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Wood pellet heating in Canberra

By 14 August 2011 25

I’m looking to get together a Canberra-based buying group for wood pellet heaters.

If you are unfamiliar with wood pellet stoves, they are the most sustainable way to actively heat a home. They are fueled by wood pellets made from waste sawdust from sawmills, sawdust that would otherwise simply be burned at the site. These are not your grandfather’s slow combustion wood stove – these stoves are far more efficient, and because they burn at a very high temperature, there are almost no particulate emissions. They are common in Europe, with their strict pollution standards. They are easy to use with push-button ignition, once per year cleaning and computer-controlled thermostat. Some can be fitted with water heating or ducting options. And unlike traditional wood stoves, these look very stylish. Check out the websites for Ecoteck, Ravelli and Thermorossi.

The Canberra buying group would put in a large order with an Italian manufacturer, possibly get a group discount, certainly get a shipping discount and a large local group ensures a local market for yearly pellet deliveries from an Australian pellet manufacturer.

The plan would be to have them delivered by early next year, for use by next winter.

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25 Responses to Wood pellet heating in Canberra
#1
ConanOfCooma9:40 am, 14 Aug 11

I would have thought the most sustainable way would have been solar, or geothermal?

#2
dungfungus10:23 am, 14 Aug 11

ConanOfCooma said :

I would have thought the most sustainable way would have been solar, or geothermal?

Unless the heater works, the sustainability factor counts for zero.
Solar and geothermal are just Green fantasies.

#3
RyallDesign11:17 am, 14 Aug 11

Solar heating is great, our house has north-facing windows right across the façade, and we don’t usually turn our heater on until mid to late evening.

Wood pellet heating is not the most sustainable heating outright, but I’m fairly certain it’s the most efficient wood-heating available, unless you cut your own timber outside your door!

#4
stinkerbell11:25 am, 14 Aug 11

Gasman, I’m interested. What is your preferred method of contact?

#5
molongloid12:25 pm, 14 Aug 11

I’m looking at getting the old fireplace working again and this sounds interesting. I’d better go read up. Contact details?

#6
capn_pugwash12:58 pm, 14 Aug 11

we’re currently lookign at getting one through this company in victoria: http://www.firemakers.com.au/ and they have models that fit into existing fireplace or stand alone. It would be interesting to see what kind of deal you are able to put together though. We have seen them in person and they are brilliant – such great heat, low maintenance, just tip the pellets into the hopper and it runs for 24hrs or so (depends on size of hopper and how high you have it set). No chopping wood, no mess – just need somewhere to store a pallet load of the pellets. The pellets are just sawdust etc and waste wood that is too soft to use for other purposes and is very sustainable.

#7
gasman2:21 pm, 14 Aug 11

I realise there are more sustainable ways of heating, which is why I labeled wood pellet stoves as the most sustainable *active* way of heating a house, and suitable for existing housing. And almost no particulate release (ie no smoke) compared to other wood heating. There are a few Australian models but they are fugly and still use imported parts. The Europeans perfected the pellet stove and have high reliability and extremely long lasting components.

There is at least one Australian wood pellet maker in Victoria who can deliver to Canberra. Getting a group of us together means one truckload delivery of pellets per year as a group and therefore less transport costs and petrol.

I’m hoping this group grows to at least a dozen of us in the Canberra region – it will take a bit of word-of-mouth to spread the word.

Warning – sustainability comes at a cost. The pellets are about equal to gas heating, and cheaper than electric. The stoves themselves are spendy. About $3000 for a small one, $5000 for a decent size and higher for fancy models with ducting or hot water options. However, they should last 20 years with very little to go wrong. The auger may need replacing every 5 to 10 years.

I can be contacted at Robert at gasbag dot net

#8
damien haas5:27 pm, 14 Aug 11

May i ask what happens when the pellet maker decides it is uneconomic and ceases producing the pellets ? Can these pellet burners burn regular wood ?

#9
Walker1:05 am, 15 Aug 11

As an avid air breather, I totally support the idea. Wins on several fronts, in the short term at least. I say go for it.

I don’t suppose they can also be burnt in regular fireplaces? Not as clean perhaps but I’m hoping much better than what’s burning now, and would also kick start the fuel market instantly.

#10
Captain RAAF8:43 am, 15 Aug 11

Walker said :

As an avid air breather, I totally support the idea. Wins on several fronts, in the short term at least. I say go for it.

I don’t suppose they can also be burnt in regular fireplaces? Not as clean perhaps but I’m hoping much better than what’s burning now, and would also kick start the fuel market instantly.

At the rate the Greens and the current Government are closing down our sawmills, you won’t soon be able to get any sawdust for anything!

We have a family sawmill in Victoria, it has closed down as access to logs was made so expensive it was no longer financially viable. It has gone the same way as many others and now ‘super mills’ will look after the timber needs of this country and the paper mills will buy up all the sawdust.

Milling techniques are all high tech now, waste is minimal so don’t expect to have access to sawdust for much longer!

#11
gasman9:23 am, 15 Aug 11

The pellets can’t be burned in a normal slow combustion stove. Actually you could, but you would not get any of the advantages of a pellet stove, except for fuel source. In a pellet stove, the pellets are fed into the burner at a regular rate, delivered by an electrically controlled auger. The more heat output you want, the faster the pellets are fed. That means a high surface area for burning, plenty of oxygen for burning, and therefore a very hot fire, and (almost) complete combustion.

A pellet stove has about 5% of the particulate emissions of an open fire, about 10% that of a slow combustion stove, and is about equal to a gas heater. The efficiency (heat output/fuel) is about 90% (compared to about 30% for an open fire, and 70% for a modern, well-maintained slow combustion heater). Further, a pellet stove does not depend on the user’s ability to make a good fire – just press the ignition button, and the stove does the rest.

There are at least 3 large pellet manufacturers in Australia, all as side-arms of sawmills. That is, they do not chop down trees specifically to make wood pellets. They simply use the waste sawdust. They tell me that they are unable to keep up with demand, and that they are adding further plants later this year. Much of their production is exported (Mainly Asia and Europe, as North America makes their own pellets). They have a warehouse in Sydney as well as a distribution centre in Jindabyne. They tell me they do regular shipments to Canberra.

Part of my hope is to increase to local (Canberra) base of pellet heaters to make the supply and shipment of pellets to Canberra reliable and cheap. I believe that this market will continue to expand as laws crack down on open fires and older slow combustion stoves.

And no, you can’t burn normal wood in a pellet stove – they are designed completely differently. The Americans burn corn (same pelletised form factor) as well as wood pellets in their stoves.

There

#12
Gungahlin Al9:30 am, 15 Aug 11

gasman said :

The Americans burn corn (same pelletised form factor) as well as wood pellets in their stoves.

Wouldn’t all the popping interrupt the TV viewing somewhat? :)

#13
aidan11:39 am, 15 Aug 11

What sort of price would these be?

Maybe you should make up a pdf flyer that we can slip into the letterboxes of smoky neighbours. I’d love to be able to hang washing outside in the winter months again.

#14
milkman7:36 pm, 15 Aug 11

I understand you can burn dried poo in these things.

#15
ConanOfCooma7:45 am, 16 Aug 11

dungfungus said :

ConanOfCooma said :

I would have thought the most sustainable way would have been solar, or geothermal?

Unless the heater works, the sustainability factor counts for zero.
Solar and geothermal are just Green fantasies.

Why would you get a heater that doesn’t work?

Your post makes no sense.

#16
Lazy I9:05 am, 16 Aug 11

ConanOfCooma said :

dungfungus said :

ConanOfCooma said :

I would have thought the most sustainable way would have been solar, or geothermal?

Unless the heater works, the sustainability factor counts for zero.
Solar and geothermal are just Green fantasies.

Why would you get a heater that doesn’t work?

Your post makes no sense.

It makes perfect sense.

He is saying solar and geothermal don’t work, so it doesn’t matter how sustainable they are.

#17
rosscoact10:54 am, 16 Aug 11

damien haas said :

May i ask what happens when the pellet maker decides it is uneconomic and ceases producing the pellets ? Can these pellet burners burn regular wood ?

Pellet burners are very big in northern hemisphere and are only being held back here because in the majority of Australia there is more emphasis on cooling rather than heating.

I have a pellet barbeque/smoker that works on exactly the same principle and it is wonderful except that the pellets come from the US because nobody in Oz makes food grade pellets. I buy mine from a chap in WA who imports them from the US, how about that for sustainable? Still cheaper to run than LPG though

#18
Maelinar3:32 pm, 17 Aug 11

There’s a smegload of these things in NZ – called Yuncas or something like that though.

Probably cheaper/easier and more enviro to buy from there instead of getting anything Euro as well.

IRT the post about geothermal or solar being useless or green fantasies, seriously, what rock have you been hiding under ?

#19
colguest7:37 pm, 28 Aug 11

I am about to build a pellet mill in tasmania because of the interest in these fires as an cleaner and renewable source of heat .The pellet resource will be a by product of a salvage timber operation. We will be looking at exporting out of tasmania initially.It would be advisable to do some homework on the availability of pellets around your area as I understand there is a shortage in Australias southern states.

#20
Wheatheaterman2:23 pm, 18 Sep 11

Hiya Gasman,
I have just seen your post and I think we can help you out in a big way,
We are a company in Ballarat (even colder than Canberra most of the time!) which uses and imports multifuel corn stoves from the US.
The corn stove is a similar beast to the pellet heater except for one glaring difference. Corn stoves will burn wood pellets as well as other biomass products like corn or wheat.
We run the unit in our house on wheat delivered straight off the header. Our house is 25sq and we use 13kg of wheat over a 24hr period. It costs us $2 per day to run!
Add to that the advantage of being able to switch fuel, not that we intend to. Why pay $650/tonne for wood pellets when you can buy wheat for $200/tonne at harvest? Plus sourcing pellets can be a nightmare – wheat is not going to run out anytime soon.
You do not need to place bulk orders with us to receive a super low price, we have low margins as we want high turnover. Typically our prices are half that of retail pellet heaters.
If you want more info you can go to the website snowflamepelletstoves.com
You will find our contact details in the dealer section and I look forward to hearing from you or anyone else who is serious about cheap environmentally sustainable heating.
Thank you and good luck,

#21
jimjim7:45 am, 21 Nov 11

well
Have you have any luck finding any stoves yet.
we have loads here in Sweden from Fugly to good looking ones.
from cheap to expensive. But reliable. and thats whats counts.
give me a mail back

#22
Mav9:24 am, 16 May 13

Wheatheaterman said :

Hiya Gasman,
I have just seen your post and I think we can help you out in a big way,
We are a company in Ballarat (even colder than Canberra most of the time!) which uses and imports multifuel corn stoves from the US.
The corn stove is a similar beast to the pellet heater except for one glaring difference. Corn stoves will burn wood pellets as well as other biomass products like corn or wheat.
We run the unit in our house on wheat delivered straight off the header. Our house is 25sq and we use 13kg of wheat over a 24hr period. It costs us $2 per day to run!
Add to that the advantage of being able to switch fuel, not that we intend to. Why pay $650/tonne for wood pellets when you can buy wheat for $200/tonne at harvest? Plus sourcing pellets can be a nightmare – wheat is not going to run out anytime soon.
You do not need to place bulk orders with us to receive a super low price, we have low margins as we want high turnover. Typically our prices are half that of retail pellet heaters.
If you want more info you can go to the website snowflamepelletstoves.com
You will find our contact details in the dealer section and I look forward to hearing from you or anyone else who is serious about cheap environmentally sustainable heating.
Thank you and good luck,

What would it cost to ship one of these to Canberra?

From reading your website it would seem that it does not require a flue as such only a rear vent through a wall. I wonder if this would still need the same planning permission that is required for flued wood heaters here in the ACT?

Seems like the ideal heater for what we are looking for as gas central heating here has become way too expensive and looks set to rise again by 10%.

#23
dungfungus10:27 am, 16 May 13

colguest said :

I am about to build a pellet mill in tasmania because of the interest in these fires as an cleaner and renewable source of heat .The pellet resource will be a by product of a salvage timber operation. We will be looking at exporting out of tasmania initially.It would be advisable to do some homework on the availability of pellets around your area as I understand there is a shortage in Australias southern states.

A lot of evil coal fired electric power stations in the UK are being converted to wood pellet fuel. While it is a sustainable fuel and ideal for domestic heating it is not the answer for power stations as it is imported, bulky and requires special handling (it can’t get wet).

#24
XCanberra12:11 pm, 20 May 13

A group of us in Armidale, northern NSW recently completed a research project looking at pellet heaters as an option to wood heaters, in order to reduce wood smoke pollution. We also looked at policy options for government and community.

One of our recommendations for Armidale, was to run a group buy scheme to get the industry kick started. We are also considering establishing a cooperative to buy pellets in bulk, until a manufacturer wants to set up locally. I imagine that it would not take long before someone started a commercial business selling heaters and pellets in a market as big as Canberra, but it might take a few people to kick things off.

Have a look at our report and see what might apply to your situation. Download from the Rural Industries Research and Development site at https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/items/12-065.

Pellet heaters and pellets are expensive but produce much lower emissions and can utilise sources of waste wood such as sawdust, rather than using dead and fallen timber which is much better as homes for native fauna.

While most of the benefits are public (clean air, less biodiversity impact), most of the higher cost is borne by individuals, so there is a strong case for public subsidisation of changes from wood heaters to pellet heaters.

#25
Wheatheaterman3:09 pm, 31 Jul 13

Hi XCanberra,
We have an Armidale agent who has one of our multi-fuel stoves installed. Also we now have a new model which runs perfectly on pellets as well for under $2,000.
Cheers,
Darron Crick.

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