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Thread: pellets in regular wood stoves

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2008
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    642

    Default pellets in regular wood stoves

    I use a wood stove to supplement natural gas heat in the house and have a couple of cords of firewood for that and for emergencies. Also about 150# of propane and several ways to use that. But in searching for alternate fuels that could be burned in the wood stove, I have been experimenting with wood pellets. They are designed to be burned in special pellet stoves, but those require electricity to operate, and I'm trying to avoid large battery banks, running a generator, etc. The pellets have advantages in being relatively dense as packaged, easy to store and relatively clean burning. Per BTU, they seem to be cheaper than I can cut my own firewood in the NF considering truck and saw costs, not to mention my time. I am aware of some gravity feed devices for packable stoves like cylinder stoves, but mine won't readily accommodate one. And I want to be able to switch back to wood easily.

    So I have been experimenting with burn baskets in the wood stove. I've constructed several variants of wire and screen and they work fairly well. Drawbacks come from needing relatively frequent attention, often some stirring, and they are a bit tricky to light as a big lump of pellets in the basket. One technique that seems to work fairly well is wrapping a cup or two in newspaper and tossing those bundles in almost like small logs. Another is building a relatively large fire in one corner of the basket, then piling pellets in the other and scraping them together from time to time. Lighting works fairly well with a pile of loosely crumpled newspaper with about a cup of loose pellets sprinkled in. Some folks apparently use commercial fire starters, but I'm trying to avoid that.

    So - anybody else messed with this harebrained concept? Any ideas, crazy or otherwise?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Near Canon City, CO
    Posts
    6,488

    Default Re: pellets in regular wood stoves

    I used to heat our entire log cabin with a single pellet stove. There is some firestarting gel, I think it comes in a squeeze tube, that is used to light the firepot in stoves without an auto igniter. You might give that a try for lighting your pellets. Trioxane might also work. It's pretty cheap.

    I've never tried what you're proposing. Sounds interesting. I have enough dead pines on our property to keep us in wood for several years. We're finally putting in a wood stove this coming year, after five years of burning too much propane!
    "Me got no house; me all time moving; light fire, make tent, sleep; all time go hunt, how have house?"

    --Dersu Uzala
    Sihote'-Alin Range, Ussuria, 1902



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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Mohawk Valley
    Posts
    9,654

    Default Re: pellets in regular wood stoves

    You could try a hand-operated feed mechanism. Back when I was a kid we had a coal furnace and a coal bin. Pop would go downstairs a few times a day to toss a shovel-full of coal onto the fire so it's not like you would have to crouch over it cranking away.

    I did look into a stove conversion for a friend and was told that it would be difficult and probably more expensive than buying a pellet stove outright.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Kiowa,Co.
    Posts
    2,747

    Default Re: pellets in regular wood stoves

    Or you can go this route..... pellet baskets

    http://www.reposenow.com/

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    642

    Default Re: pellets in regular wood stoves

    Thanks guys.

    Ironically, coal trains rumble through town several times a day but no one around here sells it. All going to power plants on the coast. I grew up with coal heat like Ralph and have tried to get some here for years. One little spill could set me up for quite a while.

    That type of wire basket looks like it's worth a try too. Thanks H22.

    In the latest experiments, I've elevated the screen basket for better airflow and used a little diesel as an accelerant for lighting. Not as exciting as Coleman fuel, but I seem to be losing my zeal for near death experiences on household matters.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Kiowa,Co.
    Posts
    2,747

    Default Re: pellets in regular wood stoves

    moho, try the feed stores for coal.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    642

    Default Re: pellets in regular wood stoves

    Thanks again H22. Tried them. All the fuel dealers, farm and ranch supply places and stove dealers too. Nada. I'm about down to drugstores.

    And actually the pellet thing is working OK. Coal would be nicer but it is good to have a set of options so I might do this experimentation anyway. The methods and techniques are improving. May try a gravity feed chute using some stovepipe angled in the firebox.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Posts
    642

    Default Re: pellets in regular wood stoves

    This is a work in progress, but at least there is some progress. What you see in the picture is the "apparatus" burning wood pellets in my old Schrader wood stove with the doors open. It consists of an old heavy gage wire basket that came from a defunct hot springs operation. The type you used to put your clothes in while swimming. The front 40% has been cut away. In it, angled with the back elevated, is a rectangular colander made of heavy stainless steel screen (from Target). Sitting in that is a section of 8" stove pipe with some 1/8 screen folded and screwed into the bottom. The pipe is also angled slightly toward the front and rests against the heavy wire basket.

    I've been loading about two cups of pellets onto the screen in the bottom of the pipe, then placing a couple of crumpled sheets of newspaper underneath that, on top of the colander screen. When the paper is lit, the flame ignites the pellets and the pipe / screen setup focuses good draft on the pellets. There is a hobo stove principle at work. Once the first charge of pellets is largely embers, you can tap the pipe or stir the embers which causes a layer of embers to fall through onto the screen underneath. That heat makes igniting the next charge of pellets relatively easy. I've also used about a half an ounce of diesel on the pellets to goose things from a cold start.

    Burning is very clean except for a little smoke when the new pellets are warming up. You can get a LOT of heat out of a few cups of pellets if you stir them on the screen when they are torching. Once I get a cup or two of pellets cranking, I close the doors and the draft, and heating seems to be relatively efficient. Clean burning seems to require stirring or shaking the pipe every 20 minutes or so and adding more pellets. One can put several cups of pellets in at a time, but be cautious when stirring that because you expose a lot of fuel in a drafted state all at once. I had a surface temp approaching 500 degrees in a matter of minutes which is a bit more than I like for that application. If you experiment with this sort of thing, be very cautious and consult your attorney and doctor first, etc., etc.


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