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There’s nothing quite like the warmth of a wood heater in winter. The flicker and crackle of the flame, together with that lovely ‘bone warming’ heat that only a fire can produce. Slow combustion wood heaters are still very popular but not suitable for everyone, pellet heaters are the modern day equivalent to a wood heater and remove most of the inconveniences associated with wood heaters.
On the outside, a pellet heater looks just like any other combustion heater, it’s what’s inside that makes all the difference. Pellet stoves burn recycled material at a low combustion rate by reducing the fuel load whereas a wood heater controls combustion by reducing oxygen (air control). So in fact wood and pellet heaters actually work the opposite way to each other.
Rather than burning chunks of wood, a pellet stove creates warmth by burning small wood pellets, which burn efficiently because they are so dense. They are a recycled byproduct of sawmills, so they are certainly a sustainable alternative to cutting down trees. Pellet fuel is also know as bio-fuel or bio-energy. The source of sawdust (harvested trees) is renewable and because the sawdust is waste, pellet fuel used for heating is great for our environment and our economy.
Pellet stoves don’t take up a lot of space, they are much more compact than their old-timely counterparts. A small flame is visible in the center of the unit, which provides a room with a warm and cozy glow. If you prefer a more traditional look, find a unit with a large viewing glass and add ceramic logs to emphasize the flames and make your stove look more like a traditional wood burning stove.
The auger motor, convection fan, exhaust fan and electronics of a pellet stove run on a small amount electricity (around 40 watts), so it should be located near a 240-volt outlet but can operative on battery backup units if required. Pellet stoves may be purchased as inserts that fit into an existing fireplace or a purpose built cabinet that resembles a fire place. Other freestanding versions convect hot air directly into the room by means of a fan and radiate some heat as well. Hydronic Pellet heaters (boilers) create hot water that can be distributed by plumbing around a home connecting radiator panels where needed or in a concrete slab floor.
Pellet heating was first introduced into Australia in 2001 by Pellet Fires Australia. Heaters were imported from Canada (Enviro) and fuel was imported from New Zealand where the industry was about 5 years ahead of Australia. Pellet Fires Tasmania commenced distributing heaters and fuel in Southern Tasmania in 2002. Rainbow Heating distributed in Northern Tasmania. A number of small independent heating retailers distributed in Victoria and NSW. Australian made pellet heaters (Sundance, Prominence and Storm) were introduced 2004 – 2010. Parkwood stoves were also distributed from New Zealand for a few years. Pellet Mills were set up in Tasmania and NSW with supply supplemented from New Zealand. Pellet heating has been around for more than 40 years in Europe and North America.
Of the original start-up businesses only Pellet Fires Tasmania survived. This was mainly due to perseverance and the ability to maintain the early technology. History has taught the pellet industry a very important lesson, this type of heater must be sold by a customer service orientated business and not a traditional wood heating retailer that does not provide product service. Pellet heaters are electro-mechanical devices more like a gas heater than a wood heater. Like a gas heater, pellet stoves require skilled service technicians to service and repair them from time to time. An electrician and or a refrigeration mechanic is required to maintain a Heat Pump (air conditioner), a Gas Fitter maintains gas equipment, Wood heaters are a basic steel box and maybe a fan and can be serviced by non skilled staff.
Pellet Fires Tasmania trained its own technical staff who have supported pellet stoves since 2002. Today Pellet Fires Tasmania sells pellet stoves and fuel all over Tasmania and has experienced and qualified service technicians who install and maintain stoves ensuring the customer gets the most from their purchase.
Today pellet stoves are made in Europe, Canada, China and the USA. Pellet fuel is made in Tasmania, NSW, VIC and NZ.
Pellet heaters have a fuel hopper storing 8 to 50 kg of pellets. You simply lift the lid on the top of the heater and pour the pellets in. This provides up to 48 hours or more of burn time depending on the rate of fuel being burnt. Pellets are automatically fed into a fire pot where a simple electric igniter lights the fire. An external dial or thermostat regulates fuel delivery and actual heat output. Combustion air is drawn through the fire pot by an exhaust fan ensuring perfect air-to-fuel ratios and maximum efficiency. Fresh air is passed through a series of heat exchangers and fan-forced into the living area using a variable speed convection fan. Additionally, heat from the fire pot radiates through the glass door. This dual system ensures an automatic ambiance and unparalleled heat efficiency in solid fuel appliances.
One 15 kg bag of pellets will burn for up to 25 hours or more (depending on the heat setting). Pellet heating is a cost effective and convenient heat source. A pellet heater is a large room heater and will heat an open area up to about 130 square meters or more. One tonne of pellets equates to over 4 tonnes or 10 meters of fire wood. A typical Tasmanian pellet heater customer consumes around 1 tonne of pellets per winter season.
The burning process is highly combustible and produces little residue. With an energy efficiency above 80%, pellet heaters are up to 50% more efficient than slow combustion heaters and 350% more efficient than open fires. Heat output can be effectively controlled between 30% and 100% without compromising efficiency or smoke emission.
Pellet heaters have the lowest emission rate of any wood burner available in Australasia. In fact, they are virtually smokeless. Pellet heaters generate heat that is both efficient and co-operative with our effort in restoring environmental quality. Pellet fuel not only reduces dependence on finite supplies of fossil fuels like oil gas and coal, it is carbon neutral. That means when you use pellet heat, you are NOT contributing to greenhouse gas.
Convenient, clean, 15 kg bags are compact enough to store one tonne of pellet fuel in an area the size of a 1.6 meter cube. No spiders and no mess.
Heating in Tasmania equates to around 1/3 of the household energy use in winter. Electricity has been the most widely used heat source in Tasmania. Conversion from electricity to an alternate energy source like pellet, wood or gas will free up demand on the electricity network. Surplus green power from Hydro could be used in industry by create employment or sold back via Bass-link which would benefit the Tasmanian economy.
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