Pellet heating comes in many forms. You can start small, warming a room with a pellet stove, or you can decide to use wood pellets to heat your entire house (hot water too). There are storage solutions—from small hoppers to bulk bins to outdoor silos—that can accommodate every homeowner’s heating and storage needs. The units can fit into available space in your basement or utility room or even outdoors. The storage solution you choose depends on how big your heating task is (have you chosen stove or whole-house heat?), your budget, available space and your personality (do want a system that’s automated, or do you want to be hands-on?).
You may already be using standard 40-pound bags to feed your furnace or pellet stove manually. If you’re tired of feeding your appliance every day or two and hauling heavy bags, you can switch to bulk storage. Bulk storage units are part of a system that automatically feeds wood pellets from the hopper into your existing stove, boiler, or furnace—so you don’t have to do all that extra labor.
Bulk storage makes using wood pellets more convenient. You won’t need to rip open countless plastic bags and dump them into your stove or the hopper of your boiler/furnace. There’s no hauling, no plastic-bag waste, and the pellets won’t break down due to handling. What’s more, it’s nearly dust-free because the bulk-storage container is sealed.
Here’s a primer on your options:
(1) Working Hoppers—small hoppers that store between 40 and 550 pounds of pellets. These bins can accommodate most uses of pellet heating.
(2) Flexible Bins—fabric storage bins that can be freestanding, with no frame, or incorporate a wood, plastic, or metal frame. They typically hold 1.25 to 6 tons of pellets. These are appropriate for homeowners burning pellets for central heat and hot water or pellet stove owners who burn over one ton of pellets per year.
(3) Stick-Framed Bins— the storage bin for the do-it-yourselfer. These bins are reminiscent of the coal bins of an earlier era. The bins are framed using standard construction techniques and are typically located in basements. They typically hold 1 to 12 tons—enough pellets to support whole-house heat.
(4) Steel Bins—freestanding galvanized-steel bins that are fabricated for easy transport and assembly in basements and garages. They typically hold 2.5 to 4 tons; that is enough to accommodate most pellet stoves and central heating in most homes.
(5) Exterior Silos—agricultural grain silos adapted for wood-pellet storage. They typically hold 3 to 30 tons and are primarily used in industry or agriculture (to heat greenhouses, for example). However, silos may also be used residentially.
Depending on the level of your heating needs, you may need to buy wood pellets in bulk. (Bulk pellets are sold by the ton; one ton of pellets is about equal to 115 gallons of #2 heating oil.) To store those pellets you’ll need a hopper holding 4.5 to 6 tons of pellets. You can use the storage bin options listed above for your bulk storage needs.
If you choose to order pellets in bulk, a local supplier will deliver them to your home on a regular schedule. Wood pellet delivery trucks are equipped with a flexible pneumatic hose that blows the pellets through a 4-inch connection on the exterior of your house into the storage hopper. The connections are capped off to make a water-tight seal.
To find out more about heating your home with pellets, we can put you in touch with a local installer; they can advise you on the technology best suited to your needs. And if you should eventually choose to upgrade from stove or oil heating to wood pellets—or from bagged wood pellet storage to bulk wood pellet storage—they can help you make your decision and will install the new equipment for you.