  Thanks.  I’m really obsessed with the topic right now and I’m excited to read what you all have to say.

The idea of the new “GMG Open Topic Of Discussion Of The Week” Is To Talk about an interesting topic and beat it to death in the comment section.  Hope you like it and feel free to subit other topics for upcoming weeks.

A friend of mine has a killer pellet stove.  You go into the room where the pellet stove is roaring and no matter how frigid it is outside you are warm and comfortable in his house.

I hate the cold.  Despise it actually.  Winter is for the birds as far as I’m concerned. I want to be comfortable and being cold does not equate to being comfortable in my book.

Pellet Stove

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This will be my first shortened post using the new format so to view the entire post click here to expand it-

So anyway, growing up we had fireplaces in my parents house.  My dad got split wood and he would store it in the garage and I remember fires sitting around and mom making hot chocolate with marshmallows and life was good.  Well life was good until the mice came.  Dad was convinced and probably rightfully so that the mice set up shop in the woodpile he had in the garage and eventually got into the house.

Traditional Fireplace

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My closest friends growing up The Kalousts had a wood burning stove and I’ll never forget sitting in that room on Sundays watching football and having that wood stove cranked.  Oh what good times.

Wood Burning Stove

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For me though after working 14 hours a day for 7 days a week I just wouldn’t want to deal with the hassle of stacking wood and cleaning up after wood and lugging the wood.  Just seems like such a huge PITA when I finally get a chance to chill out in the winter after a grueling lobster season.

I love the idea of the pellet stoves but then I go on the fireplace forums and the purists on there seem like they are a bunch of alarmists that keep bringing up that fact that if your power goes out that the pellet stoves rely on electricity to feed the pellet hopper and the fans to blow the hot air into the room.  Some also chimed in that the fans can be noisy.  I didn’t notice a bothersome noise from the fan but I could see that if you really wanted to be able to heat up a house and keep pipes from bursting that you would want to be able to stoke the fire and if a pellet stove required electricity and the electricity goes out, then you are not going to get that benefit.   To that point however Toby Pett brought up the fact that neither of us could point to an instance that we could remember where the power was out for such a long time that people’s pipes were bursting.

So then there is the topic of raw dog fireplaces with a flu and stuff.  You know the open kind of fireplace where you throw logs in and you sit in front of an open fire with a screen in front of the fireplace.  Now some people say that they actually suck more heat out of the house because of the open chimney than they put in- anyone want to chime in on that?  Any while we are on the subject of an open fireplace has anyone seen these (new to me) biobricks?  They stack up nice and evenly, look literally like oversized bricks, made of a wood composite and supposedly burn cleaner, longer and hotter.  They also need to be stored in a dry place I believe but wouldn’t provide a nest for mice and insects.

Of course you pay for the convenience and cleanliness of pellets and BiobBricks over regular wood.

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What are your thoughts?  Do you use any of these?  I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments on this first ever GMG weekly open discussion-

Especially intriguing to me are the use of BioBricks for a fireplace for firing up when you want to get a room toasty but without having to make the commitment to the whole getting a cord of wood and stacking it and dealing with the mess deal.

Cape Ann Chimney and Hearth Has A Pretty Good website with pricing on it’s different products-

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This from the Cape Ann Chimney and Hearth website-

BioBricks are ideally sized for wood stoves.

Packing density is optimized. This high density fuel extends your burn times greatly. 100% wood, no artificial binders Cost effective, 1 lb of BioBricks equals 1.7 lbs of cordwood

  • Environmentally friendly using our renewable resources
  • Clean burning – minimal smoke, creosote and ash
  • Lights with newspaper, no mess, no chopping, no bugs
  • Easy to handle 38 – 42 lb packs with 50 packs per pallet
  • Lessens our dependence on foreign oil
  • Safely and easily stores inside or out (6 mil UV pallet cover)
  • Pallet size approximately 4x4x3 and is easily stackable
  • Average burn time of 12 hours per stove fill
  • Uniformity in size, density and moisture ensures predictable burning each time
Additional Info
  • Price::325/ton

Check out Cape Ann Chimney and Hearth Website here- http://www.capeannchimney.com/Wood-Pellets-Fire-Logs/Fire-Logs/BioBricks-Fire-Logs.html

16 comments

  • Joey,
    We have had a pellet stove for a long time. I remember paying $2.99 for a 40 lb bag of pellets. Well those time have changed but I would’t be without my pellet stove. We have to only run it on low and it will heat my main living area for 24 hrs on 1 bag of pellets. For years I had my boat batteries on the ready in case the power went out. I would use marine batteries and an inverter. This would give us 24 hrs of operating time in case the power went out. This year I purchased a small yamaha generator. This will provide power to the pellet stove and a few small appliances. As far as cleaning the stove, it is very easy as the pellets do burn very clean and leave minimal ash. A shop vac with a filter bag is all that is needed. In over 10 years of use I think I have only had it repaired once for a couple of hundred dollars. Cape Ann Chimney has a wide range of pellet stoves. Not sure about the price these days. Aside from the cost of operation, we love our stove. There is nothing like coming in from a cold day and relaxing by the stove. It’s warm and toasty….cheers!

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  • Hi Joey: we have a wood burning stove and we also use the Bio Bricks from Cape Ann Chimney, they are very helpful and their customer service is great. We like the wood because of the ambiance. We do store the wood outside and then bring onto the porch. The wood can be messy but the bio bricks do keep the ash down. We put the cold ash in the garden.

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  • You should get Bob from Cape Ann Chimney in to do a podcast. It is a hot topic. I think he knows a thing or two about biobricks, pellets and the rest.
    He sold me a Defiant from Vermont Castings a couple of years ago to replace a POS that was in the shop. So it doesn’t heat the house but in a pinch it sure can. Marine batteries flipped off trickle charge to push some tiny computer fans so it pushes all the heat stored in the ceiling of the shop into the house. (If the power and furnace go out or I’m bored.)
    BioBricks. Totally sold on them. We got the Defiant because I wanted the biggest piece of glass in front. The Biobricks make a pretty fire. With a tiny slice of a Presto log I can light up 8 biobricks in about 5 minutes. Loose stack and the vent set right and Bam, the sucker is glowing. A ten dollar window fan I sit next to it on low is all the high tech I need. Before bed I can stack another 8 or ten Biobricks in a tight stack, set the louvres for low flow and she heats all night.
    The nice thing about the biobricks is you can throw a big fat log or two from the backyard pile on top and she burns merrily along. And as someone said, low ash biobricks. What ash there is goes on the tomatoes or the blueberries I forget which needs pH basic. Tomatoes? Yeah.
    just looked at the Cape Ann Chimney site. Bob is the one sporting the sunglasses.

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  • Good stuff. I haven’t heard of bio bricks until now. Thinking of a good “bio” brick joke, but I got nothing. Anyone? We have a fireplace and use wood.

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  • Pellets are great for cat boxes too. We use a Vermont Casting fireplace insert. Runs 6 to 8 hours between fills. Nice addition to GeoThermal when the the temp gets way down there.

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  • Joey, We have had a Harman Accentra Pellett. Stove for 2 years now. This fall we began to use it mid-October . I purchased 3 tons of American Wood Fiber pellets at Pellets Direct in Oxford Ma. With delivery right into my garage on pallets, it cost me $870.00. Stove has been running 24/7 since before Thanksgiving and still have 3/4 of a ton left. Low maintenance , good vacuuming once every 3-4 weeks (shop vac is fine) and you’re in business. We have a generator as we have lose power several times each winter. An automatic battery back-up can be purchased. The key is good pellets, and a good stove. Ours is thermostat control most of the time and for the frigid days, just open it full bore. Do your homework on the stoves,but you can,t go wrong with a Harman. We live in a four bedroom colonial and BTW the oil burners has only been on to make hot water. Have used just about 100 gallons of oil since last May. Hope this was helpful!

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    • Only 100 gallons of oil since May is serious savings. But more than the dollar savings the comfort factor is what makes me want one so badly. A big house is nice and all but if you have to keep the thing like an ice box to save money then frick that!

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  • For sure an open fire will suck a lot of heat up the chimney. In some cases, such as when you have a low fire going, you’ll lose more than the fire gives you. That’s why fireplace inserts are so popular, because you get the heat and also the “entertainment value” of the fire, if the stove has a window door. If the chimney is sealed around the flue then most of what goes up the chimney is smoke, not household heat.

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  • I agree about the Harmon – it’s my main source of heat. I have an older model, had it in for maintenance last year, and it is
    wonderful! Downside is cleaning every couple of weeks and the pellets are kinda dusty. Get the higher priced pellets from Bob at Cape Ann Chimney – they burn better and generate less ash —- worth it!

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  • You didn’t mention a gas fireplace insert, which many people on Cape Ann have. Looks like a wood fire, but burns natural gas. We’re considering one for when our wood runs out (we cut down a huge maple limb three years ago and still have a couple of years of firewood in it). Of course all these different approaches are pumping carbon into the atmosphere, to one degree or another, but I’m certainly no one to point the finger. Besides on a snowy night like tonight there’s nothing like a wood fire.

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  • Excellent item here and needed for the walk forward. Out West the folks use a combination of wood and two pellet stoves one in sunroom keeps the plants going, Kitchen wood stove, living room pellet stove both pellet stoves were just piped into existing fireplaces. When first moved into house had two fireplaces (Used only both when real cold then and one in living room -one in kitchen area)…and got a real zinger cold front -17F (1/7/1971) even the long johns wanted to stay inside:-) A what a mess pipe outside feed animals on farm.
    A wood stove and keeping up is challenge (none of us stay young forever)…Cost -availability-and storage space are all considerations…With this new brick by the way who knows what in store (Duckie) makes a good case above also…Many times it will fall into personal preference (Indivduals)…Here are two more links with some good information in this area. Thanks Joey made me use that still existing one Brain cell today
    http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/
    http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/techline/fuel-value-calculator.pdf

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  • Joey, I have the largest Harman Pellet Stove. Used it for about the last 10 years. Minimal upkeep- I have a company that comes yearly and cleans and repairs anything that needs it which has been not much. I use 4-5 tons a year. I used cord wood for years which was great when I was younger and split, stacked and moved it around for wonderful exercise. I then used bagged coal which I bagged myself from tons of delivered coal. It was the best heat for the buck but was pretty dusty and dirty. The pellet stove is the easiest, neatest and least messy, clean fuel so far. Heats almost as well as the coal did. I have an extension hopper which holds 3, 40 lb bags and lasts about 2 full days over a weekend if I have to be away. I vote for the pellet stove. A ton costs me about $259. I only use gas for back up when it gets really cold outside. Good luck.

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  • There is free fire wood everywhere. I have used a wood stove to heat my home for several years and have never paid for wood. If find great satisfaction heating my house with the wood I’ve collected, cut and split and it’s all free.

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  • Our pellet stove (Quadra-Fire – Mt. Vernon) fan is rather loud. Cleaning not an issue; use New England Wood Pellets.
    With regard to baseboards, consider having a plumber mix antifreeze to prevent freezing.

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  • I’ve had fireplaces, wood, coal and pellet stoves.

    My husband and I both grew up in homes with fireplaces. The wood fire is pretty and adds great ambiance but is not practical to use as consistent heat source. A once in a while event for ambiance and warmth is nice, but I can get that with my gas insert, and I don’t need to mess with the wood and wood allergies.

    When we moved into our current house (a ranch), there were 2 heating zones, the main living spaces, and a second zone in the basement where my husband has a workshop, the family room with our only TV, and laundry are located. We found it cost prohibitive to heat the basement in addition to the rest of the house, even just for the times we were down there. It is quite uncomfortable to be down there when there is not heat on in the winter. We rely on an alternative heat source to make that space usable.

    There was a wood stove down there when we moved in, which we used daily. The mess of the wood piles, even short term storage inside and soot was inconvenient. We had mice and bugs in addition to splinters of wood and a bit of dirt.. I really did not like the inconsistency in temperature with the wood stove. We were always cold for the first half hour or so while the wood fire started and the heat started to circulate. Then we roasted just after adding more wood, then the place cooled off dramatically as the wood burned down. The stove could not be kept running while we slept or worked (couldn’t stack enough wood into it). The stove needed cleaning out frequently. We kept a pan of water on the stove top to help increase the humidity, and once cooked on the top tot the stove in a power outage. A family member also developed severe sinus problems with the burning wood. So we had to make a change.

    We shifted to coal (no pellets back then) The heat was much more consistent in terms of temperature. We could set it up to run while were at work, so the rooms were warm when we got there. There was also a nice bonus of the heat rising to the main floor living room and kitchen so we reduced our gas heat bill quite a bit. The coal nuggets were easy to deal with, not as cumbersome as wood, but the coal dust was black and thick. It is very difficult to keep anything made of fabric, furniture or afghans, clean with the coal burning. The stove had to be cleaned out frequently, but not quite as often as the wood stove. The outside of the coal stove is very hot, like a wood stove, so you can keep a pot of water steaming to add humidity, but you need to be careful of small fingers and paws. We had a cat jump on our coal stove when it was running and she burned her paws pretty badly. It was very nice to have consistent source of heat in a blackout. plus have shot surface to heat food if needed. We got sick of the black soot.

    We’ve had a Harmon pellet stove for years and love it. I agree with the above comments that pellets are cleaner and low upkeep. If you burn a good grade hardwood pellet there is very little mess. Once a month we clean out the ash pan – and we run our pellet stove 24/7. The heat is also very consistent and you can adjust it based on the desired temperature or the amount of pellets you want to burn in one day. The down side to a pellet stove is you do need a power source to run the auger and blower so you really need a generator or well maintained marine battery for it to be useful in a power outage. The outside of the pellet stoves stay relatively cool so they are safer for small children and not to smart pets to be around.

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  • Joey–
    I like wood, pellet or gas stoves because they let you put a steamer on top. I’m working on a new type of steamer called the Humid-i-Fire. It’s an ornamental fountain and humidifier that operates on top of wood, gas or pellet stoves without any power cord or batteries. We just started a Kickstarter campaign to promote the product. You can see it on the link I posted below.

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