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The following ode to wood pellet heat was kindly contributed by Sharon Thompson, a writer in Orland, Maine:
When I bought my crazy-big house in Orland, I planned to augment oil heat with the house's four wood stoves & close two wings off in winter while researching alternatives to oil. Research is one of the things I do for a living, and I was three-freezing-years thorough. For a Maine winter, nothing made the sense that a pellet boiler did. And nothing was as affordable.
After a site visit to ensure that the boiler would work in a first-floor mudroom – I'm plain too old to trudge to the dirt-floor basement every day let alone lug down several tons of pellets -- Mark Norwood of Evergreen Heat in Portland delivered a Pinnacle Model PB-150 and a chimney in early December 2011. For installation, he referred Mark Tracy Heating from Oakland and returned to supervise the work & install the chimney. The whole job – including the price of the boiler & the chimney -- came in under $11,000. The system operated perfectly from the start.
The economical Pinnacle doesn't have the bells & whistles that the more expensive pellet boilers featured on the Maine Watch video offer. It also doesn't have the problems. (Google "pellet boiler ignition" and think twice.) While it requires some upkeep – a weekly ash dump, a monthly cleaning, and a daily load of pellets -- that's minimal compared to running four woodstoves. It heats the whole house. And nothing beats the pleasure of knowing the fuel is local, clean, and renewable, a Maine product that employs Mainers.
With pellets in an adjacent garage, it's easy to load the fuel, and -- don't laugh too hard -- I find the boiler beautiful. Sometimes I just stand in front of it, mesmerized by its form-follows-function good looks & efficient flame. (Two neighbors who have also put in pellet boilers report they do the same nutty thing.) While well-insulated, the boiler itself gives off some ambient heat with the result that the entry – which I never dreamed of heating -- is now so cozily warm that plants snowbirds left in my care are thriving there.
Thanks to my pellet boiler, I've been able to keep the house warm enough to satisfy the most thin-skinned – one friend burst out of my guest suite begging me to turn the heat down! -- at just a little more than half last year's horrible oil bill. No doubt about it. I'm in love.
© 2012 Sharon Thompson, Orland, ME