Wood pellets get mixed reviews in wake of weekend blackouts

James McLeod
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Without electricity, pellet stoves won’t run; propane will, though

The warmest spot in the province Wednesday might have been the showroom on Topsail Road, where Randy Clarke, owner of Atlantic Fireplaces, was doing a brisk business.

A couple speaks to saleswoman Kimberley Davis at Atlantic Fireplaces about getting a secondary heating source for their home in the wake of the weekend power outages.
— Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

He estimated that since the weekend power outages, foot traffic through his showroom has been up by around 500 per cent. But try as you might, you won’t find a wood pellet stove in the showroom.

“With the pellet stove, I’ve got one of those downstairs. I don’t want to bring it up,” Clarke said.

Clarke can give you a few reasons why he’s not a big fan of wood pellets, but the big one is a design flaw that keeps them from being a good secondary source of heat if the power goes out.

Wood pellet stoves run on electricity.

“The auger needs electricity to turn and the blower blows exhaust outside the house and blows the heat into the house,” said Charles Pender, mayor of Corner Brook and a wood pellet stove owner.

Pender said he’s got a 1,000-watt generator outside and he ran an extension cord in through the window, so he was toasty warm in an outage, but without the electricity, his stove wouldn’t have worked.

Independent MHA Christopher Mitchelmore has been one of the most ardent supporters of wood pellet technology in the province, and while thousands of people were sitting in the cold and the dark over the weekend, he was posting on Twitter about the virtues of wood pellets.

Speaking to The Telegram, he said the benefit would be that by taking homes and public  buildings off electric heat, it would ease the strain on the grid.

“It would reduce the amount of energy needed when it comes to looking at peak demand — whether it’s homes, residential, or commercial or industrial users,” he said.

Mitchelmore came through the power outages OK. He’s got an old-fashioned wood stove, which doesn’t need any electricity, that kept him toasty warm.

But for Clarke, if you want to stay warm during a power outage, he said the best thing you can get is a propane fireplace.

The billboard in front of Atlantic Fireplaces makes the case pretty succinctly in four words: “No Power, No Problem.”

Clarke said it’s been getting a lot of attention since this weekend.


Twitter: TelegramJames

Geographic location: Corner Brook

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Recent comments

  • Gary
    February 10, 2014 - 14:20

    The Wiseway pellet stove uses no electricity it is UL and EPA approved over 400 of them keeped families worm on the east Coast during these winter storms

  • Vic Steblin
    February 10, 2014 - 13:29

    Get rid of this external heat thing! Use modern “drywear” plus a thin sock for the first layer next to your skin. The next layer is the historical underwear plus a second thicker sock. And use two sweaters if still cold after a third layer of normal clothes. Your house never needs to be above 60F (15C) which is the average temperature of our planet and you don’t need a wood or pellet stove to smoke out neighbors.

  • Vic Steblin
    February 10, 2014 - 13:26

    Get rid of this external heat thing! Use modern “drywear” plus a thin sock for the first layer next to your skin. The next layer is the historical underwear plus a second thicker sock. And use two sweaters if still cold after a third layer of normal clothes. Your house never needs to be above 60F (15C) which is the average temperature of our planet and you don’t need a wood or pellet stove to smoke out neighbors.

  • david
    January 09, 2014 - 14:07

    Wood pellets was another Danny Williams "super brainfart". It was primarily designed to provide struggling local lumber mills a significant new source of income making pellets.......years later, there's not one local supplier of pellets. Then there's the $1,200 rebate for homeowners who converted.......that went straight out the door to the "qualified" installers, whose installation price responded quite predictably to the government's rules for the rebate. Then there was the 'environmental' angle.....that tuned out to be diesel truckload after truckload of pellets being lugged across the Gulf to stores. All in all, another typical government success story.

  • James
    January 09, 2014 - 13:24

    See fellers u knows the wood pellet stove is just a yuppie fireplace idea from upper Canada. Useless when the power fails an a real rip off to purchase. Ya gots to have a generator to run da ting. Just as well to hook ur furnace up to da generator. Ya can't beat da woodstove. Lots of wood around for it and if ya runs out you can always burn the neighbors picket fence.

  • Darren
    January 09, 2014 - 13:08

    Propane works just fine. You don't need a blower to adequetly heat the room. With the power gone, all you need is 2 D batteries to start the propane fireplace and in about 30 minutes the room will be heated, My basement of 1000sq ft was toasty warm without a blower. It all depends on what ones preference is.

  • Darlene
    January 09, 2014 - 13:07

    My husband and I bought our pellet stove, complete with backup system for power outages, last fall. We LOVE it! We used to own a wood stove but we have no place to store the wood! The pellets are cheap and compact, and very efficient for our purposes!

  • Winston Adams
    January 09, 2014 - 11:00

    I calculated that pellet stoves are about 30 percent cheaper to fuel than the cost of electric heat. Propane is much more expensive to operate. The pellet stove need electricity and propane too needs electricity for most effective. the electricity needs for a pellet stove is small, and a 12 v battery with a small invertor to step it up to 115 v may do it, rather than run a generator continuous. I have a pellet stove but not installed yet, and that was my plan for emergency electricity to feed it. I picked up a 400 w inverter at Costco last year for $15.00. Has anyone done similar, and have it running? The battery may need recharging after 24 hours, I figure, from a very small generator or your car boost. I plan on 2 batteries that may go two days before needing recharge. And pellet stoves are green energy.

  • blll gillam
    January 09, 2014 - 08:34

    Obviously you haven't spoke to homeowners who are actually using these units.

  • bill gillam
    January 09, 2014 - 08:32

    I have been selling and installing wood pellet stoves for over 20 years. Yes pellet stoves need power to run, but at least the heat is a forced heat that can still heat a bigger area. With propane it will only be a radiant heat source with no power so unless you bar off the room it is in that is the only area that will get heat. I have been heating my invite house 2,000sqft, with a oellet stove only for the last 6 years. The cost to heat my house compared to with propane is a lot less.

  • J Dower
    January 09, 2014 - 07:48

    Propane won't heat particularly well without the blower.. which runs on electricity! The point is that people need to start taking responsibility for their options when power goes out, and perhaps that's where government could inform people of their options. Installing a transfer switch allows heat from propane, wood pellets, or an oil furnace from a relatively low power generator. If you're running your hot water from your boiler, you'll then have hot water too. As well, for those folks who had radiated heat system freeze up, you need to learn more about how your heat works, or find a place with baseboard heat. They could have drained their lines or opened up all the valves and likely prevented the damage.

    • Me
      January 09, 2014 - 16:21

      Propane fireplaces heat up rooms quite well. We have two, one up and one downstairs. We weren't cold with the blackouts, and actually we had t-shirts on in the house. We invited alot of people that didn't have heat to come over until it came back on. I would NOT be without a propane fireplace to be honest. My home is 2500sq ft. and it's nice and warm with just the fireplaces lit.