Wood Pellet Stoves – Background
Scrap wood and ship-lap burners have been around since at least the early 20th century easily seen in the use of barrel stoves, braziers, and oil drum fires in depression-era Hooverville historical media. Professionally built wood-fired ovens with sawdust hoppers were used in the early part of the 20th century. All of these units used scrap wood or sawdust. In 1930, the Presto-Log was invented reusing scrap sawdust from the Potlatch pine mill in Lewiston, Idaho for domestic heat. From this came the miniaturized pellet stove, which emerged from Washington State in the 1980s.
The pellet stove changed in appearance over the years from a simple, boxy workhorse design, to a modern heating appliance. Pellet stoves can be either free standing units or fireplace inserts vented into an existing chimney. Most pellet stoves are constructed using large, heat conductive, steel or cast-iron pieces, with stainless steel to encase circuitry and exhaust areas.
Pellet furnaces and pellet boilers are also available in addition to the decorative stove. These units can be retrofitted into existing home heating systems with only minor changes to existing ductwork and or plumbing.
The heating industry has considerably shifted toward biomass stoves and heating devices based on efficient combustible and renewable resources. This was a trend that began with the 1973 oil crisis causing the creation of the first pellet stoves. Even so, pellet stoves have become a viable, economical, and popular option for home heating systems only in the last ten years. Between 1998 and 2010, 824,410 pellet stoves and fireplace inserts were made in the U.S.
While some stoves are UL listed for fuels other than pellets, such as wheat, corn, sunflower seeds, and cherry pits, many pellet stove manufacturers recommend the use of a corn and pellet mixture.