Wood pellets get mixed reviews in wake of weekend blackouts

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

James McLeod jmcleod@thetelegram.com
Published on January 9, 2014
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

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.

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.

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames