Recently appointed the manager of Traverse Home and Hearth, Richardson has been in the pellet stove business for 10 years.
They work a lot like a regular wood-burning stove except that they burn pellets of compressed sawdust. You load it up every other day with a bag of pellets, and it runs off the thermostat to heat your house.
They're very economical and cheaper than gas units as far as efficiency goes. The price of pellets fluctuates depending on demand, but they're relatively inexpensive. There's no dust with a pellet stove, no labor involved. They're quiet. Clean burning. Anybody can use one. And they're environmentally sound - the sawdust would just be trash if it weren't compressed into pellets and sold.
They create a lot of heat and can heat a home up to 2,500 square feet. It's not a central heating system, though, so it only produces heat from one location.
They're getting to be automatic so the stove can turn itself off and light itself again. This cuts down on labor and makes them more desirable. In the past three years, pellet stoves have become more popular because of this new capability. They're really starting to catch on now in all of the northern states.
Note: This article was first published in November 2007 and was updated for the web February 2008.